Travel

Inspiration for Upstate NY Adventures

For the past few years I've made time to get away to various parts of the Catskills and Hudson valley for adventures in the summer and fall . I just happened upon this fast watercolor sketch  after I climbed up Overlook Mountain sometime ago which made me a bit wistful for the close to home getaways.

I'm looking for inspiration, especially for this coming summer season that are right outside the city's door step.

Send me your ideas! I've been inspired by Only Living Girl in New York's trips to the farther afield Lake George area.

Upstate Weekend Trips Ideas Near New York City

By train:

Hudson for antiquing Cold Spring for a hike and small town Beacon for contemporary art

By car: A Summer in the Hudson Valley Ashokan for the Reservoir Big Indian NY for The Peekamoose Restaurant New Paltz to tour the cideries Westkill for the Spruceton Inn and Westkill Brewing  Woodstock for Overlook Mountain and Bread Alone

Provence in the Off-Season

I love traveling in what my travel guru Rick Steve's calls as the off-season in Europe. So we did just that for the first time last year, over brisk but sunny Thanksgiving, skipping the American traditions for Barcelona (post to come) and the south of France

There are upsides to traveling in the off-season in Provence. Sure, you're not going to be frolicking in the fields of lavender but we found everything to be quieter, giving us slice of life somewhere else. Our Airbnb was cheaper than it would be in summer, too.

My main advice for off-season travel in the region is to prepare for weather, as well as to look up times for anything in case it's closed or on a different schedule. I had to buy a sweater for a few brisker days. But the beauty of French living is all the sidewalk cafes still go strong in the late fall. I love those heat lamps and intrepid patio diners!

We picked medieval Aix en Provence for our main spot of exploration, a beautiful Provencal city close to Marseille known for it's fountains and inspiring a later in life Cezanne.

From there we drove around the Luberon for a day, which is known for some of the most famous of the provencal hill towns. We picked a few off-the-beaten-path ones. The towns in the off-season were full of closed up stores, quiet beautiful streets, impressive views, and a lot of cats among smattering of year-round residents.

Another day we drove to Avignon for some medieval and papal history. I ate a particularly good tartine there, too. On a next trip I'd love to stay in Avignon as well. It was very charming. Since Also we drank some great Cote du Rhone wines.

We only rented a car for a few days to be more relaxed about our travels. Thankfully the Aix buses run everywhere, making it quite easy to get around without a car.

We spent a day too in Marseilles because it's easily reached from Aix bus bus. We just roamed around the old port. Something about that city, a city doesn't get the same kind of love as other French locales, really hooked me. It's has that mythical ancient crossroads port city aura about it. Also the Moroccan food was plentiful appealing to my budget friendly sense. It was cold and windy, but the blue Mediterranean

We saw only a small slice of the region in our five days. I'd love to come back to hike the Calanques or spend more time around the Rhone river valley sipping wines, or even hike around Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Something about the landscape, the colors, the air, and that proximity to the sea keeps me dreaming of an alternative life in a small Provencal hill town.

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To Do: 

Aix en Provence  Markets everyday People watching on Cours Mirabeau Le Grillon for a local cafe to drink on the terrace Fromagerie Lemarié for the best goat cheese ever Musee Granet Confiserie Brémond for sweets Weiber for sweets, too Saint Saveur Le Bidule for burgers

Luberon Loumarin Cucuron Ansouis

Avignon Pont d'Avignon Les Halles Market Tartines at Ginette and Marcel 

Marseilles Moroccan food! So many options, I forgot which little place we went into in the neighborhood.  Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations for the view (skip the museum, the view is free!)

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Sketchbook Scenes from Spain and France

I'm feeling energized after a Thanksgiving vacation abroad with a lot of inspiration from the Catalan ceramic tiles and the medieval architecture of hill towns in Luberon.  I'll be posting more art and recommendations based on my trip to Barcelona and Provence as I start sketching more of what I saw there.

I'm happy to be back in New York City for the Christmas season. Time for a solstice tree bought from a street vendor.

Food Crawling Around Montreal

blog_guide_montrealI love our almost yearly trips to Montreal to visit family. That old cliche The Most Beautiful City in North America rings true. Montreal has a certain historic charm crossed with a old French city vibe that both reminds me of Boston meets a small French city meet San Francisco (if it got really cold, that is.) The old Port is old world, then Westmount reminds me of a bit of Boston's Back Bay, while the streets of Plateau Mount Royal and The Mile End are a mix of hip art, food, and students. I love too that city always seems to have some kind of festival happening no matter the time of year. We've visited in the summer, fall, and even Winter (bring your long underwear, though!) yet there is always something on view like the international fireworks show and jazz fest.

It's funny when you visit a city often for family though, because you're not exactly being a tourist the way you would on another kind of trip. But through these occassions I've come to know how bike-able and walkable Montreal is no matter our itineraries. I'm familiar more and more with the joys of climbing Mount Royal, the public markets, the amazing street art, strolling alongside St. Lawrence, navigating the underground to fight the cold, as well as the glorious Expo 67 architecture.

This year I decided to add to our trip with a guided food tour day, majorly helped by a pair of in-the-know hip Montrealers. Cousins are great! We decided to primarily focus on the Plateau and Mile End as they're both full of hip food destinations and very easily walked in a long day of eating and drinking.

Highlights from our food crawl for me were definitely buttery slices of Kouign Amann, fatty delicious smoked meat, and lounging at a local gastropub for beer.

Of course, there is a lot more to eat and see in Montreal than this little jaunt so take it as a starting point for your food crawl and not an exhaustive list. Next time I'd love to venture farther out east as well as explore more of the markets.

Montreal Food Crawl 

in no patricular order 

Atwater Market: This one is nearer to Westmount as well as the canal,  but a classic open market. It's great for cheese, maple, butchers, and basically everything fresh to eat. Kem Coba: Interesting flavored ice cream shop just made for instagram but still worth it. I recommend my cherry almond swirl soft serve. Dieu du Ciel: This is a great Montreal brewpub! They have a terrace, too. I loved the hibiscus infused draft I tried. Saint Viateur Bagels: Hand-rolled Montreal bagels! Take them to go to just eat freshly baked, dipping into cream cheese tubs. Cafe Myriade: A great latte is always needed on a food crawl itinerary. Cheskies: Decadent Jewish chocolate Babka. I could eat this forever. Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann: An ethereal buttery cake from Brittany.  Hof KelstensA hip Jewish boulangerie with great coffee and treats. Shwartz's: Smoked meat! This is like what Katz's is to New York City.

p.s. Well okay I didn't include this intially but yes, we ate Poutine at Cafe Claudette. I couldn't help myself. While we tried many versions, I loved the classic. What can I say I love all french fries!

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A First Time Trip to Rome and Florence

Rome and Florence are tourist destinations unlike any other I've been to. They are in late May and early June also teeming with college kids finishing their semesters abroad, spilling into plazas at night. They are hot, crowded, and wonderful cities that I'd visit again in a heartbeat because sometimes being a typical tourist abroad is blissful. 

Maybe it was that we flew into Italy right as the season warmed, a welcome change from rainy spring, because the crowds didn't bother me in the least. Sure, there were moments of waiting in humid lines. And yes, we did watch a particularly intoxicated American fall asleep at a fountain around midnight, who thankfully awoke before we had to rescue him like awkward faux mom and dad Americans we are. And yet in both cities we ate really, really well. I know that's what everyone says about Italy but the food and the wine and the gelato and the coffee are really all I need to feel like I'd gotten away from home for a bit. Spending nights in plazas, sipping cheap peronis without needing a plan is exactly my kind of casual respite.

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We flew first to Milan on a good deal with Alitalia, hustling on a high speed train to Rome. We walked around Rome by day and night for several days,  hardly ever taking the metro.  We drank two, sometimes three cappuccinos a day always standing at the counter, speeding into the day but still crashing from heat and walking exhaustion. We rode a double bicycle through the Villa Borghese, which turned out to be less whimsical vacation and more hilariously difficult, battling Italian drivers and skidding down hills while I laughed unlike I've laughed in while.

Rome was graffitied, gritty, and pockmarked with with hot trash piling everywhere. Yet it was also beautiful, old, and differently dense than New York City, with quiet back street cobblestone neighborhoods right around the corner from literal Roman ruins. I was most impressed by the Rome of working Italian people living their lives despite the tourism facade, stopping at coffee counters in the morning because it's just a normal everyday ritual.

We left Rome for Florence by high speed train too, my burgeoning art history afficiando ready to lean into the tourism of such an amazing city. I stood like a child in front of so many larger than life paintings, trying to see right into the grain of the paint strokes, inspecting faces in early Renaissance frescos with amusement.

We waited in line for close to two hours, fending off so many line jumping Italian grandmas for the Uffizi.  Brian read me the entire Rick Steves walking guide to the galleries as we meandered around. I loved it thoroughly, like a kid.

We gazed upon Duomo everyday, staying right nearby. We sat in manicured parks as well as open church squares in the Oltrarno neighborhood after dark. We ate late after spending days walking up and down hills, staring at churches so much older than things I can imagine. We shared Florentine steak and pasta with house wine at a small Tuscan restaurant called Osteria Cinghale Bianco where we just happened to get a seat without a reservation.  It was absolutely one of the best simple meals I've had, the kind of serendipitous moment you can't repeat.

We flew back through Milan, a funny thing to be a little familiar now with this northern Italian city I've stopped over in twice. We too took a moment to gawk at its epic Duomo. More summer tourists arrived for Italy just as we departed, feeling a little like we were temporarily studying abroad in our thirties.

Rome --

seeing All the greats are here, of course. I loved the otherworldliness of the Pantheon the most, it felt like it belonged in Battlestar Galatica (nerd alert.) Walking through the heart of the city to see the Trevi fountain at night. Stranger but lovely was the Capuchin Crypt. I found the Vatican Museum not as awe inspiring as St. Peter's, though. Capolitini museums were worth it for the awes inspiring Roman statues as well as the view of the forum. 

staying The Monti neighborhood was lovely and very slice of life Rome right by the main tourist destinations. We opted to stay in a hotel there.

eating Travestere for all dining and especially Dar poeta pizza. A cute cafe spot for breakfast in Monti called La Casetta. There's a mini chain worth it called La Prosciutteria The best gelato I had was Fanta Morgana. Pasta Chef for street food carbonara that delicious and budget friendly. Lunch and apperativo around Campo di Fiori Antico Cafe Greco for a little posh old school cappuccino

Florence --

seeing Duomo!  Walking everywhere, especially at night across the Ponte Vecchio. The Boboli Gardens for meandering and the views. The Uffizi Piazza della Signoira  with a beer in the evening, observing people. Piazza Santo Spiritu for a lively night scene, too. There was a cute cafe with to go spritz. Leather goods everywhere, you can tell the more artisan stores if you wander a bit. Ceramic goods from Tuscany at La Botteghina Del Ceramista Santa Maria novella for the beautifully patterned church and the famed perfume store.

staying We stayed right by the Duomo in a side street airbnb on the top floor. It was lovely.

eating Aperitivo at the Santa Croce hip spot Oibò Pizza off the beaten path at Marlborghetto Sandwiches everywhere, in little delis tucked on so many streets. Old school pastries at cafes like Bar Pasticceria Cucciolo and La Loggia degli Albizi A fantastic Tuscan dinner at Osteria Cinghale Bianco

Home for the Fourth of July

Spending the Fourth of July at home is always a hectic dance of vacation days, bus trips, and wrangling which of my family members I can see. But despite the complicated maneuver, I think it’s a tradition I want to keep up for years to come. Though I do love the emptiness of New York City during a summer holiday, it’s nice to go back to my childhood house in the trees, joining in some good old debates about what time to grill while at it, even if it drives me a little batty.

I split my time in both New Hampshire and the suburbs of Boston which means I've think a lot about trips I can tag on while in New England. Of the many things I miss about living in that region, I miss the most the fact that you can just get in a car and be in another state, at the beach, or in the mountains, with ease. 

This year in New Hampshire we aimed for relaxation and quality time, but I’m proud we got to at least one of the many local breweries in the state without trying. Perhaps next year we’ll take the week off to rent a lake house for a day or two in the northern part of the state. I once went to the White Mountains in summer, thinking they were absolutely glorious.

Around Boston we didn't make it to Walden Pond as I dreamed of but explored a less touristed local lake to see a friend, one I didn’t even know existed, which quenched that same thirst for suburban lake lounging.

We spent time playing mini-golf and eating ice cream in the farm stand of my youth, like classic Americans surrounded by dads in American flag t-shirts. We even played candlepin bowling like New Englanders with weird traditions (I am one of them) right where I used to spend my most favorite awkward years in junior high losing at skee-ball.

(I lost at mini-golf but didn’t do so bad at bowling, thank you very much. )

We even found time to stealth away in a car,  driving into Cambridge to visit our favorite bookstore in Harvard Square. I stopped into one of the best vintage stores I've ever been to, picking up something red white and blue by serendipitous accident.

We capped our brief visit to Cambridge by sitting down for a meal at a classic greasy spoon with a friend, the kind of free-standing diner that are almost all but gone in New York City. All-day-breakfast feels a lot of like home, reminds me of getting rides into the city as a teen or skipping class to get breakfast sandwiches at the now closed diner counter of my hometown. 

Sometimes it’s pretty alright to go home for a while, treating where you're from like a different destination than it's always been. 

 Fourth of July Notes

A Brewery Crawl of New Hampshire (someday!) Martha’s Exchange in NH Memorial Beach in Marlborough MA Kimball’s Farm for minigolf in Westford MA Acton Bowladrome in Acton MA Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge MA Oona's in Cambridge MA Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown MA

 

 

Hong Kong Travel Guide

 

When I was a teenager I loved Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express. Returning from Hong Kong a few months ago, I drifted in and out of sleep on a long Friday night rewatching it. The colors! The food! The melancholic feeling of being lost! What a classic mood of a film, a love letter to a city at a moment before it transitioned away from British protectorate, into an unknown future identity.

I said goodbye to my twenties in Hong Kong this past January, funnily enough, walking the same paths in the movie, lingering on the harbor, getting lost inside wet markets, the neon signs coloring my memories.

On the very last last day of our week in Hong Kong, Brian and I had a flight at one am with an early afternoon check out from the rented apartment in the vertical tower blocks of the the mid-levels. With hours to kill, we took the escalators downtown, dropping our bags at the central station to meander without a plan. (oh to know the joys of a city without the terrorism fears of New York City when it comes to storing luggage!)

We walked the city like locals, taking the double decker trams to the edges. Riding on the other side of the road never stops making me feel blissfully queazy. We spent time mingling in and out of the never-ending busy shopping districts, packed with contrasting images of a place so iconically Chinese and also so singularly Hong Kong. I bought coffee and Korean beauty products, hanging around teens. I was the outsider looking in as we communally shopped for orange lipsticks.

We wove through old-school canteens, the ever present Australian cafe culture, and high-fashion malls right up against hole in the wall restaurants.

We waited in line to eat Michelin starred duck on rice that was literally prepared by a man in the front with a penchant for chopping extremely fast and hard with decisive whacks.

A few backpackers sat with us at a tiny circular table, marveling when I told them we were really that much older than their hostel friends.

“You came all the way here, for your birthday?” the Toronto native who must have been no more than twenty said to me. He had just met his Thai friend at their hostel,  who helped us all know how to order pork and duck correctly.

Our momentary friends were heading off to travel South East Asia on different tracks, departing from each other in just a few hours from this meal.

We went to hunt down egg waffles as our dessert of choice afterwards, stopping to walk past the old post office in Wan Chai.

Hong Kong is forever etched into my last days of being twenty nine now, a neon-colored vertical city a city with a history of people upon people, an iconic style, a culture of freedom, and now me humbly greeting a new time in my life.

Turning thirty has meant coming full circle, returning to the start. I have a sense of gratitude right now to feel, in that way, at home with that always-there-self, almost surprised she has always always been there.

 

Where We Stayed

Using points (thanks Chase Sapphire Preferred!) I booked Brian and I two round trip tickets for a ridiculously low amount of money, I’m talking, cheaper than flying from NYC to LA kind of deal.

Good to know: January before the Chinese new year is a slower season but not cold or rainy. It was like stepping into early spring or late fall in the middle of a snowy New York existence. I wore denim on denim the entire weekend like a true vagabond, not washing a single thing in my carry on.

We flew Asiana to South Korea and onto Hong Kong. The service in economy was excellent! They even served in-flight bim bim bap. I wish I had taken my hot sauce tube with me, though. 

Having had great success in traveling with Airbnb, we saw no reason not to use it here as well. After a little neighborhood research, we thought as first timers in Hong Kong SoHo was a great spot to explore on foot most of Hong Kong island.

We were in the mid-levels to be exact, that dreamy other-worldly escalators and tiny-itsy-bitsy skinny towers giving the entire area a great drastic mash up of things I was expecting and not expecting. It felt like San Francisco a little bit, with those winding street packed with people and minibuses.

What We Did

Really the very first thing we did out of both interest and relief was ride the escalators after walking with carry-ons strapped to our backs. The view of them criss crossing between buildings ushered  a sigh of relief to my aching back.

Hong Kong has the longest covered outdoor escalator system in the world! It’s free and you can ride it up pretty far, meandering to Victoria peak even if you’ve got time. The area is steeply hilled, packed with streets full of both Western and Chinese markets. 

In the morning commute, the escalator changes direction to go down. We rode it more times than I can count. It’s a great way to people watch.

SoHo is a very hip packed part of the city, a mash up of West and East. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many French speakers in one area before (well outside of Montreal and France.) It was a nice location for nightlife, coffee, and street markets.

On a few nights we also headed to the Tsmi Sha Tsui East Promenade, riding the cheap Star Ferry into the harbor, to catch the laser light show on the other side. Any place that wants to install lasers on skyscrapers and have them daily put on a show is pretty alright with me.

In exploring around Hong Kong Island, we stopped at Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, took the Peak Tram to Victoria peak, including a slow hike around the peak with those iconic views of the central skyscrapers. There are several hikes that look fantastic on the peak and all around Hong Kong, too, if you’re looking for something harder.

In more of our Hong Kong Island walks, I enjoyed the Mao figurines and antiques of Cat Street, and the local stores and cafes of both Sheung Wan and Wan Chai. I peered into enough herbal medicine stores and giant shopping malls to fill a lifetime.

 We also took Trams to Causeway bay, an area packed with people and stores.  Riding the trams is actually an excellent budget activity because you can get off and explore whatever you came across.

On Kowloon island, I loved the frenetic energy of Mong Kok as well as the Jade, Flower, and Bird markets.  Being us, we also found two bookstores worthy of noting in these areas: Kubrick's and Hong Kong Reader. Nian Lin Garden was a nice respite, too. 

The tram to the Big Buddha was closed, so we decided for just a day trip to Lamma Island. This hike was moderate and great. I enjoyed the fishing village at the end, where we sat outside and drank beers in what felt like mild, late summer air to us. The locales thought it was cold. 

What We Ate

The food in Hong Kong is amazing and diverse, at once fancy and regular, cosmopolitan and everyday.  I found the most joy in eating the street food and at cheap  dim sum joints.

The notes of what we ate barely scratch the surface:

Wonton soup everywhere Dumplings Wang Fu Cooked Food Centres One Dim Sum Egg waffles Tasty Congee and Noodle Wonton Tai Cheong Bakery for Egg Tart! Hong Kong French toast Din Tai Fong for amazing soup dumplings Joy Hing Roast Meat Fancy midday dim sum at Duddells

What I read:

Monocle Guide to Hong Kong is excellent. I always trust Lonely Planet, too.

 

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Ruminating on things eaten in Paris last year

Maybe it's that my sister in-law is headed to Paris right now. Or that I've recently joined the fan club for those normal French pharmacy beauty products that just seem so much better every time I use them, like this dry shampoo and this really basic moisturizer. It's probably also that I was in Paris a year ago crazily enough, and being stuck inside during a snow day had me wistfully thinking about that late winter trip.  If you're looking for even more inspiration, Cup of Joe's recent city guide of Paris has me thinking France is always a good idea, whatever the weather. Of particular note to me, even a year later:

baguettes, always good, with butter even better gastro pub Les Deux Cigales , very delicious mint tea at the Grand Mosque of Paris worth the marauding pigeons  all pain au chocolat forever!

 

Boston Favorites (from a New Englander transplanted to New York)

Every year at Christmas I head home on a bus or train to Boston, meeting my family in the suburbs of both Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Holidays are always enjoyable and stressful yet I'm thankful to be able to spend brief spurts in the city. Boston is a place I keep passing through even after three years of moving back to New York City. It's a city for trips home or short weekends. It's a city where my family and friends live. It's a city I've known for so long as the city, that it's funny that I live in this other big city.  It is a comfort though, to always have it be a part of my trip home.

So in honor of the holidays I wrote a little rumination on what I love about Boston and its environs, things to do and eat and see and. Places change (how dare them!) but I hope these will continue to be useful. Of course, this is by no means exhaustive and just my little take on a city I keep in my heart.

I'll keep updating it as I go back and forth with any new found favorites. Heck, I might even move back one of these years. It seems like my life will be switching between Massachusetts and New York every few years based on my track record so far.

Oh and yes, there are many touristy historic things to do I left out.

Things I love to do:

Lounging in the Copley library courtyard in summer or the reading room in the winter or fall. In the summer there is a wonderful farmer's market in the square, too.

Walking the emerald necklace through Jamaica Plain, spending an afternoon in the arboretum and strolling Centre street.

Exploring a college campus, especially Harvard's.

Walking that part of the Charles River esplanade where kayaks come in through a small waterway.

Spending an afternoon on Newbury Street, a sort of both lovely and overwhelming intersection of all of Boston's shopping. I like to perch at Trident Booksellers and just people watch with coffee and a book.

Finding time to walk the Mass Ave bridge all the way into Cambridge, stopping at Flour Bakery and then seeing the robots at the MIT museum. Finish it up with dosa in Central Square.

Stoping in for a movies at The Brattle or The Coolidge Corner Theater, some of the few indie theaters left in the area.

Getting the right perch for the view of the harbor from the ICA at night, better yet on their free after hours nights.

Keeping close to the T windows on that part of the Red Line when it emerges on the Longfellow bridge and everyone is compelled to look out at the Charles river no matter their curmudgeonly.

Picking just one gallery to spend the day in at the MFA Boston.

Picnicking in Boston Common and walking down Charles Street into Beacon Hill, getting lost up and down the hill.

Being in awe of the glass flowers at The Harvard Natural History Museum.

Meandering around the cloisters courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Browsing and shopping in the brownstones of the South End. The SoWa market is a nice reason to visit.

Putzing around the North End, eating grandma slices or at the original Regina Pizzeria.

Tracking down the food trucks!

Walking the entire length of The Rose Kennedy Greenway from end to end, which has some fabulous landscape architecture and a moving holocaust memorial near the North End. In the summer kids play in sprinklers and it's a nice spot to rest while people watching.

Catching a ferry to one of the Harbor Islands in the summer to picnic or adventure inside old ruins that I am sure are haunted.

Attending Open Studios at The South Boston the Distillery where many artists live and work.

Touring the Sam Adams Brewery in my secret favorite neighborhood Jamaica Plain.

Things I Particularly love to Eat and Drink:

Clover Food lab in Harvard Square (or any location they just moved from their original there) has a place in my heart because no matter the multitude of food trucks turned brick and mortar I love that you can sit, drink a beer, and order a fairly cheap falafel plate for dinner with fries.

I just tried the coffee and pastries at the new location of Tatte bakery in Harvard Square. The space is so lovely and light, like a Parisian bakery with the backdrop of Harvard's campus in the background.

Hot pot in Allston at Shabu Zen, or any of the stalls at Super 88.

For imbibing, Grendel's Den to feel like a college kid in Harvard Square, Deep Ellum for a well crafted cocktail and silent movies on TV screens.

Tasty burger in Fenway because you can easily eat at the bar while watching Boston sports without being too obvious. Secret sports viewing is key for a non-sports obsessed New Englander.

Algiers Coffee house because it reminds me of New York City's Cafe Reggio where I can linger for a long time without buying much and 1369 to read and people watch in Central Square. *update in 2018, alas it has closed! 

Area Four for my most favorite pizza and garlic knots.

The Salty Pig so I could build a board of pig parts plus a fancy pizza with more pig parts. Pig is key.

Highland Kitchen in Somerville for comfort.

Chinatown eating! Especially Dumpling Cafe.

When I was feeling fancy I loved Oleana (of course I'd say this, I got married there!), Neptune Oyster, or Ten Tables in either Cambridge on Jamaica Plain.  p.s. I really need to try Sarma next time I'm in the area!

Places I love to browse:

The best overall bookstore, a browser's delight and open later than most things in sleepier than I like Boston, is the impeccable Brookline Booksmith. The delightful Globe Corner in Harvard square closed but gratefully the Booksmith assumed a great deal of their map and travel collection. Wanderlust denizens, rejoice!

For more travel, lingering, and reading literary magazines without purchasing them I actually admit I love the Barnes and Noble in disguise Harvard Coop. The down the street independent The Harvard Bookstore is not actually a part of Harvard but that doesn't stop tourists from always asking where the sweatshirts are when they walk in. It is a great all around bookstore though, with strong academic and non-fiction sections as well as a solid used book cellar.

Every year Brian and I also find ourselves at Schoenhof's in Harvard Square, a hidden foreign language bookstore with a deep catalogue of French and Spanish titles plus a lovely staff.

I have a special spot in my heart for Black Ink in Harvard Square or Beacon Hill for the finding the best offbeat gift, card, or special thing you are lusting after.

Oona's in Harvard Square is for everything you dreamed your vintage closet could be someday.

For handmade gifts I'm a fan of Olive and Grace. I'll often stop by on the days before christmas for an extra gift.

 

Trips out of the city:

deCordova is a hidden gem of modern art and rolling sculpture park greens making it perfect for an afternoon adventure.

West Concord has the best bread and sandwiches in a cozy shop plus of course Concord itself has charm and Walden Pond is a childhood favorite.

Mass Moca is worth that zip car trip out west.

And for the record, I actually love the cold, rocky New England beaches north of the city.

Also, most of New England isn't far from a car trip, either. You can be in Salem, Portland Maine, the White Mountains, or the New Hampshire Seacoast in a few hours at most.

 

Late Summer in the Hudson Valley

hudsonvalley_mapSummer is almost gone, only days away from ending! New York City seems to say goodbye around Labor day but I like to stretch it out, languishing in that humidity a little bit more. This summer was packed with mini-trips for me since I usually skip a vacation in the summer in favor of off-season big ticket travel. This year it was excursions to the beach, events around the city, a weekend to Washington DC, trips up the hudson, and a yearly stay a lake house with my close lady friends in Connecticut.

Saying goodbye to the sun and lounges in the park is a bit hard, but I'm a bit conventional (ahem, basic) when it comes to the leaves changing.  Like a born New Englander, I want all seasons to have an end so I can keep looking forward, it’s that anxious Puritan spirit in me. 

I've been reminiscing about a later summer trip around the Hudson a trio of us ladies took. Now that a dear friend of mine lives on the edges of Westchester and Hudson County in the city of Peekskill, I've been making more regular trips to explore the  region. All of the stops the trio of us made on a weekend trip would also be great for the fall getaway out of the city. A car is necessary to galavant around  with ease,  but it is easy to make any locale in the general region your base for exploring. 

I'm hoping to make more time to explore the area this coming season, dipping my toes into the Catskills, now that a beautiful Victorian in Peekskill is a frequent friend base!

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Our Weekend Itinerary

Peekskill Brewery

You can make it up to Peekskill on the Metronorth easily and the town is accessible by foot. Luckily still, the Peekskill Brewery is right by the train station. We traveled up early on a Friday for a happy hour at the bar.

I’ve been spotting their brews around the city now, too. I’m a fan of their sour draft. Pick up a growler for the weekend!

A general fan of Peekskill,  there are a few great spots to eat in town too.  Check out Birdsall for brunch if you're headed to that way either to or from NYC.

Vernooy Falls

The hike was a delightful trek up a moderate path to a series of shallow and cool waterfall pools, a carved picturesque scene. The three of us braved the icy mountain water, dipping our bodies in. I pretended the pools has a magical quality to will my body in the cold water. 

We stayed in an airbnb cabin for a night in the Catskills, driving to the falls trail on a Saturday afternoon after we checked-in. It was the highlight of our quick weekend jaunt! 

Phoenicia Diner

We couldn’t turn down stopping in at the a trendy (dare I say...hickster) spot in the Catskills. The wait was around a half hour given the Sunday crowd but we enjoyed the scene, sipping cups of coffee before eating at the bar. The food was a fancier take on the filling diner standards, with nice accents like great jam and a pleasant asthma charm from the place mats to the decor. 

New Paltz

The city of New Paltz served as a charming stop on our ambling drive back home on Sunday. We made a point of asking our waitress at the diner where we could do some quick antique browsing before we headed to New Paltz. She recommended the Antique Barn, which turned out to be a nice area to stop and eat ice cream in the late summer heat heat.  Next time I'm in the area, I'd love to explore Mohonk Mountain.

The Bradley Farm

On the outskirts of New Paltz there is a small farm with a petting zoo of sorts that features a small brewery called Pull Brewing. We stopped in, admiring the ripe tomatoes and tasting all the beers on tap, then enjoyed a draft in the yard.  It was a nice time to have drink and meet goats, a first of its kind imbibing experience. 

Hello from Japan

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I'm in Kyoto right now with just a few more days left before we fly back. I've seen and eaten so many great things while in Japan, I can't wait to write it all down in a trip guide blog post and to start sketching things I've been keeping visual notes on. I think a series of my sketchbook will be called What I Ate at Japanese 711. Surprise, everything is red bean flavored!

Elephant's Trunk Flea Market

58be279362944270c457ab073ea203f3 During a long weekend last summer a group of friends and I discovered Elephant's Trunk in New Milford Connecticut. We definitely found a holy grail of thrift only an hour from New York City.

In the previously unknown to me Northwest Connecticut--that is also home to a giant man-made lake rumored to have a ghost town at the bottom--Elephant's Trunk has been operating every year since 1976. What makes it especially awesome is it's a flea market of "pickers" who sell to dealers. The pickers are awesome people from across New England, running the gamut of eccentrics who love vintage pyrex to your Red Sox capped dad who likes going to garage and estate sales. That means a lot of the higher priced items in curated vintage stores like those populating in my home of Brooklyn might very well originate here.

One of the benefits to trekking out to New Milford CT, only an hour and so out of New York City though you'll need a car to make it, is the ability to buy from these sellers, many of whom have just picked up fresh vintage wares the days before. All the prices are especially reasonable and naturally, flexible. If you're an actual vintage dealer you can pay extra to arrive at the crack of dawn to buy. But that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of worthy items left after the dealers come.

I've found the two times I've visited the flea that closing is an especially good time. Right before closing a few I found up a vintage globe from between the world wars and a mid century modern magazine rack all right before for much lower than I was expecting to pay.

Tips: Make sure to bring cash! Sellers using a mobile payment card reader are almost non-existent. There are food vendors (and coffee) in trucks and stands on the 55-acre grounds, too. If you're hungry after thrifting, there is a giant diner not too far down the road.

Elephant's Trunk 490 Danbury Road New Milford, CT April to Dec on Sundays from 5:30 to 1:00pm. Parking is free, no dogs, $2 to enter