Archive for the 'Travel' Category
So today I’m doing a different sort of post than I normally do. A while back, travel expert, Kendra Thornton, asked me to collaborate with her on a post about the things we both love best about our hometowns. I didn’t have to think too long about agreeing, as I love both Portland, Oregon and Chicago Illinois.
Portland: Places to See and Things to Do:
Now I’m not a hipster. And I’m not a lumberjack. And I am not a twenty-something (although I wish I still was in my twenties) vintage-wearing, vegan-eating, bike-riding Oregonian. If you are looking for a place to get a tattoo, or pierce any part of your body, other than your ears, I cannot help you. I do not care, one way or another, about mustaches, beer, or plaid shirts. There isn’t a single terrarium in my home, goats do not mow my lawn, nor do I know how to make any homemade fruit liquors (although I do make my own chocolate in the winter, and I do like to pickle things, and make jams).
As you can see from the above line, I am a food lover. And Portland has a wonderful food scene. There’s St. Honore Boulangerie for authentic French pastries, Barista serving local Coava Coffee, Tasty n Alder for delicious breakfast, Papa Haydn for wonderful lunches and scrumptious desserts, Nuvrei for the best macarons outside of Paris, Alma for the craziest chocolate cravings, and for dinner you can’t go wrong with Meriwether or Ava Gene’s.
There Powell’s for books, Cielo Home for antiques, Oblation for everything letterpress. There’s House of Lolo for gorgeous clothes, Gilt for amazing one-of-a-kind jewelry, and Eden the most exquisite vintage store that could possibly exist, and I don’t even like vintage. Eden carries everything from my favorite French perfume (Serge Lutens Fleurs d’oranger) to beautiful silk scarves, to velvet smoking jackets, to beaded wedding gowns.
And not too far from all of this eating and shopping is the emerald, mist-shrouded Washington Park. With acres upon acres of wooded hiking and bike trails, a zoo, an international rose test garden, a Japanese garden, an arboretum, a forestry museum, a children’s museum, tennis courts, an archery range, and some of the most beautiful homes in all of Portland, one can spend a good weekend just exploring it.
As for accommodations while in Portland, if I were a hipster I’d tell you to stay at the Ace Hotel. Since I’m not, I recommend either The Nines or Hotel Monaco. Both have fabulous decor, attentive staff, and are in the center of town.
Here are some photos of my beautiful hometown. Enjoy!
Friends, this will be my last post for a while. I’m working on a project which will keep me busy for quite some time. I already miss you all. Have a wonderful 2014!
Now on to Kendra Thornton’s piece about Chicago.
Chicago: Places to See and Things to Do
The world is a great place in which to visit. At times, I like to travel to countries and cities by myself as I am on business. At other times, I love to go to a specific place with my husband and our children. As a native of Chicago, this city is my favorite place to be. There are some things to see and places to visit when in town.
1. Shopping with Luxury and Culture
Luxury shopping definitely has enthusiasts and there are places that people will find what they are looking for in terms of luxurious brands and styles. Two places to visit include Bucktown and Wicker Park. Stores to visit at both places include Intermix and Nanette Lepore. Culture is big in both of these places as it has local boutiques in which to visit.
2. The Park of the New Century
One of the most popular attractions in the city is Millennium Park. At one point in time, the area, which is now the park, used to be a piece of wasteland. Through the working of former mayor Richard Daley, construction began on creating a park for the heart of the city. The new park was schedule to open for the next millennium, which was back in 2000. Millennium Park has a number of architectural works, sculptures, art and much more for people to enjoy. In addition to this, there are plenty of tours, programs and activities for everyone in the family to enjoy.
3. Investigating Infrastructure
Wherever one is in the city, it is quite easy to look around and be in awe of the infrastructure that is all around. It does not matter if one is on the north side or the south side of the city. It does not matter if one is looking at bridges going across the river or walking in downtown or in a neighborhood. There is uniqueness, but beauty is everywhere. When viewing the city, be sure to select a hotel that is close to where the wonder and the excitement are.
4. Falling for RL
With winter now here, I like to frequent a special restaurant in the city, which serves delicious food and is in the center of downtown. The place is RL, although some know it was the Ralph Lauren restaurant. It is located on Michigan Avenue North and is next to the famous Polo store. In fact, this Polo store is the largest one on earth. A favorite dish for me to have is a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. It is perfect during the fall months.
These places and things to do in Chicago are just the tip of the iceberg compared to the possibilities that there are. Chicago is the thriving community that has much to offer. Take time and visit there this year.
It’s been pouring out. Nonstop. I’m sitting by the lamplit window trying to figure out what to write about, but instead am too busy watching the rain come down, gathering in puddles, making little lakes in my little garden. Rain is so romantic, isn’t it? The sound of it, the look… But, I can do without the feel of its cold drops, like icy fingers, sliding down my back.
My favorite time to read is when it rains. A hot cup of tea or coffee in one hand, and a book in the other, is one way I love to spend a rainy day. Add to it the lonely sound of a train making its way to exotic destinations, glittery cities or majestic mountain resorts, and I’m in heaven. I spend quite a bit of time daydreaming of being on the train myself, looking out the window at the rolling images of dark villages, their windows glowing like honey, steep slate roofs with smoke curling out the chimneys, the humming of the tracks as the train rushes along, and the cobbled train stations where people anticipate the arriving and departing trains with as much excitement as though it were Christmas.
I can’t imagine a more romantic way to travel, than by train. And, yes, most of my daydreams are about destinations unknown. Probably because I rarely ever go anywhere these days. Or perhaps because in my armchair travel adventures everything goes according to plan, and no luggage is ever lost.
How about you? How do you imagine travel at its most romantic? And how do you like to pass a rainy day? Do you like to read? Well, here’s a chance to read a great book and travel to Paris, all at the same time from the comfort of your own cozy chair. This is a story about friendship, love and delicious food, written by one of my funniest, cleverest blogging friends. We meet this past summer and over coffee and chocolate muffins I found her to be just as delightful and hilarious and intelligent as I had imagined her.
So join in the fun and leave a comment before midnight October 11th for a chance to win Hidden in Paris.
My husband and I have a dream of living abroad. We’d love to take the kids and move from one country to another, settling for a time being in each, getting jobs, learning the culture, the ways of that world, knowing the people, and eating the food. Whether we ever will, remains a mystery to us. In the meantime, we’re happy to read about other families braver than we are. Families such as the one belonging to Rebecca Ramsey, author of French by Heart. I marvel at her courage to uproot her three small children from their South Carolina home and follow her husband to France for four years.
Rebecca is as charming in real life as she is in her book. I’ve read French by Heart twice, I love it so, and I also bought an extra copy because I wanted to give it to someone to enjoy it just as much as I did. Please visit her blog: #mce_temp_url# to read more about her, and also go on and purchase a copy of French by Heart. #mce_temp_url# has some amazing deals (don’t they always?)!
The contest for this book is through next Sunday at noon (my time). Everyone who leaves a comment on any of the posts is automatically entered. Have fun!
Congratulations to Corinne of #mce_temp_url# for winning last week’s Writing Home giveaway! Stop on by her place and say hello. She is a wonderful writer.
I spent a quarter of my waking hours in Kauai chasing roosters, just so I could snap a picture of them. They run rampant all over the island, crowing at all hours of the day and night, their internal clocks haywire. For all their cheeky behavior, they are quite shy, or maybe just terrified of the high pitched squeals of the children chasing them, yet I did get them in the end.
This trip to Hawaii was for my baby sister’s wedding. She is unbelievably beautiful to begin with, so you can be sure she made a stunning bride. The wedding was on the beach, as all weddings in Hawaii ought to be. We were walking around barefoot, digging our toes in the golden sand, laughing and crying, and hugging each other. My daughter and my niece had the time of their lives being flower girls. I watched them remembering how I used to wish I had been a flower girl as a child.
I missed my blogging pals and can’t wait to catch up with all of you! The internet connection was terrible, though. Which isn’t all that bad, I suppose, as I had ample opportunities to watch the violet tinted sunrise on my early morning walks through the enchanted forest, coffee in hand.
The bright, cloudless days, I dozed away on the beach, smeared in a thick layer of sunblock, yet still somehow managing to get a burn, while the kids played in the sand and the water. As the sun set and the skies quickly darkened, we gathered around an outside table and had dinner and conversation by flickering firelight in torches and candles, dreading our return to the cold, damp Northwest. Still, we are highly grateful for a chance to warm up our bones, and the lovely reminder that summer is coming.
A lovely, blessed week to all of you!
After an early, misty morning trek to our favorite boulangerie for croissants and coffee, we decided that the best way to spend the weekend was at the beach. The husband and I have very opposing views of what constitutes a perfect day at the beach. I tend to be drawn to gloomy, stormy weather, relentless crashing waves and pelting rain. After an invigorating, brisk walk on the water’s edge, I look forward to the coziness of the beach cabin, with its crackling fire, mugs of hot coffee and cocoa, countless board games, and hours of staring at the incessant waves from the comfort of my wing chair, open book ignored in my lap.
The husband, on the other hand, wants scorching days where he can spread out his blanket and doze off to the lively chatter of kids playing in the sand and seagulls calling to each other. Later on, he wants to fly the kite with the kids, go in search of dripping ice cream cones, and have a game of beach volleyball, after which he’ll take another long nap.
But hey, we know a happy marriage takes a lot of work and compromise, so that’s exactly what we do.
The only clouds to be seen were far on the horizon, but the wind was picking up. We laid our blanket and bags down and the husband, sweatshirt zipped up, hood on, and went for a nap. I opened my book and started daydreaming. In another couple of weeks school would start, and shortly thereafter the preparations for the holidays.
And then the rain came in errant little plops at first, and then in great big ones. The mountain whose road we had meandered on, had donned a cap of foggy gray descending in waves, it seemed, down the side. We gathered our things and ran to our little cozy cabin where we quickly built a fire. Snuggled in our blankets, hot drinks in hand, we all agreed that we were in the perfect place to watch a summer storm push through.
Years ago, a friend and I took a few sunny summer days to explore the Pacific Northwest coast. Our main goal was to stay off the beaten path and experience life at a slower pace. Antique shops, flea markets, and art galleries were our destination, as were berry farms, deserted beaches, dusty book shops and coffee houses. We had reserved a couple of nights at bed and breakfast places along the way, provisioned ourselves with a picnic basket overflowing with Belgian chocolates, crusty bread, and the best cheeses we could afford, and set out.
She was to be married that summer, and soon after to move away. I suppose, in a way, we were gifting each other a last memory of our girlhood. Ours was a friendship that had carried us from childhood, through the turbulent, self-conscious adolescence, and into our twenties.
The views were stunning. Rolling pastoral beauty giving way to dense emerald forests. We followed a river that shined like mica and came into a village right out of a nautical painting. The sun was setting, all rose and apricot colored over the bay. We parked our car and strolled the heart of the main street in search of a coffee house. With steaming drinks and chunks of cheese filled bread, we made our way to the beach, content to sit on the sand and soak up the beauty before us.
As darkness was approaching, we didn’t linger too long. Somewhere along those dusty roads, the hostess of a white Victorian house was awaiting our arrival, probably eager to lock up and go to bed. Our bedroom, at the top of three flights of stairs, was under the eaves and decorated with a large-scale lilac print wallpaper right out of a Victoria magazine. The brass, queen-sized bed was piled up with fluffy pillows, and in the bathroom a claw-foot tub occupied most of the space. We loved it.
A misty morning arrived too soon. We took our time over breakfast in the ornate dining room, both decided that the food could be better, yet stuffed ourselves nonetheless, and set off for a day of treasure hunting. It seemed that time stood still. The clouds and morning drizzle cleared away, and our minds emptied of everything but the joy of each other’s company.
That night’s bed and breakfast was a far cry from the first. We took one look at it and turned our car around. It was spooky! Our overactive imaginations had us roaming the dark roads in search of acceptable lodging. Finally, after it seemed as though we drove for hours, we found a newly built hotel, devoid of character, as expected, but with views of the silver ocean lapping at the rocks below.
Before we headed home the following afternoon, we stopped into a local bookshop and sealed our three days together by each purchasing a copy of Jane Eyre. It was a favorite book to both of us, and a talisman to remember our friendship and our last adventure before matrimony.
Ever since I have read Prague, a novel by Arthur Phillips, I have wanted to visit Budapest. Prague is the story of five American expats who settle in post communist Budapest in the early 1990’s for business and romantic opportunities. Most of their time is spent entertaining obscure suspicions that their fellow expats in Prague are faring much better than they are. The novel is thin on plot (I like a story with a beginning, middle, and end), and thick on character development (which has its own time and place), yet it offers some breathtaking descriptions of sights around the baroque, hillier Buda, where the National Palace is located, and Pest, the downtown, which abounds in grand 19th century architecture.
I can’t say I enjoyed the characters as much as I enjoyed reading about the city they were in. Or, I should say, as much as I dreamed about visiting the city of Budapest. My mom had visited while a newlywed and she told me all about the restaurants and the museums and the palatial residences on leaf-shaded streets. Family and friends filled in with descriptions of the famous, mosaic tiled public baths, the Buda Castle, Andrassy Avenue, and the numerous antique stores and clothing boutiques. I love castles, architecture, antiques, history. And I love to eat good food. It wasn’t a question of whether or not to go, it was merely a question of when.
So, two years ago, armed with diapers and enough formula to feed my five month old for 30 days, we set off. Our goal was to see as much as we could of eastern and central europe as our 6 year old and 5 month old would allow. Surprisingly (although we were rushed and needed to take into account nap times and snack times and all the etc. pertaining to kids), we were able to accomplish a lot and both of them were little angels… most of the time.
We left Budapest as our last city to explore. We had flown in to Budapest and we were to fly out of it to come back home. What we forgot to take into consideration those last few days (and we should have been experts at it by then), was to look at a calendar. Traveling with two kids, it’s best to avoid visiting a city in the middle of a festival or a national holiday. And that’s exactly what we did.
We were stuck in traffic for hours. Our car overheated and began to steam and there we were in the middle of the city with no place to pull over, but the grassy park divider. We didn’t speak but a smattering of unrecognizable Hungarian, and based on the people we had met thus far on our cross country trip, hardly anyone spoke English. Someone kind enough jumped out of their car and handed us a big bottle of water. We popped the hood and waited. We gathered it was some kind of celebration. It was stifling, people were loud, through open car windows techno music was blaring; in a bus that passed us by, two teens were fighting, and no one wanted to have anything to do with it, even when they pushed each other violently. Gradually it got dark and the fireworks started. Or what we assumed were fireworks. As it was we couldn’t see much, too many tall buildings in the way. Then, with the car sufficiently cooled (we hoped), we pulled back into the traffic, and not a minute too soon, as a strong gust of wind, deafening thunder, and forceful rain came pouring down. A huge branch snapped off a tree, and the street was rapidly flooding. Never in my life have I experienced or thought possible anything like that. The clouds burst like a water ballon. The windshield wipers barely kept up. Somehow we made a u-turn and climbed on to higher ground. The streets below us were flooded, plastic bags and tree branches were floating on the river that had previously been a street.
The next morning we left. We had heard that some boats had capsized on the Danube, where thousands had been out celebrating and watching the Independence Day fireworks. People had died. It was scary and sad and unpredictable. It made me think of how one moment you’re full of life, pulsating with it, and then in a flash it’s gone, almost as it never was. But, I’m getting too morbid here.
The romance of Budapest is still awaiting me. Next time I’m going it will be early in the fall; I’ll have checked the calendar beforehand.