Exploring Burlington VT

After a short visit to Brattleboro VT, we headed to Burlington. We stayed in the area near the waterfront and Church Street Marketplace. The area seemed to have a large university crowd, which may be the normal scene or it was because we were there the same weekend that parents were moving their children into dorms and apartments.

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The Lake Champlain waterfront park is a fantastic spot. It has a boardwalk with benches, and a walking and bike path. We even stumbled across a few small beaches while walking on the path. The bike path also travels further around the city.
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We spent a bit of time in the Church Street area at restaurants and exploring the stores. On Saturday morning we went to the Burlington Farmer’s Market, which is held at the City Hall Park. They have fresh locally grown produce, crafts, sweet and savory snacks, coffee and juices, meats and cheeses, local restaurant vendors, and maple everything. I started with a cold brew coffee. I had to have something maple…so I purchased a habanero infused maple syrup from Benito’s. Seems like it would be amazing on tofu and tempeh.

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As we walked around I spotted so many stalls with hot vegan food, but not what many Americans would think of as typical breakfast food. I’d eat a bowl of curry or a warm grain bowl with beans and veggies any time of the day. We decided on the Tibetan Cuisine vendor and I am so happy we did. We shared a curried lentil and rice dish and vegan veggie buns. This farmers market seemed more like street fair than a farmers market. It’s a local Saturday morning staple in the community, grab breakfast, do some shopping and chat with the neighbors all in one space. I’m really glad we went.

For the most part, we went to restaurants that were walking distance from our hotel. A few of our local favorites – the Nepalese & Himalayan Sherpa cuisine at Sherpa Kitchen was fantastic.My favorite item on Sweet Waters menu was the lavender vodka lemon drop; it was delicious.

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Zabby and Elf’s Stone Soup was a charming organic café, they have soup, a hot and cold bar, but their sandwiches were my favorite. The vegan club and the vegan Reuben were tasty. We also stopped at a Ben & Jerry’s — a new thing for me now that they make a few vegan flavors (yummy). There was a line out the door.

Glad I researched the local breweries, both places we went to were winners. My preference runs on the darker side – English bitters, browns and German Dunkels, while my other half enjoys IPA’s and lighter beers.

We chose Zero Gravity and Queen City Breweries, both farther from where we were staying than other breweries but a better mix of options that appealed to both of us. They also happen to be across the street from each other. We decided to walk (half hour from our hotel). With all of the eating going on during this trip it seemed like a wise choice.

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I was definitely ready to sample some beer once we arrived at Zero Gravity. It was a welcoming space with inside seating and a patio. They serve a few food options, you can buy cans of some of their beer or fill a growler with what’s on tap.

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Next we headed across the street to Queen City – follow the arrows on the side of their building – their space is around back. It’s set up more like a traditional tasting/tour operation. Though they did have snacks. Queen City has some bottled beers for sale or the option to fill up a growler.

Pocky timed our brewery adventure so that we’d walk to the hotel post drinks while the sun was setting. So we made our way to the path that’s parallel with the beach and marina and enjoyed our stroll with similar like-minded folks.

At the end of our trip, we took a scenic route to Manhattan, NY. We drove through Ironville and Eagle Lake. One piece of advice – generally know where you are going before making a drive near the lake. There was a stretch of time where we had no cell service. It’s a gorgeous drive and worth the time. We stopped in Albany, NY to have lunch at Berben & Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen on Lark St near Center Square.

Sandwiches were a trend on this trip…the tempeh chickpea salad sandwich was tasty and massive. Pocky had the wing burger – both came with chips and a pickle, as one would expect at a deli. I would eat there all the time if they had a spot in NYC.

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North East Road Trip to Vermont

Recently, Pocky and I went on a road trip to Vermont. The first day we left New York City and drove to Brattleboro, VT. We had both been there before, separately. Last year I visited with one of my girlfriends so I already had some places in mind that I wanted to hit up.

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Brattleboro is an eclectic small town. Main Street is a few blocks up from the Connecticut River and has antique stores, outdoor gear shops, bookstores, coffee shops, art and theater, a vegan café, Thai cuisine, and other restaurants and breweries. There is also a food co-op and the art deco – Latchis Hotel in that area. For vegans roaming around Vermont, Brattleboro should be on the must visit list. On this trip, we stopped at Whetstone Brewery, which has two decks overlooking the river and tasty food and beverages.

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We also stopped at Mocha Joe’s coffee – their maple latte is my favorite. Superfresh! Organic Café is another gem with vegan, vegetarian, and raw options. Their breakfasts are the bomb.

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That night we stayed overnight in Keene, New Hampshire (hotel points); it’s about a thirty-minute drive from Brattleboro. Keene’s downtown area has a similar vibe. It seems as if they turned a small area of older brick industrial buildings into shopping, restaurants and hotels. These few blocks though, are surrounded by a neighborhood with two story houses dating back to the 1800s. We decided to make the short walk over to Main Street and ended up having a fabulous dinner at Thai Garden.

The next day we drove further north to Burlington, our base for the next few days.

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One of our adventures while in the area was a trip out to the Shelburne museum in Shelburne Vermont – about a twenty-minute drive from Burlington. We were there for hours. The sprawling property began as a way to exhibit horse-drawn carriages. Over time, it transitioned into an amazing property full of historic buildings, trains, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga. They also have herb and heirloom vegetable gardens, spectacular views of the mountains, and a café. The property is also full of apple and other fruit trees, even in the parking area.

A massive round red barn, and two other barns house many types of carriages, including a hearse carriage.

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The train was definitely one of my favorite sights. The interior of the old train, including the sleeping compartments, was very ornate and had a 1920s esthetic.


The steamboat was also fun to roam around. It had the staterooms and the kitchen set up, and it was possible to walk around the mechanical areas and view the massive steam engine. The general store had cool old items – shoes, clothing, and food. There was an apothecary set up in the back with a ton of old bottles full of herbs and concoctions. Upstairs dental, medical and eye doctor offices with old chairs, and instruments were on display.

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Some of the other buildings contained paintings, sculptures, quilts, glass, china, toys and more. They even had a room with old creepy dolls. We ended our time there with a short break at their café.

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Art collage

The next blog will feature our time in Burlington and our road trip home. Click the links for more photos of the Shelburne Museum or Brattleboro VT.

Day Trip to New Paltz, NY

New Paltz, New York makes a fantastic day trip or weekend getaway from Manhattan. For my first visit, a friend and I decided on a day trip. It’s roughly an hour and a half drive (depending on traffic) from Manhattan. Once we made it past the local urban sprawl it was a lovely scenic drive.

Because we only had one day — we planned to hike a section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (22-mile-long), wander around the town, and see where that left us with time.

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Many cities in the US have created trails for public use on abandoned rail corridors, for instance Charlotte, NC has one, Indiana has a few, and of course NYC has the Highline — a 1.45-mile-long elevated walkway built on a disused New York Central Railroad line on the West Side. These trails are a fantastic way to reuse existing routes with scenic views, or a way to create walking and bike paths through concrete jungles full of automobiles and noise.

As we drove down Main Street, it was apparent that New Paltz was an eclectic community full of arts, entertainment, shopping, and a variety of cafés and restaurants. The GPS took us to a middle point of the rail trail, and luckily there was a spot left in the parking area. We grabbed our packed lunches, and after a short discussion, chose a direction and set off.

The trail passes through the towns of Rosendale, Gardiner, the Historic Huguenot District in New Paltz, and ends in Kingston. The section of the trail we walked was its own oasis in the middle of town. It’s a hidden path surrounded by greenery with small creeks and wooded areas. In some spots it seemed secluded while other sections of the trail had businesses and homes beyond the trees, with pathways leading to some of the private properties. We spotted horses, ducks, and other small creatures scurrying around. After a while, we found a bench and had lunch out on the trail.

My one piece of advice – pay attention because the path is wide enough for two people to walk but many people bike the trail, so be prepared to move over and let people pass. I wish we had had time to walk more of the trail so that we could experience the sections with bridges, views of the Wallkill River, and the Shawangunk Ridge. Next trip.

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After walking the trail, we headed to Main Street to check out the local scene. The drive through town with the Shawangunk Ridge as a majestic backdrop was gorgeous. On the way, we came across fruit and vegetable stands, including Dressel Farms, which has ice cream, apple picking, and signs indicating that strawberry season is days away. My vegan self passed on the ice cream, but my friend ordered what she claimed was a very tasty shake.

A few popular food spots to check out if headed that way — Mexicali Blue, Huckleberry, New Paltz Indian restaurant, China House, and Bangkok Café. We found two chocolatiers, Lagusta’s Luscious and Krause’s.

For the book lovers –Barner Books and Inquiring Minds are across the street from each other, just off Main Street. I liked Barner Books, probably because they had vintage typewriters for sale. I’ll let you in on a secret…I have this romanticized notion about writing a novel on typewriter.

Our final stop of the day was the Village Tea Room. Yes, it’s a traditional teahouse with cakes and sandwiches but they also have a full menu including vegan options, if tea isn’t your thing. I recommend the Monk tee. They also have a signature vanilla cake (not vegan) that looks like a bee hive with apricot preserves, honey butter cream and petite chocolate bees on top. The apricot jam looks like honey oozing out of the layers. My friend ordered a slice to go. I heard it was yummy but not too sweet.

For my next visit, I want to see the Minnewaska State Park, which is situated in the Shawangunk Mountains. It’s a hikers paradise replete with waterfalls, lakes, and dense forests. There is also the Mohonk Preserve with streams, fields and mountains that spans 8,000 acres of land, or the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary with 56 acres of grasses and plants. And after all that hiking, maybe a visit to one of the local wineries or breweries is in order. With all of the outdoor adventures this could turn into a regular weekend getaway.

 

 

Indy for the Holidays

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Almost every year part of our holiday merriment happens in Indianapolis. It’s become a tradition. The visit is typically a winter wonderland filled with snow and single digit temperatures. Growing up in California, I did not experience that type of cold often, but since living on the east coast, I’ve adjusted my definition of cold. A secret about me – every time I emerge from a warm dwelling into the, let’s say, 2° weather, I automatically giggle. True story, no explanation, it just happens.

While in Indy, we visit family and friends for a few days, visit museums, theatre and other cultural events, and venture out on our own for a few meals. There are favorite restaurants we frequent with the family and those we frequent independently by form of habit and comfort. I’m a fairly adventurous person, though experimenting with food is not very easy because of my allergies. Though, every year it seems easier as vegan friendly options appear on menus and more vegan restaurants pop up outside of my metropolis.

This year the family outing was the Indianapolis Ballet performance of the Nutcracker at the Old National Center. The Nutcracker is one of my favorite ballets from childhood and it’s nice to see it when possible. Although I am grateful to live in NY where I have easy access to Broadway, dance, opera, and more, I love being able to take in and support local arts in other communities as well. Following the Nutcracker, we had a family dinner at Saigon Vietnamese restaurant, which is climbing my list of favorite Indy restaurants. It is a traditional menu but they always make sure my vegetable option is vegan.

While in town we also stopped at Cafe Patachou, which has a little something for everyone. It used to be a place we frequented for lunch but after trying their Vegan Cuban Breakfast, I’m always angling for a morning visit now. In the trying something new category – we went to the Sinking Ship for lunch. The website drew us in with its substantial vegan menu and the establishments snarky rules, including what will be playing on the TV and no kids allowed. They have a couple of locations, one of which might allow kids. The location we visited is a proper bar meant for adult beverages and adult conversations…It has a college vibe, good music and fantastic vegan comfort food. They do have a full menu for carnivores as well. Recommendations – chili mac, mac & tease, buffalo seitan wings, and star tots.

Until the next time…

New York touristy attractions for the local and visitor

Last month my uncle Ken visited me in New York, which presented an opportunity to explore the city in new ways.

Normally, I spend a lot of time walking in Central Park, but had never taken a pedicab before. Our driver was very knowledgeable of the statues and other landmarks in the park. It’s a great way to see the park, especially for those who cannot walk long distances. My recommendation is to pay cash at the park, instead of purchasing tickets online, and haggle over the price.

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There were several bus tours on our itinerary. First, we took a Brooklyn tour, which was okay but as someone who spends time in Brooklyn, I recommend just taking the subway over and walking around the neighborhoods that you want to see. We also took a bus tour through Harlem and Queens. It’s a good tour and worth checking out, it even stops at Yankee stadium for a photo op. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain the day we went, which made it much harder to see from the bus, and taking good pictures was impossible. On a sunny day, it would be great though.

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During this visit we also went on a few harbor cruises. This is actually the main touristy go-to item on my list when I travel to places along a coast, near a river or lake. We settled on a full loop harbor cruise. For the architecture and bridge lovers – this is your tour. This 2.5-hour tour also offers a great historical journey of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn skylines.

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We took the boat tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Honestly, my photos of lady liberty were much better from the boat than the island. It is definitely worth doing but with limited time, I’d take photos from the boat and go straight to Ellis Island, otherwise plan on this as your all day experience. The museum on Ellis Island is fantastic; many of the people who passed through the island have donated personal items to the museum. There is also a computer area where visitors can pay a nominal fee and look up and print or email their family records. We had limited time to spend looking up records but luckily the public can access these records from the comfort of their home as well, which is on my list of my new projects.

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For those who appreciate architecture, take the Ellis Island hard hat tour. It’s a 90 minute guided tour of the abandoned immigrant hospital buildings; the proceeds are going toward renovation.

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I love architectural photography, especially abandoned urban structures and old houses. The buildings are amazing and the history of the hospital was fascinating. A word of warning — it’s hot in summer and there isn’t anywhere to sit, so make sure you are up to doing the tour. I’ll probably go again so that I can take more photos.

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We visited the 9/11 Memorial and took the walking tour of the neighborhood. Our guide told her own personal story about her experiences on that day as well as describing how the tragedy unfolded in the neighborhood and throughout the city. Our group walked to the small church that was the only building in the neighborhood without damage, we went to the memorial pools, and then the museum. It’s a somber tour but part of our history that should be talked about and remembered. The memorial pools include the nearly 3000 names of the victims of 9/11. Every day a single white rose is placed next to the names of those with birthdays on that day.

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One night we went to see the Book Mormon on Broadway. I had seen it before, but it has been a few years. There were even a few references that had been updated since I watched it the first time. Another night we checked out Terra Blues club. It was my fist visit and definitely not my last.

I can’t seem to write a blog without talking about food. Here are a few highlights of restaurants with a little something to satisfy a carnivore and vegan. Benares Indian near central park in midtown has a great lunch buffet, Yum Yum Thai in Hells Kitchen is a great post-Theater spot, Pelligrino is classic Italian in Little Italy, New Malaysia is my favorite hidden gem in China town, and Maz Mezcal Mexican, Bangkok Thai, and Agora Turkish are local Upper East Side staples. Finally, a couple of cocktail spots — Gotham west market is a popular artisan food court on the West Side near the Hudson river (think Pike’s Place in Seattle) – inside, GENUINE Roadside serves food and great cocktails. The Penrose, a hidden treasure on the Upper East Side makes a splendid pickle martini.

Finding food, nature, and art in Chicago

A recent weekend getaway to Chicago, was full of relaxation, exploration and visiting with relatives who I rarely have the opportunity to spend time with.

Most of my time in Chicago was spent in the downtown Loop area. While walking through Millennium Park, I heard a live band playing Frank Sinatra and big band staples, a favorite genre of mine. So, I wandered over to the bandshell and found a party for seniors going on – apparently my age group now…it was a fun time.

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I continued wandering around Lurie Garden, took the BP Pedestrian Bridge to Maggie Daley Park (rock climbing and tennis), walked to Grant Park (Buckingham Fountain), and then walked the Lakefront trail.

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After sitting and watching the sailboats, I walked to Native Foods Café in the Loop for lunch. Whew, that was a bit of a trek.

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Next up: Navy Pier for a relaxing afternoon including a boat tour of the shoreline, taking in the sights from the pier and a short break at Harry Caray’s Tavern to enjoy a beer on the patio and a little reading.

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My niece showed me around her neighborhood, and we spent time chatting and people watching at Chicago Riverwalk.

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We also ventured out to some great cafes and restaurants. My top picks for coffee/tea spots in the Loop are the Goddess and the Baker and Peach and Green, which both also have good food options. As for food, Silver Spoon Thai is a new favorite, along with low key and affordable Flaco’s Tacos, and Naf Naf Grill.

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One afternoon, we went to the wondrous Kerry James Marshall exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. His work depicts everyday scenes from a barber shop, a bedroom, to housing projects in Chicago’s South Side, where he where he has lived and worked since the late 1980s. As we moved through the exhibit the diverse themes were clear. His work is poignant, full of symbology and images that add another layer of meaning to each painting. This is the most excited I’ve been about a living painter in a long, long time. Marshall’s work travels to New York next, the Met Breuer. I’ll be going again.

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My final day was spent with family catching up. Over the past few years I have become more interested in genealogy. This trip was also an opportunity to learn more about my family history, specifically those who came from Eastern Europe, and when they arrived in the USA. Hopefully, I didn’t make my relatives too crazy with all of my questions.

Exploring the coast of Maine by land and sea

DSC05515//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsAfter finishing my master’s and three extended work trips in Africa, a quiet weekend exploring the coast of Maine sounded inviting. Usually weekend getaways come with a list of things to see and do but not in this case. It was a very spontaneous trip. We headed to Portland, ME with the intent of exploring the coast and we did but mainly spent four days in Portland, which is a relaxing, funky and fun harbor town. It’s an interesting mix of fishermen, artists, university students, locals and tourists. When visiting, make sure to also head into the center of town because there are plenty of things to do away from the harbor with far less of a tourist feel. There are plenty of opportunities for boat tours, the twilight lighthouse and island tour is highly recommended.  DSC05510//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

11951813_10153531849146730_3472350113653556864_n//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsFor the shoppers there are a lot of great choices. The Warf is a tourist extravaganza with maple flavored items, blueberry everything – in a good way, local soaps, kitchenware, clothing and more. Walk a few blocks up the hill and there are other local shops worth checking out with toys for kids, housewares and several artisan shops and jewelry stores. Se Vende Imports is a new favorite. For more locals shopping head over to Congress Street for vintage clothing, antiques, bookstores, cafes, restaurants and live music venues. Longfellow bookstore is a new favorite of mine. Walk a few more blocks and there is a massive statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Ferdinand is a great shop for cards, clothing and other trinkets. The owner also has an etsy shop.     One morning we drove up the coast to Camden ME, a small town that is a great place to stop between Portland and Bar Harbor for lunch or to spend the night. One main street packed full of shops – my favorite – Glendarragh Lavender shop.   DSC05572//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We also drove down the coast to Cape Elizabeth, ME, where we stopped at the Portland Headlight lighthouse and Fort Williams park, which also has a small beach and some ruins – great for photographers. Gorgeous views of the water and coastline. DSC05568//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Looking forward to scheduling a trip to Bar Harbor…