Road Trip to Stratton, Vermont

August 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

It’s been over a month since my girlfriends and I rented a car and drove to Vermont — I’ve visited the northern part of the state before, but it was the first time for the three of them!

I planned pretty much the whole thing because one of the biggest benefits of my company is that employees get a yearly stipend to book one of our travel deals to experience personally, so I covered the hotel costs and booked all our activities.

I also had a fun time vlogging the trip because my friends are much more fun on camera than when J and I are alone together, haha.

Stratton is a resort town with a little village, a number of ski lifts and a ton of hotel capacity. The mountains are gorgeous in summer, but I guess most tourists don’t bother visiting when there’s no snow — when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, the place was a ghost town. We had the place to ourselves! It was creepy but fun in a faux-post-apocalyptic way.

Fortunately, Stratton’s restaurants were still open, though I can’t say the same for the restaurants we tried to visit in nearby towns. Two of the ones we attempted to eat at were closed for summer renovations. D’oh…

The highlight for me was probably Saturday morning, when we bought a bunch of produce at the West River farmers market and also visited Taylor Farm and got to feed chickens, cows and horses (but not goats, sadly). Doing yoga on the mountain summit on our last morning was pretty cool too, so I’m glad Sarah requested it.

Also, we watched so. much. Harry Potter.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to hike on the mountain because of rain. Next time!

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From Blogging to Vlogging

June 21, 2018 § Leave a comment

Oh my! It’s been half a year since I’ve updated here — partially because I haven’t done that much traveling in the past six months, but also because two of the trips I did take were captured in video format. Even writing my thoughts in these few sentences feels foreign already.

During Memorial Day weekend, I spent a week in China with my relatives that I haven’t seen since 2010:

Editing a video is definitely more work than editing photos and writing a blog post, but I feel like it’s much better at encapsulating what a place and time really felt like in the moment. A photo has to be near-perfect to warrant a spot in a blog post, but even a random video clip can be perfectly imperfect within a longer video.

Plus, people have been trained to either pose or seize up when being photographed — it’s easier to catch them being candid on video.

The downside is that vlogging entails me having to talk to the camera, and I hate listening to myself talk. I don’t think I’ll ever get better at it!

I don’t feel like paying for Adobe Premiere, so I just used iMovie, which makes editing fairly simple except for its garbage caption/title options. It takes me twice as long to make those separately in Photoshop and then import to iMovie, but it must be done so long as I fail at narrating most of my clips, hehe.

Hold the Tuna

April 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

Almost every time I go to Las Vegas, the first dinner is always at Kabuto Edomae Sushi. There’s already plenty of literature on why it’s a fantastic restaurant, so I won’t elaborate, but we’ve always enjoyed our meals here, and the price is really good for the quality, especially compared to similar places in NYC.

This time, though, I was accompanied by the burden of guilt. I had just read this fascinating and compelling article about endangered bluefin tuna, and I knew it was definitely going to show up more than once in the omakase. But I wanted to do my small part as a consumer and stop eating bluefin. So I had to steel my resolve before going so as not to chicken out. Think of the poor tuna!

It was mostly that I didn’t want to create a fuss at one of our favorite sushi restaurants. I don’t actually like tuna that much. Yes, fatty pieces of chutoro and otoro are objectively delicious, but I actually prefer leaner cuts of meat in general, and that includes tuna. I want to taste the flesh, not just fat. (I realize I’m definitely in the minority on this.) And when it comes to any kind of tuna, it’s just not as high on my list of loves as other things like giant clam, squid or amberjack.

Not tuna, still delicious

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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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17-sucre

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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Swamp Tour & Alligator Wrangling

March 8, 2016 § 7 Comments

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Outside of eating and drinking, New Orleans generally has two main attractions for tourists: swamps and plantations. For our trip, we opted not to do the latter, instead planning our first day around an afternoon spent at the swamp.

We went with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, which cost $44 per person including a very comfy bus pickup from our hotel. The ride was about half an hour, and our bus driver kept us entertained with random facts about the city.

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Our bus dropped us off in a gravel parking lot at the privately owned Manchac Swamp. To get visitors in the mood for reptiles, there was some strange gator paraphernalia inside the small shop where we picked up our tickets. We were 20 minutes early for our tour, so we hung out near the dock and tried to make friends with the handful of cats roving the property. There seems to be lots of cats roaming around New Orleans in general? We couldn’t tell if they were strays or pets.

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The shop had a cafe window on its patio, but apparently the cafe is only open during the summer. In a separate building by the restrooms was a small room with a metal pool full of tiny baby alligators. They were SO CUTE!!! But I don’t know why they were indoors instead of in the swamp.

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Not a real gator obviously

Not a real gator obviously

Once we finally got on the boat, we were treated to serene waters and the gravelly voice of Captain Allen as he steered us slowly around the bayou while sharing factoids about the environment. It was a lovely ride in perfect, sunny-but-not-too-hot weather.

The scenery was idyllic but didn’t seem particularly inhabitable. Capt. Allen said he lived way out in some other swamp elsewhere and would never want to live anywhere else. We saw lots of trees with pretty Spanish moss (named after Spaniards’ beards by the hairless native Americans, according to our captain).

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