Our good friend Daven was getting married in Toronto, Ontario in June, so we decided to cross the border and join them, for what may have been the funnest (I know that's not a word) wedding I have been to.
The first night was a short exploration of the city around us and an amazing dinner atop the CN Tower at the rotating restaurant 360. We picked a perfect time to enjoy savory pork chops over hominy grits (and glazed duck wing appetizer) just as the sun was setting across the sky.
The morning of the wedding we were all summoned down to the Toronto sign (the Sheraton is right in that plaza) for the traditional Baraat, where the groom is escorted to the venue by his family to the sound of beating drums. Everyone is dressed colorful and everyone is involved in the dancing, it was so much fun! I would take that over a long drawn-out Catholic mass-style wedding any day! After the ceremony and a lunch in the function hall of very delicious Indian food, we had a long break to explore the city. Typically "explore" to Brad and I means "Let's find all the breweries!" so we set out to the Distillery District to do some local drinking. We stopped in a few quirky shops along the way and met up with some of our friends from the wedding.
Later that afternoon, stumbling back to our hotel :/ We dressed for the reception and guzzled some bottles of water to rehydrate. We hadn't anticipated the bartender at Longslice to take a liking to us and offer some whiskey shots! The reception went beautifully and we danced the night away, even listened to an impromptu Eminem rap from one of the younger cousins. The next morning we slept in and slowly made our way down to the lobby to say goodbye to some of the guests that were leaving. We still had a day to explore, so after some Advil and more water, we walked to Hemingway's New Zealand style restaurant for some delicious food and hair-of-the-dog. We then went to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to see some dinosaurs, because when-in ROM! Brad and I broke off from our small group to venture to a different side of the city where we visited the book shop The Monkey's Paw which has a vintage book vending machine. We walked through Graffiti Alley and saw the outside of the famous Penis-shaped waffle joint "Member's Only" We had a quiet night after dinner and we were even able to share one last drink with the bride and groom in the lobby lounge before heading to bed.
Jen and I ventured once again to NYC for the National Art Educator's Convention in March. We arrived mid-day and were able to check into our hotel early. We were able to sneak into a paid workshop for free due to a mistake on the schedule, so we played some collaborative drawing games and exchanged ideas and sketchbooks with teachers from around the country. Later we went to a local bar around the corner called Juniper Bar for some appetizers and cocktails. We decided to visit the Museum of Sex since it was open until 10 pm and then we called it a night after that. The next day after attending several sessions and having lunch at the hotel we made our way to the financial district to see the Van Gogh Immersive Experience. It was neat- but a little over-priced in my opinion. We had dinner at Blue Smoke a delicious BBQ joint near the World Trade Center. It was neat to see that side of the city all lit up at night.
Our last full day was Saturday and we decided to spend most of the day exploring the city. In the morning we took the subway straight to the World Trade Center Memorial to see the exhibit. It was very sobering and powerful. It was amazing how the exhibit really made you feel the chaos and horror of that day.
After the museum we needed a little pick-me-up so we walked towards Central Park to visit the MET. First we stopped down a side street to have some hand-pulled noodles at a tiny, but VERY popular place called Xi'an Famous Foods. The covid rules in NYC were very confusing- and the MET still had mask mandates as well as Covid card-checks, whereas most smaller places didn't require masks or anything. We waited in a really long line to get into the MET and decided to skip the Disney exhibit and just explore the general museum. We went back to the convention to watch a couple more presentations, then we went to one last restaurant for dinner and went back to our hotel.
Day 1: Settling in
As tight as our budget was after spending the summer getting our house re-sided, we went against our better judgement and booked a trip to Iceland which conveniently fell during my February break- because after 2 years of Covid we were both itching to travel outside the country. After a 4.5 hour sleepless flight from Boston, we arrived in Keflavik airport in the dark hours of the arctic-circle morning. We were fortunate to get an early check-in to our room and sleep for a handful of hours before our scheduled trip to the Sky Lagoon. For those who haven't heard, the Sky Lagoon is a lesser-known newer geothermal pool, like the Blue Lagoon except with an infinity pool overlooking the water. It was so relaxing to sit in the warm water with the cold mist cascading across the glassy surface. When we arrived back in Reykjavik we warmed up with some delicious lamb stew in bread bowls at Svarta Kaffid.
Day 2: Highlights of Reykjavik
The next morning after breakfast we headed down to the harbor where we were practically blown into the ocean by strong gusts of wind. We stopped at the Kolaportid flea market where I found some lava-rock earrings. The Saga Museum provided a quirky and fun experience (and came with a beer!) We had fun trying on Viking-wear and posing with the wax figures. It was here that we got a message explaining that our South Coast Tour scheduled for the next day was cancelled due to the impending storm. Disappointed, but determined to make the most of our time, we ventured through the snowy streets towards the National Museum of Iceland, petting all the friendly cats along the way. We walked across Tjornin Lake to Hallgrimskirka- the iconic church where we rode the elevator to the very windy top. It was neat to see the bursts of bright colored houses lining the snowy streets. We made our way down to Reykjavik Chips, which specializes in french fries and lots of different dipping sauces for a quick snack before our beer tour.
After a shower and refresh at the hotel we met Astor, our beer guide in the Central Plaza. We first drank a flight of different beers at Skuli bar and then two beers at Session- which had a raspberry sour that tasted like a smoothie. We ended our tour at a dive bar called Olstofa. After the tour ended we walked to a karaoke bar and joined the other three people from our beer tour at a table. After many more beers and some hilarious singing, we closed the bar and began walking back to our hotel. We managed to try the famous Icelandic hotdog at Beajarins Beztu Pylsur along the way. It was everything I hoped and more!
Day 3: The Strange and Quirky
With our South Coast tour cancelled due to weather, we decided to sleep in and meet with the rest of the group (Brad's cousin Alison, her friend Leslie, and a handful of their college friends) to explore the weird and quirky sites of Reykjavik. We walked to get a bite to eat at Reykjavik Fish which had the best fish and chips I have ever tried. After eating and feeling more refreshed after our late night, we ducked into the tiny Icelandic Punk Museum that is underground in a converted public toilet. We learned about the history of Punk music in Iceland and listened to some interesting music. Then we finally met up with the group to check out the infamous Icelandic Phallological Museum (yes- Penis museum). We checked out all the many a-hem..."specimens" and regretted eating beforehand because we were too full to try the "savory penis waffles" on the phallic-themed menu. After quite a few giggles we made our way back up the street to our hotel. We stopped for a few drinks at Bravo (grungy and weird- but good drinks) and Kaldi (dark and small, but classier). Back at the hotel we tried to re-book our South Coast tour, but the storm was actually supposed to be worse in the coming 2 days so that was cancelled as well. We ate a comforting and delicious dinner at the GrillMarket, I had tender lamb chops with potatoes drizzled with cheese. It was heaven.
Day 4: Mini Golden Circle Tour
We woke up early to meet the group for our Golden Circle- Blue Lagoon Tour. Unfortunately we found out as we were boarding the bus that the Blue Lagoon would need to be cancelled because the impending storm would be closing roads later in the day. We were bummed, but planned to rebook it for another day. We drove first to Thingvellir National Park to see the gap between the tectonic plates. Despite the wall of white snow engulfing the whole of the lava-rock scenery- it was still very beautiful. After that we drove about an hour out to the Geysir to watch the geothermal explosions of steam. We ate lunch at the cozy café at the park and we were still able to see the geysir from the giant windows. We were then told by our tour guide that the tour would need to be cut short because the snow was moving into Reykjavik at a rapid pace. We missed Gullfoss, which I was very disappointed about. As we were slowly driving the bus through the snow we saw the trucks closing off the road behind us. Back in the city the snow and wind was relentless. We walked to the Food Cellar for our reservation and ate some delicious spicy duck wings. Dreading our trudge back through the snow, we reluctantly left the cozy dark wooden corner of the restaurant and braved the wind. It was only about 9pm, but we were so exhausted from walking in the weather, we decided to call it an early night.
Day 5: Last Night in Reykjavik
We woke up disappointed, but determined to make the best of it. Listening to the howling unrelenting wind and freezing rain all night told us that our South Coast tour was definitely not happening. We attempted to get a cab to drop us off at the covid-testing site so we could get our negative results to flay back the next afternoon, but even the cabs didn't want to brave the weather. We bundled up and walked at an angle to combat the pushing wind and flying flakes of snow. We finally made it and were relieved that we both tested negative. We rested at the hotel, then purchased tickets for Fly Over Iceland, so we could at least get a simulated experience of all of our cancelled tours. We drank delicious lattes while we waited for our ticket time and it may not have been the real thing- but it was a worthwhile experience. After exploring the harbor the storm died down and it even started to clear up a bit. We stopped for a snack at Bruggian Brugghus and even ordered beer flights. The pesto butter and potatoes were delectable. After another rest at the hotel and warm showers we made our way to the food hall to have drinks with the rest of the group. We broke off to eat dinner at a restaurant that served a simple menu, but had amazing wings. Later we walked down a side street to meet the whole group at 3 Coats- a traditional Icelandic restaurant that served some of the more "exotic" chocies, like puffin, horse, whale and the fermented shark. The shark was not as bad as I had thought it would be, but I probably will never eat whale or puffin again. We capped off the night back at Olstofa (our beer tour guide's favorite dive). Brad and I were able to book new tickets to the Blue Lagoon which we planned to do the following day en route to the airport.
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon
I realize now why so many people do the Blue Lagoon either coming into Reykjavik, or leaving. It is so relaxing to go before or after a long plane ride. The sun was rising and the storm had moved out. Clouds of mist danced across the surface of the bright blue water. We stored our luggage and made our way to the showers. It felt a little more rushed and touristy than the Sky Lagoon, but it is large enough to find your own pocket of lagoon to yourself if you want to escape the crowds. We vegged in the water with a few glasses of wine before heading to the airport to leave. I would for sure recommend Iceland, knowing that weather wherever you go cannot be predicted or changed!
A long awaited trip delayed from Covid finally happened. The hilarious comedian Fortune Feimster was playing at the College Music Hall in New Haven- or was supposed to play March 2020- then it was moved to May 2021- then it was eventually postponed to November 2021. We booked a hotel for a couple of nights and hit up a couple breweries along the coast on the way down, first Thimble Island, then Stony Creek. We checked into the New Haven Hotel and got dressed to walk to the College City Music Hall for the show. Fortune was so hilarious, it was difficult to sip my beer without laughing. We called it an early night and we went back to the hotel. The next day was a nice bright crisp fall day and the leaves were in full bursting colors. We took the opportunity to sleep in because we are usually woken up in the early hours of the morning by our two cats. (the two of them were safely at home being fed by their fancy automatic feeder). After walking through the brick-paved streets outside of Yale, we decided to grab lunch at one of New Haven's claims to fame- the first burger-at Louis' Lunch. The little red building is cozy and cramped- the inside surrounded by wooden booths that are carved up by patrons going back decades. The burger is cooked in a unique vertical grill that has been in the building since the 1800's- a beautiful flavorful patty served on two slices of white toast slathered with cheese, with an onion and tomato on top- this is the only way the burger is made. The men behind the counter shout orders and friendly greetings, making you feel as if you're a local. After stuffing ourselves with the delicious burger, chips and potato salad, we walked off the pounds by heading towards East Rock Park. After a pit stop at the Yale British Art Museum/gallery we made our way through the Yale Campus to where the edge of East Rock Park was. We hadn't planned on climbing the ginormous red rock that we saw towering in the distance, but each step we made towards it, we kept saying "well- just a little further will be fine". The view was totally worth the climb. On the way back down we "rested" at East Rock Brewery where we enjoyed a flight and some nice conversations with the local bartenders. Our original plan to go to the Yale Art Gallery was thwarted by a bomb threat that caused the entire campus to be evacuated (nothing more was heard in the news, so I am assuming it was just a false alarm) so we made our way a little bit early to New Haven's second claim to food fame- the pizza! Apparently the two rival pizza places to try are Sally's and Frank Pepe's, and many people try both to compare, but after asking the bartender at East Rock which place she preferred, she sold us on Sally's. The place had a tent set up in the parking lot with picnic tables and all of the food was cooked inside. It definitely met our expectations! We ordered enough so we could bring home leftovers. Our legs were tired from climbing mini-mountain, so once again we decided to call it an early night. On the way home the next day, we stopped at Lighthouse Point Park to snap a few pictures of the lighthouse and the famous carousel, and then made our way back home up the highway splitting through the reds, oranges and yellows of the leaves at their peak.
This fall I have been trying to catch up on some of the things I had been meaning to do since we moved to Bristol. The first thing on my list was to finally see the Jack O' Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Zoo- which my friend Ariane has been a pumpkin carver at for the past eight or so years. It was beautiful! We also not only had a perfect mild and spooky-moon night, but we were able to get a private tour skipping the crowds through the zoo, following Ari with flashlights through the sleeping red pandas and the eagles which stood eerily alert on the branches. We were even able to get a sneak-peak of the behind-the scenes carving operation laid out in tents behind the exhibition. The theme was decades with a focus on music, so throughout the walk through the brightly lit pumpkins we could hear the sounds of each era of music.
We always check Facebook pages of our favorite breweries on weekends when we have some spare hours to waste. Twelve Guns in Bristol had a few small artisan booths, a live band and a stein- hoisting competition, which only our friend Kristen was brave enough to partake in. The following weekend we finally were able to throw our Halloween party at our house complete with a skeleton charcuterie board and the next day we were surprisingly not too hungover! We stopped for brunch at Portside with Brad's family and walked a bit around the town. Later while we were looking for the new Neal Personeus http://www.nealpersoneus.com/ exhibit that was supposed to be in the Herreshoff Marine Museum, we actually poked around the museum and saw some pretty cool wooden boats. It's amazing how the space was used so efficiently- not a corner was wasted. While on a few of my walks I discovered a couple new places like Strawberry Moon in Warren- a shop that mainly sells crystals and tarot cards, but has some assorted plants and even some clothes. I also tried lunch at the new Happy Creperie in Warren- I had the oven turkey breast, spinach and brie- it was delicious! I will definitely go back to try their breakfast crepes.
After living in Bristol for over a year there are still so many places that we haven't explored, so we decided to take my parents along to the Blithewold Mansion down the road from downtown Bristol. We explored the house which had many interesting features including the "telephone room" and a wall-mounted intercom, but the gardens and grounds are really where this place shines. We walked over the sweeping lawn through a forest of tall redwoods and sequoia trees and a beautiful pond with lily pads and blossoming flowers everywhere. We explored along the coast and through a forest of bamboo where the stalks blot out the light with a canopy of dark green. We are happy to know that the grounds are free to walk around, so I will plan to come back on a nice day with some paper and paints!
My long time (since grade 3!) friend Jen and I took the ferry to Long Island to spend a few nights with her family in a rented party house in Sag Harbor. Most of our trip was relaxing and hanging by the inground pool since we were going through an unbearable heat wave and the idea of walking anywhere would have required a personal air conditioner. We did manage to squeeze in a Whale Watch in Montauk where we were able to see the lighthouse and a few whales breaching. After our boat ride was cut short due to a thick fog enveloping the ocean, we stopped for some strong margaritas and tacos at TT's Montauk (rated one of the most 'instagrammable" restaurants in Montauk) After we stuffed our faces as two girls next to us arranged their drinks just so to get a great pic of the neon lighting glistening off their ice cubes, we headed back to the house for a soak in the hot tub. We took some time midday the next day to walk around Sag Harbor, where we visited the whaling museum and some boutiques that we couldn't afford. We decided on our last night to splurge on dinner at Page at 63 Main in downtown Sag Harbor. It was a short trip, but relaxing and a nice place to see some beautifully landscaped houses!
It is strange to think that the last travel post I made was in February 2020, before the whole world collapsed. Spring felt like an appropriate time to slowly start back up again, timidly, like buds peeking out of the partially frozen ground on the first warm April day. Fully vaccinated and itching to get on the road, Brad and I drove across the state of Massachusetts, through the Berkshires into Hudson Valley, NY. On the drive we were pelted with a furry of angry flurries that seemed to come from a cloud that only followed our car. Our first stop for lunch was Chatham, NY where we indulged in some fried green beans, amazing Korean BBQ wings- and of course some delicious beers at Chatham Brewery. From there we drove through sprawling green farms into the winding mountain roads that led to Kaaterskill Falls in Hunter, NY. Although it was freezing with wind whipping from the mist spraying from the waterfall, we convinced ourselves to walk the trail down to the foot of the falls, where we were not disappointed. The rocks were very slippery without much space to walk, so I was thankful it wasn't crowded on the steep steps. On a warmer day we may have hiked a little more, but we were both tired from the drive so we headed to Hudson to check into The Wick- our hotel for two nights. The front desk explained all the things to do in Hudson and circled a couple "nightlife" and live music venues- but since we had researched places beforehand, we were pretty certain the town was still in a Covid-Coma. After a quick nap we walked down (or should I say UP- the hotel was at the bottom of a long, steep staircase built into a hill) to Ca'Mea, an Italian eatery that brought me back to Rome as soon as I took a sip of wine. I ordered a very simple Rigatoni Bolognese which was delectable. We walked down the street a little ways to explore the scenery, and realized quickly that many places were still shut down. We called it an early night and went back to the hotel to watch a movie.
The next morning we drove back over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to check out the Thomas Cole historic site. Even the museum was closed, but we were able to walk the grounds and snap a few pictures. We made our way to Olana Historic Site, which has a much better view way up on a hill. You could see the blue and purple undulating mountains behind sweeping bright green hills bursting with little white and pink buds. We drove back into Hudson to explore the Antique Warehouse and the shops on the street. For lunch we ordered grilled ham and cheese on focaccia bread at Talbott and Arding, a cool little cheese shop that also makes sandwiches. We made our way through antique and gift shops where we could barely afford a thimble, but it was nice to just look. After being disappointed that a cat shop was closed, we decided we earned a brewery trip, so we made our way back over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to Catskill where we stopped at Submersive Malting and Brewing for a beer. Before skirting back over to Hudson, we had a beer at Crossroads Brewery and then ended the night at Hudson Brewery which was right behind our hotel and had a delicious food truck. The next day we slowly made our way back to Rhode Island. Overall, due to lingering covid regulations, it wasn't too exciting of a trip, but a beautiful drive and a nice area to get away for a change of scenery.
Ever since I started sneaking Stephen King novels and stories of true crimes and hauntings from the "adult" section of the library, I have had a healthy interest in the macabre. I know I get this interest from my mother who wanted to "explore" the abandoned mill building next to our wedding hotel, which I would have done if I hadn't been preoccupied with getting married and stuff. I don't consider myself a religious person or even a spiritual person, I tend to lean towards the side of a skeptic, but my curiosity wants to figure out phenomenon and "get to the bottom" of mysterious happenings. I even have a morbid want to experience something spooky beyond what my human brain can comprehend. To celebrate both my parent's birthdays and my own, we took a drive to Fall River to experience the Lizzie Borden house tour. Tucked behind residential and commercial buildings in a cramped one-way street zone, lies the deep forest green house where Lizzie's father and stepmother both met their fate with the brutal blade of a hatchet. The tour guides were very informative and entertaining, telling us not only about the story of the murders, but also of the subsequent hauntings that took place thereafter. Both tour guides spoke of an uneasy feeling of despair that some people are overcome with in certain spots of the house. I didn't feel anything out of the ordinary- besides the remnant cough of a stubborn flu that had plagued me the entire week, but two of the tour members- a couple- left half-way through feeling sick and they never came back. Our tour guide mentioned that sometimes people get physically ill after being in the house and that maybe the energy of the horrible happenings of the past are getting to people- but after seeing the ashen faces of the couple- the skeptic in me said HANGOVER and not ghosts!
A crisp not-too-cold day was the perfect time to check out the Capital city of Rhode Island- a place I usually avoid like the DMV. I like BEING in a city once I am there, I just don't like the whole trying to figure out where to drive and park part, but since it was a quiet morning I decided to take a go at it for a nice solo trial run. I parked up on the hill between RISD and Brown and made my way down to Westminster Street where I was told there would be some really cool shops. I poked around the antique shops, the Providence Arcade and all the quirky crafty stores before heading back to the RISD museum, which I visited many years ago, but I wanted to check out some of the contemporary exhibits. My last stop was the Providence Athenaeum- a super cool old library that I felt too intimidated to actually look at any books. Since I was all alone and many of the eateries looked like places that I would feel strange getting a table for one- I kept my trip to a short half-day excursion. I drove home with a new warm mustard colored winter hat and a growling stomach and a better sense of how to navigate the city.