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Tim Boxer


Nina Boxer


Dan Hotels' e-Dan Club

Highway bypass at a little people habitation
Highway bypass at a little people habitation

Sigurbjorg Karlsdottir
Sigurbjorg Karlsdottir
Housing for the elven beings
Housing for the elven beings
Hafnarfjordur, town of trolls
Hafnarfjordur, town of trolls
Looking High And Low
For Iceland’s Little Folk

FTER exploring the capital city Reykjavik, plunging into the steaming thermal pool of the Blue Lagoon, marveling at the boiling stream bursting from the Strokkur geyser, and snapping pictures of the eerie lava fields, take time to look for the little people (huldufolk).

I searched low and low, but failed to detect one elf. Yet the locals swear they live among them.

So we drove 30 minutes to Hafnarfjordur, a charming town southwest of the capital, with a reputation for dwarfs, gnomes, trolls, fairies and elven beings living in harmony with the local population of 23,000.

The driver stopped suddenly on the highway. In the middle of the road was a mound of rock. He slowly maneuvered the car around the obstacle.

When the highway was built, the construction people had to make certain the land was free from the little folk. When they came upon this rock, they believed it was a home of trolls and extended the road around the rock so as not to disturb the inhabitants.

In Hafnarfjordur a local resident, Sigurbjorg Karlsdottir gave us a hidden world walk (phone 354.553.0571, sibbak@simnet.is).

She said that if a troll is out at night and doesn’t make it back home before sunrise, it turns into rock. To prove her point she took us to a park called Hellisgerbi to see "the biggest colony of elves in Iceland." She pointed to rock formations and lava grottoes that were shaped like people…the hidden people.

"If you see a little person with the bottom part of his nose missing, you’re seeing an elf," Ms Karlsdottir said. We gazed at a stump of a tree with just that shape.

Strolling around town I admired the quaint homes behind the picket fences. Then it struck me. Some of the people had built small doll houses on their lawn, a welcome consideration for the little people in their midst.

Ms Karlsdottir said the best time to discover the hidden world is Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Jan. 1 and Jan. 6. And if you are good to them, you will be rewarded. Get a Hidden World Map (info@Hafnarfjordur.is) and you’re on your way to a world teeming with all kinds of elemental beings.

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Frommer’s IcelandResources

Check out Frommer’s Iceland (Wiley, soft cover, 376 pages, $21.99, Amazon.com Price: $14.95) for its take on the little people. "People have been lured into elf homes, never to return from the hidden world," Frommer’s warns. If you can’t wait to see for yourself click www.icelandair.com.

Lonely Planet IcelandLonely Planet Iceland (soft cover, 356 pages, $22.99) has an excellent section describing the world of little people in this magical epic land. Of course the book is packed with suggestions what to do and see in this fascinating island nation.

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 presents the best places to go and things to do. The book’s top 10 regions include Iceland’s wild west, Westfjords. Populated with just 7,300 in one of Europe’s largest remaining wilderness areas, it’s no wonder the major industries here are fisheries and tourism. The first weekend in August the town of Isafjordur hosts the European Swamp Soccer, "a feast of sliding, falling and splashing about in boggy mud while trying to play football…one of the world’s great stupid sports." You’re invited to form a team. (soft cover, 208 pages, $14.99, Amazon.com Price: $10.19)

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Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard
Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard
Making Amazing Discoveries
In Mendocino Wine Region

ENTURA COUNTY in California is fast establishing an international reputation for its viticulture offerings from wineries like Faye Hawes’ Rancho Ventavo (newbies in the business who began bottling in 2005), Herzog, the Old Creek Ranch Winery and the Ojai Vineyard.

And you’re not far from the attractive Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez wine trails.

Head further north to San Luis Obispo County and enjoy the wines of any of the 200 excellent companies that call the Central Coast home.

And that’s before even touching the big guys in Napa or Sonoma.

Now we’d like to tell you about another great wine region—Mendocino. It’s some 150 miles north of San Francisco, but well worth the drive.

We’ve always loved this region where the grapes come from the verdant Anderson Valley. Explore the wineries along highway 128 before you spill out onto Highway 1, to be confronted by the primal splendor of one of the world’s most dramatic and romantic coastlines.

Mendocino’s spectacularly rocky shores are reminiscent of the West Coast of Ireland or the equally magnificent coast of Western Scotland.

On visits to Mendocino County we never fail to discover new wines and winemakers showing their wares in relaxed and comfortable tasting rooms. And if like us you’re sick of paying $20 to sip a miniscule amount of five or six wines and finding yourself standing six deep at the wine bar in Napa, this is the place for you.

The wineries of the Anderson Valley offer some of California’s softest and most subtle pinots plus the two very best California sparkling wines: the American Scharffenberger and the French Roederer

It’s purely a question of which style of bubbly you prefer—the more robust German style or the delicate French cuvee.

Our favorite still wineries included Handley, with two wonderful lady winemakers, Milla Handley and Kristen Barnhisel, which is spitting distance from Roederer. All the Handley wines we tried were superlative.

We also stopped off this time at Brutocao, owned by a family half Portuguese and half Italian, which can’t be bad and where not surprisingly they make a smashing Zinfandel Port.

Novarro, one of the older wineries in the Anderson make spectacular pinots.

Lazy Creek winery, once a wonderful Mom and Pop operation owned by an adorable German couple and recently bought by Ferrari-Carano, has a sterling reputation for Alsatian style whites and soft Burgundies.  

Room at Elk Cove Inn
Room at Elk Cove Inn
Wineries we discovered for the first time included Goldeneye, Phillips Hill Estates, Husch and Jim Ball wines made by Chicago lawyer Jim Ball who escapes from the rigors of the Windy City courts to make delightful light wines next door to Phillips Hill estates. His Rose of Pinot is one of the best roses we’ve tasted. He’s already winning double golds in San Francisco competitions.

Where to stay to enjoy everything the wine country has to offer?

For our money you can’t beat the coast.  And particularly a wonderful little village called Elk.

It’s a magnificent getaway spot on highway 1, some 17 miles south of Mendocino.

There are great hostelries in the area such as the Albion River Inn, which has a superb chef, Stephen Smith, and a great view.

Closer to town, the legendary Heritage House where the 1978 movie Same Time Next Year was filmed, is now shuttered, a victim of the economy. But others like the Little River Inn and the Hill House Inn (made famous on Murder She Wrote) fill the void.

Elk is a little less discovered and it has one of the best ocean view Inns we’ve ever encountered.

We booked without knowing a thing about it except for a line we recalled from an old Sunset magazine that called it "one of the 20 best seaside escapes in the West." The fact that the views in Elk are among the most sensational in Mendocino County, with jagged rocks drifting in and out of the fog, tall fragrant pine trees and dramatic crashing surf, making it the most romantic place—even for two old codgers like us.

For three nights we nested—there’s really no other word for it—in an ocean front cottage, facing a small rocky island. Sea otters frolicked in the surf as we watched in two strategically placed deep arm chairs with ottomans, fortified by a carafe of good local port and some great local chocolate, with a log fire crackling in the background and a deep duvet covered sleigh bed nearby.

The shower had a wall of glass overlooking the surf and the robes and toiletries were all my favorite brands. So why would we ever leave the room?

We have one word for you: Breakfast.

Dining at Elk Cove Inn
Dining at Elk Cove Inn
Elaine Bryant, who owns the inn and is to innkeepers what Rafael Nadal is to tennis players, hails from Alabama via Florida, and provides Southern hospitality the way it’s supposed to be.

A partial list of her breakfast goodies includes Champagne, kept on ice all day. Also eggs done in a different style every day:  Omelets one day, souffléed scrambled eggs with cheese and chives another, poached atop crunchy potatoes with shallots and garlic on the third.

There was polenta with a different sauce each day, a ricotta cheese and peach flan—a daily staple. Pancakes, waffles and the best French toast ever; lemon scones that floated, fabulous quiche—grits—(well, we did say she was Southern), fruits of every kind and function, cereals, oatmeal, bread pudding with whiskey sauce. And great coffee and fresh juice.

We’ve had breakfast with Bradley Ogden at Campton Place in San Francisco. This was better.

Check it out at www.elkcoveinn.com, or call toll free 1-800-275-2967.

Our hostess even loaned us a picnic hamper—with all the accoutrements—which we filled with local cheeses, breads and wine from the local deli and hiked in the nearby Hendy Woods State Park, round the corner from Boonville.

No visit to the county would be complete without a visit to the unique sunny town of Boonville on Highway 128 where the oldsters still speak their own language— Boontling—when they don’t want the tourists to understand.

We were sad to see Boonville becoming gentrified with mercantile stores selling expensive bamboo cottons and French soaps—and the local bistros with menus straight out of San Francisco.

For the most part Mendocino is as it always was—beautiful, charming and one of the most romantic spots on earth.

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David Boxer Focuses On
Fall Foliage in Raleigh, NC

To see more stunning images by David Boxer, visit www.flickr.com/photos/davidnc82 and add your comment.

David’s photo of Sprague Lake is featured in Fodor's The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West, 2nd Edition, page 42.

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