Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cape Breton National Park

We'd already enjoyed some beautiful scenery on the way up to Cheticamp, as we followed the Cabot Trail north. I didn't know enough about Canada's first national park in the Maritimes to have any expectations, but within the first ten minutes of our drive through Cape Breton National Park, I was surprised and delighted at every bend as dramatic mountains spilled down to the ocean. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Virtual Ride around Cape Breton National Park

Here's some video footage of our trip around Cape Breton, set to local music. Skip to minute 2:00 for the most dramatic scenery!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Cabot Trail's "Sunset Side"

My tags and the fact that I'm in the middle of a trip series kind of spoils the surprise, but if you saw the above picture out of context, where would you imagine it to be? Scotland? Ireland? Brittany? I certainly had no idea that Canada had such a place in Cape Breton.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wining and Dining in Nova Scotia

I'd never been to Nova Scotia, so after we dropped my brother off at the airport in Moncton, New Brunswick, we headed east for a couple of days. My mom had suggested one of two itineraries - either south to Halifax and Lunenburg, or east to Cape Breton - I chose the latter. As we crossed the narrow strip of land that attaches the province to the rest of Canada, the landscape was not what I'd imagined Nova Scotia would look like - low, flat, and marshy, with plenty of windmills alongside the road. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Afternoon Tea at Dalvay by the Sea

Afternoon Tea didn't get off to the best start.

But first, let's back up a little and talk about Dalvay by the Sea and why it's worth visiting. It was built in 1895 as a private "cottage" for an American named Alexander Macdonald, proving that there is a long and proud history of Yankees building gaudy houses on the island.  At least Macdonald  had a name that fit right in - being Scots-born - and for the next ten years, the $50,000 house continued to help the local economy, with operating costs running about $10,000 per summer. After Macdonald passed away, his family lost their money and the house, and it went through a series of investors before being sold to, and turned into a hotel by the Canadian government in 1938.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Beach Day at Basin Head

Prince Edward Island is home to some of Canada's most popular beaches. While Canada + swimmable beaches might sound like an oxymoron, the gulf stream actually makes the water here warmer than most of the Atlantic seaboard north of the Carolinas.

You'll find popular beaches near Summerside and Cavendish, but my family's favorite place for a 'beach day' is a bit off the tourist trail. Basin Head Provincial Park has the best amenities of any beach of the eastern side of the island and was voted 'best beach in Canada' by a couple years back. Here are a few reasons why...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Disappointment at Thunder Cove

This is the face of someone who is about to be vastly disappointed.

I've written about my favorite island drive before. Each year I've visited since, I've attempted to return to Thunder Cove. And every year, it gets bumped to "next time" for one reason or another. My brother's visit was the perfect excuse to put it back on the agenda. But we were going to make one vital change - this time, I was going to make sure that we arrived at low tide, so that we could explore the rock formations that appear in, like, 90% of Pinterest-worthy pictures of PEI. The beach is a little less dramatic these days, as several of the former arches and other sandstone structures have crumbled into the sea, but still - I wanted to see it with my own eyes.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gratuitous PEI Food Post

Chowder at the Blue Mussel Cafe, North Rustico

Whenever someone wants to come visit us in PEI, there's one important question that needs to be asked - do you like seafood? Because let's be real, 95% of what I do when I go to PEI is eat. Lobster, oysters, mussels, clams, fish and chips - whether it's raw, boiled, fried, or in a chowder, PEI does it, and does it well.

Monday, September 14, 2015

PEI National Park - a Tale of Two (Three) Parks

Prince Edward Island has exactly one National Park - not surprising, given its tiny size. However, the park is spread out along the northern shore of the island, a little piece here, a little piece there. The park has three main sections - going from west to east, there's one at Cavendish, one at Brackley-Dalvay, and one at Greenwich. While the Cavendish section is probably the most-visited portion of the park (thanks to Green Gables and a popular nearby beach), we missed it this time round, spending a day in the Brackley-Dalvay section and a day at Greenwich instead.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lower Bedeque Schoolhouse


For my first outing on this summer's two-week trip to Canada, we decided to visit one of the few L. M. Montgomery sites I had left to see. I wanted to get it out of the way before my brother arrived, as we had a full itinerary for him and little room for the island's red-headed heroine or her creator. So we headed south, passing under the Confederation Bridge on our way to Lower Bedeque.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Packing for PEI - I May Have a Stripe Problem


Sometimes - okay, 90% of the time - I get so into packing for a trip that I either sketch out the outfits I'm planning to bring, or make a set on Polyvore. This being my fourth summer traveling to Prince Edward Island, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to bring, but decided to record my choices for posterity anyway.

Monday, August 3, 2015

15 Michigan Lighthouses in 14 Days

Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state, with 129 standing sentry around the Great Lakes. While we only saw a fraction of them during our two week road trip, it felt like a lot. Here are the fifteen lighthouses we encountered...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sleeping Bear Dunes

In college, I had a suitemate from Michigan. When the rest of us discovered she had never seen the ocean, it became something we had to do. At the end of spring semester, we all rode the train out to Coney Island so that Josie Jo could see the Atlantic for the first time. When it came time for the magic moment, we walked down to the ocean... and she shrugged. "It looks like Lake Michigan," she said.

About nine years later, I finally understood what she meant.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Traverse City - Cherry and Wine Country

We spent a full day driving from Ahmeek to Petoskey, skirting the Hiawatha National Forest, stopping in Manistique for yet another lighthouse (I may have stayed in the car), and picking up jerky at Gustafson's Smoked Fish. The weather was cloudy until we reached the Mackinac Bridge, then the clouds parted and we had a lovely sun-dappled drive southwest along the Lake Michigan shoreline. It was getting close to late afternoon, so when we found the Bay Inn along a particularly pretty section of roadway overlooking the lake, we stopped for the night. Driving back to Petoskey-proper, we walked around a bit, and had a nice, early dinner at Whitecaps.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brockway Mountain Drive

Back on the Keweenaw Peninsula, we spent a day doing Brockway Mountain Drive, a route that's known for its views. Our first stop of the morning was The Jampot - a tiny, charming shop run by monks.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Independence Day in Annapolis

Originally, I'd planned to go see the fireworks on the National Mall to celebrate my first summer back in a place that actually celebrates Independence Day. But between the weather (rainy), fear-mongering (~the terrorists have won~), and the opportunity to spend some time with family, I ended up heading for Annapolis, Maryland, instead.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Isle Royale

The reason we'd pressed so far north? Isle Royale National Park.

Isle Royale is the sixth least-visited national park - the least visited outside Alaska and American Samoa. The reason why? Well, first, it's kinda out of the way - in the middle of Lake Superior, requiring a three-hour boat ride to get there. Second, it's expensive. The ferry fee alone means if you're headed to this park, it's because you've scouted it out in advance.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Keweenaw Peninsula

At this point, some people might turn around, satisfied that they'd seen the most popular attractions on the UP. But not the Beams - that's not how we roll.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

We started out at our cabin close to Munising, working our way east. Our first stop of the day was Munising Falls, where we hiked around and enjoyed both the waterfall and the nearby beach at Sand Point. Still on the lookout for my wolf, I spotted tracks in the sand. Sure, maybe they were probably left by a dog, but the nearby deer tracks had this Harry Potter fan imagining that Padfoot, Moony, and Prongs were riding again.

Monday, June 22, 2015

UP We Go

The weather was beautifully sunny when we left Mackinac Island. The ferry sped us back over to Mackinaw City, where we hopped in our car to head over the 'Mighty Mac', the bridge that connects lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula - or 'UP' in local parlance. It's the third longest suspension bridge in the United States, after the Verrazano-Narrows and the Golden Gate.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mackinac Island


The ferry ride over and our walk around town the evening before had been gray and drizzly, so waking up to blue skies for our first full day on Mackinac Island was a treat.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Michigan's Lake Huron Coast

I had that dumb Kid Rock song stuck in my head, yet again. As the date of our road trip crept closer, it seemed to pop up with increasing frequency. It was summer of 2010 and I had just quit my first teaching job to move up to New York in the fall. While I was enjoying my last few months at home, my mom had been planning an epic two-week road trip around northern Michigan. At one point, she had been second-guessing her choice of destination ("I may have gone overboard - we could have gone overseas for all the planning this trip involves and what it's costing"), but in the end, it turned out to be one of our favorite family trips ever. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

California 2009 Roundup

In 2009, I decided to fly cross-country to meet Chris Pine finally take advantage of the fact I had friends and family in California, and hit them all up as I traveled from San Francisco to San Diego. Below you'll find a link to every post I wrote about this particular trip, in chronological order.

Monday, May 4, 2015

One Day in San Diego


After getting directions off Mapquest (note: lol, 2009), I headed down I-15 toward San Diego.  I got off an exit early, but was still able to find my way to the zoo.  At least southern California doesn't fail at signage.  I parked at the zoo's lot, which was, to my amazement, free.  I called my brother for the second time that day, and for the second time, it went straight to voice mail.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Disneyland (for Free!) on my Birthday

I woke up around 6:30, took a short shower, and packed.  Miraculously, I managed to fit everything in four bags (all five bottles of wine fit in my new bag bought for that purpose - win!).  I looked over the room one last time and went downstairs to check out.  Car loaded, I headed round the block to get back on Wilshire going west.  And hit my first LA traffic fustercluck.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Beaches and 'Farragut North'


I had the day planned out, as usual, but at a more leisurely pace.  I got up when I felt like it (around 9:30, mercifully still waking up on East Coast time despite going to bed at West Coast times).  I got my things together and headed off for the beach.  After managing to turn around on Wilshire Blvd by doing a loop on some residential streets to the north, I drove west toward Santa Monica. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Driving around L.A.


I set my alarm for 7:00, wanting to be sure I'd wake up in time to call Hertz to arrange for them to pick me up from the hotel (they'd been closed when I'd called the day before).  I woke up earlier and lay in bed, waiting for the alarm.  Eventually I got up - the alarm never worked anyway.  I called Hertz, and they told me I'd have to take a cab, but that they'd take it off my rental.  So I did, and got to the Hertz place, like, half an hour early.  The couple in front of me was returning their car for a smaller one, which had me nervous, but when it came my turn, I got a cute light blue Hyundai Accent.  It was small and had wonderfully responsive gas and breaks, which was great for city driving.  I made sure I knew where the hazard lights were, went over my route one more time and headed out for Pasadena.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Coast Starlight


Becky came in to wake me up at 7:00, but I'd been awake since 5:30, wondering how I was going to fit everything in my bags.  Miraculously, I managed it (gaining a bag, since my purse had been packed on the flight).  They drove me to Jack London Square, and waited while I got my ticket and checked my bags.  Then they waited for the train with me.  The train pulled into the station, and we said our goodbyes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Napa Valley Day-Trip


Saturday morning, we got a leisurely start. We left Berkley at about 10:00 AM and drove north toward Napa.  The countryside was pretty but stark - Becky says that in the winter, all the "golden" hills are green.  Reaching Napa, we got on the Silverado Trail.  We stopped at Soda Canyon Store and mulled over all the options - sandwiches or cheese, crackers, prosciutto, etc?  I ended up getting both, while Becky and David got sandwiches.  I tried calling Clos Du Val to see if we could reserve a picnic spot, but only reached a recording.  We headed down the road a few minutes and found the winery on the right. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom, Washington DC

Since this is my first spring back in Virginia, I wanted to make sure to catch one of the few DC "events" that people travel from all over the country - and world - to see. I checked the forecast for the blossoms and the weather frequently over the past week, attempting to figure out what the best morning would be. We'd had rainy weather off and on as the blossoms started to emerge, but the peak weekend was supposed to be gorgeous. The Saturday of the Cherry Blossom Parade is always ridiculous, so I made plans for Sunday morning. I got up at 4:30, drove to the nearest Metro station (free parking on weekends!), caught a train and got off at the Smithsonian stop. Even before 6:00 AM, there were plenty of other tourists exiting the station with me, most with much better cameras than my little Canon point-and-shoot. But what happened next was pretty amazing...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge and Park

On Friday I got a late start, but managed to get into the city and to the corner where I was supposed to catch my bus with minutes to spare.  Unfortunately, the bus didn't leave from the corner, so went whizzing past while I was still trying to figure out if I was in the right place.  An hour later, after loads and loads of MUNI buses had passed, I'd asked two drivers for directions (one very helpful, one not), calls to MUNI and the Golden Gate bus whatever, I got on the bus headed out of town.  I got off at the Golden Gate Bridge, and was in a better mood almost instantly.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Walking Around San Francisco


I've used lots of different websites to write about my travels over the years, way back to when Globosapiens was a thing people actually used. Yahoo!Travel was another way of posting itineraries and travel blogs, which I used for a few of my trips back in 2008 and 2009. Months ago, I received an e-mail from Yahoo stating that they were shutting the service down. While I'd practically forgotten it had existed, what with all the newer and fancier ways to plan and write about trips, I was glad for the heads up, and copied the trips I'd written about on Yahoo. I'll be reposting the (lightly edited) content here, one trip at a time.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ten Reasons Qatar 2022 is a Horrible Idea


As part of my travel-less 2015, I'm working on putting my photos from Egypt, Brazil, and Argentina into albums. Back in the day, I'd get home from a big trip, immediately take my twenty rolls of film to be processed, and pick out the perfect album or scrapbook for the job. Now? I upload all my pictures to my computer, edit them in Photoshop, and post them to Facebook and this blog. And while I love being able to share with friends online, I miss having that hard copy that will survive the zombie apocalypse. So, that's what I'm doing.

I'm about halfway done with my Brazil album, and I'm smiling just looking at the pictures of the USA vs Belgium game in Salvador. I'm so, so glad I went to this World Cup, especially given all the signals FIFA has put out this week that they'll be shifting the 2022 World Cup back by five months. It's a train wreck, and at this point, it's hard to tell if they'll pull it off, or if FIFA will end up collateral damage in its own epic mess.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The B-Word

Picture this -

Well after noon on a Saturday, I drag myself out of bed, throw on some clothes that are clean-ish, and stick my hair in a ponytail to mask the fact I didn't bother showering. I grab my keys and head for the door.

My first stop is the gas station. I spend a full two minutes trying to figure out where the gas cap release is located on my new (to me) vehicle and feel like an idiot in the process, but hey - now I know. I swipe my card, fill my tank, and am done with the first stop on my itinerary.

Next, I drop by the local health clinic. I need a TB test for work. After thirty minutes of sitting in the waiting room - leaning as far as I can from the gentleman to my right who's hacking up a lung while simultaneously trying to avoid the toddler to my left, as he repeatedly rubs his eyes then smears his hands all over the shared armrests - I'm called in. Within five minutes, I've been injected and band-aided, with instructions to come back in a few days. Stop two - check.

I go over to Target and grab a few things I realized I needed five minutes after I left the last time. Then I'm off to the grocery store. I fill my mini-cart with a week's worth of food before steering it to the checkout.

Of course, the shortest line is four people deep, and I've been burned too many times by the professed "self check-out" at this location to bother. The woman directly in front of me turns around and shoots me a look of sympathetic misery.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding Family History in Vermont

When I was fresh out of college, under-employed, and living with my parents, I got into genealogy. Aside from being a nerd about history, I'm the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, so the role of 'family historian' was a natural fit. And while my family is as WASPily boring as they come, that also means they're fairly easy to trace.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter Road Trip: Covered Bridges and Maple Syrup

When traveling, I try to avoid snow. It makes for tricky driving conditions, cancelled flights, and a desperate desire on my part to get out of the cold, hole up in my room, and not come out till it hits 60°. However, there's something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone and enjoying a place under less than seasonable conditions.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Québec's Hôtel de Glace

Inquiring about the best day trip from Québec City, the answer was unanimous - if you're there in the winter, you've got to visit the Ice Hotel. While the idea of paying to spend the night sleeping on a block of ice, surrounded by walls of packed snow, does not appeal to me in the slightest, a quick visit couldn't hurt, right?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Québec's Basse-Ville

Because you know I'm all about that Basse.

If Old Québec's Haute-Ville seemed charming and lovely all covered in snow, the Lower City was a veritable winter wonderland. This is the oldest part of the city, so cute and old, in fact, that it doesn't seem entirely real. Located at the base of Cap Diamant, there are two ways to get there on foot. The first is by walking, starting with a slightly steep and winding street, and ending with a staircase known as 'Casse-Cou', or Breakneck, Stairs. Today's version is perfectly safe, with railing and space to stop and take pictures, but the old ones were supposedly treacherous enough to earn their name.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Québec's Haute-Ville

As we enter February and snow blankets much of the east coast, I feel inspired to share my family's trip to Québec City, from March of 2008. The original plan had been to go in the summer, but Québec was celebrating its 400th anniversary that year. Prices were high and availability scarce. No problem - my mom decided to book for spring break instead.

What we couldn't have foreseen was what Mother Nature decided to dump on Quebec that year. Google 'Quebec 2008', and you don't get pictures of the quadricentennial celebrations. Nope. You get pictures of houses literally buried in snow. An additional 40" had fallen a few days before our trip, creating some of the highest snowdrifts I'd ever seen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Truth About Affording Travel: Six Crucial Steps

Some people tell stories about moving to New York with $20 in their pocket. Not me. When I moved to New York, I had $7,000 saved up. I figured I could last six months on it, if I was careful. Three months and over a hundred cover letters later, I got a part-time job. It paid about $300, every two weeks - not even enough to cover rent.

The thing no one tells you about being poor is how time-consuming it is.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Austin's 6th Street

I used the last of the credit cards points I racked up over the summer to buy a flight to Austin, Texas, for the Christmas break. My parents recently relocated to a retirement community north of the city, so I was eager to see both them and their new house. Mom and Dad used my visit as an excuse to get down to Austin for the first time since they arrived.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

12 Places I'll Follow You in 2015


I follow travel blogs. A lot of them. Most fall within a certain category - 20-30-something, female, solo travelers from the United States. There are outliers for each demographic, sure, but overwhelmingly, I read blogs where I can imagine myself in the traveler's shoes with little effort. (Travel fan fic, guys - it's what it comes down to.)

As 2014 wrap-up posts have been posted, and 2015 plans and wishlists start to emerge, I'm seeing some patterns. Some are smack-you-in-the-face obvious. (I'm going to XYZ!) Others require more of a leap in logic, judging where people have gone in the past, or what hot events will inspire them to travel in the near future.

While I don't have any grand travel plans this year, here are some places I'm looking forward to reading about (or hoping to!) in 2015...

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Homecoming

My travel guides have a bookcase once again!

I had grand plans to post consistently through November and December, starting with a series on Denver and ending up with Christmas in New York. But life (and preschool plague) caught up with me. And there's the good news - after several months of uncertainty, I've found a new job, a new place to live, and a new (to me, anyway) car. I have so much to look back on and be thankful for in 2014, from my once-in-a-lifetime World Cup trip to the family members I was able to fall back on when I returned and found myself homeless and jobless.