• Goose Bay

    Back onboard after our morning trip to Paierlbreen glacier, Captain Mikka set a new course to Gåshamna (Goose Bay), a scenic bay surrounded by high mountains, with the highest peak in Hornsund – Horsundtind at 1429 meters.

    The afternoon brought some of the best weather of the trip so the expedition staff was able to offer us a landing with several hiking possibilities. I chose to hike for the first time with no camera and only iPhone in hand for the first time throughout the trip.

    Those who took the long hike profited in a  breathtaking view from the top. With almost clear skies on the summit, we could see the whole of Hornsund up to Brepollen.

    We also had time to explore the historical Pomor sites as well as the English land-based whaling station in the bay. Remnant whale bones and blubber deposited in the ground still lend nutrients to the soil, thus creating small satellite biospheres of flora to the stark glacial outwash landscape. There were amazing rock formations along the jagged coastline and stunning views on the sea wall.

  • Paierlbreen Glacier

    Overnight on the Ortelius, as we headed into Day 8, we sailed around the southern tip of the archipelago and up to Hornsund, one of the most spectacular areas of Spitsbergen. Named by Jonas Poole, an English whaler in the 1600s after his crew returned to the ship bearing a deer’s horn, it is a place of deep, high sided fjords, active glacier fronts, and rocky ridgelines.

    When we woke there was low-lying fog and mist in the air, but the weather forecast suggested that it was meant to improve so we wrapped up warmly and the zodiacs were lowered ready for our morning cruise. Our destination was Paierlbreen, a huge valley glacier at the end of the Burgerbukta fjord. We spent two hours cruising in and around the glacier and it was by far one of the most spectacular glaciers I have ever seen. The zodiac boats full of red coats of cruise mates made the most spectacular photo opportunities of the day.

    On the way back to the boat we found two more polar bears at the entrance to the fjord but they were positioned in a way that made photographing them difficult.

  • Austfonna

    After our exciting time with the guillemots, we headed to see the expansive ice wall called Austfonna. Austfonna is an ice cap located on Nordaustlandet in Svalbard archipelago in Norway covering an area of 8492 sq kilometers.

    Just as we approached the massive wall of ice, the sun came out and an old sailing ship made its way into the photo frame. It captured a scene that looked like it was from a different time in history.

  • Alkefjellet – Mount Guillemot

    Day 6 of our Arctic journey sent us to Akerfjellet, which is known for the guillemot birds covering the cliff side all summer before taking their heroic journey south. These little birds are a tough species. When the birds reach adolescence at only 20-21 days old they must jump off the high cliffs into the arctic waters joined by their fathers for a swimming migration in the rough seas to travel away from the breeding ground to areas around Iceland and Greenland. They travel back to the same breeding area each spring.

    As we entered the zodiac boats to take a closer look at the birds, gone are thoughts of framing that perfect wildlife shot. Rough seas and swells were crashing against the small boats. Instead, hastily taken photos to be cropped later are snatched between sheltering one’s camera from sea spray and the ever-present risk of aerial excrement.  It was definitely a risky boat ride with a boat full of photographers with expensive cameras. Giant zip-lock plastic bags were the saving grace of the day.

  • Arctic Ice

    Late on Saturday evening, Ortelius had entered the fringes of the pack ice; I stayed up in anticipation of this moment. Around 1 am, a patchwork blanket of ice covering the ocean started to appear. We were moving at a steady able continuously northward. By 6 am we had reached 82° 23’2 N, which was much further North than the trip was planned to reach. The ice was 400 miles more north this year than in previous years.

    It was cold but all guests seemed to stay on deck as long as possible to enjoy the spectacular views before warming up in the lounge area with hot coffee and warm hot chocolate. This is a vista uniquely arctic and one that is sadly in decline. It is a pleasure to enjoy the expanse of such a landscape and be in the moment.

  • Karl XI Part 2

    The visit to Karl XI was a little heart-wrenching. The bears on the island had clearly missed their ride on the Arctic ice and were stranded on the island until the freeze would come back. The bears had limited food supply and most likely they would all not make it through the long summer until the ice returns. One of the bears was injured and we also witnessed the saddest scene of a mother carrying her dead cub around. The cub had died at least a month before based on reports and she was still grieving.

    The week before our visit there was a large controversy after a polar bear was shot by a crew on a German tourist ship after one member was attacked on land. This brought up the debate on whether this type of tourist excursion to the area where there is the risk of human interaction with the vulnerable status bears should be continued.

    This particular German expedition did not participate in information sharing about bear locations as part of the treaty in the Svalbard area with 99% of boats in the area. This could have likely resulted in preventing this incident where this bear was known to be on land for several weeks. The crew has strict guidelines and share information daily on the locations of all bears in the area to avoid these types of interactions.

    My personal opinion is that the more people see and learn first hand about the effects global warming and the retraction of polar ice caps have on the environment maybe they will do something to prevent further climate change issues. My eyes were opened on this trip to the realities of the shrinking of the Arctic ice by seeing first hand the impact on these amazing animals.

     

  • Karl XI Part 1

    On Day 4 of our Arctic adventure, we headed straight into the clear skies towards the green mystical mountain kingdom of Polar bears and wily walrus called Karl XI. As we headed toward the island in the zodiacs it looked like we were heading straight into a missing scene from the TV show Lost.

    We saw six polar bears on the island as we cruised around that showed off their personalities as we came by in the boats circling the small island. Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable Status by the World Wildlife Fund due to the shrinking amount of animals that are left on the planet. In the Svalbard archipelago, the 3000 polar bears actually outnumber humans according to the Norwegian government.

  • Ny London – Svalbard

    We woke to our first morning on Ortelius entering Kongsfjorden under blue skies and sunshine. The relatively calm waters overnight had made for a restful sleep and we were all eager to head off for our first excursion in the Svalbard archipelago. Onshore there was one guesthouse where visitors were having a holiday far from the comforts of city life.

    During the course of the day, we learned a little about the history of Arctic exploration and the attempts to reach the North Pole from Ny Ålesund. One amazing thing about this trip was that the expedition leaders are trained in safety for our tour but also in history and science. They conduct lectures daily on a variety of topics on wildlife and arctic expeditions.

  • Oceanwide Expeditions – Norway   

    On August 1, 2018, I started my journey to one of the most remote places on Earth to visit the Arctic Circle and photograph the vast landscapes and wildlife found only in the Arctic regions.

    I took 4 flights over 30 hours to reach Longyearbyen, Norway, a small city named after American John Munro Longyear. John Munro was one of the first pioneers in mining industries and expedition cruises in Spitsbergen. He founded a coal mining settlement in 1906 in Adventfjord called Longyear City.

    We boarded the Ortelius for our 10-day journey and once onboard met our expedition team led by Captain Mikka Appel and Ali our expedition leader. I quickly realized this was not one of my normal cruises when we attended mandatory safety training, which included topics on Polar Bear safety. It was clear the goal was to not meet up with a polar bear on land. All of the expedition leaders carry weapons in case of emergency but there are heavy fines for killing any wildlife in Norway. Their goal is to protect the environment with responsible tourism.

    The crew on the Ortelius provided a regimented schedule each day with excursions by zodiac boat and hikes on foot throughout our 10-day journey. This schedule helped me cope with the fact that there is no nighttime because the sun does not set this time of year in the Arctic. We had fantastic service and meals on board with an amazing staff and I cannot say enough positive things about Oceanwide Expeditions. If you are planning a trip to any of the Polar Regions, I highly recommend this company for a safe once in a lifetime experience.

     

  • Interview: Chef Aarón Sánchez

    Chef Aarón Sánchez has always represented his Mexican heritage to the fullest. He is a current judge on Master Chef and has built his food empire with restaurants, television shows and cookbooks over two decades. The Travel Addict caught up with him at the Bourbon & Beyond music, food and drink festival in Louisville, Kentucky, which took place from September 22-23. Sanchez could be seen all day having a blast all around the festival enjoying the music and interacting with fans. Before taking the stage for his cooking demo with his good friend Ed Lee on the culinary stage, Sanchez talked about his Mexican roots, his love of Lenny Kravitz and life in New Orleans.

    This week Sanchez hosted a Feast Under the Stars at Voodoo Festival in New Orleans for VIP patrons to experience a five-course meal expertly prepared by Sanchez and four other culinary powerhouses including, Justin Devillier, Kelly Fields, Nina Compton, and Todd Pulsinelli. Each course was paired with the perfect wine and fans got to preview the site of the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans.

    Check out The Travel Addict’s interview with chef Aarón Sánchez:

    What are your favorite New Orleans places to eat?

    We love all the restaurants in our group obviously. That goes without saying. The ones that my lovely girlfriend and I like to go to are 1000 Figs and Echo’s Pizza, which has some really great stuff. We go to Lilette. We like Napoleon House for some traditional stuff. We go there quite a bit. We take people from out of town to Napoleon House if they want great jam or a Muffuletta. We are also fans of Turkey and the Wolf.

    When people I know visit New Orleans, I tell them to go to your restaurant Johnny Sanchez.

    What is interesting, when you think of coming to New Orleans you don’t think of Mexican food, but the similarities and parallels are that people come to New Orleans to get great seasoned food, well-prepared deliciousness. Not the subtle stuff. They want something in their face and delicious. That is why we have been so successful. We like to have a good time provide wonderful food for guests.

    When tourists visit what activities do you recommend in NOLA?

    I tell everyone to take a walk and go have lunch at St. Roch Market. I tell people to take a moment and go to the Audubon Park Sculpture garden for sure. Jackson Square is also an obvious choice. I think the more exciting stuff if you want the more real experience, go to the Marigny, up at the Bywater and check out those restaurants. That’s where I tell people to go. I think there will be more interesting stuff is happening in Mid-City. I think Lakeview will get a lot more attention in the coming days.

    I wanted to talk to you about your Cocina website. What inspired you to create that? The food images just pop.

    What we are doing is introducing that taste made love with a Latin medium. We are celebrating all things Latin culture and bringing those recipes to life, showing the full breadth and diversity of Latin cuisine. We are trying to shake the misconception of just being Mexican. We wanted to bring recipes from all over, from the Caribbean, Central and South America, obviously Mexico, and making those recipes present, giving people access to those in a very user-friendly way. We do everything with a cinematic lens. It is food porn. We wanted everyone to have access, inspired by the Taste Mates of the world, inspired by Chef’s Table. It is really about that.

    What is your version of the perfect taco?

    I am a sucker for the traditional stuff. I love a good Carne Asada, a little bit of avocado and guacamole, beautiful salsa.

    You always talk about your mother’s cooking, on Chopped and other shows. Aside from your mother’s cooking, what travel locations have inspired you the most?

    So many. Peru, for sure. You think of 300 ways to make potatoes, the Japanese influence in the food, the indigenous influence. I think it is the birthplace of ceviche’. There is so much food. It is so rich and diverse. We just got back from Italy. We were in the South in Calabria, loved the food down there. It is one of the few regions of Italy that uses a lot of chilies and spice. We were stoked about there and we love Italy.

    What is your funniest Chopped moment?

    I have had a lot. Chopped is so fun. When people see stuff like chicken in a can and duck testicles, I am marveled at how quick thinking people are. It is very telling about a cook. Chopped is not an exercise into what kind of chef you are, but how resourceful you are, how you can mix things together.

    We are at Bourbon and Beyond. What is your favorite bourbon?

    I have so many it is hard to choose. We just had Copper and Rye (Look it Up). It’s one of my favorites. For me, being from the South and loving bourbon, yes there is Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle, but I like the more utilitarian kind of bourbons, the single batch, that are compatible with putting it on ice. I love how much fun the distillers are having using wine barrels to age their stuff.

    Any favorite bourbon and food pairing?

    Oh my God, there are so many. If you think of bourbon and food, you obviously think Bar-B-Que. I think there is other stuff like duck, I think mole would be interesting.

    What is one dish nobody would expect you to love?

    Tofu, a really beautifully cooked tofu, I love mapo tofu which is kind of like an Asian style ground pork mixed with tons of chilies and tomato mixed with pieces of tofu.

    Who are you most excited to see here?

    Lenny Kravitz, he is just amazing. He brings a sexuality to the music that only he can do. His music is constantly evolving. He is on like his 12th album or something crazy like that. He’s been doing it 30 years.

    Robert Plant is here. We saw him in L.A. He is still sexy and still into it, and still loves it. Where do you think Lenny got it from? His idols are Prince and Bowie, and if you throw Robert Plant in there, it is Lenny Kravitz. This festival has so much great music.

    I saw you at Bottle Rock as well. It is becoming more popular to combine these food and music festivals and events. What would be your dream cooking music collaboration?

    I want to cook with musicians who love food. I think musicians are always so svelte, in skinny jeans, cute little fingers, I am always wondering if they really eat. I am good friends with Kings of Leon. I just did a fun cooking demo in Nashville with Caleb, the lead singer is a buddy of mine. Somebody I have never done one with who I truly love, I would love to cook with Rihanna.

    If you had a dream vacation destination, where would it be? Where have you not gone yet?

    I want to say something unattainable. I haven’t been to Copenhagen; I really want to go there. I am fascinated with Vikings. I want to go up in the mountains in Norway and meet the indigenous Sami people.

    What has been your response to your Aaron Sanchez scholarship? Do you think it is increasing aspiring chefs in the Latin community?

    Absolutely. The whole purpose of my scholarship is to create Latino leaders in the kitchen. A lot of times there has been issues with advancement and executive positions. I think everything starts with education. I think everything starts with foundation. We get kids with Latin descent, preferably bi-lingual, and then be able to get that bi-cultural narrative and support that with great education and mentoring.

    We are creating leaders single-handedly by doing that. That is the motivation behind the scholarship. This year we have given two scholarships, one to a young kid from New Orleans named Alejandro, and given one to a woman, a young lady from Puerto Rico named Jan, because I wanted to give love to the one-year anniversary of the hurricane there, so I chose a young lady from Puerto Rico, and she’s going to be awesome.