Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

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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??

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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 …

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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!

A Snowy Christmas Celebration in Stowe, Vermont

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Hi friends,

Holy cow tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.
Holy cow tomorrow is the very last day in 2013.
Holy cow as of tomorrow Chris and I will have been married for one. whole. year!

Just … that’s a whole lotta holy cows!

So Chris and I had a lovely, action-packed holiday week last  week, and the fun will continue this week with some anniversary activities. But last week …. let’s see. We spent Christmas eve into Christmas morning in New Jersey with family, then hopped to upstate New York to spend the rest of Christmas with my mom and stepdad, and drove the day after Christmas to meet up with my aunt, uncle, two cousins and cousin’s boyfriend for a little extra Christmas celebrating in Stowe, Vermont. My aunt had booked the place for us as our Christmas gift, and we stayed in a Stoneybrook cabin with a fireplace, huge kitchen and gorgeous views.

photo 2^^ The view from the back porch of our bedroom on Friday morning, after it had snowed all night.

My sister and her boyfriend, my uncle and Chris and I were excited to head up to the mountain to ski/snowboard. I would be taking another snowboarding lesson (I think after this time I finally got it down!), while the others went off and did their “we’re already good at this” thing.

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Unfortunately we arrived too late on Friday for me to catch the lesson. (Word to the wise for any of you snow bunnies who might want to take a lesson at Stowe — they start at 10 a.m. on Fridays — maybe every day but I can’t say for sure — and they go for an hour and a half in the morning, then break and meet up again at 1 for another hour. And they’re expensive! With my gear rental and the group lesson, I ended up paying around $230. Ouch … but worth it!)

Anyway, since I wouldn’t be snowboarding on Friday, I did this instead:

photo 6^^Found the bar …

photo 7^^Had an extremely delicious Bloody Mary while I waited for everyone to meet me for lunch.

Saturday was different, though, my friends — Saturday I actually took a lesson! And let me tell you — by the end of it I wasn’t half bad ;) It ended up being a private lesson when no one else showed up for the class, so that’s always a good thing.

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Of course I never left the beginner’s hill but hey — I need to leave something to aspire to, right?

Saturday night we headed into town to the Vermont Ale House, which had awesome beers, amazing music and tables made of chalkboard so you could draw on them. It was pretty much the best.

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We left yesterday to make the drive back to the city (in a snow and rainstorm, no less!), but Chris still got in a half day of snowboarding, I took a hike with my uncle and cousin’s boyfriend on the trails right near our cabin and Steph and I checked out a bit of the town.

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Final Photo

I think it’s safe to say Stowe was a major success, and that we’d all love more than anything to make this trip an annual thing.

Bis bald, friends! I seriously cannot believe that tomorrow will be my lost blog of 2013. Time really does fly when you’re having fun …

 

Back in the Borough: Yayoi Kasuma at David Zwirner Gallery

Wow — that’s a lotta hard words in the title of this post, huh?

Well friends — in life, you win some and you some lose some. I’m going to call my little adventure to the David Zwirner gallery to see Yayoi Kasuma’s “I Who Have Arrived In Heaven” exhibit (and more specifically the infamous “infinity room“) both a win and a loss, making it what? A draw?

It was a lot more than a draw, though, I’ll tell you that much.

Let me start from the beginning. When you spend weeks reading about an exhibit in The New York Times, Time Out New York, Smithsonian Mag and New York Magazine, you know two things immediately:

  1. I must go to that.
  2. I am an idiot if I try to go to that.

Yesterday, I chose to be an idiot. Because let me tell you friends, if there’s anything I’ve learned in my almost seven years living in this wonderful city, it’s that New Yorkers will line up for hours for something they deem worthy. Worthy things include:

I can tell you this much — I wasn’t waiting that long in a line, in frigid temps, no less, simply for a selfie. (Which, if the last article link is to be believed, is why most people are doing it.) I was doing it because I’ve read the reviews, and based on what people say immediately coming out … well, I guess I just will repeat myself here … I really wanted to go to that.

I showed up around 10:20 a.m. (the gallery opens at 10), hoping that the randomness of it being a Wednesday might play to my favor.

Not so much. I was pretty much immediately approached by someone who worked at the gallery who told me that I probably had about a five hour wait based on where I was in line, and might not even make it in at all before they closed that day.

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Massive bummer. Besides the fact that it took me about 45 minutes to get there in the first place, I was not properly prepared for the cold weather (yes, Chris, I know you told me to dress more warmly before I left), and my throat was already hurting me.

What’s a girl to do?

I tried waiting it out, friends, I really and truly did. I stood in line for a little over an hour before I decided that I treasure my fingers and toes too much to lose them while standing in line to view some art exhibit. For 45 seconds. (Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. You only get 45 whole seconds in the infinity room. But come on! If people are willing to stand in a FIVE HOUR line in the FREEZING COLD to spend 45 SECONDS in a room!!! You just know you want to see that!)

Anyway, needless to say, I did not see that. I gave up and decided to check out Yayoi’s painting exhibit, which was completely line-free:

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How gorgeous are those colors? Her work is so interesting and full of life — I really enjoyed it. (The heat of the gallery made it infinitely more enjoyable, I’m not going to lie. At that point in the morning they could have literally been showing me photos of poop, and as long as I was warm I would have swooned.)

On my way out I noticed another, smaller line at a third entrance to the gallery. I had read about these, for lack of a better word, “tentacles” that were a separate part of Yayoi’s exhibit, and I was wondering where those were, but my brain was too frozen to ask. Luckily, this was the magic door that let me to that exhibit. So I braved another 10 minutes outside (teeth chattering the entire time), and was ushered into the “tentacle” exhibit. You have to take your shoes off to enter, and you get one whole minute in there.

Totally worth it.

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photo 7^^ This is Yayoi herself. In a room adjacent to the tentacle room, there was a video
playing on loop of the artist reciting a poem, followed by a brief glimpse
of the infinity room.

photo 8^^ So beyond cool. 

photo 9] photo 10^^ This is the poem that is being read aloud by Yayoi in the tentacle room.
It’s hard to read, so I’ll pull out my favorite line here:
“Was the beauty of the end of one’s life nothing more than an illusion?
Would you give me an answer to this?
Devoting all my heart to you, I have lived through to this day
Hoping to leave beautiful footprints at the end of my life …”

All-in-all, I’d give the exhibit as many stars as one possibly can. Unfortunately the exhibit ends this weekend. I was contemplating heading back really early Friday to see if I can make it inside the infinity room, but I’ll have to play that by ear.

(P.S. I could go into detail on the exhibits, but explanations of how Yayoi put together her work are much more beautifully explained in the articles I link out to above. For more info on how she made everything, I’d recommend checking those out.)

On the way home I took the opportunity to stroll through the Chelsea Market, one of my favorite places in New York, and finish up some Christmas shopping. (Do I say that too much? I can’t help it! I really do love everything that much!) You could spend hours here and not see everything there is to see.

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photo 22^^ Can I get this beautiful book display in my apartment? Too much?

Alright friends — that’s my Wednesday story for ya. If I ever do make it back to the gallery and actually make it into the infinity room, I’ll be sure to grab at least one selfie I can share here, since apparently that’s the thing to do. (I wouldn’t hold your breathe, though.)

Bis bald, friends!

Back in the Borough: A Snowy West Village

Hi friends,

So a friend of mine had a holiday party at her apartment in the West Village this past weekend, and it was such a gorgeous snowy wonderland, you just know I had to take some shots on my way from the subway to her place.

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photo 7^^ Saturday was SantaCon here in NYC, an event where people dress
up as Santa and run around the city from bar to bar. The snowy day
made it perfect for snowy Santa photo ops.

photo 8^^Santa takes cabs here in NYC.

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If it wasn’t already feeling like Christmas here, it certainly is (s)now …. hahahahaha — get it!?

Bis bald, friends!

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.

 

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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!

Arizona In Instagram Pics

Hi friends!

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend! For reasons that I will go into in more detail in my full trip post, I ended up taking the majority of my photos on this trip with my iPhone … which of course meant posting them directly to Instagram.

So I figured I’d just post a quick preview of things to come in my full-on post by uploading all of the Instagram pics here. But before I do that, just some highlights from our trip:

  • We spent 12 hours in Charlotte after missing our connecting flight to Phoenix because of rain delays, but that’s okay because we got to eat a wonderful brunch and check out the downtown area because of it.
  • We went on amazing hikes, ate delicious food and drank lots of tequila.
  • I experienced a slight case of heat exhaustion … not fun, my friends! And after all that research I did to avoid it!
  • We did lots of swimming in my friend’s pool.
  • We were randomly, and for reasons still unknown to us, upgraded to first class seats on our flight back from Phoenix. Not too shabby!

Here’s a taste of what’s to come …

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Bloody Mary’s in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.

^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Welcome to Sedona!!

^^Welcome to Sedona!!

^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.

^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Sedona hike–unbelievable.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Downtown Sedona.

^^Downtown Sedona.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.

^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It’s been real.

^^Gilbert Farmer's Market.

^^Gilbert Farmer’s Market.

^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.

^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.

^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play... duh duh duhhhh!)

^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play… duh duh duhhhh!)

^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.

^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

So that’s it for now, my friends! I’ll be back soon with the full details of our (amazing and very hot!) trip.

Bis bald!

A Slight Change in Plans …

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As Chris and I get ready to head to Arizona tomorrow, our travel plans are slightly dampened by the news that 19 firefighters died in Arizona on Sunday while fighting a fierce fire outside of Yarnell. As the NY Times reported, the loss of these heroic men was the greatest for firefighters in a single disaster since September 11.

It’s so sad.

Fire is a fact of life in dry, arid climates like Arizona, as Chris and I are coming to learn in the days leading up to our trip. If I wasn’t already slightly worried about the fact that we’re heading to Arizona in what may very well be one of the hottest weeks they’ve seen in a long time (yikes excessive heat warning and 100 degree + temps!!!), a text from my friend who we’ll be visiting put me ever-so-slightly-more on edge:

“They’ve closed fossil creek due to extreme fire hazards. It’s hot and hasn’t rained in a while. I’m going to look into a couple of other hiking areas in the Sedona area.”

She followed up quickly with a note that we’ll try heading to Oak Creek Canyon and Slide Rock, but I’m already on full alert. I’m still looking forward to the trip, don’t get me wrong, but I just thought it wise to perhaps do a bit of research ahead of time regarding staying hydrated and healthy while exercising (aka hiking) in 100 degree + heat. Here’s some of what I’ve found:

  • For starters, it’s important to know and be able to recognize signs of heat exhaustion, which include general fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps and an increase in body temps. As WebMD reports, temps above 104, combined with an inability to sweat, acute respiratory distress and loss of consciousness can be signs of heat stroke, which is much more serious than heat exhaustion.
  • Experts suggest drinking 20 ounces of water two hours before exercising, at least 8 ounces of water shortly before going outside in the heat, and gulping water every 15 to 20 minutes during the exercise. You should also be sure to drink fluids throughout the day as a precaution.
  • Perhaps most importantly (and something I will continue to convey to Chris) is it’s important to be okay with being slower when temps get this high.
  • Wear lightweight fabrics that wick away sweat, and wear light colors that reflect the sun, not attract it. If you’ll be wearing a helmet (or in our case, a hat), remove it during times of rest to allow your head to breathe and cool off.

My friend’s already told us she’s taken care of the sunscreen and the bladders, and she’s a seasoned hiker in the Arizona heat who I trust to keep us safe while we’re en route.

But trust me, I’ll be on guard the whole time we’re at it … it only makes sense to be as smart as possible when it comes to heat and your health.

Okay friends–wish us luck! It’ll be an adventure (and quite interesting!) for sure! I’ll be back next week with what I’m sure will be amazing photos.

Bis bald!

A 30th Birthday Celebration for the Books: Hiking in Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge, Cold Spring

Oh hey, Hudson River on a gorgeous, sunny day!

Hey friends!

So someone (ahem, me) just had a birthday, and it was a big one. That’s right, the big 3-0! So in honor of getting older, I decided to do something to make me feel younger–go on a 3-mile long, rock-climbing hike.

The place we picked was Breakneck Ridge in the Cold Spring area. It’s about 2.8 miles in total, and let me tell you — it is strenuous! 

Holy rock climbing!

Holy rock climbing!

I have some amazing friends who agreed to go on this hike with me!

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

We all packed some food (and my husband packed a 3 liter bag of boxed wine to carry the entire way … what a husband!) and drinks and sunscreen and took off for the day. I would say it took us about 4 1/2 hours to hike it, but that included about an hour stop for a picnic at the top.

A tasty assortment of goodies, including homemade baked cookies by a good friend from college and Trader Joe's brownies with a birthday candle from a former co-worker.

A tasty assortment of goodies, including homemade baked cookies by a good friend from college and Trader Joe’s brownies with a birthday candle from a former co-worker.

The 3-liter bag of wine that Chris took out of the box of wine he purchased, which he carried the entire duration of the hike. That's my man.

The 3-liter bag of wine that Chris took out of the box of wine he purchased, which he carried the entire duration of the hike. That’s my man.

There were many points of the hike that provided awesome and amazing overlooks of the Hudson, and it was the perfect day to hike—sunny and in the low 50s. Here’s a little bit of what we saw:

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We envisioned this point being somewhere near the end. It was not.

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And so, we all made it through, all the way to the end, and I was so proud of everyone…

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After the hike, before catching the train back to the city, we stopped at the Cold Spring Depot (which is walking distance to the train stop) for beers:

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And so that’s about it, my friends. I had such an amazing time. It felt nice to be outside, we had an amazing group with us and I’d recommend this hike for anyone who’s game for some awesome, strenuous rock climbing.

One other word of note: If you’re planning on catching the train from New York City to Breakneck Ridge, I’m told you can alert the conductor to the fact that you want to get off at Breakneck, and that sometimes they’ll stop there for you (otherwise there are only two stops directly at Breakneck a day). We thought we’d get off at Cold Spring and walk to the trail, but it turns out that’s about a 4+ mile walk. We were not game to do that before even starting the hike, so we had parts of our gang who were driving pick us up. Just something to think about.

Bis bald, friends! Off to London week after next! My lovely in-laws have purchased Les Miserables tickets for us for Friday night when we get there. I love London theater, and I’ve never seen Les Mis, so I’m really looking forward to this!

Where the Weather Was Good…

A lovely fall day at a winery in Virginia.

Hey friends,

So back in New York City things are … not so good. I mean, for myself and Chris–we’re pretty lucky. We never lost power or internet, our apartment was never flooded and things have pretty much gone on as usual. However, less than a few miles away we know things are much, much different. My heart just pours out to everyone who has lost friends and loved ones, valued possessions or entire homes. It’s just so horrible. Climate change–it’s really something to think about, isn’t it?

Chris has been working from home this whole week since the power is out at his office, but they hope to return on Monday. The New York City marathon, as of right now, will still happen Sunday and word on the street is the power will back on for everyone in Manhattan by Saturday evening.

In an effort to starting returning all things to normal, I thought I’d go ahead and blog about last weekend, when we were having a blast at JMU homecoming in Virginia.

So here’s to happy, warm weather memories …

Last Friday Chris and I set off to La Guardia to pick up our rental car at around 6:30 in the morning. We had about a 6 hour drive ahead of us to Stanley, Virginia, and we were eager to get started. Since we couldn’t check in to our log cabin (which was ahhhhmazing, by the way! More on that later!), the plan was for all of us to meet up at a local winery I had found, Wisteria, which was about a 10 minute drive away from where we’d be staying.

Chris, my cousin Alyssa, her boyfriend Jesse and myself were the first to arrive at the winery, and it was exactly as I would have wanted it to be. Cute. Charming. Low-key. Tasty wine. The owners–a retired husband and wife–opened the winery a few years back. Their two dogs, chickens, roosters and flock of sheep live on the property (which you know I loved), as well.

After our wine tasting ($12 per person for a tasting of 12 wines and a glass…gotta love VA!), we all congregated on a bench outside with some purchased bottles to take in the scenery and chat:

After our cute little vineyard tour, we all hopped in our cars and headed off to the cabin. Of course I had seen the photos on the website, and I had verified (multiple times) that the cabin we were getting was the one in the photos, but still, you can never be sure.

But let me tell you, my friends, we were not disappointed:

Our beer-stocked fridge. We had food, too. Somewhere.

Our game room.

Our fire pit area, which Chris was obsessed with.

Cabin view from the fire pit.

The hot tub in the main bedroom.

The 8-person hot tub on the porch. Of course when we put 8 people in it, it overflowed just a bit. But you know, no big deal.

One view of our wrap-around porch.

The awesome grill, which we only used once.

The other side of our porch, with the adorable wooden rocking chairs and cute little Checkers table.

The dining room.

The kitchen in use!

The living room.

Living room from the top floor balcony. There were three floors to the house, and 5 bedrooms total.

The top floor living room.

One of the bedrooms on the top floor.

Saturday morning breakfast of bagels, eggs, bacon and mimosas.

Our time at the cabin was mostly spent eating (we all took turns cooking), drinking, watching football, playing games in the game room, building fires in the fire pit, chilling in the hot tub (although somehow we only managed to do that Friday night) and playing beer pong and cards. It was an amazing time.

And on Saturday, Chris, Alyssa, Jesse and I headed to the JMU campus to catch the JMU football game and tailgate a bit.

They say this statue of James Madison is built to his actual height. What a cute little shorty.

Me and Carla, my freshman year roommate.

Now I hadn’t been back to the stadium since my first year out of school, but I knew they had done some remodeling. It was actually pretty impressive (as was our defeat to Georgia State!):

Purple-ing Out!

After the game we went to the book store and took a quick walk around campus, then headed back to the cabin, where we ate delicious shrimp fajitas, made a fire, played beer pong and cards, and where my sister and her friend Jenna had made a birthday cookie cake for Chris, whose birthday was last week.

On Sunday we were all pretty eager to head back to our homes as early as possible, since we all knew the storm was brewin’. So that was about it–our Virginia weekend in a nutshell. It was really fun, and I’d recommend this cabin to anyone looking for a quiet little retreat in the woods.

A word of caution though: if you do stay here, beware that the firewood bundles are $5 per bundle to use. Don’t go ahead and use them all up on the first night assuming they are free. Like Chris did.

Bis bald, friends! And if you were in any way affected by the storm, we’re thinking and praying for you!

Back In the Borough: The Hurricane’s A Comin’!

Hurricane Sandy

Hey guys,

So we’re back from our Virginia weekend, and it was awesome! Seriously–the cabin was amazing, the game was so fun, tailgating was fantastic…it was all great.

So I’m going to do a big update on the awesomeness of Virginia, and this cabin, ASAP, but for now, we’re pretty much just getting ready for the biggest news of the day–Hurricane Sandy. We drove back yesterday from Virginia and didn’t get in until around 6 p.m., at which point the stores were pretty much cleaned out. We were able to get some water and pasta and cat food and toilet paper though … so let’s hope that holds out!

Wish us luck–and I’ll be back after the storm!

Bis bald, friends!