Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sleepy Hollow II: Return of the Headless Horseman

Our experience at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery could not have been more different than the last time we were there.  Rolling up on Sunday afternoon, it was hard to find a place to park!  Gone were the early morning fog and silence. Instead, tour groups roamed the broad drive up to the cemetery and dotted the hills between headstones.

On the plus side, the headless horseman was there, posing for photos.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Angels Take Manhattan

Satisfied with our Connecticut venture, we decided to head west for the Hudson River Valley.   Our destination was one I wanted to go to ever since moving to New York - Sleepy Hollow.

Leaf Peeping in Kent, CT

It's finally starting to feel like fall here in New York City.  The average daily temperature is dipping into the low 60s, leaves are changing, and apple cider becomes a necessity.  My roommates and I are going leaf peeping next weekend.  Before we go, I wanted to get down my thoughts about the last time we made the trek up to New England, in October 2011.

Kent Falls State Park, CT

Monday, August 26, 2013

Clean Energy and Quiet on North Cape

As small as Prince Edward Island may be, a trip out to North Cape can feel a bit like you're traveling to the ends of the earth.  Once you go west of Summerside, the towns begin to spread farther and farther apart, until there aren't really any towns at all - just small clusters of houses between long, low stretches of farmland held down by a thin strip of blue gulf.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Quintessential PEI

I feel like it took me so long to discover my favorite island drive, that I'm almost reluctant to share it.  I'd been out to the east, I'd been out to the west - I'd even been up to North Cape - before discovering this central island drive that I'm sure everyone and their uncle knows about.  Route 20 covers probably less than 20 miles, but with all the stops for photos and little side roads, you could easily make a day of it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Anne of Green Gables

I don't know if any literary character is as synonymous with their setting as Anne of Green Gables.  You mention Prince Edward Island to anyone around the world and chances are, if they know of it, it's because of Anne.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Miss PEI

Between the Egypt trip this spring and (hopefully!) Brazil next summer, my meager travel savings are pretty much spoken for.  Still, this is the first summer since my parents built their house up on Prince Edward Island that I won't be going.

How do I miss it?  Let me count the ways!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Lamest Place in the Entire Universe to Spend the 4th of July


Where is the best spot in NYC to watch the Macy's Fireworks?
New Jersey.

What is the most fun thing to do in NYC on the 4th of July?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jazz Age Lawn Party


For two weekends each summer, the Dreamland Orchestra hosts a Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island.  People get ridiculously into it and it's fun to see the result.  So after finding some vaguely vintage-looking outfits, Lis and I grabbed a picnic lunch at Trader Joe's and headed down to the ferry.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Felucca Cruise


Our felucca captain joked, "You remind me of the man who went to Egypt, and when he returned, all his friends asked him, "How was it?"  "I haven't developed the pictures yet," he said."  In that spirit, I'm presenting our wonderful felucca cruise as a picspam without much in the way of commentary.

Five Dishes or Drinks to Try in Egypt


We had mezzes several times during our trip, but my hands down favorite was at Sofra in Luxor.  Sofra's mezze platter is a combination of eight hot and cold offerings from their mezze menu, served with pita-like bread.  A little poking around the internet shows me that which eight you get varies.   Ours included...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Belly Dance in Egypt

Visiting our friend Kate while she worked in Cairo was the excuse for our trip, but Lis and I both had ulterior motives for wanting to visit Egypt.  For me, it was because I had wanted to be an Egyptologist when I was seven.  For Lis, it was a bit of a pilgrimage.  As a belly dancer, Cairo is the place to go for the art, and yet, it's also a harsh reminder of how dancers are perceived by modern Egyptians.

I'm too sexy for my country.

Valley of the Artisans and Medinet Habu

Valley of the Kings

image by watchsmart

Friday, March 8, 2013

Top Ten Favorites, USA and Canada

image by Ken Yuel

Between having grandparents in Arkansas and an aunt in Texas, my childhood summers were full of road trips.  I've seen a good deal of the southeastern quarter of my country, and of it, I think my favorite place is Louisiana.  New Orleans is great - there's no denying it while sitting at Cafe du Monde with chickory-infused coffee and beignets, nursing the previous night's hangover.  But the rest of the state is just as fascinating.  The River Road between NOLA and Baton Rogue is bursting with plantations, from movie-set ready Oak Alley to colorful, Creole Laura. Natchitoches (Nack-uh-tish), farther northwest, is another place worth visiting.  The entire state is a place unto itself, where jazz and zydeco reside side-by-side and the food is perfection.

image by Andreas Adelmann

The Southwest
One summer when I was in college, my family went beyond the usual road trips to Arkansas and Texas, and flew out west to visit my uncle in California.  Of course, it would not be a family trip without at least a few hundred miles of driving!  We spent our first night in Las Vegas, at the Luxor Hotel.  The next morning we set off for Grand Canyon National Park.  The drive took us through Utah, where we stopped for a day trip in Zion National Park.  After spending the next few days on the north rim of the canyon, we drove to Los Angeles.  While there, we saw the Hollywood Strip, Griffiths Observatory, The Getty Museum, and the Queen Mary.  My uncle couldn't understand why two teens would want to swim in the freezing Pacific rather than go to Disneyland, but swim we did.

image by Aurimas

My second California roadtrip was solo.  My excuse was that I wanted to visit friends and family, but really, I was a dork on a Star Trek kick who wanted to see Chris Pine in 'Farragut North'.  I started in Berkeley, where I stayed with one of my best friends.  I explored San Francisco while she and her husband worked and they showed me around Berkeley in the evenings; on Saturday, we took off for Napa for an afternoon of wine tasting.  The following morning, I caught the train to Los Angeles, where I stayed at the Hotel Palomar in Westwood.  I (sucessfully!) rented a car and did a few L.A. things I'd missed the time before - Rodeo Drive, La Brea Tar Pits, the Norton Simon, Santa Monica and Venice beaches.  After seeing the play for which I'd traveled so far, I headed down to Disneyland on my birthday (free entry!).  The last few days were spent with my uncle and aunt in Lake Elsinore, as well as a day trip down to San Diego to visit my brother.

image by Antony Spencer

The Pacific Northwest
A friend was getting married in Seattle on New Year's day, so I decided to make a trip of it.  After spending several fabulous days in the city with friends (and doing Pike Place, the Underground Tour, and the Space Needle), I headed off for the Olympic Peninsula.  The success of this trip was impeded by a) massive amounts of snow and b) the fact that my rental car was a Mustang convertible.  The first two days were pleasant, including a day trip by ferry to Victoria, BC, where I had tea at the Fairmont Empress.  My luck turned after visiting Forks, and given my firmly tongue-in-cheek love of 'Twilight', I believe a sparkly vampire curse may have been in effect. What started as a pleasant and scenic day ended with no cell phone coverage, the Mustang backwards in a snowbank, and fervent prayers that AAA would arrive in time to save me from spending the night at the motel in back of the dive bar that looked like something out of 'A&E True Crime: Serial Killer Edition'.  Overall, it was still a great - and learning - experience. 

image by Tom Kelly

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is awe-inspiring.  In a matter of hours, we saw bears and bison, elk grazing by Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and its Lower Falls... and had smelled enough sulfur to last a lifetime.  But the really interesting part of the trip, to me, was the drive to the park on Beartooth Highway.  The road winds its way up from the relatively flat farmlands of eastern Montana into the mountains along the Wyoming border.  After a dizzying series of switchbacks, the road levels out along a scrubby, tundra-like plateau.  The landscape seems unearthly and impressed me much more than anything I'd seen of the Alps (Beartooth pass is higher, at 3,337 m).  The road closes in winter, naturally, as even in summer, several feet of snow lined the road in places.  We took a brief break and photo stop at Beartooth Pass, overlooking two glacial lakes. 

image by Anna Gorin

Prince Edward Island and Maine
About fifteen years ago, my parents sort of became Canada-philes.  They would take a new trip up to the Maritimes about every summer, checking out Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and finally, Newfoundland.  They ended up buying land on bucolic little PEI, known around the world as the setting for 'Anne of Green Gables'.  The island is also known for its fishing and farming - lobster, mussels, oysters, and potatoes are in abundance. While the island is fun to explore, the drive up the east coast is always a treat as well.  Maine's lighthouses, coastal villages, and Acadia National Park are all worth a trip of their own.  Campobello, FDR's summer home on the border, is a fun (and free) stop.

Washington D.C.
I have New York friends who have been to D.C. and hated it.  I think they just misunderstand it - hiking from one monument to another in the blazing heat and humidity is no fun.  But D.C. deserves more of a chance than some high school field trip.  Don't get me wrong - the free museums of the Smithsonian are some of the best our country has to offer.  The monuments are definitely worth seeing - the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials in particular.  The traffic patterns are ridiculous, but the layout of the city is easy to grasp and the metro is clean and efficient. If you want to break away from the typical tourist stuff, Georgetown and H Street are great places to start.  Between the embassies, the historically black community, recent immigrant populations, and so many government and NGO jobs, D.C. has a diverse population and an international style that few other places can pull off.

image by Joshua Yospyn

Puerto Rico
I feel like most American youth experience the Caribbean for the first time in one of two ways - on a cruise, or with their church youth group.  I was one of the latter.  There was no AC in the church where we stayed, only the open-air windows which let in lizards, and more importantly, every mosquito known to man.  Given the camaraderie inspired by these conditions, we had a great time.  While a lot of the kids only spoke Spanish, we became really good friends over the course of our two-week stay.  In our time off, we went to the beach, visited vibrant old San Juan, and took a death-defying drive on a pimped-out school bus up to El Yunque Rainforest, where we played in a waterfall. 

image by Pierre Laurin

Québec City
My parents and I spent one very snowy spring break in Québec City.  None of us speak French, which made for some occasional hilarity, as did the 40" of snow Mother Nature had decided to dump on the province a few days earlier.  Despite our initial horror, it turned out to be the perfect time to visit, as the snow turned the city into a sort of story-book winter wonderland.  From the grand Château Frontenac to the city walls (Québec is the only walled city in the Americas north of Mexico) to the quaint little streets of old town, everything was picture perfect.  We also enjoyed the food - poutine for lunch, maple sugar candy for a snack, a more modern take on cuisine québécoise at Le Patriarche for dinner one night, with a more traditional version at Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens the next.  To finish off the trip, we stopped at the only ice hotel in the Americas, the Hôtel de Glace, to snap a few pictures.

image by Carl TerHaar

A little over two weeks in the car with one's parents may sound like a recipe for disaster, but I loved our family road trip to Michigan.  We spent most of the time exploring the Upper Peninsula, from kitchsy-cute Mackinac Island to remote Isle Royale.  We hit all four of Michigan's national parks and fifteen lighthouses, including a stay at one.  The summer weather was gorgeously clear and cool (though downright freezing at the locks at Sault Ste Marie).  We wrapped up our journey back on the mitten, where we visited Traverse City's cherry festival, the wineries on Old Mission Peninsula, and dramatically beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes Nat' Park.

New York City
This feels like a bit of a cheat, as I currently live in Brooklyn.  But really - when people visit America, NYC is typically toward the top of the "to-see" list and for good reason.  (I started listing the reasons, but honestly, you already know them.)  I'm still exploring the city myself, after six-ish years total in Brooklyn.  This spring, I want to visit Chelsea Market and the High Line.  I want to get a burger from Shake Shack (the lines are ridiculous, so I've never eaten there, despite working just down the street for over a year).  I want to do a DUMBO day in which I get macarons from Almondine, chocolate from Jacques Torres, and take a whirl on Jane's Carousel.  New York really is the best city on earth, in part, because it's a million different cities. You could spend a lifetime here and still not see or do everything.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Top Ten Favorites Abroad

image by zug55

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, the first place I set foot outside the USA, is hard to top.  South Africa is a heartbreakingly beautiful country and Cape Town is its crown jewel.  From the Atlantic Ocean, the city rises quickly and majestically toward Table Mountain. Roads weave up the slopes, lined with white and pastel houses that vary in style from Dutch Colonial to Modern. The Botanical Garden is filled with interesting plants. The waterfront mall is within walking distance of a penguin colony. At the top of Table Mountain, you'll find dassies, little rabbit-like animals whose closest living relative is the elephant.  And on an island in the harbor, a man who would later become the first non-apartheid leader of the modern country was jailed for 27 years.  It's hard to reconcile the beauty of the landscape with the story of its people, but together they make South Africa one of the most unique places on earth.

image by bass_nroll

Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa
I honestly don't have much to say about Tsitsikamma, except that it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  If you have the chance to go, take it.  It's at the end of the world, and it feels like it.

image by Wild Dogger

Safaris in Shamwari Game Reserve and Kruger Nat' Park, South Africa
Of course, a safari would have to be on the "tops" list.  We went on two in South Africa, one to a private game park called Shamwari, and of course, the other at Kruger National Park.  I'm glad to be able to compare the experiences, as both had their advantages.  Shamwari was smaller and more personal - only about six people per vehicle meant much more one-on-one with the guide.  While the large cats were enclosed in their own separate area, going off-road to find the animals meant we saw loads more of them in a very short amount of time (a baby rhino stole the show).  Afterwards we were treated to tea and hot chocolate up at the lodge.  Meanwhile, Kruger is known around the world and is immense.  We spent our two days there in one corner of the park and still felt we'd seen a lot.  It generally took longer to find the animals and the vehicles held many more people, but the night-time safari and staying overnight were definite advantages.  Plus, lions, roaming free!  By the side of the road, or in the road, in some cases.

image by WJMcIntosh

Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany
This is what we expect castles to look like as children.  We grow up and learn that real castles are made of grey stone and are stalwart and boxy and drafty.  They rarely have soaring turrets and are much smaller than we'd thought.  Neuschwanstein is the exception.  The structure may have inspired Cinderella's castle, but it was inspired itself by fairy tales and operas.  A reality-defying castle built by a "mad" king, Neuschwanstein is perfectly set - perched up on a mountain, surrounded by forests and waterfalls.  The inside is decorated like something out of a fantasy, though pictures are not permitted and your memory both fades and embellishes the interiors in your mind once you've left.

image by Patrick.Raymond

The Vatican, Vatican City
I'm not Catholic, which colors my view of the Vatican as more of a cultural experience than a religious one. I'd read The Agony and the Ecstasy in my Aesthetics class, so perhaps it was Michelangelo's work that really impressed me.  The Sistine Chapel was jam-packed and filled with annoying guards hushing people one moment, then yelling, "No pictures!" the next.  The artwork still managed to transcend the experience.  In St. Peter's Basilica, I ditched our guide and walked around on my own.  The place is enormous.  I love Rome in general (and yes, I'm purposely ignoring that the Vatican is its own state as I say this) because it's living history in a way no other city is.

image by claudio.marcio2

The Louvre, Paris, France
First of all, I love the name of this museum.  I will never be able to pronounce it quite right, but "LOU-vre" is so much fun to say.  Anyway, the pyramids were still fairly new and novel when I went there and the entire entry was quite impressive. I treated my short time at the Louvre almost like another safari.  The Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Michelangelo's Dying Slave were my "big four".  (I had hoped to see some Ingres as well - another fun one to pronounce - but that wing was closed at the time.)  Though I spent enough time looking at each to satisfy me, I still managed to knock off my itinerary in record speed.  I wandered and saw a bit more, but by this point, I was *done*.  I left the building and walked around the Tuileries Garden by myself.  Paris is a place I'd love to go back to and spend more time on everything, but art especially.  The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Musée de l'Orangerie... with a side trip to Giverny.

image by Ferdalangur.net

Harry Potter and London, England
College and Harry Potter are tied together for me - I was obsessed with the series and most of my friends from that time were people I met because of the books.  When one of the group did study abroad in Brighton for a year, we decided to take  a trip to visit her.  Four of us flew to London, where one of the friends, webmistress of a major Harry Potter news site, had business to attend to.  The rest of the time was spent visiting so many of the things I'd missed in London on the first go-round - the Tower of London, the Globe Theater, the British Library, Covent Gardens.  And of course, we made the pilgrimage to Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station.  (We also explored Euston, to see if Rowling had indeed mixed up the platform numbers.) After wasting a couple hours at a pub, we had the nerve to go and get a picture with Ian McKellan by a stage door, without actually having attended the play.  Then, like Lydia Bennet, it was off to Brighton.  A few months later, I would return there to read the 5th Harry Potter book.  After receiving our books at midnight, we ran down to the beach and read all night.

image by TiaBat

Venice, Italy
You know a place has gotten under your skin when you smell a faint whiff of sewage and fondly think, "Ah, Venice..."  But I should explain.  Does Venice stink in the summer, as so many would-be tourists want to know?  It does, in certain places.  In my particular case, I'm recalling a  tiny back street on the island of Giudecca, a street 99.9% of tourists will never walk down.  For me, it was part of the walk from painting class to the small shop where I'd buy lunch.  The laundry-lined streets were sunny and empty at noon, my classmates and I were on break, and the shop had a barrel of wine where locals would fill up their plastic jugs for less than 10 euros.  I spent about six weeks living in Venice thanks to my school's study abroad program.  At the time, it was the hottest summer on record and our apartment in Castello had no AC.  Looking back, I still wouldn't trade it for the world.  My advice for Venice is this - stay overnight.  Once the tourists leave for the day, Venice is a different place.  Second, if you have more than an afternoon, get lost (it's the easiest thing). Make sure you see Piazza San Marco, then step away and wander down to very edges of Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, Castello - maybe even take the boat across to Giudecca.  The perfect light is much more enjoyable when you don't have to share it with 20,000 other people.

image by *sarahdippity

Cinque Terre, Italy
This side-trip from Venice did not begin with promise.  Our train was delayed in Bologna, which meant we arrived in Parma minutes after the final connecting train had left for the night.  After spending the evening in a square near the university, we boarded our final train and watched, bleary-eyed, as the countryside slipped by.  Emilia Romagna seemed to be the one green corner in Italy that summer, which already made it feel a little unreal.  Between the lack of sleep and the heat, that sense of other-worldliness continued as we stumbled out of the train at Riomaggiore. After dropping our things at the apartment, we felt refreshed walking the easy paved section of trail to Manarola.  It was a sunny day, and the turquoise sea and steep slopes were dream-like.  The next two sections of the trail were much tougher and the day got hotter.  The sea, hundreds of feet below, looked inviting.  We stopped at Vernazza for lunch and many of us called it a day.  We went back to Riomaggiore and swam in the water by its rocky beach.

A Week in Umbria, Italy
At the end of my study abroad program, my parents and brother met me in Venice for our first, and only, trip abroad as a family.  We spent the next two weeks traveling around Italy, from Tuscany to Rome.  While the entire trip was great, the week we spent at a rented villa in Umbria was truly wonderful.  The villa itself was a small converted barn, at the top of a steep gravel road.  As hair-raising as the drive up was, it was worth it for A) the view and B) the pool.  Again, it was the hottest summer since 1540, so between daytrips to places like Cortona (a stone's throw away), Assisi, and Gubbio, we ate good food, enjoyed the breath-taking view, and stayed in the pool.

*Note: Someday, I hope to put my own pictures in this post.  (What did we do before digital cameras?)  Until then, thanks, Flickr. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Egypt Packing Planning

Egypt Travel Packing

1) TOPS. Five tee shirts in neutral colors, two long-sleeved tees.
2) PANTS. One pair of wide-leg black yoga pants, one pair of cargo pants.
3) DRESS. Casual but modest maxi dress.
4) HAT, SCARVES, AND JEWELRY. Floppy black sunhat, two scarves, cheap and simple earrings and bangles.
5) SWIMWEAR. Modest swimsuit, tunic coverup, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
6) LAYERS. Black cardigan, camp shirt for a pop of subtle color.
7) LUGGAGE. Carry-on suitcase, backpack for Luxor side-trip, small camera bag for necessities.
8) FOOTWEAR. One pair of sneakers, one pair of casual flats, one pair of sandals.
9) HEALTH. Hand sanitizer and wipes for easy clean, emegen-c for rehydration.
10) MEMORY MAKERS. Travel journal, camera, and flashlight for the tombs.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Christmas in South Beach, Miami

Thanks to my parents' friends who lent us the use of their penthouse apartment, we spent a lovely Christmas holiday in South Beach, Miami.  Here's my recommended itinerary, which closely follows our own:

DAY 1:
Walk along Ocean Drive/on the beach
Stop by Art Deco center and gift shop
Espanola Way
Lunch at Charlotte Bakery   
Lincoln Road Mall
Dinner at Oliver's

Ocean Drive contains the highest concentration of art deco buildings anywhere in the world (iirc).  The Art Deco center has a cute gift shop full of retro items.  Both Española Way and Lincoln Road Mall are major shopping areas - the former is smaller, more boho, and has more restaurants.  Resist the urge to stop and eat, and head over to Charlotte Bakery instead, where you can sample empanadas in the style of several different South American countries.  Be sure to visit the bakery instead of the cafe next door and ask for the special sauce!  After lunch, Lincoln Road Mall has more of your chain stores, but is the perfect place to buy ridiculously tacky souvenirs at 'Surf Shop'.  For dinner, Oliver's is a nice little cafe with good service and food.  It had the added advantage of being a block away from where we stayed, and was cheaper and calmer than things on the beach side.

DAY 2:
Big Bus Tour of South Beach and Miami
Stop at Versailles for lunch, doggy-bag it for dinner
Walk down to South Pointe for the sunset
Stop by Joe's Stone Crab for a take-out slice of key lime pie

The Big Bus tour was kind of a mixed bag, but it was a good way to see South Beach and Miami in one day.  More importantly, it got us to Versailles, where we stuffed our faces with Cuban food.  The restaurant was insanely crowded, but lines moved fast.  Our waitress spoke mostly Spanish, which might be an issue if you have dietary restrictions, but just added to the experience for us.  We returned to South Beach stuffed.  I walked down to South Pointe just in time to see the last few cruise ships leave for the day.  On the way back to the apartment, I picked up some Key Lime Pie from Joe's Stone Crab.  (Look for the carry-out shop to the left of the restaurant.)  I took it back to the apartment and had it with coffee.

DAY 3:
Drive down to Everglades Nat' Park
Take the Anhinga Trail to see birds and gators
Stop by the 'Robert Is Here' roadside stand for shakes
Snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park

This was our day to get out of Miami.  A note about tolls in southern Florida - there are no booths.  Either you have a local smartpass, or they take a picture of your plate and send you the bill in the mail.  Honestly, it's a great way to do things (sparing the locals the extra cost and slowed traffic), and none of the tolls were exorbitant.  Anyway, we took the toll road down to Everglades National Park.  We only had an hour, but the Anhinga Trail, close to the park's entry, delivered - we saw about a dozen gators.  On the way out, we stopped by the fruit stand for shakes - so good.  Finally, we headed down to the keys to snorkel at John Pennekamp State Park.  We had reservations for the last tour of the day, but the water was still pleasant and very clear.  We even saw a nurse shark! 

DAY 4:
Spend a day at the beach
Cubanos and medianoches from Puerto Sagua for lunch
Walk down Ocean Drive at night

On Christmas day, we relaxed, spending most of the day on the beach.  The liquor laws seem to be unenforced on the sand - we saw plenty of people with coolers.  We indulged in cubanos from Puerto Sagua, which was open Christmas Day, and lazed about in the sun.  That evening, we took a stroll down neon-lit Ocean Drive for one last look.

Of course, in nicer weather, more beach days should be added.  It was a chilly 72 on Christmas Day!  I don't usually eat breakfast, but for those who do, Big Pink was highly recommended - we just never got around to going there.  Finally, there are closer places to snorkel, like Bills Baggs State Park on nearby Key Biscayne, where you can also check out the lighthouse and Stiltsville.  Any must-sees we missed doing?