Back in the Borough: Farewells All Around at The Kimberly Hotel

Last night I ticked another rooftop bar off my NYC bucket list with two friends who I needed to say goodbye to before we leave. The place was The Kimberly, and the rooftop of the hotel is an enclosed bar (although I think during nice weather it’s actually open) with a fantastic (on a normal day without fog) view of the Chrysler building and midtown Manhattan. It’s expensive for the cocktails ($18), but the beers are $8 (which is par for the course in midtown, pretty much), and the guacamole and fries were pretty tasty, too.

Kimberly_1

Kimberly_2^^ These ladies are pretty much the best. See that glow-ey building in the back? That’s the Chrysler, in all her foggy glory.

Kimberly_3

I’d recommend checking out The Kimberly Hotel rooftop if you’re in the midtown area — it’s definitely worth at least a pit stop.

One Final Morning in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So yesterday was my last day in Albuquerque.

Sigh.

It really was an amazing, educational and exciting trip. Between the gorgeous scenery, delicious food, tasty drinks and fun activities, I’m not sure if I could say exactly what my favorite part of the trip was — I just know that it was all pretty spectacular.

For my last morning in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau had set me up with an appointment at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm.  I would be having breakfast with Nancy, their director of hospitality and sustainability, but my itinerary mentioned that I might want to show up a bit early so I could take in the “beautiful grounds”.

Ummm — they weren’t kidding when they said beautiful. Before getting to the photos, let me share a little bit about the Inn and farm, in general. The land where the Inn & farm are currently located was originally inhabited by the Anasazi (ancient pueblo Indians) in the 14th century, and in 1716 it was made part of the Elena Gallegos land grant. The original rach was owned by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo, but it was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms in the 1930s. Today the Ranch encompasses 25 acres, which includes both the Inn and a working farm.  The area still features many important works of art and craftsmanship from back in the day, including John Gaw Meem (who was widely considered New Mexico’s greatest 20th century architect), Walter Gilbert (one of the only Albuquerque artists to have worked at Los Poblanos) and Laura Gilpin (one of the most important photographers of the Southwest). The Greely Garden was created by Rose Greely, a pioneer female landscape architect and designer of the 1932 formal Spanish-style gardens at Los Poblanos.

In addition to the beautiful land and artwork, the restaurant menu changes daily, and always features fresh ingredients right off the farm including eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables from the fields.

 

_DSC7146^^ The lavender fields weren’t in bloom right now, but how amazing are they?

_DSC7147

_DSC7148

_DSC7151

_DSC7152

_DSC7155

_DSC7156

_DSC7157

_DSC7160

_DSC7161

_DSC7163

_DSC7164

_DSC7172

_DSC7173

_DSC7182^^ We had these fresh figs with our breakfast. And while of course the figs I ate in Calabria that were grown on my family farm will always be No. 1 … I must say these were a seriously close second.

_DSC7185

_DSC7198

_DSC7201

_DSC7202

_DSC7209

_DSC7210^^ Although it was cold the morning I ate breakfast here, in warmer-weather months this portico is open to the Inn guests for them to eat their meals outside.

_DSC7211

_DSC7212

_DSC7213^^ Organic is the name of the game here, and Nancy, who I ate breakfast with, does a great job at making sure they Inn stays as up-to-date as possible with the newest and best sustainable, organic practices.

_DSC7216^^ This library. To. Die. For.

_DSC7219

_DSC7223^^ The kitchen is a masterpiece, as well.

_DSC7224^^  Here is the chef, preparing meat for that day’s meal. All of the meat is either locally grown or raised right on the farm.

_DSC7230^^ The Farm Shop is a must-visit if you’re in the area. I learned about the different types of lavender (and got to smell them both) and tasted real balsamic vinegar — not that crap you buy in the store. Holy crap, friends — I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about the fake, store-bought kind again!

_DSC7231

_DSC7232

_DSC7233

_DSC7235

_DSC7236^^ Gorgeous lavender bundles! If only I weren’t flying home!

_DSC7237

_DSC7238

_DSC7240

_DSC7245

_DSC7247

_DSC7249

_DSC7250

_DSC7251

_DSC7258

_DSC7259

_DSC7263

_DSC7264

_DSC7265

_DSC7266

_DSC7267

_DSC7269

_DSC7270
And that, my friends, was it. Spending my last morning on the farm was a fantastic way to end the trip with a bang. And while I would highly recommend doing any one (or all!) of the things that were on my itinerary, if you do decide to visit Albuquerque (and you should!), there is so much else to explore … the possibilities are endless.

Thanks again so much to the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau — you sure weren’t kidding when you said Albuquerque has a lot to offer!

Bis bald, friends — I’ll see you soon!

Hot Air Balloon Rides, Corn Mazes, Farms and Food in Albuquerque

Welcome to my second day in Albuquerque, my friends, wherein I woke up supremely early to do something that I was in my heart of hearts really hoping I would get to do while I was here — a hot air balloon ride!

I rode with the Rainbow Ryders, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and (so much) more. Despite the fact that I was woefully unprepared for the frigid morning air (wear sweaters and coats and closed-toe shoes and scarves if you’re lucky enough to go on a ride!), the weather warmed up pretty quickly, especially since we were standing right under blasting fire for an hour once we started on our way …

_DSC6871^^ Have I mentioned yet that it’s almost Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque, wherein hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city to watch the world’s largest (I can’t back that up, but seems like it should be!) hot air balloon show? Anyway, the field where all of this will take place is where we all go to set up the balloons.

_DSC6881

_DSC6892^^ Ours was the first of our whole group to head into the air. What can I say — we’re overachievers ;)

_DSC6901

_DSC6902

_DSC6906^^ These balloons get up to 10,000 feet above sea level …

_DSC6953

_DSC6956

_DSC6981

_DSC6988

_DSC6992

_DSC7005

_DSC7008

_DSC7013

After the ride, we toasted with mimosas and muffins back in the Balloon Fiesta field, and they even gave us these cute certificates to take home. It was a truly Albuquerque-ian thing to do, and I’m so glad I got the chance.

After the ride (which starts at 6:15, but the way), I had a little time before my lunch meeting, so I took up one of the suggestions from the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (who invited me out here, if you’ll remember) and visited Wagner’s Farmland Experience. Even the road out to the farm is picturesque, with little fruit stops and restaurants on the way, and the farm itself had some pretty spectacular views.

_DSC7027

_DSC7029

_DSC7032

_DSC7035

_DSC7039

_DSC7042

_DSC7044

_DSC7045^^ Who doesn’t love a good petting zoo?

_DSC7053

_DSC7054^^ The 2014 corn maze is up at Wagner’s right now and I thought … “What the heck? It can’t be that hard, right?” WRONG. I am seriously directionally challenged, my friends. Lucky for me a group of elementary school kids were tackling the maze and I followed them out of the thing. (Not without lots of confused looks and questions, though.) And a big shout out to my husband for trying to help me find the way out of the maze, from all the way back in Manhattan, using Google maps :) I’m not sure if that’s cool or creepy …

_DSC7056

_DSC7057

_DSC7065^^ The end of the maze led you out to a cute little pumpkin patch.

_DSC7067

_DSC7068

So, once that adventure was over, it was back into the car to head to lunch at El Pinto, a spectacular New Mexican restaurant with an amazing outdoor garden and eating area (and even more amazing tequila, as I would come to find out).

_DSC7069^^ The house Margherita is anything but ordinary.

_DSC7081

_DSC7085^^ Look at that bar, my friends! They’ve got 160 types of tequila here!

_DSC7089^^ They even bottle personal tequila for patrons who can purchase it at the restaurant and keep it there for any time they come in.

_DSC7095^^ Oh, and by the way, a warehouse in the back makes 25,000 cans of salsa each day to distribute. This is their special version specifically for Balloon Fiesta weekend.

_DSC7097^^ And here was my tequila tasting. All in a day’s work, friends, all in a day’s work.

_DSC7104^^ After lunch I was taken to the back to see the warehouse and the garden, where the restaurant is starting to try to grown some of the foods that they’ll later prepare.

_DSC7110^^ Dessert was the restaurant’s version of a tiramisu, called Levante. It’s made with biscochitos, the traditional New Mexican cookie (they were declared so by the New Mexico Legislature in 1989, and were first introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers who brought the recipe from Spain). This dessert was every bit as decadent as it looks, my friends.

After lunch I had stops at two breweries. The first was the Red Door Brewing Company, which actually just opened its doors about three weeks ago. Their cider was actually my favorite drink (that and the milk stout), and it actually has the highest alcohol content, as well. (Boy do I know how to pick ‘em.) Since it was early when I got there (around 1:30), there weren’t too many other people around yet, but three cyclists came in about 15 minutes before I had to leave, and it was really great talking to them. One of the two men in the group was with the traveling tour of Wicked, which is in town now, and the two others were taking him around on their own, self-made Breaking Bad bike tour(Ummm, here’s where I admit that I’ve never watched the show. Sorry Albuquerque! Before I come back I promise to give it a go!)

_DSC7112

_DSC7115

After Red Door I moved on to a brewery staple here in Albuquerque — Marble Brewery. This place had a nice patio outside where they bring live performers, too.

_DSC7116

_DSC7118

_DSC7119

While I’d love to say that I kept going strong after Marble Brewery, the truth is, friends, that this gal needed a little nap. Unfortunately that means that I’ll probably not get to make it out to the Nob Hill area of the city, which is disappointing. But I still have one more fun activity planned for tomorrow, so that leaves me with a bit of something to look forward to after what can only be described as an amazing, entertaining trip.

Dinner Wednesday night, by the way, was at Mas, the tapas restaurant right inside my hotel, and I was given a tour of the hotel as well, which turned out to be especially important since apparently I was seriously missing out on so many amazing facts about this place.

But let’s start with dinner. Hot gouda apple bake w/ crostini, patatas bravas (crispy fried potatoes w/spicy mayo), bruschetta de la boca (toasted bread w/ mushroom-manchego cream, fried egg & truffle oil) and grilled artichokes w/spanish goat cheese, orange zest and mint.

And those were our appetizers.

Dinner for me was the classic veggie paella – and absolutely everything was to. die. for.

And now a bit more about this amazing hotel. The hotel has been around since 1939, when Conrad Hilton completed it as his first New Mexican hotel for $700,000. At the time, it was the tallest building in New Mexico, and the first in all of New Mexico to have air conditioning.

In 1984 the building was placed on the National register of Historic Places, and after being purchased a few additional times, it was finally sold to Gary Goodman in 2005 and promptly shut down for four years for $30 million-worth of renovations. Despite the renovations, though, a lot of the original existing structure runs throughout the hotel, still.

_DSC7121^^ While Goodman originally envisioned this room directly across from the restaurant to be open as a sort of nightclub to the general public, he quickly realized that the general public didn’t necessarily mesh well with the upscale clientele staying at the hotel, and so now only private, ticketed events happen here.

_DSC7124^^ I know this isn’t the greatest photo, but please stick with me here. So one of the hotel staff currently working at Andaluz actually has worked at this hotel ever since it first opened its doors. When Goodman purchased the hotel in ’05, he turned to this staffer to learn more about what the place was like back in its heyday. During one of these conversations, he learned about a mural — this mural– that had been painted on one of the main walls as you enter the hotel and that had since been painted over. So he commissioned an artist to recreate the original painting from old photos. This is exactly as the photo was back when the hotel first opened, with the one small exception of the third figure’s ankle, which is slightly off the ground. The artist did this to leave his mark on his work, but otherwise the painting is an exact replica.

_DSC7126^^ These casbahs can be rented out and hotel guests can have dinner and drinks in them privately.

_DSC7128^^ So this wooden structure — which is actually much larger than this photo lets on — was originally commissioned to hang in the elevators, but didn’t pass fire code. So the panels were quickly removed and sent to the basement, where they spent many years until they were moved up to the main lobby for all to enjoy.

_DSC7129
_DSC7130^^ So I know this might seem like a mistaken photo of the floor, but it’s actually seriously cool! So back in the days when the hotel first opened, the reception area used to be where the casbahs are now situated. The bellman would stand in this one spot, because he had the perfect vantage point to see guests coming in from both entrances. And for this reason alone, that very spot is actually worn out in certain spots, and when you stand on it, you can feel the dipping where the bellman’s standing has worn out the tile. That’s pretty incredible, is it not?

_DSC7131
_DSC7132
_DSC7134

^^ The library is definitely one of my favorite rooms.
_DSC7137
_DSC7142
^^ And this is Ibiza, the 2nd floor, outdoor rooftop bar for the hotel.

Which brings me to one final note about this awesome hotel – it’s sustainability. From their solar heated water systems and compost system to the building’s seriously advanced energy management system (the rooms literally use sensors to detect when a person is in the room or not and uses that to determine when lights/heat/air should be on and off), Andaluz is one of the greenest spots in Albuquerque hands down.

Alright friends — well that’s been the bulk of my trip, for sure. I head back to good ole’ NYC tomorrow after a quick pit stop at one more place. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been so much fun. It’s been real, Albuquerque … and I have a definite feeling you’ll be seeing me again some day!

Bis bald, friends!

Tramways, Breweries, Rattlesnakes and More in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So these past few days have been a whirlwind, but I wanted to try to get stuff down as it’s happening, so I’ll do my best to get through this post (even though my eyes are drooping as I type — so please forgive any typos!). The good people at the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau so kindly invited me out to New Mexico for a press trip, which of course I happily accepted. I flew out early Monday morning and arrived around 5 p.m. Monday evening.

And I’ve been on the go ever since.

So of course I have about 1,000 photos to share, and I figured the best way to go about this (at least the first two-days’ worth) is to explain via photo what I’ve done so far on my trip. For starters, I’m staying at Hotel Andaluz, which is located conveniently in downtown Albuquerque and is so stunningly modern and wonderful I can’t stand it. I’ll be having dinner at the restaurant here tomorrow night, too, so I’ll be sure to share how that goes.

Anyway, on to a bit of what I’ve seen so far. Hold on to your hats kids — it’s been a wild two days!

Continue reading

Penn State Nittany Lions (for One Weekend)

Hi friends,

As I mentioned yesterday, my sister (who went to Penn State and met her now-husband there), picks one football game every year for our whole family to go and tailgate at, and this year’s game happened this past weekend, and just happened to be against UMass, which is the college my younger sister went to.

Sibling football rivalry — gotta love it.

Except that UMass didn’t play very well at all. But oh well, tailgating and going to the game was still fun! It was, however, much different to do tailgating with a toddler ;)

photo 1^^ My family takes tailgating very seriously. This was just breakfast — bagels with poached eggs and three different kinds of cheeses and ham and bacon. We had all kinds of salads, chili, sausages, guacamole and hoagies throughout the day, too. Not to mention the drinks ;)

photo 2

photo 3^^ As I said, tailgating with a toddler is very different from tailgating without one. The trick is a never-ending supply of new and fun things for them to explore.

photo 4

photo 5

photo 6

photo 7

photo 8

photo 9

photo 10^^ Watching the marching band practice was a highlight.

photo 11

photo 12

photo 13^^ Beer pong and flip cup were highlights, too ;)

photo 14^^ Steph’s birthday was last week, so we got her a little birthday cake to celebrate.

photo 15

photo 16^^ Someone’s tired from all this tailgating fun.

photo 17

photo 18

photo 19

And that was this year in a nutshell, my friends. I hope everyone else had a fabulous weekend and is looking forward to welcoming the official start of fall with open arms. (I know I am.)

Bis bald, friends!

Back in the Borough: A Sunday Visit to Gotham West Market

Hi friends,

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend! Chris and I spent the holiday watching soccer, celebrating good friends at their wedding in the West Village and checking out Gotham West Market, which I have been wanting to visit for a while now.

photo 1^^Our first stop was Ivan Raman Slurp Shop for some ramen noodles.

photo 2^^I had the veggie noodles and Chris got the Tokyo Shio with pork belly.  Both were super delish.

photo 3

photo 4^^ After lunch we moved on to El Colmado for some wine on their outdoor bar stools.

photo 5

photo 6

photo 7^^Finally, at Cannibal we took advantage of their 3 o’clock happy hour to grab some beer and cocktails. It was the perfect ending to the day.

photo 8^^ Except that I wasn’t done yet, because I had to grab some ice cream from Jeni’s. A triple scoop with three different flavors. Do not come all the way out to Gotham West Market (which is pretty far out of the way if you live where we do) without picking up some ice cream. This alone would have made the trip worth it.

photo 9^^ We had some time to kill before 3 o’clock happy hour at Cannibal, so we walked the two blocks over to the Hudson to partake in the view — which includes the Intrepid.

photo 10^^ A seriously true sentiment.

photo 11^^ Kayaks, just waiting to see the light of day.

photo 12^^ This guys was teaching paddle board lessons to a small group of people. I could not partake in this activity, even if I wanted to.

photo 13

And that was about it, my friends! A very good 4th of July weekend, indeed. Next weekend I’m off to Atlantic City for one of two bachelorette parties there this summer, then it’s on to Rehobeth Beach for a week with the family directly from AC.

Bis bald, friends — and happy July!

 

A Day Trip to Phoenicia and Otter Falls

This past Sunday, Chris took me on a little day trip to Phoenicia, New York [which is about an hour away from where my mom lives in Newburgh] and then to Otter Falls, where he and a bunch of his friends run a relay every year.

But first, we stopped for pancakes at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant, which has a 24 Zagat rating for food and a seriously slammin’ menu of pancake options.

_DSC5808^^ Gotta love a town that puts on a rubber duckie race.
(And clearly reuses the sign year after year — so economical!)

_DSC5809^^ That’s a pretty spectacular backdrop for the Phoenicia Pharmacy, if I do say so myself.

_DSC5810^^ Cute little, awesome Sweet Sue’s Restaurant.

_DSC5811^^ Holy pancake menu!

_DSC5812

_DSC5814^^ These were my — wait for it — carrot. cake. pancakes.
With cream cheese sauce. ‘Nuff said.

_DSC5815^^ Chris went the savory route and got fresh corn cakes — equally delish.

_DSC5816

_DSC5817

_DSC5818

_DSC5819^^ As of 2014, Phoenicia was home to 299 residents. I seriously love that.

_DSC5821

_DSC5822^^ Mystery spot indeed.

_DSC5824

_DSC5829^^ This eagle originated in Grand Central.
Here’s how it ended up in Phoenicia.

After loading up on pancakes, we headed to Otter Falls, which is about a 20-minute drive from Phoenicia. Here’s what the Hudson Valley Visit Vortex has to say about this swimming hole:

Located on state land, a small, but adventurous, side trail leads to the spectacular falls cascading down about 30 feet to a large deep basin measuring about 20 to 30 feet in diameter with a center depth between 6 and 8 feet. With recent rains it should be like a giant, cold-water Jacuzzi, say the locals. Otter Falls is only about a half-mile from the popular Giant Ledge trail parking area, making it an excellent stop after a hot, sweaty hike. Sundown, lat=42.0314, lon=-74.4201

Directions: From I-87, get off at Exit 19, Kingston exit, RT 28. Go northwest on RT 28 about 25 miles to Phoenicia. Then:To get here from RT 28 in Phoenicia: Continue west on Rt 28 through Shandaken to Big Indian. Turn south (left) on RT 47 (set odometer) and go about 6.6 miles to a telephone pole with mile post #167 1/2 on it. Other things to look for are the state land signs (the yellow ones with the DEC logo). This state land is the only State land on the west side of Route 47 in Big Indian Valley. (If you come to the “hairpin turn”, an extremely sharp right hand turn, on RT 47, you have gone about .5 mile too far.)

To find it after you park, you walk along the highway and search for the tree with the 111A 167 1/2 numbers on it [which was my ‘Photo of the Day’ photo from yesterday]. It’s a pretty fun, secluded little spot — definitely worth checking out.

_DSC5840^^ It’s only about 500 meters from the highway to the waterfall so,
you know, my kind of hike!

_DSC5842^^ Ooooohhhh — pretty!

_DSC5858^^ I kept this photo because that black and white blur at the bottom right of the photo is a butterfly that was buzzing all around me. I snapped this one shot quickly, not hopeful to actually capture the little booger, and this is what I got. I kinda love it.

_DSC5859^^ We played around in the water leading into the waterfall for a bit.
And when I say “we”, I mean “Chris”.

 And that’s about it, ya’ll! I’d highly recommend a trip to the water hole on a hot summer day — nothing beats it.

Bis bald, friends!

Our Final Days of Spring Break 2014: Denver, Colorado

Denver. Ah, Denver. Our third and final stop on our short little tour of Colorado.

You see, we’ve heard lots of amazing things about this city. We have a handful of friends and family members who live here, and they just seem to love, love, love, love, love it.

Like … really, they love it a lot.

So we had high expectations, to say the least.

We started our tour of Denver with a quick drive around the city to familiarize ourselves with it. We drove through Cheeseman Park (so cute!), and stopped off in the Capitol Hill area to take in a few of the more touristy aspects …

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3^^ Cheesy tourist photos — they’re kind of a must … am I right?!

After hanging around on our own for a while, we met up Thursday evening with my brother-in-law’s sister and her fiancee. (Did ya catch that?) Anyway, Rachel and Steve have lived in Denver for a bunch of years now, and they are two of those people I mentioned before who just love, love love it there ;)

They took us to the Vine Street Pub & Brewery for dinner, which was super chill and relaxed. We went outside with beers from the bar and watched people playing Cornhole while we waited for our table … it was that relaxed.

And that was about it for Thursday, since we didn’t get into Denver until around 1 anyway. Friday, however, we had quite the touristy day. We woke up early so that we could head out to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which was simply stunning.

Photo 4

Photo 5^^ We were shocked  at how much exercising went on here!
Seriously, people everywhere running up and down the stairs,
jumping the rocks, running every single row … fascinating!
I guess if you have to work out, you can’t have a
better backdrop then at Red Rocks, right?

Photo 6

Photo 7

 

Red Rocks was about an hour outside of Denver, and we spent a couple hours there just taking it all in. So by the time we made it back into the city, we were starving!

Thank God for Mexican food when you’re starving … am I right?! And  Rio Grande in the LoDo section did not disappoint.

Photo 8

 

We sat outside under umbrellas in the 70-degree weather (hello, summer!), eating our burritos and drinking our margaritas. [A word to the wise: Watch it on the margaritas here. A single drink contains 3.5 shots of tequila! That’s why they have a three drink maximum on the margs, particularly. We should know, we asked ;)]

After lunch I headed across the street to buy an outrageously expensive tee from Patagonia (I was desperate! I hadn’t read the weather beforehand and was wearing two long-sleeved shirts … and I was sweltering!), and then we caught the free 16th Street MallRide shuttle over to Commons Park, where we hopped on bikes from the Denver Bike Share program and rode over the South Platte River to the section of Denver known as The Highlands.

And oh my goodness did we love it here, my friends! And it wasn’t just because of Little Man Ice Cream (although that did help a lot ….)

Photo 9

This whole area had a very relaxed, young, happening atmosphere. It was very cool, to say the least.

So after scarfing down some ice cream (don’t ask me how I did that after eating a ton of Mexican for lunch … I have a superhuman stomach, this is for certain), we hopped back on our bikes and rode as fast as possible back to the LoDo section to meet up with Chris’s old boss for drinks at Freshcraft before heading off to the Washington Park section of Denver to meet up with our cousin and her husband and baby.

Sheesh we really crammed a lot into one full day, didn’t we!?

Anyway, Courtney and Charlie’s place was adorable, and they were so lovely to get a babysitter for the evening so that they could come back out with us for dinner at the Ale House and a couple of brewskies afterwards at Denver Beer Co. (Which, by the way, might have been my favorite brewery of all the ones we visited. It was late when we arrived — in fact we stayed until closing at midnight — but the big garage doors that make up the front of the place were thrown open from the warmer weather earlier in the day, and everyone was hanging out on picnic tables with their dogs. Very fun.)

And that, as they say, was that, my friends. It was a lot  to do in one day, but I’m really glad that we got to fit in as much as we did on Friday. I wasn’t convinced that we had seen everything Denver had to offer on Thursday (I mean that’s a stupid thing to even write, because of course we didn’t. It’s impossible to see everything any city has to offer in one day), but Friday gave me a better look at the Denver that I had heard so much about.

And that I really, truly, look forward to going back to.

Okay friends, so I’m off again next week — wahoo! This time I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C. to spend the week with a friend for her birthday. This is the friend I went to Florida with, and the one who when I visit we generally hang out and do nothing but eat and drink and chat. (Except for when she has me crafting like crazy for her sister’s baby shower)  — but this time we’ve promised each other that we will get out and about into the city to actually do something historical. Or fun. Or both.

But we’ll just have to wait to see how that goes ;)

Bis bald, friends!

 

 

Spring Break Day 3: Breckenridge, Colorado

On our third day into our trip to Colorado last week, we loaded back into the car in Boulder and headed on the two hour ride to Breckenridge. (Thank you for always saying that you would drive, Brian! I absolutely did not love driving that tank of a car we got from the rental place!)

Anyway, the road into Breckenridge is a long, windy, at times hazardous one, and we’ve been told by the locals that during peak seasons, the traffic can get pretty backed up.

Which makes sense, because Breckenridge is amazing! Simply put — it’s gorgeous. And quaint. And if you love snowboarding or skiing (which both Chris and my sister’s boyfriend do), then there’s almost nowhere better for that.

We checked into our hotel —the DoubleTree by Hilton … I love how they give you warm cookies when you check in! — and immediately turned the humidifier on in our room.

So a note about Breckenridge — it’s high up in the air, friends. At 9,600 feet above sea level, lots of people (my sister included) tend to get altitude sickness here. You may get a headache or feel lightheaded. It could be difficult for you to catch your breathe, you might feel like you’re breathing through a straw or your mouth and nose could get dry. Steph’s altitude sickness wasn’t too bad (just general tiredness and a headache), so that was lucky, and none of the rest of us seemed to feel it at all, which is great, because I was worried. Chris and I are heading off to climb Machu Picchu in the fall, so I was using this as a sort of test for how I might do in those high altitudes.

So far so good, friends. Phew!

Anyway, as the boys headed to the mountains (they could ski there directly from our hotel!), Steph and I hit up the outdoor hot tub at the hotel, then headed into the town (there was a free shuttle service both to and from our hotel as well, although it really wasn’t all that much of a walk to get into town, anyway), for lunch and a little shopping.

01^^ So cute — and look at those mountains in the distance!

02

03

03A^^ Meanwhile, the boys were here …

03B^^ Gorgeous views.

03C

 

While in town Steph and I stumbled into one store in particular with a salesman who I can really truly only describe as curmudgeon-ey. He was an older gentleman — perhaps in his late 70s, early 80s — and when we told him we were from New York (he asked!), he proceeded to regale us with stories about how you can die from altitude sickness within 24 hours, and how the local doctor recommends drinking 8 ounces of water every hour, and how we really, really needed to be careful because it’s actually quite scary ….

Thanks, Mr. Curmudgeon. We didn’t actually ask you for that info … but thanks for sharing?

Anyway, it was pretty much right after that store that Steph decided she had had enough of the town and wanted to head back to the hotel to rest.

Coincidence? I think maybe not ;)

Anyway, I was happy to oblige. So off we went, back in the free shuttle (same driver. He was a young kid just out of college who had spent a semester traveling around Africa and his first winter break as a college graduate working the slopes at Breckenridge. His next plan was to move to Florida for the summer and get his license to work as a deckhand. Nice life, buddy!) to the hotel, where we chilled in the swampy, humidifed air until the boys came back. (With beers, of course!)

That night we headed back into the town to the Breckenridge Brewery, sans Stephanie, for dinner and drinks. The brewery was very chill, totally relaxed, and exactly as we had by now come to expect from the plethora of Colorado breweries.

04

05

We didn’t hang out too long in town after dinner, since Steph was back at the hotel, but we did manage to talk the little one into coming back down to the hot tubs to hang out with us for the evening, which turned out to be quite lovely.

An outdoor hot tub. The setting sun. Some Colorado beer and your hubby. It’s a pretty happy scene — am I right?!

The next morning we were checking out to make the approximately 90 minute drive to Denver, but first we headed to the Blue Moose Restaurant for breakfast. (And Bloody Mary’s and coffee, of course!)

And that, my friends, was our Breckenridge experience. It was short, but oh so very sweet! (For those of us who didn’t feel sick, of course. I think it’s safe to say Steph may never be going back …)

Tomorrow it’s on to Denver, my friends! Bis bald!

 

A Spring Break Trip to Boulder

Hi friends,

So … we’re back! Last week Chris, my sister, her boyfriend and myself all took off on Spirit airlines (hold onto your hats, friends, because I plan to write an article about the notoriously low-rated airline and link to it here!) to head to Denver. Our itinerary for the week included trips to Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver. This was a particularly important trip, my friends, because Chris and I are planning a potential move to Colorado in the winter — but we had yet to actually visit the great state.

So you see — important!

Anyway, we were contemplating both Boulder and Denver as potential new cities for us, and Breckenridge was thrown in there so the boys could ski/snowboard for a day. We hit up Boulder first so that we would end the trip back in Denver, where we would be flying out of on Saturday.

I think probably the best way for me to tackle this trip is to take it by city — so Boulder today, Breckenridge tomorrow and Denver the next.

So Boulder first it is!  After landing at the Denver airport and being conned into upgrading our rental car to an SUV (well maybe not so much conned — having the sturdier car to drive in the mountains to Breckenridge turned out to be not so much of a bad thing …), we hit the road for our 50 minute drive to Boulder.

Boulder is …. so many things. It’s beautiful and open and entertaining and relaxing. It’s a lot of things all rolled into one — it’s just not a place that Chris and I can necessarily see ourselves living just yet. So as much as we liked it, I think it’s safe to say Boulder was ruled out as a place for us to take up residence in a few months.

Here’s a bit of what we did …

1^^ The Twisted Pine Brewery is an absolute must if you’re in Boulder.
For as many breweries as we ended up visiting, Chris and I both say
this was our favorite. We got the sampler for starters, which had so many
amazing beers for tasting. The food was pretty fantastic, as well.

2

 

3^^ Yummmm … beer!

4

5

Okay ya’ll — here’s where we have to discuss the big ole’ elephant in the room, and that elephant, my friends, is marijuana. So as anyone who’s from the U.S. and doesn’t live under a rock will know, weed is now completely legal in the state of Colorado. This is of course infinitely amazing to some, completely annoying to others, and neither here nor there to even more. Whether or not it’s amazing, annoying or neither here nor there to me wasn’t really the point (although I guess if I were forced to pick a category, I’d have to go with neither here nor there …), because I’m pretty intrigued by it. Like, how does it work? What’s it like to buy a drug that has always been illegal, legally? How much does it cost? How do they sell it? What kind of people go to these stores?

I had to know! So … we found one.

The experience of buying weed is, I guess I would have to say, a bit weird. For this particular store, we walked into the front room and were greeted by “security.” (I use the term “security” loosely and with quotation marks because these guys were so friendly and chill, I can’t imagine them ever actually getting security-ish about anything …). So we showed our IDs (you do at least have to be 21, after all), and headed into the small room where the weed was kept. There were, for lack of a better term, salesmen behind the counters whose job it was to point you in the right direction. How much were you interested in smoking? What type of weed were you interested in smoking? When was the last time you smoked, and how much do you think you could handle?

Completely and totally intriguing.

5A^^ Weed in the form of edibles. I still can’t get over it.

Our entire experience lasted maybe 15 minutes, and we were out of there. We went in. We saw.

I’ve had enough ;)

That night we drove downtown to check out the Downtown Boulder area and the Pearl Street Mall, which was very adorable. We ate at West End Tavern under heat lamps in their upstairs, lofted area. It was super cute, and very tasty — I’d very much recommend it.

After a long day of traveling we were pretty exhausted, so we went to bed early so we could rise early for our  amazing hike of the Flatirons Vista Loop.

6

7

8

9

10

 

The trail was amazing. Obviously very scenic, not too difficult and only somewhat muddied from the recent snow. I’m really glad we did it, though. After the hike we headed over to the Boulder Beer brewery, where we shared an appetizer and drank what turned out to be $1.50 beers.

ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS, PEOPLE! I’m not sure you can get gum for that much in the city, anymore.

11

 

We ended our last night in Boulder with another trip to the downtown area (to include the amazing Boulder Bookstore where I purchased two recent releases for less than $20!) for dinner and then drinks and Yahtzee at West Flanders Brewery.12

13

13A

13B^^ Yahtzee!!

And that was about it for our Boulder experience, my friends. Breweries, hikes and weed. I’d say that’s a pretty good summary ;)

The next morning we were off bright and early to Breckenridge, and I’ll update you all about that tomorrow.

Bis bald, friends!

P.S. In case anyone was wondering, we stayed at the La Quinta Inn that was actually in Louisville, Colorado, about a 10 minute drive from Boulder. The price was infinitely cheaper than anything we found directly in Boulder, though, so if you don’t mind doing a little driving, I would highly recommend it.

 

Jupiter and Marathon Key

Well friends, I’m back from what can only be described as an epic girlfriend’s trip. Although it did take both myself and my friend Lisa a couple days to unwind from a few recent projects that we only justbarely turned in before we left for Florida, once we did relax, it was resplendent.

The fact that I was gone for 10 days means that I can’t really go through every single detail of the trip, but I did want to bring up a few important points, the first being about where Lisa’s parents live:

  • My friend’s parents live in Jupiter, Florida, which is where we spent Thursday through Sunday at the beginning of our trip, as well as Saturday and Sunday at the end. If you happen to find yourself in Jupiter ever, you must visit Castaways (aka the Square Grouper Tiki Bar), Dune Dog Cafe and Guanabanas. [If you drive your boat to Guanabanas and dock it there, you get a 10% discount. Lisa’s dad would have wanted me to tell you that ;)]

1^^ Gorgeous flowers in the Gerry’s backyard.

2

3^^ How amazing is this? These are the mangroves that you walk through in
Lisa’s parent’s backyard to get to where their boat is docked.

4

5^^ I could have ridden around on that boat all day, just checking out the gorgeous houses.

6^^ The sand bar.

6A^^ Lisa’s parents took us to Dune Dog’s on our first night,
and Lisa taught me the proper way to crack crabs. Thanks, Lise!

6B

6C

6D^^ The famous Jupiter lighthouse.

6E^^ Oh my goodness you guys. Lisa’s dad works on the Everglades Restoration,
so he’s big into the environment. Lucky for me, because I’m pretty much obsessed with animals
and the environment. I loved hearing from him about all the work they’re doing, as well as visiting the
Loggerhead Marinelife Center and turtle rehab hospital. All the sea turtles this organization has
rescued — or that people have rescued and brought there — are swimming around
in their own tanks in the Center as they rehabilitate. How. Adorable. Are. They??

6F^^ I also made my first visit to a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. on this trip — wahoo!
This particular Bubba Gump’s was right on the water and had live music.
We ordered every single appetizer on the menu and fancy Mojitos. Not too shabby.

Anyway, after checking out the amazingness of Jupiter for a few days, Lisa and I hopped into her mom’s car and headed down South to our second stop — Marathon Key.

6G

So this particular Key, my friends, is unlike Key West (if that’s your only experience with the Keys, as was mine). This Key is much, much more … well, low key. Lisa’s parents have owned this particular timeshare at Hawks Nest in Marathon since before Lisa was even born, and Lisa’s whole family has been visiting her entire life. The 7-mile bridge is only a handful of feet from Hawks Nest (cars can no longer drive on the old bridge — which is right next to the newly constructed bridge — so it’s only for walkers and bikers. The old bridge where you can walk is actually only a little over 2 miles in distance each way, so about a 4-mile round trip.), and Lisa and I walked that almost every day. We saw sharks and dolphins and manta rays and starfish and tarpon … it was just one of the most amazing things ….

7

8^^ Where we plopped ourselves every single day after our bridge walk. Hello, ocean!

8A

 

8B^^ I posted this little guy yesterday as my photo of the week, but how cute is he!?
He came up and swam with this group of children for over an hour,
letting them rub his belly and feed him fresh water from a hose.

8C^^ Did I mention it was my birthday while we were there? Ugh, I’m old ;)
But my sweet, sweet husband made me feel better about being old
by sending me a letter and necklace while I was away, as well as flowers
and he treated us to breakfast on my birthday, as well.
That’s some hubby, I have!

8D^^ Birthday flowers.

8E^^ Beers with a view. (That’s the 7-mile bridge in the background …)

8F

8G^^ Iguanas were everywhere! We went kayaking through the mangroves
on my birthday (which was insanely awesome!) and our tour guide told us
that she had grown up in Marathon, but that the iguanas had really
become prolific lately, most likely due to people getting them as pets
and then releasing them in the wild once they get too big.

8H^^ Bloody Mary’s at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar right next to Hawks Nest on our last full day.
We won’t go into detail in terms of how many of these we had …

8I^^ Iguana crossing.

8J^^ Cheeky French Toast on my birthday. Thanks husband!

8K^^ Lisa made shrimp boil for dinner on my birthday. Ummm … it’s my new favorite thing!

8L^^And she made this delicious dessert with homemade whipped cream.
I’m seriously one spoiled lady …

8M^^ Lisa and I took a liking to swinging in the hammocks in the
late afternoon. This was our view.

8N^^ Fried Key Lime Pie at Burdine’s Waterfront on our last full day.
It was every bit as delicious as it looks.

8O^^ We took in the spectacular sunset on our last night and caught
this man paddle boarding with his water-loving pup.
So cute!

8P^^Making pic stitch’s of our time together may have become a theme ;)

After spending seven days in Marathon, I think it’s safe to say all of our cares had melted away. Despite all our relaxation, though, we managed to fit a lot in as well, with the bridge walks and kayaking — we even made it to Key West one night to visit friends and have dinner at Blue Heaven. We left Saturday to drive back to Lisa’s parents’ place in Jupiter, where we once again took advantage of the fabulous weather to take one more long boat ride.

8Q^^ This was an actual hot dog/hamburger stand in the middle of the water. Genius.

8R^^ Ahhh! We saw so many alligators on Saturday’s boat ride! It was crazy!

Saturday night we watched True Lies with Lisa’s parents, since the second to last scene in that movie actually takes place on the 7-mile bridge. So that’s pretty cool.

And that was about it, my friends — our girlfriend’s getaway in a nutshell. We head off to Colorado this upcoming Monday — Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver — with my sister and her bf, so that should be absolutely amazing, as well.

Bis bald, friends! Let me leave you with these awesome moments of beautifulness ….

 

10

11

Back in the (Different) Borough: A Night in Carroll Gardens & Gowanus

Hi friends,

This past Saturday Chris and I met up with some friends in their neck of the woods — Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn — for some whiskey tasting at Char No. 4, followed by some shuffleboard at the new Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Gowanus.

So the whiskey first. Char No. 4 is this cute little whiskey bar and restaurant. According to the site:

“The name refers to the practice of aging bourbon in charred new oak barrels, which gives bourbon its characteristic sweet, caramelized flavors and its beautiful amber hue. Char No. 4 features over 150 American whiskeys and serves a menu of American fare with a focus on smoked meat. The American whiskeys are augmented by an extensive list of whiskeys from Europe and beyond as well as a selection of all-bourbon cocktails.”

You can check their events page for updates on their whiskey tastings (they also have soft shell crab Wednesdays in June, Barbecue nights in July and Rye revival classes, among others).

Whiskey_Tasting

Our whiskey class was about $40 per person, and it included four different types of whiskeys (see above), as well as three different appetizers (deviled eggs, a delicious fried cheese and some sort of meat nugget which I obviously couldn’t eat).

So I’ll let you in on a little secret — I don’t particularly love whiskey ;) And having a tasting didn’t really change that. But it was fun to do it, and it was really interesting to learn about the history and how it’s made and all that. Overall, I would highly recommend this little outing — it’s perfect for group get togethers and dates alike.

After loading up on whiskey we took the short walk from Carroll Gardens over the Gowanus Canal into Gowanus, an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood with not too much going on — except for this brand new Royal Palms Shuffleboard bar. It literally opened about 3 weeks ago, which is why the owner still cares enough at this point to come outside and address the growing line of would-be patrons. They don’t want a line simply to make the place “look cool,” he assured us. It’s just that the fire department says they’re only allowed to have 300 people inside at one time — and he’s really afraid of the fire department.

We only waited about 10 minutes though, and inside was a gamers dream. Shuffleboard (at a price of $40 per hour — which isn’t too bad when split between four people), Connect Four, cards and other games await, along with a seafood food truck, cozy cabanas and beer.

And not for nothing, but this place is a huge warehouse, and the 300 people or less fire code keeps it super airy and spacious, meaning there was absolutely no bumping into people or sloppiness, no long lines at the women’s restroom — basically just the way I like my bars!

Bar

Card_Playing

^^ We plopped ourselves at a shuffleboard-side table and played cards and
drank some beer while waiting for our turn to play shuffleboard.
Maybe the popularity of this place will die down eventually, but for now,
in its newness splendor, it took us about 2.5 hours to get to our turn.

Flag_Wall

Royal_PalmsFloor

Shuffle_Board2

^^ Shuffleboard courts run the length of the middle of the warehouse. So fun to watch!

I wasn’t sure we’d be able to wait long enough to finally get to play, but we occupied our time with the seafood food truck, as well.

Lobster_Menu

Lobster_Roll

^^We grabbed a lobster roll, shrimp role, cole slaw and some bags of chips
from the Red Hook Lobster food truck (which is located inside the bar).
Holy cow they were so. delicious! 

RedHook_Food_Truck

After stuffing our faces with seafood and playing cards for 2.5 hours, we finally had our shot at shuffleboard.

Shuffle_Board1

Shuffle_Board3

Shuffle_Board4

Shuffle_Board5

Shuffleboard_Rules

^^ The owner came over to give us the rules ahead of playing.
We played boys against girls, and although the boys tried to
hide the evidence, this happened …

We_Win
 ^^ Ummm, 43 – 96 = the girls beating the boys — awahooo!!!

I mean, it would have been an awesome night without the win … but it certainly didn’t hurt ;)

Bis bald, friends! If you happen to be in the area, get thee to Char No. 4 for some whiskey and to the Royal Palms for some shuffleboard afterwards. It makes for a lovely Saturday night.

Life Lately: Late Feb 2014 Edition

Two months down in this new year of ours, my friends — unbelievable!

Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on in our neck of the woods …

Iceland_Views

^^ The views in Iceland were astonishing.

Hut_Climb

^^ Climbing the fish hut to take photos in Iceland.

Northern_Lights

^^ Chasing the Northern Lights

WAter_Fall

^^ The Gullfoss Waterfall.

Geysir_Iceland

^^ Watching geysirs (that’s how they spell it in Iceland) erupt.

Grand_Central

^^ Walking through Grand Central to the subway after our Valentine’s Day drinks at The Campbell Apartment.

Central_Park_Snow

^^ How much did I love this man and his dog in snowy Central Park?

Toy_Fair

^^ I checked out the annual Toy Fair at the Javits Center for a story I was writing.
It’s so much fun seeing all the new toys for the year!

Penny_the_Cat

^^ This face. Kills me every time.

Shrimp_N_Grits

^^ Shrimp and grits for dinner, inspired by our brunch at East End Kitchen,
which serves shrimp and grits as well, but they’re pre-made
with bacon so I couldn’t have them. Our take was better ;)

Bis bald, friends! Hope everyone’s having an amazing year so far! I’ll be heading to Marathon Key with a friend for my birthday in a few weeks. With the winter we’ve been having, I could definitely go for a little bit of sun, that’s for sure.

The 52 Project: Feb. 24

Jacobs_Pickles^^ This insaneness — four different types of pickled foods on the top
and mushroom mac & cheese on the bottom — was brought to us by
Jacob’s Pickles on the West Side. We stopped by Saturday for brunch and were not
disappointed. The restaurant serves all locally sourced, organic foods (read: expensive),
and is known for their beer, biscuits and pickles. They’ve got a seriously long
list of beers available, some of which were even from the tiny little
upstate town where I’m from. You know I had to get the Newburgh
beer to represent, right?

52-250px

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 3

Photo 1

Last Sunday Chris and I were attempting to wake ourselves up at a reasonable time, after having partied until the wee wee (way past our bedtime) hours  the night before. Luckily for us, the hotel stopped serving breakfast at 10 a.m., a perfect excuse to make sure we got our butts out of bed in time for that.

We were lazy that morning after breakfast (Chris sleeping a bit more, me checking out this truly amazing record store that was on our street — if you love music and you’re in Iceland you must go here … ), but in the afternoon we had booked the Gulfoss and Geysir Express Tour , and I was dying to get out and see more of the Icelandic countryside.

I would explain to you a bit about the tour, but the explanation from the company site is pretty helpful:

“Take an afternoon tour from Reykjavik to experience geysers, waterfalls and some of the most exciting natural phenomena Iceland has to offer. In just six hours you’ll visit the country’s best known historical sites and natural wonders perfect if your time in Iceland is limited.

You will visit Thingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament Alpingi was established in 930. It is here in this geologically unique place that the slowly diverging tectonic plates of America and Europe meet. In 2004 Thingvellir was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The tour also takes you to the famous Gullfoss waterfall, the spouting hot spring of Geysir and Strokkur. Continuing your journey to Hveragerdi, a small but beautiful horticultural town, you will see how geothermal energy has been harnessed for the unique greenhouse cultivation of all kinds of vegetables, exotic fruit and flowers.”

Here’s a bit of what we saw on that trip …

Photo 1A

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4^^ Shifting tectonic plates — how cool is that?! Directly across the water from us was the U.K.
And at one point driving on this tour you are on the North American continent,
then you literally drive over the line into Europe. I love stuff like that.

Photo 5

Photo 6

Photo 7^^ Short, fat horses are everywhere in Iceland! Driving through the countryside
on this tour was absolutely breathtaking. One thing we learned about the horses, though –
if they don’t perform up to Icelandic standards, or aren’t of the right temperament, they get eaten.
Our tour guide would say: “Well, if the horse is mean or can’t get along with the other
horses, we have a solution for that …” Oh and also, riding horses is a perfectly
acceptable way to get around town in these smaller towns. So if you go to a bar,
you may see a line of horses parked outside because, as our guide says, they
have strict laws in Iceland about driving cars when you’re drunk … but  not so much for horses.

Photo 8^^ How beautiful is the Gulfoss waterfall? It was at the restaurant here that
Chris had traditional Icelandic Meat Soup with lamb and vegetables.
Our tour guide said this is something people from Icelandic typically eat every week.

Photo 9

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12^^ And the geysirs … the amazing, awesome geysirs.

Photo 12A

Photo 13^^ They had little signs next to each one telling you how hot they were.
This one was around 80 degrees. Hot!

Photo 14

Photo 15

Photo 16

Photo 17

Photo 18

Photo 18A

Photo 19

Photo 20

I should mention here a few things about Iceland that I haven’t yet. For starters, the water that comes out of their tap is natural spring water — some of the best water in the world. There is no need for bottled water or filters here. (Which is why when I tried to buy a bottle at the grocery store the night before, the clerk told me to put it back. “This is the same as what comes out of your faucets. A waste of money to buy this,” he said. Thanks for the tip, Mr!) The hot water is also natural, geothermally heated water, and it has that sulfer, rotten egg smell? You know the one I’m talking about? At first it’s a bit off-putting, but after a while you tend to get used to it and barely even notice.

It was on this tour that the guide talked to us about the economy in Iceland. Since the government went bankrupt a few years back, everything in the country had become astronomically expensive for the locals (which we can attest to), but much, much cheaper for travelers. For example — the dinner we ordered later Sunday night would have cost us $170 Krona, but we paid for it on credit card, and it only came out to $106. There is no minimum wage in Iceland, they pay 40% of their wages to taxes, and there are very few “good” jobs, with most of those jobs located in Reykjavik. This means many people can’t afford to actually live in Reykjavik, because it’s too expensive, but they have to work there to make even a decent wage — and they end up commuting hours every day, and working up to 10 hours a day, just to make ends meet. People are fleeing the country in droves, our guide said — to include important professionals, like doctors. To make matters worse, there is really no rental market in Iceland, meaning people are forced to buy their homes, even when they can’t necessarily afford to.

Very sad.

Oftentimes people who work in one place and live in another hitch rides with the tour buses for free if there is extra room. We ended up giving a young girl a ride from her job at the geysirs to the town where she lived about 25 minutes away. It was all very interesting.

Back in Reykjavik we decided to head out for our last night on the town. We made our way back to Bunk (which, if you’ll recall, we had tried the night before but it was closing), and really loved it. It had a very low-key, laid back vibe, and was the perfect place to relax before heading out to dinner.

Photo 21

Photo 22

Photo 23

Photo 24^^ Andddddd, we tried Brennivin — aka Black Death — Iceland’s signature distilled Schnapps liquor.
It was …. strong! And gross. But when in Iceland …

Photo 25^^ We passed this little sign of loveliness on our way to dinner. Oh Iceland — you’re simply the best.

We headed to Snaps for dinner around 9 p.m., and the place was finally starting to slow down. We had a perfectly lovely (if somewhat forgetful!) French waitress, who said hello to us in three languages (since in Iceland you never really know where people are from). Throughout the night (which was a really long one, since we’re pretty sure she never thought we wanted to order dinner and it took us about an hour of being there before we finally tracked her down to tell her we did, in fact, want to eat), we discovered that she has a Norwegian Forest cat, just like we do, that she was from France, she was engaged, and that she wasn’t really a waitress by trade — she normally gives hiking tours of volcanos … how cool! — but that she had a friend who worked at Snaps and she was just helping out. We ordered wine and this to-die-for zucchini and cream cheese appetizer, and I ordered mussels and frittes (you have never seen a plate of mussels like this before!), and Chris got the lamb steak with bearnaise sauce, which he says was delicious as well.

All in all I we give Snaps a 5-star rating. Tasty. Fun. Great place to people watch. If in Iceland, you must go here.

Of course our filling meal didn’t stop us from stopping back at the hot dog stand on the way home. I ordered the hot dog bun with the works, sans hot dog (which the man who made it for me promised was not a weird order) — and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

Photo 26

We took our one and only cab ride home that night, and ended up with a Russian driver who told us he used to be a professional hand ball player, and that he had family back home in Russia he was trying to support, but basically backed up everything our tour guide had mentioned earlier about how hard it is to make a living wage in Iceland. Poor Russian cab driver — we really do wish you the best.

And that was Sunday, my friends. The next day, our last day, was spent at this amazing little place called The Blue Lagoon — ahhhhhh the Blue Lagoon! But more on that later …

Bis bald, friends!

Remember When It Was Day 2 in Iceland …

Photo 16

Last Saturday night Chris and I boarded a bus with Icelandic Excursions and set out in search of the Northern Lights.

Here’s something that I’ll say about chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland. In February. No matter how rugged up you think you are — you are not. If you think you have too many pairs of socks on … you do not. Do whatever you can to stay as warm as you can while you’re out there, because you could be out there for a very, very long time.

Icelandic Excursions was a great company to ride with. They only take their tour groups to spots where there’s an area to grab a coffee or hot chocolate or beer and go to the bathroom, and they’re willing to stay out pretty much for however long it takes to find you those dang Northern Lights.

(P.S. I’m no scientist, but this is a pretty great explanation of how the Northern Lights come to be … you should definitely check it out. Nature is amazing.)

Back to Saturday. So we traveled about an hour outside of Reykjavik to this huge field where we all disembarked and waited. And waited. And waited. We were here for about an hour or so before my feet started to feel like they were going to fall off and I needed a hot chocolate and a bathroom break.

The lights here were …. well … pretty fantastic friends.

Photo 17

Photo 18But they were about to get even more fantastic. Our amazing tour guide had told us on the ride to the first spot that if they got word of a better siting of the lights elsewhere, we would all hop on the bus at a moment’s notice and speed off to said second site — and that’s exactly what we did. Chris and I were warming up on the bus for a second (so nice they keep the heat on!) when everyone else started piling on. For a second we thought we were done, but it turns out we were just moving to our second place.

We actually started to see the lights pretty brightly from on the bus as we were driving, so the driver did the quickest parking job he could and we all raced off the bus and into the field and started snapping away ….

Photo 19

Photo 20

Photo 21

Photo 22

Photo 23

Just magnificent, people. The light Gods were with us that night, and it was an experience we’ll absolutely never forget.

We arrived back in the city around 12:30 that night — just about the perfect time to get ready to head out for the night! You guys, I’m not ashamed to say that on a normal night, by 12:30 I’d be well into my slumber. We’re talking deep REM sleep, friends. So it turned out that it was a good thing we waited until Saturday to go out, because coming off our Northern Lights tour I was still revved and excited and raring to go — much different from the night before when we had had maybe four hours of sleep.

So we drank some of the wine and beer we had purchased the night before and ate some of the cheese, uploaded some photos of the Northern Lights to Facebook and Instagram (I’m only human), and headed back out into the night around 1 a.m.

And it. Was. Bumpin’! These Icelanders are serious about their partying, and they do not mess around! Our waitress from Mar earlier in the day had recommended that we start off at a place called Bunk, but when we went in a little after 1 it was getting ready to close. Lame. (Don’t worry, we made it back there the following night.)

So onto the bar next door — Boston. I’d say we were here for a little over an hour, and it had a really nice atmosphere. It wasn’t crazy crowded, and everyone seemed happy and friendly and a bunch of the girls were dancing around. It was dark and homey, and there were two floors, one with oversized comfy couches and chairs and the other more of a party area. We liked it here. Boston was definitely a good find.

Then, friends, we made our way over to Prikid. By now it must have been around 3 a.m., and the line was starting to grow at this particular bar. We didn’t have to wait long — although the bouncers did card every single person who entered before us, stopped and looked us up and down, and then let us right in sans being carded.

Ouch. Guess we’re old looking.

I should preface our Prikid experience by saying that we had stumbled upon this bar guide of Reykjavik before our trip, which is amazing. You may notice that under the explanation for Prikid they say that the atmosphere is “Homey; low key,” and:

“Primary reason to go there To
find a mate; to chat with friends; to
bolster an image; to pretend to work
on your book of poetry; to toke on a
doobie.”

Photo 24^^ I took this photo of Prikid much earlier in the night the Friday before, simply because I
thought the place looked cool. It’s pretty low-key around 9 p.m. Not so much around 2:30 a.m.

And while I guess I could sort of see how the doobie part is accurate, the last thing I would call Prikid is “homey”, nor did I consider it a good place to “pretend to work on my book of poetry.”

Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun. We met a really young looking kid wearing two hats and a sweatshirt who told us his name was Massimo and that he was a professional some-sport-or-other that was just shy of being an Olympics-approved sport. He was from Boston, but he had lived in Iceland for three years, and he absolutely loved it there. He owned three snowmobiles and he showed us pictures of him riding them.

These are the things you talk about at 3 a.m. at a bar in Iceland to a random stranger when you are slightly intoxicated.

He was with a girl who seemed really annoyed the entire time we were with them. When I asked her if Massimo was her boyfriend, she scoffed and said no, they were just friends. Please, lady. I can smell a crush from a mile away.

Downstairs the bar was pumping the rap and R&B music, it was crowded and dark and the bar tenders kept swinging these low-hanging lamps that were all around the bar so that there was this constant feeling of movement right above your head.

It was …. really fun! At one point a very drunk boy at the bar came up to Chris and asked him for money for a drink (we did not oblige), and while I was waiting in line to use the bathroom a very nice young woman who looked to be about 19 or 20 started talking to me for no reason. Just because we were standing there. And she was nice. And that’s what Icelanders do.

Oh Iceland, how I love thee.

After Prikid we headed over to Baejarins beztu pylsur.

Did you get all that?

Anyway, it’s the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland (some say it’s even the best restaurant there), and Chris got a hot dog with the works.

Photo 25

The thing about my husband, you see, is that he doesn’t even really like hot dogs. However, this hot dog, he says, was the best hot dog he’d ever had in his life. I guess for a person who doesn’t like hot dogs that isn’t really saying much? He seemed happy about it though, and the line was long to get one, so they must be something special. (Don’t worry, I tried one the following night, sans actual hot dog, and at least I can attest to the fact that “the works” part of the hot dog was pretty great!)

And that was about it friends. Our Saturday in a nutshell. The Northern Lights, bar hopping and hot dogs. We headed home around 5 in the morning (but not before stopping at the grocery store to pick up cup of noodles and some caramel chocolate to eat when we got home … geez I must have been drunk!), feeling happy, buzzed and alive.

Photo 26

Bis bald, friends! Tomorrow it’s on to Day 3.

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 2

I’m baaackkkk! So Day 2 of our Icelandic Adventure really was quite the day my friends. It was the day that Chris and I got to take part in something that a very limited number of people will ever get to see. Like, ever.

I’ll give you a hint.

_DSC5209^^ Oh my!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We started the morning and early afternoon off by renting bikes from this very Harley-looking dude on a very dilapidated street with lots of graffiti that was only a few blocks from our hotel and only one street over from one of the main downtown streets.

And it may have been freezing that day (and in some parts treacherously icy!), my friends, but the views were still absolutely glorious. We rode around the entire rim of the city from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., just taking it all in …

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6^^ One of the natural thermal beaches that you’ll find all around Iceland. Pretty amazing.

After our ride we were both eager for some coffee to warm us up, and I really wanted a tasty treat. (You know me!) So we stopped by C is for Cookie Cafe in the downtown area for some coffee and the most delicious (and expensive at $8 for one slice!) warm apple pie and whipped cream.

Photo 7

Here is where I need to make note of something that totally and 100% intrigued me. When you are in a new place, one of the most amazing things is to note the cultural differences. What’s considered totally normal and average in one place could be considered inconsiderate or rude in another. So when we first approached the cafe, I noticed that about three or four strollers were parked outside next to the big windows surrounding the place. So they don’t bring strollers inside places, I thought. Interesting.

It didn’t end there, though. As it turns out, it seemed to me that, at least in this one particular instance that I saw, babies who were asleep when their parents arrived were left outside. In the carriages. All bundled up and sleeping soundly away. One mother inside had a baby monitor at the table with her, but I didn’t really think twice about it … until I later realized that the reason was because her baby was asleep outside in her stroller!

Amazing!

My first thought was about the cold, but in the days since I’ve seen this and have mentioned it to people, the first thought that springs to most people’s minds is the fact that crime must not be a big issue here. That’s promising, I guess? As blown away by this realization as I was when I first understood it, it’s as I said — what’s considered commonplace in one country can be completely baffling in another.

So much to learn about this world.

Anyway, moving on. After the coffee we decided to kick it up a notch to beer. Chris used his Happy Hour app and discovered a happy hour happening at Mar, a fancy little restaurant near the water with maps on the wall showing you all the different countries from which they draw inspiration for their cuisine.

We didn’t do cuisine though — we just did drinks ;) And we chatted up the bartender to no end about the ins and outs of going out on a weekend with the Icelanders. She suggested good bars for us to visit (one of which was prikid, which I have so much to say about!), and confirmed to me that yes, things do indeed tend to get a bit crazy on weekends in Iceland and yes, drunken shenanigans most definitely would ensue.

At least I was prepared.

After Mar we headed towards the water to climb up a hut made out of hay which is used to dry fish and take pictures of the water.

Weird sentence — but that’s exactly what we did.

Photo 8

Photo 9^^ Silly husband. I think those aren’t for riding.

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12^^ See. A hut of straw that you climb up.

photo 1 (56)^^ See. Dried fish guts inside the hut.

photo 2 (60)^^ Top of the hut.

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 15

Walking home from our hut adventure we stopped by The Kebab House for dinner (see review here), which was decent but not all that memorable. Chris got the fish and chips (said he’s had better) and I got a veggie pita, which was pretty okay. Wouldn’t be the first on my list of dining recommendations for Iceland, let’s just say. Although there was a group of rowdy men drinking beer at the table behind us for a while when we first arrived, and at one point they broke out into Icelandic song. So that part I really enjoyed!

So that night, friends. That night. It was the night of all nights. It was the night of our Northern Lights Tour, as well as the night we went out into the town.

There’s so much to say about both of these amazing things, and I’ve already written so much for today — I’m making an executive editorial decision to cut our Day 2 in half. Yup. Just decided.

Tune in tomorrow, my friends, for an update on our Northern Lights Tour and our adventure with the crazy Icelandic party animals!

I guess in that case the first photo I shared with you was a tease. Oh well, what can you do! Bis bald!

P.S. I’m noticing in my dashboard that I’m getting some readers from Iceland on both this and yesterday’s posts — Hi Iceland! So happy to have you!

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

Iceland_Mountains

Hey friends,

As you all know by now, Chris and I returned home from our (awesome. amazing. unreal. fantastic. insert-fabulous-adjective here) trip to Iceland late last night, and I’ve been busting to share the info and photos with you. Alas, a full day of work has kept me from doing so until now.

Anyway, moving on. Coming home from a trip like this. just. plain. sucks! But going through all the photos and writing down the memories here to keep forever … well that’s just really fun.

Here we go! Day 1 in Iceland began last Friday, at around 6 a.m., Icelandic time ….

After a quick (and somewhat cramped) overnight flight from JFK, we landed at Keflavik Airport a little before our expected arrival time of 6 a.m. Which was actually 1 a.m. NY time.

Who needs sleep when you’re young?!

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly, highly  recommend since it was so easy and cheap (approximately $15), and you do not want to get to Iceland and have to worry about how you’re getting to your hotel, since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Like I said, we stayed at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik (Trip Advisor reviews can be found here), which was a tad off the beaten track from downtown Reykjavik (about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the city center, I’d say) — but the front desk ladies were always completely lovely and extremely helpful, and a decent breakfast was included, and the price was right … so really, I’d say if you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the really hopping part of town, it’s worth staying at the Best Western.

Of course getting in at 6 a.m. and arriving to our hotel around 7 a.m. meant we couldn’t check right in. Instead we stored our bags and hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going (and it stayed that way for about a good 20 minutes, I’d say. Why didn’t we just ask for directions?!), and the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered — we were on an adventure! We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi (also read about it here), stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.

Photo 1^^ The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!

Photo 2^^ Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??

Photo 3

photo 4^^ One of these things is not like the other …

Photo 5

During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.

Photo 6

Photo 7

Photo 8

Photo 9

Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)

By the time we made it back outside it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! We made our way slowly back to the hotel (not before picking up some wine at the local store for later) to finally check in and take a nap before heading back out into the day. (As a side note, I’ve already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30ish in the winter in Iceland, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight. As it turns out, I didn’t mind it even one tiny little bit.)

After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12

After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. (Also check it out in this list of the 11 coolest bars in Reykjavik, which I really wish I had seen before we left for our trip. But that’s okay … I think we did just fine. The trick is to just ask the locals … but more on that later!) This funky little place is actually a microbrewery, and we were able to sample four of their most delicious beers for the low, low price of $20.

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 15

I think here might actually be a good place to mention prices in Iceland. Ummmm …. they be expensive!!! And we live in Manhattan, friends, so when someone from Manhattan calls another place expensive? Well, you just know it must be true. I’ll get a bit more into the finances of Iceland (or lack thereof) in day three, though, because that’s when we learned all about it. For the purpose of today’s blog post, let’s just put it out there that if you travel to Reykjavik, be prepared to drop some cash, friends. It’s one of the best places I’ve been in the world (What?! Did she really just say that?!), but it’s no cheap place to visit.

All of this detracts, however, from the awesomeness that is Micro Bar. It has such a homey, low-key vibe, with subdued lighting and tasty snacks and lovely bartenders, and the most adorable paintings of mountains (each with something tiny and surprising to find that makes it different) on the walls — this is a must while in Iceland.

I guess here is also a good place to tell you about what our original plans were for Friday night. As anyone who has ever read anything about Reykjavik or has been there will know — on the weekends, these people know how to party! They party hard and loud and long into the night. Like, they start the bar hopping around 12:30 or 1, friends. This is no joke. So knowing this was a Reykjavik ritual that we would most definitely be partaking in, we thought we’d grab a quick drink and dinner early, then head back to the hotel with some wine from the local liquor store (conveniently located near Micro Bar), some snacks from the grocery and take a quick power nap before heading out again around 12:30 or 1.

For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places list I linked out to above), but they were pretty booked when we tried there as well. (Don’t worry, we did make it to Snaps, eventually.) We instead stumbled on Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there. So that’s where we ate our first night, and it was spectacular, friends. To be fair, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we didn’t eat anything bad, per se, at all on this trip. (You can pretty much assume this means we didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic food — like whale, or Puffin. Ummm…needless to say I’m okay with that, and so is Chris.) So the Noodle Station on Friday night was delicious, but it wasn’t our best meal. Still, it’s worth a shot for lunch or if you’re in need of a quick nighttime meal, for sure.

On the way back to our hotel for some wine and our (what was meant to be a) power nap, we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese and crackers. We were also hoping to find some playing cards (which we without fail always forget to bring on trips), and when they didn’t have any for sale, the lovely man behind the counter who rang us up actually ended up pulling out a pack from behind the register and just giving them to us completely for free. I mean … how lovely! It was really a small act of kindness that made our night.

So that was pretty much our first day in Iceland, friends! I’m going to spare you the expense and just say we never made it out Friday night (100% my fault), but did get out with the crazy crowd on Saturday night … and it was every bit as much fun as everything I had read.

But more on that tomorrow. (That and a little thing called the Northern Lights!)

Bis bald, friends!

 

An Anniversary Trip to Saratoga Springs, New York

photo 10b

Hey friends,

This past weekend Chris and I borrowed the little Matrix that we’re planning to buy off my parents and took her for a spin up to Saratoga Springs.  The whole idea for this trip came out of a deal for a Saratoga hotel on TripAdvisor that then led to me the Saratoga Arms hotel. (It’s ranked as the No. 1 hotel in Saratoga on TripAdvisor.)

Anyway, we’ll get to that later.

I had done some research on Saratoga ahead of time, and last weekend in Vermont my cousin recommended a couple places to us as well. (She lives in Albany, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Saratoga.)

I think I should preface this post by saying that we had a deluge of snow the day before we drove to Saratoga, and pretty much every place looks magical in a snowy winter wonderland … am I right? Even without the snow, though, I know I would have fallen in love with Saratoga. The downtown area was so charming (and of course it was still decorated for Christmas with twinkling white lights and red bows everywhere … that certainly didn’t hurt it), the people were so friendly and every place we went had really great food and drink.

Our first stop was a recommendation of my cousin’s — Ravenous, for their crepes and Pommes Frittes. They come with all different kinds of dipping sauces. We tried the Aioli, Cajun Spicy Mayo and Mango Chutney. Seriously delicious.

photo 1^^ My warm apple cider with orange wasn’t too shabby, either.

photo 1a

photo 2

After stuffing our faces, we decided to check out the town for a bit before checking into our hotel.

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

photo 6

photo 7

photo 8

photo 9

photo 10a

photo 10c^^ This hotel was closed for repairs, but I thought it was just so beautiful.

After our little introduction to the town we headed to the hotel.

photo 11

photo 12

photo 13

So about the hotel. I feel like I should start by saying — it was perfectly lovely. Seriously, very lovely — charming even. I mean look at those cute horse wreathes that greet you at the front door! The building is kept locked at all times, and the friendly innkeeper lets you in when you arrive. There’s a warm fireplace and classic, historic decorations — everything about this place is cute and cozy and nice.

I just have a small but. The thing is — we paid a lot for our room. Like … a lot. (It was $300 after taxes, and that was the lowest priced King room available.) And for some reason I had convinced myself that I booked a room with a jacuzzi tub, and you know how when you think you’ve done something, and get your hopes all up for it — well I just really wanted that jacuzzi tub! And I mean, the room was fine, people. Honestly, it was quite nice. Perfectly pleasant. Very well looked after. I guess I was just … expecting more. What can I say. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of hotels up to this point in my life, and I’ve spent a wide range of money on those hotels. All I’m saying is … besides location (and the seriously scrumptious breakfast that’s included in the morning!), I’m just not quite sure this place was worth the price. That’s all.

But moving on! Despite the disappointment of not having a jacuzzi (!), we still had a whole night ahead of us. Our first night stop would be to The Wine Bar — another of my cousin’s recommendations. A huge plus of Saratoga Arms — all of our stops were within walking distance, even though it was about 0 degrees outside!

photo 14

We sat by the fire and the white lights twinkled and our waitress was lovely. And we ordered the warm olive appetizer and Chris a Manhattan and me a glass of white wine. Then we both ordered another glass of wine — red this time– and here my friends is where I’ll share a little something with you. It was here at The Wine Bar in Saratoga Springs, New York, that I had — ready for it? — the best wine of my life. I mean … seriously! This friggin’ wine was so. amazingly. delicous. Even Chris was jealous. I had the waitress give me my menu back so I could write down exactly what it was, which was a Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina/Menoza. It also was organic, which I honestly think might have made a difference.

If you are in Saratoga and find yourself at The Wine Bar (which you should … thanks for the recommendation Alyssa!), you must, must, must try this wine! You’ll thank me later, I promise.

Anyway, after warming up with wine, we headed back out into the cold to our dinner reservations at Mouzon House. Here’s where I have to give Saratoga Arms another big shout out — about two days before we were meant to arrive I received a welcome email from them with parking instructions, town and weather information, as well as a list of local restaurants that they recommended, Mouzon House being one of them. They even called and made the reservation for us. (Am I being a hotel snob about this place? Probably. The more I write about it the more charming I feel like it was.)

Anyway, the Mouzon House. Another massive, humongous hit!

photo 16

photo 17

photo 18^^We were a tad early for our reservation, so we sat at the bar and ordered some drinks first. Our bartender told us she was also a realtor, and she had helped her friend purchase the restaurant. The building had formerly belonged to the Mouzon family, and the woman who they bought the house from was the first African American woman to graduate from the local community college. She said the fact that they wanted to keep the family name in the name of the restaurant was a big reason why she thinks they were given the deal in the first place. The majority of the house had been left as is — even the rooms upstairs were still in bedroom form. Oh, and there was a ghost. The ghost was a friendly ghost, Mrs. Bartender told us, but she didn’t even have to say that .. Chris and I have a feeling about these things, and we already knew.

photo 19^^ Somehow the restaurant knew it was our one year anniversary — I guess the hotel told them when they called?Anyway, they gave us our creme brûlée with a candle in it, and that was super cute.

For dinner I ordered the vegetarian jambalaya, and Chris had the steak. We also ordered the asparagus appetizer and another bottle of wine, and everything was to die for. Perhaps even more amazing, though, was the fact that the couple sitting directly across from us was celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary — and they could not have been cuter. At one point I looked over and the woman was fixing her husband’s shirt. When they left he helped her put her coat on.

If only Chris and I can get that lucky to be as in love as day one at our 56th anniversary.

So at this point in the evening, I had also wanted to check out the 9 Maple Ave. jazz bar, but unfortunately all the wine I had already consumed started to make me feel like the warm hotel was calling my name, so we called it a night.

The next morning we were up early though. Breakfast is served between 8 and 10 in the dining room, and it’s a sit down, order type of breakfast. I got the oatmeal (remember I wasn’t feeling well!), and Chris had the chef’s special mushroom omelet which, in his words, was “the best omelet I ever had in my life.”

Okay fine — so Saratoga Arms was quite lovely, I get it. It’s just that when you’re spending that much money, you might as well splurge an extra $50-$60 and get a room with a jacuzzi or a fireplace. That’s just my opinion. Noted for next time.

After breakfast we packed up and checked out, and headed back into the town to check out a couple of other stores we had seen the day before. We even ended up finding an old vintage New York City map for $6 — the best find!

I also wanted to check back on this house we had passed when trying to find the parking garage for the hotel. I mean … check this place out …

photo 20

photo 21

photo 22

photo 23

photo 24

Our googling has yet to turn up what this place actually is. Is it someone’s home? Is it a business? Whatever it is, I envision this will be what my next home looks like. That’s reasonable … right?

And that, my friends, was Saratoga. It was the perfect little getaway for an anniversary weekend, and I cannot wait to get back there at some point to explore in warmer weather!

Bis bald, my friends! Only only month until Iceland — I simply cannot wait!

One Final Note on Christmas … and Happy New Year!

Happy 2014 friends! I cannot believe I am typing up a post for 2014 right now. I feel like Christmas was about a million years ago, but we were so busy running around I didn’t get the chance to blog about something we managed to squeeze in right before we headed out of town for the holidays. It’s been an item on my Manhattan Bucket List for a while now, and we finally made it happen — Celcius, at Bryant Park.

photo 1

As we all know, I have a slight obsession with Bryant Park during Christmas (I’m not ashamed to admit it), so Celcius provides me with an outlet to be as gluttonous with this obsession as possible. The bar/restaurant provides a completely open view of the skating rink, shopping village, Christmas tree and even the Empire State Building from a certain angle. The drinks were tasty, the atmosphere was festive and the snow was falling — it was basically the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve Eve. [–> not a typo, we went the night before Christmas Eve ;)]

photo 2^^ You can kind of, sort of, maybe see the Empire State Building peeking out at the top of this photo.
In real life she was spectacular.

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

photo 6

photo 7^^ Bryant Park in the falling snow. There’s nothing more beautiful.

For New Years Eve (AKA our one year wedding anniversary! And our 7-year anniversary in total!), my husband surprised me with brunch at Landmarc in Tribeca (they also have a location in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle), and we saw these crazy kids play again at Terminal 5. (Which is where we met. And got engaged. So you know … it’s sentimental for us to say the least …)

photo 8

photo 9

Bis bald, friends! And cheers to a fabulous and fun-filled 2014!

Back in the Borough: Dinner at The Monkey Bar

photo 1

You guys … The Monkey Bar. What can I say? I have officially found my favorite restaurant in Manhattan.

If you come to visit NYC, and you’d like to go a classic, old-timey New York restaurant (and you’re willing to dish out some dough) — this is the place for you.

Okay, so some history first. On the heals of the end of Prohibition, the Monkey Bar opened in 1936 on the ground floor of Hotel Elysee in Midtown (which was, at the time, one of the fanciest hotels in the city). It quickly became the go-to hangout for old-school New York celebrities like Tallulah Bankhead, as well as the place “a number of significant events” occurred (says the site) — like when Tennessee Williams mysteriously choked on an eye-dropper and died there.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

The bar was purchased in 2009 by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and his wife, along with hotelier Jeff Klein.

And the mural. Oh this mural, my friends. Created by illustrator Ed Sorel, the three-paneled mural runs along the entire length of the back wall of the restaurant, and then onto some adjoining walls as well. It features many significant figures from the Jazz Age, those same figures that used to call the Monkey Bar their favorite hang out. You can click on the mural link above in this paragraph and it’ll bring you through the entire mural and explain little histories about all those on it.

One of the many, many things I loved about this place was how it felt like two completely different places. The front entrance (reached from the street) has the feeling of a really fancy, old-school bar, with a real live piano player in the corner and a bar with monkey murals in the background.

But then move through the bar area to the back of the joint, and the actual restaurant area is much more subdued and romantic.

Plus — the monkeys! Monkeys, monkeys everywhere! And yet somehow — they managed to be tastefully done.

(I apologize in advance for the graininess of these photos. As I mentioned, it was quite dark, and since it was, you know, a somewhat classy joint, I was trying my best to be discreet with my photo taking. Chris may or may not have been mortified.)

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 4a

photo 5

photo 5a

photo 6^^ I mean, look at this menu! So detailed!

photo 7

photo 8^^ The dessert menu was just as beautiful as the main one.

photo 9

photo 10^^ This mural guys. This mural.

photo 11^^I was convinced this was Marilyn Monroe. Chris said no.
Unfortunately he was right. (I hate when that happens.) It’s Mae West.

photo 12

photo 13

And the food was not outdone by the ambiance. I ordered a seasonal cocktail (The Harvest Punch, with rum, mulled cider, cognac, lemon juice and nutmeg) and Chris had the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. He says his was fantastic (I don’t know anything about that … I don’t like those kinds of drinks), but I can tell you right now mine was. We ordered a crab cake appetizer to share (best damn crab cake I’ve ever had in my life), and I ordered the Saffron Risotto for dinner. Chris got the Colorado Lamb Rack. We both thought our meals were incredibly delicious.

Discussing the joint on our walk back to the subway afterwards we were trying to decide what to rank it. Neither one of us could come up with any negative things to say about it. Even our waiter was polite and quick and lovely. Nary a negative thing to say, people. Not one damn thing.

Great job, Monkey Bar! You will mostly certainly see us back here!

Bis bald, friends!

Happy Thanksgiving, From Our Family to Yours

Well friends, the holiday season is officially and truly upon us! Over the course of our almost seven years together (yikes!), the Thanksgiving holiday for myself and Chris has taken on a bit of a traditional feel. We usually have Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family on the actual day — where Chris runs the New Paltz Turkey Trot in the mornings and we make pumpkin soup to contribute to the meal — and then spend Friday with my dad’s side of the family for a second holiday feast.

Here’s a bit of what our holiday looked like this year …

Upstate New York Thanksgiving.

^^ The New Paltz Turkey Trot is held right around the super cute downtown shopping area.^^ The New Paltz Turkey Trot is held right around the super cute downtown shopping area.

_DSC4314

_DSC4315

_DSC4318

_DSC4319

_DSC4323

_DSC4324

_DSC4325

^^ This lovely business decided to set up some fire pits outside the Start line before the race. It was a lifesaver in the 18 degree weather!^^ This lovely business decided to set up some fire pits outside the start line before the race.
It was a lifesaver in the 18 degree weather!

_DSC4331

_DSC4332

_DSC4334

_DSC4335

_DSC4336

^^I loved taking shots here. Everyone is so nice and friendly, and so anxious to get their day of feasting on.^^I loved taking shots here. Everyone is so nice and friendly, and so anxious to get their day of feasting on.

_DSC4341

^^ Feisty running sneaks.^^ Feisty running sneaks.

_DSC4346

_DSC4353

^^ And here's my husband, coming in with the fast people.^^ And here’s my husband, coming in with the fast people.

^^ My mom's dog was feeling thankful for my lap.^^ My mom’s dog was feeling thankful for my lap.

^^ Pumpkin soup beginnings ...^^ Pumpkin soup beginnings …

_DSC4375

_DSC4377

^^ So thankful for this family^^ So thankful for this family

_DSC4381

_DSC4382

^^ Grams, taking her first sips of beer in over a decade. The end result? "They're making them more bitter than they used to!"^^ Grams, taking her first sips of beer in over a decade. The end result?
“They’re making them more bitter than they used to!”

_DSC4408

_DSC4422

^^ Birthday cakes for two birthday boys^^ Birthday cakes for two birthday boys

^^ A very happy birthday to my stepdad Robert, so will always be a kid at heart^^ A very happy birthday to my stepdad Robert, so will always be a kid at heart

New Jersey Thanksgiving.

^^ Our traditional NJ Thanksgiving Broccoli & Cauliflower Bake^^ Our traditional NJ Thanksgiving Broccoli & Cauliflower Bake

_DSC4454

_DSC4461

_DSC4464

_DSC4480

^^ Chris and I brought back his favorite children's book from Australia for Rory. It's called "There's a Possum in the House," and we're told it's now one of his favorites.^^ Chris and I brought back his favorite children’s book from Australia for Rory.
It’s called “There’s a Possum in the House,” and we’re told it’s now one of his favorites.

^^ And of course it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Chris concocting up some cocktails.^^ And of course it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Chris concocting up some cocktails.

So that’s it friends — another Thanksgiving in the books. The next few weeks before Christmas are so full of fun things, I can barely stand it. We have a Super Secret Birthday Trip next weekend for my stepdad (my second Super Secret birthday trip this year … how great am at keeping secrets!), lots of fun dinner and drink plans and a weekend in the city with my nephew and the rest of our fam. Then it’s off to Vermont for my Aunt and Uncle’s holiday gift to us, and a celebration for our one year wedding anniversary.

Bis bald, friends!

Back in the Borough: A Day With Myself (Sort of) in NYC

Fall/Christmas in New York City is my absolute favorite time of year, and yesterday I took some time to do something I haven’t done for a while — walk around by myself. I walked from our Upper East Side apartment to meet a friend for lunch in the 60s (We ate at the Eat Here Now diner. It’s really tiny and packed, but the atmosphere was fun, the food was great and the big front windows allow you to people watch on Lexington ave right outside while you hang.), picked up some craft supplies at Sam Flax and spent a couple hours browsing the Christmas shops (yup, the Christmas shops!) and the ice skaters at Bryant Park.

^^ Ahhh, my favorite time of year at Bryant Park -- and in the city, for that matter -- has arrived! You will find me at the skating rink in my very own ice skates very soon, my friends!

^^ Ahhh, my favorite time of year at Bryant Park — and in the city, for that matter — has arrived! You will find me at the skating rink in my very own ice skates very soon, my friends!

^^ Not a bad backdrop for ice skating, if you ask me.

^^ Not a bad backdrop for ice skating, if you ask me.

^^ Beautiful blue NYC skies.

^^ Beautiful blue NYC skies.

^^ I love the atmosphere here this time of year. And the music! Love the old-timey music.

^^ I love the atmosphere here this time of year. And the music! Love the old-timey music.

Afterwards I met up with more friends at the Haru Sushi near Union Square for a couple happy hour martinis and sushi rolls.

As a freelancer, I sometimes forget that I’m allowed to take a break every now and then. I often keep myself chained to my computer during business hours, and continue to check and respond to emails well into the night. But the whole point of taking this time to freelance was to have a little bit of flexibility. Yesterday just reminded me of how nice that can be.

Bis bald, friends! Hope everyone is making the most of fall while it lasts!

Back in the Borough: A Couple of Hot Spots

Hey friends!

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. I didn’t get the memo that we were celebrating Halloween before it happens this year … silly me! Costumes were out and about this weekend! So fun!

We had a busy one ourselves. On Friday we continued celebrating the 30 years of Chris’s life with friends down at Ace Bar in the East Village.

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 1.41.39 PM

 

A second to make some comments about this bar. While it’s not exactly right in the heart of the craziness that is the East Village, if you’re walking here, you’ll most likely be walking through the craziness that is the East Village, which can be really fun, especially on a Friday night. Some things you just might see:

  • A really old man smoking a pipe while leaning against a tree
  • A man with a cat on a leash who is climbing up a tree
  • Throngs and throngs and throngs of people standing outside of some dumpling shop or another, just waiting to get their hands on some late-night delicious drunk food

It’s really a hoot.

Ace Bar itself is cool too, with its pool tables and Skeeball machines, darts, pinball and other game. Needless to say, lots of fun was had by all.

On Saturday my sister and her boyfriend came for a visit with their new kitten (squeee!), and we took them to Merrion Square, a bar that is literally one block away. At MS you get a free burger (or veggie burger!) with any full-priced drink, and free wings with a full-price pitcher of beer. They’re all about the games here, as well, with more pool, Skeeball machines and Duck Hunter. Plus they have 16 beers on tap, 58 types in bottles and 24 can varieties — so you know, you’re covered there as well.

Sunday we spent mostly in Central Park with Chris’s uncle, who is back in town to run the New York City Marathon this upcoming Sunday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the New York City marathon ranks seriously high on my list of favorite days in this city. There’s this feeling that everyone in the entire city is rooting for someone (or everyone!), and the crowd is so excited and happy. If you don’t need to maneuver yourself around the city by car on the day of the race, it’s really something that’s amazing to be a part of.

And that about takes us into November friends. Can you even begin to believe that? I’m off to Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson Valley this weekend with my family for The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, then back to the city to watch a friend try on wedding dresses (another squeeee!) and for the marathon on Sunday.

Bis bald, my friends! Happy fall!