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Inspiring Destinations

  • Inspiring Destinations

    • The only one of its kind in the world, this forest of statuesque trees offers a sense of geological peace that cannot be found elsewhere.

    The marvellous petrified forest of Sarmiento / 

    Located thirty kilometres from the city of Sarmiento, in southern Argentina, and with a surface that covers twenty-four acres of a land which resembles something barren and alien, this natural monument is a forest that dates back to Cenozoic era, which means it is roughly sixty-five million years old.Its fortuitous formation is due to the elevation of the Andes range at beginning of the Tertiary age (also known as “the Age of Mammals”), and prevented the humidity of the Pacific getting through. At the same time, a series of eruptions occurred, and the ash deposits were spread over the area leading to the slow process of these trees transformation into stone.Petrified trees, witnesses of the prehistoric era, make up an indescribable beauty of the harshness of the stone, the colours of the different geological strata and the heavy silence that covers the area. The vegetable species that became statues belong to the conifer family, which gives the idea that this region was an abundant forest billions of years ago.The petrified forest of Sarmiento a quasi-lunar landscape and the coloured hills that surround it allow visitors to witness a geology museum; natural history preserved in stone.Currently this forest is a desolate landscape because of the arid steppe that covers it, and it has also become a provincial park, open to the public and protected by institutions concerned with its study and conservation. 

    Tagged: forests, destinations, petrified forest of Sarmiento, trips and travelers
  • Inspiring Destinations

    • In the confines of official cartography and medieval mythology this deep forest is home to Merlin the Wizard’s secrets.

    Broceliande, a journey to Merlin the Wizard’s mythical forest / 

    The Paimpont forest covers roughly fifty squared kilometres and hosts within itself the legendary forest of Broceliande, which exists in our dreams more than on any real map. It appeared in literature for the first time in 1160, when it was mentioned in Roman de Rou, a saga written by Wace about the dukes of Normandy. Broceliande is found at the very core of French Brittany, a hundred and fifty kilometres from Rennes. Its aura is unique in the world since it was the land of Druids and Celts, and it retains ancients bonds with the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

    Every crevice of this forest is a legend, and those who have walked it in winter will have seen many faces forming in the snow which covers the giant oak trees, which observe wanderers undaunted from their great height. Here we can find, among dozens of mythical places, the Mirror-aux-fées, or the Fair Mirror; a marvellous lake whose bottom, according to legend, holds a mirror where fairies regard their reflection. Broceliande is also home to the “Valley of No Return” and to the fountain of Barenton: from where the legend of eternal youth springs from, and where many swear the tomb of the Great Merlin lies; the “Soul of Brocélandie”. Each year thousands of flowers, bracelets and poems cover this mysterious tomb.

    Many important plants inhabit this forest. As well as the famous “Tree of Gold”, a Holy Grail of sorts for medieval alchemists, we can visit the Guillotine Oak, which is over a thousand years old, and the “Tree of Hindres”, which has a diameter of 5 metres.

    This allusion to Broceliande is an invitation to discover the medieval imagery that has made every rock, every tree, and every lake in Brittany a magical symbol linked to the legend of King Arthur. Merely walking through these forests is feeling a strange power that is unrelated to whether its myth is real or not. 

    Tagged: destinations, forests, Broceliande Credits: Image (I: Klaod Roparz)
  • Inspiring Destinations

    • In a jungle ridden and fertile corner in Mexico, a surrealist castle which defies the borders that delimit the real and the imaginary can be found.

    Xilitla and the Surrealist Castle by Edward James / 

    Xilitla is a town located in the Sierra Madre Oriental, in an area known as the Huasteca Potosina. Although traditionally this place was solely devoted to planting coffee, in the last few decades it has acquired touristic recognition due to some of its peculiarities.

    The Cave of the Swallows is one of many natural attractions in the area. This is a hole, sixty metres deep, which at its bottom has a diameter of 300 metres, and also 516 metres deep. Each sunset hundreds of birds “dive” in the cave’s mouth to find refuge, giving birth to an impressive bird “rainfall” spectacle of birds making their way into the cave.

    In 1944, a Scottish millionaire named Edward James, an eccentric aristocratic whose name alludes to the friend of the family of king Edward the Seventh, arrived in Mexico with the sole self-imposed mission, of constructing “Garden of Eden”. After deciding to settle in Xilitla, with time he would come to erect an unusual surrealist castle located next to a turquoise blue dazzling waterfall.

    The Castle remits us back to a sculptural structure, where walls delimit the figure, but never form a completely closed space. Stone passageways surrounded by jungle plants, hoisted snakes throughout the corridors, hand sculptures, eye-shaped outdoor tubs, huge stone flowers, and a beautiful waterfall adapted to become a natural pool, are only a few of the elements that make up this architectural fable.

    Edward James is considered one of the main leaders of surrealism —he went as far as to support Salvador Dali in his first exhibition oversees. He also maintained a relationship with Luis Buñuel, the filmmaker, and other distinguished figures of the movement.

    Edward James used to ascend on his “Stairway to Heaven”, a structure where each step assumes the appearance of a piano key, and whose end is nothingness. To him, ascending and descending represented a different musical note, and it consummated a metaphoric ritual, emulating the quasi-divine “escape”, intrinsic to the artistic experience.

    In few words, this place is an ode to the imagination, a type of enlightenment beautifully materialised due to James’ refined eccentricity and his plentiful resources. A truly unforgettable garden. 

    Tagged: surrealism, destinations, amazing destinations, Mexico, Edward James, Edward James Castle, Xilitla
  • Inspiring Destinations

    • As a dragon shaped serpentine, the “Blue Dragon River”, nickname bestowed on the aqueous body after it was photographed from above, marvels the world with its beauty.

    Myths of water: The Blue Dragon River in Portugal / 

    Little is known of the history of this awe-striking river. The people that inhabit its shores never considered it to be uncommon until the photographer, Steve Richards, saw it from above and revealed its form in a photograph.

    The mythological shape of the Odeleite, located in the Caestro Marim municipality in Portugal, has astounded both the Portuguese and Web users since Richards published the image on Flickr. Its outline is exactly like a blue Chinese dragon. A long, scaly, meandering blue dragon.

    The improbability of the form and beauty of the photograph led thousands of viewers to actually question it, believing the photographer had edited it somehow. Referring to this, Richards noted:

    For the record, it is a photograph, of a real place, that I took on our flight from Cardiff to Faro. The blue colour is from the water reflecting the sky and the white flecks are of course the clouds. The striking colours are thanks to running the original picture through Topaz Adjust 4.

    In Chinese mythology, the dragon is the symbol of yang, and the phoenix is ying. It is undoubtedly fascinating to see how the archetypes of the world are represented on Earth, and how they can be absolutely anywhere, waiting for someone to discover them. 

    Tagged: Portugal, destinations, rivers, nature, landscapes Credits: Image (Steve Richards)
  • Inspiring Destinations

    • This place has stimulated poetic creation for centuries, since the castle was the stage for many battles and rebellions that sought freedom.

    Dunottar Castle, a historical inspiration at the edge of a cliff / 

    The mysteriousness that revolves around medieval castles frequently corresponds with a turbulent history, characterised by diverse occupations, uses and wars. Such is the case of Dunottar castle, also known as Warlocks’ Castle, located on top of a rocky precipice near Stonehaven, in north-eastern Scotland. It’s believed the place was founded in the early fifth century by Saint Ninian, who erected a chapel on the site, as part of his missionary endeavours. Much is speculated about the location that would eventually play a very important role within the Scottish independence, and which nowadays can be visited to admire from its tower, what seems to be an endless sea.

    Little is known about the castle’s foundation, except that after being a chapel it was converted into a fortress by the Picts that inhabited it. During the first half of the medieval period its inhabitants were forced to participate in violent battles with the Vikings that sought to take the castle. They lost their final battle in the ninth century, when their king, Donald the second died, and the imposing building was taken and burnt to the ground.

    With the passing of time, the coveted location at Dunottar, with an advantageous view over the North Sea was taken by William, the Lion, of Scotland during the twelfth century. The castle became the source of inspiration for the bards of the time, principally, Blind Harry who tells William Wallace’s story in the epic poem The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace, the main inspiration for the film, Brave Heart. The poem portrays Wallace’s battles while defending the castle in 1297, and, according to hear-say, he set fire to the chapel to kill thousands of English soldiers who had found refuge inside it. From the fourteenth century onwards the castle was given to one of the most powerful families in Scotland, the Earls of Marischal, who built the main tower in the sixteenth century.

    The place established itself as one of the safest places in Scotland, which was why in 1651 after the crowning of Charles the second, the Honours of Scotland (crown, sword and sceptre), were taken there for safekeeping, when they could not be returned to Edinburgh. Mary, Queen of Scots, also spent time in the castle, perhaps basking in the song of sea-birds and the sound of the relentless ocean. Nowadays it is possible to submerge ourselves in the history of the place and admire the view from the tower, as many generations of warriors, kings and counts have done. In few words, from Dunnottar, the horizon ennobles. 

    Dunnottar Castle from Helicam Extreme on Vimeo.

    Also in Sphere: Stellar observation room in Scotland's forests

    Tagged: Scotland, trips and travelers, destinations, castles, Dunnottar Castle
  • Trips and Travelers

    • In the fashion of a love letter, two people created a video to revive the slumbering mission of the exploration of the heavens.

    “The sky is calling us”, a poetic video devoted to the exploration of the cosmos / 

    We must not forget that the very stars we see nowadays, where the same stars and phenomena that inspired the men of the past to astounded, to forge their culture and thought. They are the same stars that led humanity to embark on the most important search of all, that of knowledge. But, have we reached an impasse in the exploration of the skies?

    While it is true that the Apache Point Observatory recently generated a map that gathers all the information we have in the universe, it appears there are no more Carl Sagans that dream of intercepting other planets’ inhabitants, or Neil deGrasses that want to give the cosmos a narrative. The future of space exploration is more precarious than ever.

    Facing this situation, the creative writer from Oregon University, Nicolaus Sugai, in cooperation with the designer Lauren Geschke created an incisive and poetic video dedicated to NASA. It is a love letter of sorts in which they pose a question relevant to all of us.

    "The sky is calling us", asks us who will trace the universe if we continue to ignore the call of the skies. 

    Tagged: cosmos, NASA, trips and travelers, inspiration

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