15 April 2018

Travelogue: Trekking the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco

A baby goat, 1 day old
We travel for experiences like this. It was Day 2 of our stay at the Kasbah du Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains. We were on a hike with a guide. As we passed through a Berber village, we came across a woman tending a goat and its kid. The guide asked about it, and the woman told us it was just a day old. The woman asked if my wife would like to hold it. Of course she did. Here's the photo to prove it.

I first read about the Kasbah du Toubkal in 1843, the Economist Magazine's lifestyle supplement. The article was about high altitude lodges and the description of the Kasbah in Morocco captured my imagination. It offered an "off-the-grid" experience (though not literally. We had reliable cell phone service in the Kasbah and on the hiking trails. Wifi was intermittently available, but not very fast or very consistent.). Morocco seemed like an exotic destination but reasonably safe for western travelers. We enjoy mountain hiking. The Kasbah pays attention to environmental sustainability. It also works to enhance the well-being of the local Berber villagers; a 5% charge supports local projects including a program called Education for All which promotes educational opportunities for girls in the region. And, it was reasonably priced.

So it was, shortly after reading the article, as we planned a trip to Europe, I showed my wife the info about the Kasbah and asked if it appealed to her. It did, and we decided to fit it into our itinerary. The package we bought included 3 nights at the Kasbah and 2 nights in Marrakech. It would have been fairly easy to fly to Marrakech from any of the other cities on our itinerary. We opted to do it after our stay in Lisbon.

Discover Ltd. is a British travel agency that specializes in travel to Morocco. It also owns the Kasbah du Toubkal. Our package included transportation during our stay, the room and meals at the Kasbah, and a room in a riad in Marrakech. Our driver met us at the airport, as we expected. The ride to the Kasbah took about an hour. You arrive in the village of Imlil. There your luggage is loaded onto a donkey and you hike up to the Kasbah. (If you don't want to walk, they will provide a donkey for you to ride. But if you're not going to hike, why come to the Atlas Mountains?)
Hiking through a Berber village in Morocco

The Kasbah strives to immerse the traveler in traditional Berber hospitality. When we arrived, we were invited to sit down and have a glass of mint tea and snack on some nuts before being taken to our room. The room, and all of the facilities at the Kasbah, was plain but comfortable. I thought it was consistent with the descriptions I'd read online. My wife thought it was more rustic than she expected.

Our package included breakfast and dinner. Travelers who want lunch generally buy it in Imlil or any of the villages you might be hiking through during the day. We enjoyed the meals at the Kasbah very much. Breakfast was quite hearty. It included bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit, granola, and an omelette, if you so desire. Dinner each night was a tagine. It is a set menu, you don't have any other option. The 3 tagines we had during our stay were chicken, beef, and lamb. On the night they served lamb, the couple seated next to us stated that they don't eat lamb. But they were satisfied with the bread and side dishes (mostly roasted vegetables and couscous) that were served with the tagine.

No alcoholic beverages are available for purchase at the Kasbah, consistent with the prevailing Muslim dietary rules. However, the staff will serve wine to guests at dinner if the guest brings it along. We observed a few of the other guests who did that. Most, like us, did not imbibe.

Each evening after dinner, most guests gather in the Kasbah's library. That's your best bet for connecting to the wifi. They also have a selection of board games (including backgammon) and some books to peruse.

We took a guided hike on each Day 1 and Day 2. On Day 3, we hiked on our own back to one of the villages that we'd passed through on Day 2. There we did a little bit of shopping before returning to the Kasbah. One option that we did not do - the staff will arrange a guided, overnight hike that includes going to the summit of Mount Toubkal which is the highest peak in North Africa. It's not supposed to be a particularly difficult hike. But we didn't want to do the overnight stay.

Besides hiking, we enjoyed just relaxing on the Kasbah's rooftop terrace, reading, snoozing, and enjoying the views. From our high vantage point, we could see several villages, and in the evening, you'd hear the imam from each village's mosque call the faithful to prayer. It was both eerie and awe inspiring.

Moonrise, as seen from the Kasbah's rooftop

14 April 2018

Travelogue: Lisbon 2017 - a brief visit made shorter by travel delays

Last October, my wife and I spent nearly a month visiting several countries. As our itinerary came together, we had to give Lisbon the short shrift. We'd only have 3 nights there. But by prioritizing the sights we wanted to see, we felt that would be all right. We expected to have a half day when we arrived and then 2 full days, one of which would be a day trip to Sintra.

Alas, when we arrived at the Bordeaux airport for our flight to Lisbon, it was fogged in. Our flight was delayed and delayed again. We finally took off 4 hours late. By the time we got to Lisbon, we only had time to get settled in to our hotel and explore our immediate neighborhood. But that was alright because we picked a great neighborhood.

Our hotel was located right at the Miradouro de Santa Catarina. This is a popular plaza high above the Tagus River. In the evening, crowds gather there to watch the spectacular sunset, to drink wine or beer, to socialize and to listen to the street musicians who perform there. In the spirit of the location, we bought a bottle of wine and joined in the festivities each night of our stay. 
Cool jazz bar in the Bairro Alto

Our hotel also was close to the Bairro Alto. We strolled through the neighborhood and picked a place for dinner. We also looked at several possible fado bars for later in the evening. (Rick Steves has a very helpful blog post about enjoying fado music in Lisbon.)  But after dinner, we stumbled upon a jazz club, Paginas Tantas in the Bairro Alto. The music emanating from the doors was so inviting that we decided to postpone fado and enjoyed the jazz instead. 

The next day, we set out to do some power sightseeing. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful. Bright and sunny, but not too hot. We did not go to any museums. But we did take a whirlwind tour of the major plazas and monuments and neighborhoods. We discovered how compact and accessible things are in Lisbon. We were able to see everything on foot, though there were convenient and affordable public transportation options available as well. 

Here's what we saw: We walked along Rua Augusta to the grand arch leading into the Praca do Comercio. In the plaza, we saw the statue of Dom Jose I. Next we walked up winding streets to Castelo de Sao Jorge, and then back down the streets and wound our way up another hill to see the Carmo Convent and the ruins of the Gothic church, destroyed by an earthquake. Then we walked down into the Rossio Square with its hypnotic sidewalk mozaic and the Column of Petro IV. Next we went into the nearby Praca da Figueira (fig tree plaza) where we did a little shopping in the market near the plaza and saw the statue of King John I. 
Praca do Comercio, Lisbon
In the evening, we visited a fado bar recommended by a server at one of the restaurants we ate at. Tasca do Chico was great! Many of the fado joints we walked by offered dinner along with the singers. Tasca does have food, but it's mainly a bar. We listened to a couple of different singers before we called it an evening. 

The next day we took a day trip to the nearby town of Sintra. It was a short train ride leaving from the Rossio station. The town in pretty and quaint. We walked up the hill to the Pena Palace and Gardens. It was a long walk and fairly strenuous. The alternative would be to take a bus or a taxi or a tuk-tuk. But we enjoyed the beauty and peacefulness of the walk. I would say, however, it was a bit much to also walk back down. We should have taken some form of transportation. The Palace was beautiful and interesting. I would have liked to also see the Moorish Castle. But sadly, we didn't have enough time.
At the Pena Palace in Sintra

And that was it for our visit to Portugal. The next morning we got an early taxi to the airport and on to our next destination. We definitely didn't allow enough time in Lisbon, even if we hadn't lost a half day due to travel delays. So I guess this goes on the list of places to visit again someday.

Hotel: In Lisbon, we stayed at the Monte Belvedere. It was located right at the scenic overview where we relaxed every evening before dinner. We liked everything about it. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The provided great advice and suggestions for our stay. Breakfast was included with our room rate. We enjoyed the daily buffet on the rooftop cafe overlooking the river. The room was comfortable and quiet. The hotel is part of a local group called Shiadu, with hotels and guest houses in Lisbon and Porto. For a return visit to Lisbon, I'd definitely choose the Belvedere again.

On our first night, we at at Floresta da Cidade in the Bairro Alto. It was very casual and funky. We had a sidewalk table. Our server was great. Besides giving us good tips about the menu, she also made a suggestion for a nearby fado bar. I had a great octopus dish. It was a wonderful introduction to Lisbon's diverse dining scene. 

Day 2 we ate at Populi in the Praca do Comercio. We had delicious seafood at a table on the plaza and an excellent bottle of Portuguese wine.

After dinner at the rooftop bar of our hotel
For dinner on Day 3, we wanted to go back to Floresta. Alas, it was closed that evening. So we wanted the Bairro Alto until we came across Stasha. We picked it because on a night when most restaurants had walk-in availability, Stasha had a waiting list. In about 15 minutes, we were lead to a cozy table inside the crowded restaurant. I finally had the Portuguese specialty - bacalhao (cod). Excellent. It was a great way to end our stay in Lisbon. 

25 February 2018

Dinner at Rosaline LA was great, but you can't please everybody

This post is more than just a restaurant review. It's also about how a restaurant can try really hard and still make a customer frustrated.

First the review ...

My wife and I loved our dinner at Rosaline! We ended up there in sort of a happenstance way. I serve on the board of an anti-hunger advocacy organization - Mazon. We have a board meeting in Los Angeles every year. My wife comes along, and we usually make a short vacation of it, a brief respite from the cold and snow in Minnesota in February. We made reservations in advance at several restaurants, either favorites from past visits or new ones that we wanted to try. When we got a phone call from one of those restaurants, seeking to confirm our plans, we discovered that there would be a private party in the main dining room. We would get a table in the bar. That didn't sound too good to us. We liked the ambiance of the main dining room, and we didn't particularly like the ambiance in the bar. So we cancelled that reservation and began searching for a last-minute alternative. 

We read about Rosaline in the Where Magazine that was in our hotel room. It sounded good. It was fairly new and only had a few TripAdviser reviews. We like Peruvian food. And we could get a reservation (at 8:30 on a Tuesday night). 

We arrived on time, but had to wait for our table, probably about 15 minutes. We did specify that we didn't want to sit in the dining area in the bar (several tables, a chef's table, and a communal counter). Instead we asked for a table in the main dining room where we liked the ambiance better. It's an enclosed patio, quite dark at night, but stylish table lamps provide sufficient light to read the menu and see the food. 

Our server was friendly and helpful. We asked for advice on cocktails as well as how many items we ought to order. We both liked our drinks. Mine was a quita calzón, made with mezcal, gooseberry, coconut water, and lime. My wife had something called a satsuma sora made with vodka, pisco, mandarin, lime, and grenadine. We also started with an item from the ceviche menu - tiradito de corvina which featured sea bass. We both liked it, and it was my wife's favorite plate of the evening. 

The food at Rosaline is intended for sharing. The next plate that we shared was a salad called solterito. It consisted of lima beans, avocado, small tomatoes that had been lightly roasted, pickled onions, feta, olives, and corn. We both liked it, and it was my favorite plate of the evening. We also had a plate of grilled shrimp. They were very tasty, but we felt like they were not any better than any other grilled shrimp. 

So overall, we were pretty pleased by our experience at Rosaline. We liked our food. Good drinks. Friendly, efficient service. Relaxing ambiance.

But, you can't please everybody ...

I'm sure that one of the things that makes the restaurant business so challenging is individual dietary restrictions and preferences. Frequently, when we make reservations at a nice place, we're asked about any food allergies or restrictions. For us, it's cilantro. I don't particularly like it, and it makes my wife ill. We worried that would be a challenge at Rosaline because cilantro is a fairly common ingredient in ceviche and other Latin cuisine. Our server took note of our preference. Happily, none of the items we ordered had cilantro. 

A more common dietary request is for vegetarian meals. We're not vegetarians. But Rosaline has a whole separate menu for vegetarians. We were seated at our table just in time to overhear another customer complaining to his server. His vegetarian paella was served with an egg on top. He felt that was not consistent with a vegetarian diet, and furthermore, the menu didn't mention that the paella had egg on it.

The server was trying really hard to deal with his complaint. She offered to take it away and bring another one. But he declined. He commented that paella takes time to cook and apparently he didn't want to wait. In the end, he and his date kept the paella. I didn't notice how they avoided the egg. (I think maybe the egg was acceptable to one of them.) I thought the server did a good job of being sympathetic and tried to make it right. The only hint of defensiveness I heard was a comment that she didn't understand that they wanted a vegan paella (hence no animal products whatsoever) which would have been served without an egg. 

(By the way, I wasn't particularly eavesdropping. The tables in Rosaline are fairly close together so that the complaint at the table next to us was easily discernible without purposely listening in. Add that observation to my previous comments about ambiance.)

Rosaline was one of two restaurants that we ate at during this trip that automatically add a gratuity to the final bill. At least one reviewer on TripAdviser complained about that practice, and blamed it for inattentive service. The practice doesn't bother me, and we had good service. I haven't seen any good analysis of the relationship between good service and tipping. I thought it was interesting that at Rosaline, there wasn't even an option to include an even higher tip amount. 

So far in this review, I haven't commented on value. We felt that our meal was reasonably priced. But there are a few items on the menu that are quite pricey. The short ribs, for example, are $58. The paella (with shrimp, so not vegetarian) is $42 for a small portion and $84 for large. Some of the reviewers on TripAdviser complained about expensive meals, which I can see if you order some of these more expensive items. 

We would definitely consider a return visit to Rosaline on some future trip to LA.

03 January 2018

Travelogue Bordeaux 2017: We came for the wine and loved the food

One of my goals for the trip my wife and I took to France last autumn was to learn more about French wine. I've always felt uncertain about ordering French wine. Show me a wine list, and I can be fairly confident about picking a good wine from California or Italy or Argentina. But not so for the wines from France.

The irony is, on our past trips to France, we've always liked the wine with our meals. Often we would just order a carafe of house wine, and often it would be a Bordeaux. Then, when we'd return home, if I tried to order a French wine at a restaurant, too often it didn't live up to our expectations. So on this trip, we planned a 4-night stay in Bordeaux specifically to become more knowledgeable about the nuances of wine that's produced there.

During our stay, we did 2 wine-oriented day trips. One day we joined a bus tour to the Medoc region, where we visited 2 chateaus and tasted their wine. The first was Chateau D'Arsac and the other was Chateau Dillon. It was an interesting tour, and we liked the wine that we tasted at each chateau. But not so much that we wanted to buy any. The next day we took a train to Saint-Emilion. Saint-Emilion is a charming, quaint ancient city. There are several tasting rooms. But our best experience there was buying a picnic lunch at a boulangerie and then eating in the courtyard of a ruined convent where we bought a couple of glasses of wine.

Finally, I decided that the best way to learn about the wine of a region is to drink it with a meal.

Now, that's not to say that drinking wine was the only reason we came to Bordeaux. We also wanted to do some sightseeing. It's a beautiful city. Our hotel was in the city center which was very convenient. We were near many great restaurants. We were close to the river Garonne where we would stroll most evenings after dinner. All of the major sights of the city are nearby. And it was easy to get transportation when we needed it.

Sightseeing highlights: Musee des beaux-arts was a great little museum. When we were at the Louvre in Paris, we were disappointed that the wing with French landscape artists was closed. So we were delighted to be able to view so many at this museum in Bordeaux. The Palais Gallien is the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. We found it by accident on our way to the nearby Jardin Public (public garden). Both were worth seeing. The Porte Caihau is the ancient gate into the city from the river docks. And of course, the Saint-André Cathedral is an impressive site. 

Hotel: We stayed at the Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre. I loved the location. The facilities were just average. Still, it was clean and reasonably priced. And the location was very convenient. 

Restaurants: I felt that the restaurants we visited in Bordeaux were better even than the ones we ate at in Paris. 

Les Voutes - We ate here our first night in Bordeaux. We liked it so much we came back on our last night. The food was excellent. On both visits, we ordered the fixed price menu which was less than 30 Euros. The decor was eclectic and a little funky. The service was efficient and accommodating. 

Tuna at Les Voutes

LouLou was recommended to us by the staff at the hotel. It was a short walk from the hotel, but when we got there (on our first night) they had no tables available. So we made a reservation and came back on our second night. The food was very creative and beautifully presented. The menu was hand-written on a chalkboard. My wife asked for English, but they didn't have one. I felt we could have gotten by. But our server insisted on reading each item to us. To make sure that we would not complain later if we got something unexpected. Fortunately, the menu was short enough, and we loved the meal here.

Chez Jean was a more casual restaurant. It was the only time I had steak frites on our whole trip, and it was very good. There was a chill in the air in the evening. But the restaurant had heaters, so we got a table outside, looking into Place du Parlement, a bustling square with an ornate fountain. I only had one problem. We were outside, and smoking was permitted. There were smokers on both sides of us, and I didn't appreciate the smoke that drifted across our table during dinner. 

We started every day with coffee and a croissant at Brasserie des Douanes. We had the same server every time (including the time we stopped in for a glass of wine and an afternoon snack). 

This was a great part of our trip. I'd happily return to Bordeaux sometime in the future. 

Palais Gallien - Ruins of a Roman Amphitheater 

02 January 2018

Taking a Train from San Sebastián to Bordeaux

If I had known how easy it would be, I would have more seriously considered taking the train from Paris to San Sebastian, rather than flying. I had read some reviews online that made me think that the Euskotren from Hendaya to San Sebastián would be unreliable. I recalled the hassles of using the commuter train from Naples to Sorrento and worried that the Euskotren would be like that. 

So as I explained in the previous post, we ended up flying from Paris to Biarritz and then took a bus to San Sebastian. Then, after our very enjoyable stay in San Sebastian, we had to figure out how to get back to France and to our next destination - Bordeaux. I was very frustrated and had gotten to the point where I considered renting a car one-way. Fortunately, my wife insisted that we ask for help. 

Our very helpful staff person at Lagazpi Doce reassured us that the best option was to take the Euskotren. She told us that the station was nearby and that since it was a commuter train, it would be a quick, reliable way to get to Hendaya where we could catch a TVG to Bordeaux (26€ apiece, first class, senior fare). Furthermore she noted that at the time we planned to travel, the train would not be crowded.

That’s exactly how it was. The Euskotren station was an easy 20 minute walk from Lagazpi Doce. The ticket machine offered instructions in English and took my American VISA card with no problem (2.45 € apiece). The train was modern and clean and comfortable and not crowded (at 10:15 am). When it arrived in Hendaya, the SNCF station was right there. 

Being nervous travelers, we arrived an hour and a half before the scheduled departure of our train to Bordeaux. There were no lockers in the station, otherwise we might have stowed our bags and walked through the town. So instead we went across the street and had coffee at Casa José. 

About 20 minutes before our scheduled departure, we went into the station. Our train was on the platform. We boarded and got settled in, connected to the WiFi and relaxed for our ride to Bordeaux.

01 January 2018

Travelogue San Sebastian 2017: What country are we in?

Technically, I suppose legally, our trip last autumn included 4 countries - France, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. But actually, the time we spent in San Sebastian really should have counted as a fifth country - Euskadi, the Basque Country. The food, the people, the language (sure, they all speak Spanish, but among themselves, they speak euskara) all are distinctly Basque. Even the name of the city is differentiated; call it San Sebastian if you want, but you'd better understand that locally it's called Donostia.

This was the second city in a long trip that my wife and I took. In many ways, it was my favorite. Getting here from Paris did present some logistical challenges. I considered taking a train. But that would have taken most of a day. So we decided to fly to Biarritz and then took a bus to San Sebastian. We had to get up early to get to the airport, and then after we arrived in Biarritz, we waited for about an hour for the bus. It wasn't bad, but in the end, we might have been better taking the train.

When we arrived in San Sebastian/Donostia, the weather was beautiful. It was much warmer than we expected for mid-October. So after checking in to our hotel, we headed straight for the beach. We didn't have swimsuits, but we did roll up our pants legs and stroll the beach with the cool waves washing over our feet. Idyllic!
Beautiful weather, beautiful beach

Unfortunately, the weather didn't stay so nice. When we woke up on Day 2, it was overcast and threatening rain. So we grabbed umbrellas and hopped on a bus to Bilbao (about 90 minute ride) to see the Guggenheim Museum. It was a fantastic museum and well worth the day trip. We didn't need the umbrellas that day.

There are 3 major hills in Donostia that surround the city and provide beautiful vista views of the town, the bay, and the ocean. During our stay, we hiked each one. On the day we arrived, after walking along the beach, we walked up Monte Igueldo. At the top of the hill is an amusement park. We weren't very interested in that. But we did enjoy the views. If you're not in the mood for a long walk, you can ride a funiclear to the top.

I noted above that threatening weather on Day 2 prompted us to take a day trip to Bilbao. The weather on Day 3 actually was worse. This was the day we chose for our second hike, to the top of Monte Urgull. It was my favorite. A trail near the boat docks in the harbor leads you to the ruins of an old fortress. At the top of the hill, amidst the ruins, is a very enjoyable museum. That was lucky for us, because it started to rain (and we had neglected to bring along umbrellas). We spent about an hour in the museum until the rain ended. It was very informative and enjoyable.

On our last day, the weather once again turned beautiful. We set out to walk around on Monte Ulia. It was a nice walk and the area is noted for its hiking paths. But we felt the views we'd already seen from Igueldo and Urgull were nicer.
Pintxos at Casa Alcalde

Hotel: We spent 4 very nice nights at Legazpi Doce. The room was comfortable. The wifi was reliable. The staff was very helpful. When we made our reservation, there was a special offer to include free breakfast (and a discount on the room rate) for paying in advance. Guests who took advantage of this offer got coupons for breakfast at a cafe across the street, BideBide. It was a good and hearty breakfast. Our room faced onto Legazpi Kalea ('street' in Basque). It was a fairly busy street and somewhat noisy during the day. But it got quieter at night.

Food: We got very enthusiastically engrossed in the pintxos (Basque tapas) culture. There are so many pintxos bars in the Old Town that it's hard to know where to begin. Based on a Tripadviser review, our first stop was Bar Sport. We arrived late afternoon, shortly after it opened and asked the server for a tutorial on ordering pintxos. He was very helpful and gave us good advice. It was a good thing we came early because we walked by again later in the evening, and Bar Sport was jam-packed. You couldn't even get in the door.

We ended up eating pintxos for dinner every night. They probably weren't the most balanced meals of our trip. But we were satisfied and it certainly was inexpensive. I liked Bar Sport the best, and we did return there on our last night in Donostia. My wife liked Casa Alcalde best, and we ate there twice. We also had pintxos at Izkina (the bar, not the restaurant) and another bar called Mendaur (which was our least satisfying of the bunch).

Nightlife: One evening after dinner, we dropped in at Altxerri Jazz Bar. It was a very enjoyable venue and we heard an exciting, energetic Cuban singer. I had a cocktail. It was good, but kind of expensive. My wife had a nice glass of local wine that was delicious and inexpensive. I know that San Sebastian hosts an annual jazz festival. I had kind of expected we'd be able to find more jazz venues. But during our stay in October, Altxerri was the only one we found.

Cuban jazz at Altxerri
In many ways, our stay in Donostia-San Sebastian was my favorite part of the trip. I've recommended it as a destination to friends, and I'd gladly return someday.

31 December 2017

They Do Love Their Water Sports in San Sebastian Spain

During our stay in San Sebastian last October, we were amazed by the prevalence of water sports that we saw. We knew that the city's beaches are part of its appeal. So we expected to see swimming and surfing, which we did. But we didn't know that we'd see so many people participating in so many different water sports in all kinds of weather.

Sailboats racing about on a rainy day
The weather was beautiful on the afternoon we arrived in San Sebastian. We had expected cool weather, so we did not bring swimsuits on this trip. However, we did roll up our pant legs and wade in the refreshing sea water. As we walked along the beach, we watched several people in kayaks rowing back and forth across the bay. My wife and I both do some kayaking at Island Lake in Minnesota. For us, it's just a leisurely way to get out on the water and enjoy the scenery. The kayakers we saw in San Sebastian were serious rowers. We were impressed by how fast they went.

The next day, the weather turned grey and threatened rain. We carried umbrellas as we walked along the Urumea River that runs through the middle of the city. Despite the unpleasant weather, we saw several rowers sculling up and down the river.

The following day the weather was even worse. We imprudently neglected to carry umbrellas and got rained on during our hike up Monte Urgull (one of 3 high hills that provide vista views of San Sebastian, its bay and the ocean beyond). The rain didn't dissuade us; we were already committed to the hike. But we were surprised to see small sailboats racing back and forth in the bay.

But the activity that amazed me the most was river surfing on the Urumea. Our last day in San Sebastian provided a return to beautiful weather. On our morning walk (intending to hike up Monte Ulia, the second of the 3 hills), I was fascinated to observe how the high tide allowed ocean waves to roll into the mouth of the river. It's a phenomenon I've never seen before. But as interesting as that was, it was even more amazing to see people surfing up river on the waves! They were on stand-up paddleboards which they rowed into the waves as they broke. It was a truly singular sight. (Sorry, no photo. But you can read more about it by clicking this link.)

Sculling on the Urumea River