Journey to Portland + Peaks Island

July 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

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For my birthday this year, J and I went to Portland, Maine, a random destination I picked because of its relative proximity to the city and northerly location (he’s particularly sensitive to heat, so we didn’t venture south).

So off we went on a Wednesday evening; traffic out of the city wasn’t too bad, and after we were clear of city limits, we pretty much flew along. For dinner we stopped at a random Mexican restaurant near Stamford called Ole Mole and picked up some burritos for the road — they turned out to be very tasty. Good start to the trip.

It was kind of unusual for us to be without a game plan for the night — our hotel reservation in Portland was for Thursday to Sunday — but we figured we’d just stop at a random hotel along the way when J got tired of driving.

Surprisingly, he had enough energy to get us practically to Boston, though by 10 p.m. when I started looking at hotels outside Boston, I slowly realized that every single hotel was full for the night. On a Wednesday! Literally every Hilton, Marriott, IHG and even Holiday Inn Express along the highway was maxed out for the night, unless we wanted to actually stay in downtown Boston (which we didn’t).

Things didn’t get better once we passed Boston — there were barely any hotels between us and Portland, which was still two and a half hours away. It seemed like we’d have to end up spending the night in a barn à la Joseph and Mary.

I started to panic. At this point we were almost at Portsmouth, just an hour and a half away from Portland. There was a random B&B in Portsmouth with a vacancy, but I started calling every hotel in Portland just in case we could actually make it there. J seemed to be in good spirits despite my profound lack of success in finding lodging. “It’ll be great if we could just start our day in town without having to do any more driving,” he reasoned.

I, on the other hand, felt like I was a newspaper reporter again, cold-calling people (and subsequently getting rejected) to try to get a quote for a story. Just like before, all the hotels were fully booked. Welcome to New England tourist season, I guess.

Finally, on my third try, the lady at the Portland Residence Inn told me there was a two-bedroom suite option for $445.

“Ummm…” I looked at J. Didn’t seem worth it..?

Before I could formulate a response, she continued, “I just checked our neighboring hotel, the Press, and they have a king room available for the night for $285.”

I could’ve sworn that I had already called the Press — it was actually my first choice of hotel for our stay, but for whatever reason (they didn’t have any good rooms available idk) we went with the Portland Harbor Hotel instead. I asked her to repeat herself a few times just to be sure I didn’t mishear. But it turned out to be true! It was a miracle!

So we checked into the Press Hotel just before 1 a.m. that night and were very pleased with the room. It was gorgeous and modern and I could see why it was the top-rated hotel in the city. We were so relieved and happy and truly didn’t want to check out the next day. 

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In the morning, we had a lovely breakfast in the downstairs restaurant. I was a bit slow getting ready so J went down first and ordered me a “smoothie bowl” and oatmeal. The smoothie bowl was very pretty and clearly healthy, but I think I prefer to drink my smoothies. (We also saw another cafe offering smoothie bowls; are they a thing now, or just in Maine?)

Then we hurriedly packed and bid adieu to the Press to make it over to the Casco Bay port to take a ferry. Our destination for the morning was Peaks Island, just a short boat ride across the water.

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We were blessed with flawless weather every day of our trip, and it felt so wonderful to be on the ocean, gawking at the expansive sky and breathing all that fresh air!

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After getting to Peaks Island, we walked a few blocks to a bike rental place. We passed by an umbrella cover museum — didn’t go in but I’m sure it was adorable, just like everything else on the island. We also saw a lot of golf cart rentals, which I guess is a good mode of transportation for less mobile visitors, but biking was definitely the way to go.

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Their bikes had surprisingly comfy seats! A+

Their bikes had surprisingly comfy seats! A+

Peaks Island is small enough to bike the perimeter in one hour but big enough for people to actually live on (real people, not just vacation homes). There were a couple of small beaches, but most of the shore was pretty rocky. Everything was beautiful, except maybe this mysterious sea vegetation that was everywhere:

Edible or no?

Edible or no?

Pretty purple shell

Pretty purple shell

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We even came across this cute (unmanned) honey stand and picked up a bottle to take home. It was surprisingly delicious?! I mean, I’ve had decent honey before and I always appreciated it for what it is, but I’ve never found it that mouthwatering — this stuff was eye-opening. I’ve been adding it to my smoothies and oatmeal every morning.

Every part of our excursion to Peaks Island was perfect, except for the fact that I didn’t realize how much sun we’d get and forgot to put sunscreen on our bodies (I always make sure our faces are covered). J ended up with a pretty bad sunburn and farmer’s tan, oops.

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But the water was clear and the air was fresh and we had an awesome time! What a thrill to pedal down the oceanfront road with the sea breeze in my hair!

More posts to come soon…

Karting & Barbecue in Tulsa

June 15, 2016 § 3 Comments

One of the hardest parts of traveling for J is finding good coffee — he still hasn’t found a good latte place in Vegas despite many visits. I don’t drink coffee so I can’t explain why he’s so picky, but it’s always a priority for him. Of the three he tried, J liked Topeca Coffee the most (the other two were Fair Fellow and DoubleShot).

Frankly, I was astonished at how ~hipster~ these coffeeshops were — in a good way — with skinny bearded fellows making lattes and specialty bike shirts for sale. To the outsider, Tulsa isn’t exactly a hotbed of youth or innovation, but there’s a lot more young people doing interesting things than I expected.

The counter at Topeca

The counter at Topeca

For all your hipster needs

For all your hipster needs

Warehouse aesthetics at Fair Fellow

Warehouse aesthetics at Fair Fellow

After J’s requisite morning coffee, we had breakfast at Chimera, which serves a variety of delectable breakfast tacos, including vegetarian-friendly ones. They made for a satisfying and healthy breakfast.

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Not All Food is Good in Tulsa*

June 14, 2016 § 2 Comments

*But most of it was!

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For breakfast our second day, we stuffed ourselves at the Oklahoma Kolache Company. Kolache (koh-lah-chee) are a central European pastry that’s basically a puffy bun with filling. We ordered half the menu; I don’t remember everything we ate, but the sweet and savory buns were all delicious.

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Our next stop was the Gilcrease Museum, which houses American art and historic artifacts. It was a nice, tranquil, mid-sized museum that took about two hours to peruse.

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My favorite painting (forgot to note the title/artist oops) was the one of this astonished bear:

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We went back to Cherry Street to get lunch at Andolini’s Pizzeria. J insisted on ordering two pizzas…I don’t know why. They were good, but we only finished half of each, haha.

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Trip to Tulsa: Day 1

May 24, 2016 § 3 Comments

Never in my life did I expect to visit Tulsa, Oklahoma, but when the opportunity arose last month to see where J grew up, I couldn’t say no! Besides, it couldn’t possibly be more boring than my own suburban hometown.

We spent three and a half days there, most of which was honestly spent sleeping. Tulsa was the perfect place to catch up on sleep because we were never worried about missing out on anything. We also did a lot of driving around because that’s what you do in the flatlands (I won’t say refer to Oklahoma as the Midwest because there’s no consensus).

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Our ride for the weekend was a Chevy Camaro, which was considered an “upgrade” from our choice of Mustang, which apparently Avis had all given away by the time we arrived at the airport at 11 a.m.?! How..? Anyway the Camaro looks cool but had very poor visibility out the back, according to J — I refused to drive it after he said that haha — and was a pretty rough ride when driving over poorly paved roads.

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We arrived too early to check in to our hotel, so our first stop was Totally Tennis, a cute family-run store where the owners actually knew J’s parents from back in the day! I’ve never even tried playing tennis in NYC, so I was excited to play even though we were both very rusty.

For lunch, we randomly picked Smoke on Cherry Street. I was surprised to see a sticker on the door saying something along the lines of “no firearms allowed,” but that was not the last time I saw a sign like that in Tulsa. Hmm.

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Day at the Cemetery & NOMA

April 28, 2016 § 1 Comment

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After our morning of eating and shopping in the Garden District, we figured we should go see one of New Orleans’ famed cemeteries. Metairie seemed like the best bet because it was right at the end of the Canal streetcar line. I later realized it’s still quite a haul from the streetcar stop to Metairie — and you have to cross a busy intersection/highway ramp — so it’s a good thing we took an Uber instead, though our driver got lost for 20 minutes even with the GPS so I guess the cemetery isn’t as common of a destination as I assumed.

Metairie-map

On this map, 1 is the entrance to the cemetery, admittedly a little hard to get to from the south if you’re not paying attention. 2 is the All Saints Mausoleum where we went to take a quick bathroom break. It was very solemn and quiet inside, with lots of fake flowers everywhere.

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I had never encountered a mausoleum up close before, and we were pretty confused about whether the names on the tiles meant the bodies were laid to rest inside the walls of the building? (Apparently yes.) There were even some on the outside of the building. Does that mean once the building is full, it accepts no more corpses? Or is it more of an apartment-rental type of situation?

Number 3 on the map above is where the more well-known mausoleums were. The cemetery is VERY large, and walking from one end to the other was hard work under the hot sun! I’d recommend just driving around if you can. We also saw a small bus of people — clearly a tour of some kind — come, take some pictures and leave.

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Eating in New Orleans: Dessert & Oysters

April 6, 2016 § 8 Comments

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Day 2

After spending the morning making an epic trek out to Bywater for barbecue, we parted ways for an afternoon of individual pursuits. Lucy went to the WWII museum, while I took a nap and Kaiti was supposed to go to yoga but ended up napping as well. Post-nap, the two of us decided to indulge our sweet teeth at Sucré, an adorable dessert shop nearby.

We probably went a little overboard ordering, as I was barely digested before our dinner a few hours later. Oops. In the moment, though, gelato and a s’mores skillet sounded like a great idea!

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I ended up in a lot of pain later from overeating, but in the moment, they were most certainly delicious. Thus I was still full by the time we got to the famed Commander’s Palace, all dressed to impress due to its strict dress code.

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Sadly, we didn’t get to see much of the fancy mansion or its courtyard because we got put in a side room that had its windows covered.

Our first course was the turtle soup, which I had never had before. It was good but not my favorite — glad to try it but probably wouldn’t order again. We also got the Commander’s Palace butcher block, which came with a variety of yummy meats, paté and dips.

For my entrée, I ordered the pecan-crusted gulf fish, apparently one of their signature dishes. It was amazing! The fish was incredibly tender, and I forced myself to finish it even though I was disgustingly full. We also got a side of crawfish tails, which was an unexpectedly generous serving, though it was less impressive to eat because it somehow didn’t have any flavor?

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Journey to the East (and Back)

March 22, 2016 § 6 Comments

The first thing on our itinerary for our second full day was to eat BBQ, at Kaiti’s request. (Girl is obsessed.) The best option in town seemed to be the Joint, located east of the French Quarter in a neighborhood called Bywater.

We knew nothing about Bywater before deciding in the morning to walk there. It was only two miles, we had ample time before the Joint opened and nothing else on our schedule. The weather was perfect for a nice morning stroll.

I did a cursory search of the neighborhood to get a feel for it and came across this article, which was not super helpful but at least gave me the sense that we wouldn’t get mugged on the way there. Apparently people love to describe Bywater as “gentrifying,” “great” or even “hipster” (just don’t mention Brooklyn), but that wasn’t really our impression.

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As soon as we left the French Quarter and crossed Esplanade Avenue, the vibe became much more residential. The streets were quiet, and we barely saw a soul. There wasn’t much of anything to look at except the occasional colorful house. Railroad tracks ran along the water, so any attempts to view the Mississippi River were blocked by industrial scenery.

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Our two-mile trek turned into three as we had to take a winding path due to random bits of construction. We passed maybe two or three businesses total. One of them was a combination bar, grill, game room and laundromat, which just delighted me. This is a picture of a different one I saw, but it was basically the same gist:

Everything you could ever want

Everything you could ever want

The Joint seemed like an oasis in the middle of suburbia. There was really nothing around that we could see. The nondescript restaurant already had two customers waiting outside by the time we got there 20 minutes before opening. We took the extra time to play in the park across the street (despite the sign warning not to trespass on private property).

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