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31 Search Results for ""the coffee series""

  • San Francisco on a Budget? San Francisco on a Budget?

    • From: tahoeyoyo
    • Description:

      Like you may have read earlier, I went to San Francisco for my 30th birthday. My goal was to keep meticulous notes and organized receipts, and most of all to keep the trip under $500. And although I think I came pretty close, the reality of being somewhere you don't really know is that all the receipts are crumpled up in my travel journal, and have been there - unorganized - for over 3 months now and will probably always just stay there. That's the reason I haven't written this article yet - it was just way too much work. I recently did go back to the city though. So with new inspiration, I will give you the run-down version...


      When we went in April I booked a deal on Priceline.com's "name your own price" section, and ended up with the Hyatt in Fisherman's Wharf, for $60 a night. Score! I was so happy with my deal that that's what initially sparked my interest in writing a Budget piece. But when we get there (well, even before - I researched), I found out that parking was not included, and that there was no parking to be found anywhere for free in the city. That was such a foreign concept to me being from a mountain town, that I really didn't give any thought to it beforehand. Some people on Yelp.com told me there were a few free spaces at the end of North Point Street, but that their cars always get broken into there. Figures. So we ended up having to pay an additional $45/day for parking (plus valet tip), for a total of about $110 a day - not so much of a deal.

      Although that location was great and we enjoyed walking to the water every morning and eating at the Sunrise Cafe across the street (best breakfast and great prices), this time around we wanted to spend less and be closer to the stadium, as last time we walked EVERYWHERE - from the Wharf to Union Square and back, and then from AT&T park back to the hotel. (That's pretty much like lapping the city... but that's what people do there isn't it? A funny side note to this story is that as we were walking up Powell St, which for those of you who don't know is at like a 25% incline, there were 2 girls infront of us. One was tall and skinny, and the other one was short and not so skinny. I whispered to Erik, "Look babe, even the chunky people here have good asses," as we were amazed at how everyone in SF seems to walk a lot. I was repeating this exact same story at the bar where I work a week later, and I thought no one was listening except my co-worker, but then this guy at the bar busts up laughing and says that was the funniest thing that he has ever heard about his city, because he was from San Francisco. Anyway...)

      So being the Priceline Negotiator-in-training that I am, I hunted down a deal on the 'net. Expedia was having a huge sale and I ended up getting a room at the Best Western Civic Center for $64. (It was priced at $54 the day before, but even after deleting my cookies and browsing history I could not get the same deal). With tax & services it came to $74, but guess what - it included free parking! We were a little skeptical as the area is right in between the "Tenderloin" and "Mission" and we were expecting to have my car get broken into (the signs in the parking lot stating 'Do NOT leave your valuables in your car please!!!' didn't exactly put our minds at ease either), but we just parked next to a nice black Infiniti and everything was AOK. The hotel had a pool which was very clean, the rooms were really nice (old but recently updated and really clean), and the best part was BREAKFAST was also included in the price. This was hands-down THE best breakfast I have ever had at a hotel. I don't know how some people could complain (there were complaints about it online). They had everything you could want short of omelletes and pancakes - hard boiled eggs, cereals, bagels, muffins, fruit, croissants, oatmeal, toast, coffee, milk and OJ. The bright dining room was filled with young middle class couples like ourselves, Euros, and large Asian families - not the druggies and prostitutes you would expect to be somewhere like this. We had a room set back from the road on the inside of the hotel too and it was very quiet - we got a great night's sleep. Definitely the best deal I have found in the city so far!

      The night we arrived was Tuesday, and the last time we were in the city we could not, for the life of us, find this place we like to eat called "Sushi Rock". I had made it my mission to go there this time, so I went online and got their address from their website. We are walking round and round, up and down, trying to find it "on the corner of Polk between Clay and Sacramento" like it says on their website. Erik is insisting it's in Union Square, when I know it isn't. "I got the address from their website!" I insist. After the sweat starts dripping down our backs from walking so much we're both like, "I know we were drunk both times we ate there but this is just way too far. It can't be down here" and we decide to walk back to Chinatown. Coming up Grant Street I look up and see - what else - Sushi Rock. I point to it and Erik screams like a child "I told you it was on Pine! Pine, not Polk!" (which he did not say.) Regardless we are just happy to get there. The funny part is I don't even like sushi - I hate it actually. But for some reason for the past few days I had been craving it. I had also been craving green relish and Baby Ruth candy bars - we were both starting to think I was pregnant, I think. As usual, Sushi Rock was good (if you're wondering by the way, I usually eat the curry or something else here, not the sushi, but this time I got some kind of salmon roll with cream cheese and pink rice paper). We were so hungry and so tired we crammed all the food in our face within 10 minutes. The waitress says "Boy, you guys eat FAST!" and being a waitress myself, I didn't have the heart to yell at her and tell her their website sucks and that we had been walking around for an hour looking for their establishment and now we were going to be late for our game, because I know it isn't her fault at all, and just like me, she probably doesn't care about her customers' agendas. So we paid our check, left a nice tip, and used the bathroom (which the lock is backwards on the door by the way and doesn't work - if you've been here you will get this - who installed that thing?)

      So both times we have travelled here in the past 6 months we have went to baseball games. On my birthday we caught a Giants/A's game which had seats for as little as $5.00 (we sprung for the $50 ones). Erik caught a Randy Winn foul ball - worth the upgrade. This time around we went to first a Tuesday night game, and sat down the third base line, one seat back from that douchebag who caught the in-play ball Randy Winn was trying to catch. He was promptly kicked out of the stadium, and his annoyingly loud friends went with him (thank god). It was really cold but at least it was worth it because the Giants won. Can I just say something about the singing seal? Has anybody ever seen that thing? It's a Photoshopped seal wearing a Giant's cap and sings "We Will Rock You" by Queen up on the stadium screen. Erik couldn't control his laughing at it as it was like the funniest thing he had ever seen. It was so ugly and he just loved it, so I found it on YouTube and put it as a screensave on our computer.

      The next day we decided to go to another game in the Florida series, but in the hours before the 12:45 game we walked allover Union Square trying to return a hat Erik had bought, and then took the approximately 1,000 stairs up from the street to the Coit tower. I was so pissed when we finally got to the top (I am not exaggerating the number of stairs by any means) and there was a small line to go up the tower so Erik didn't want to wait because we might be late for the game. I was pouting and yelling "You did NOT just make me come all the way up these stairs for nothing!" but I got over it quickly. We'll go next time - and use their parking lot which is right next to the tower.

      We missed the batting practice but still got to the game about 20 minutes early. We thought being a mid-week day time game, it wouldn't be busy. Wrong! Attendance was 31,000 or something I think they announced on the loudspeaker? It was crazy. And it was soooo hot in the sun (we had similar seats - 3rd base line row 23) that I almost fainted and had to keep retreating to a seat in the shade. The pitcher they had, Sadowski (I think), just sucked. Ok, I know he's a rookie and all, but that game was not helping his record. I read on the Giants' website "oh he did great, blah blah", and I guess they have to be positive because they own him, but come on! I think he walked like 6 people? By the 5th inning I was yelling "Time to bring in Brian Wilson!" and Erik was like "Uh, it's a little early for that babe", as if I didn't know that they wouldn't bring in a closing pitcher that early. I said, "No, it isn't, 'cause this guy sucks!!" He just chuckled, and I could tell he loved my enthusiasm.

      So we spent $148 total for our tickets for both days, and $8.00 for parking - Erik insisted we park way the hell up in the middle of the Mission so we could save $2.00 on our parking. Next time I told him we are parking on 2nd street.

      After walking all the way back from the stadium again (still like a mile one-way), we were both kind of tired and needed to get back to work in the morning after our future 4-hour drive home that night, so we decided to skip the De Young Museum for now, but keep your eyes peeled here for the next time we go to SF and discover all of Tutankhamen's mysteries...

       

       

      Two Days In The City:
      Gas $60
      Hotel $74
      Dinner $35
      Breakfast FREE
      Stadium Parking $8.00
      Stadium Food $14
      Giants Tickets $148
      Coffee $6.00
      Misc. $10

       

      TOTAL: $ 355

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    • 4 years ago
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  • Mallorca, Spain - a Fascinatin Mallorca, Spain - a Fascinating Vacation Destination

    • From: lees
    • Description:

      Mallorca is another destination that we visited on our Mediterranean cruise. Day 3 found us on the island of Mallorca, Spain, the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands. The island coastline is marked by a series of small caves and beautiful beaches. It is approximately 50 miles wide and 60 miles long and boasts over 250 miles of coastline. Palma also offers everything you are likely to want from big city shopping to sightseeing and amusement. The island has been home of some famous people including George Sand, Frederick Chopin, Archduke Luis Salvador of Austria and most recently, Michael Douglas. In addition to the bustling tourist trade, farming is the chief occupation and the island grows vast amounts of almonds, olives, figs, citrus fruits and grapes for the production of local wines. We docked early in the morning and took a scenic drive along the north coast to the charming resort village of Valldemosa. The morning air was permeated with the aroma of coffee and freshly baked pastries. The outdoor cafes were filled with locals reading their morning newspapers while shopkeepers opened their doors to welcome the public. The pace of the town can best be described as laid back. Shopping opportunities were plentiful and included local wines and brandies, Spanish linens, artwork, and of course Mallorca pearls. Stores ranged from inexpensive souvenir shops to the "I wish I'd hit the lottery" designer boutiques. Valldemosa was a new experience for us and the atmosphere really captured our senses. It was a study in contrasts; a mixture of medieval structures dating from the 17th century to modern architecture. It is easy to see why it is one of Europe's favorite summer resort towns. We could envision ourselves spending several weeks there, exploring the various shops, restaurants and surrounding countryside. Is a return trip to Valldemosa in our plans? Most definitely! From Valldemosa we continued on to a 700 year old winery where we tasted the local vintages and toured the owner's private home that was decorated with beautiful antiques and rich tapestries. We ended the day at the port city of Palma, a metropolis bustling with upscale shopping and a beautiful yacht harbor.

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    • 4 years ago
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  • Cortado, dCafe, Barcelona Cortado, dCafe, Barcelona

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      A pretty good cortado at a small cafe near my apt. rental in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona.  If memory serves, I think it was called dCafe, and it had the feel of a family-owned place.  I saw the same folks behind the bar every morning...

      The cortado was the espresso drink of choice in Barcelona-- you can get a caffe, which is just a straight shot of espresso-- but the cortado was less bitter and seemed to be the standard choice of folks on their way to work.  I searched the city pretty widely for top-notch espresso, but the Spanish seem less finicky about their espresso than the best places in San Fran, New York City, or Seattle, for example.  Which is not to say it's bad espresso; In Barcelona cafes prepared espresso very competently, and they didn't dump syrup and tons of milk on it like Americans do, but  the whole experience was more utilitarian than you'd find at the new fussy shops in the big cities of the U.S.  For the record, I like those fussy shops, and think the espresso they are making is superior...

      A last word on this cortado: I'm a big fan of the small piece of chocolate on the side.  Most of the cafes I visited in Barcelona served something small and sweet with the drink-- a piece of good chocolate or a small cookie/biscotti-type complement.

    • 5 years ago
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  • Machiatto, Funnel Mill, Los An Machiatto, Funnel Mill, Los Angeles

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      A painstakingly made machiatto at Funnel Mill in Los Angeles.  It literally consumed 5 minutes of the barista's time to make this espresso drink, but it was worth it. It's a more traditional machiatto than you see in many really good San Francisco cafes (like Ritual or Blue Bottle), just a short pull of espresso and unadorned milk-froth lying on top. I came back two times on a visit to L.A. for business months ago.

      Funnel Mill isn't too far from the Third Street Promenade, so it's within striking distance if you're in Santa Monica lazing around on the piers. A few tables are thrown out front, in the event the weather's warm, but there's not much to see...

    • 5 years ago
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  • Machiatto, Gimme! Coffee, New Machiatto, Gimme! Coffee, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      The machiatto itself, on the counter at Gimme! Coffee in New York City's uber-upscale Soho neighborhood. To see more on this cafe, and others in New York City and beyond, use the search function on your homepage--you can really search from almost all pages--and look for "the coffee series" (put the seaarch term in quotes).  You'll get a bunch of stuff, but most of it will be from my coffee roamings. You can usually tell pretty quickly when it's not from my series...

    • 5 years ago
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  • Barista, Gimme! Coffee, New Yo Barista, Gimme! Coffee, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      The barista finishing my machiatto at Gimme! Coffee, in New York City's Soho neighborhood.  A machiatto is basically just espresso with a (very) little bit of foamy milk.  At Gimme! Coffee, and at other great New York cafes like Joe, the espresso shots are super-concentrated (sometimes called 'ristretto' or just 'short' shots) and the foam is used pretty sparingly.

      Just before this barista finished, she settled out the milk from the foam (tapping the container on the counter apparently speeds the efforts; I've seen baristas do this everywhere)-- and she also spent a few seconds settling the espresso itself, swirling it in the cup for a second and gently tapping the cup on the counter.  I know it sounds pretentious, but it's good. Really good. These baristas really know what they're doing.

    • 5 years ago
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  • Inside Gimme! Coffee, New York Inside Gimme! Coffee, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      The inside of Gimme! Coffee in Soho, New York City.  It's counter-service only-- you can take your espresso to go, or drink it standing up at the bar.  I always order it to stay, and drink it before it cools.  This set-up reminds me of the typical espresso counters in Rome, where I've often seen 10 people crowded around a tight little bar having a morning espresso before work.  I wish shops like this were as ubiquitous in New York as they are in Italy.

       

    • 5 years ago
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  • Gimme! Coffee, Soho, New York Gimme! Coffee, Soho, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      The storefront of Gimme! Coffee, in Soho, New York City-- just a bit south of Houston.  Notice that the awning says 'Roasting | Espresso'.  The espresso drinks are fantastic, but I can't vouch for the coffee.  Get a machiatto or a cortado to stay at the bar. 

    • 5 years ago
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  • Inside Arabica Coffee Co., Por Inside Arabica Coffee Co., Portland Maine

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      The inside of Arabica, a cafe in downtown Portland, Maine-- the vibe is friendly and relaxing and the staff knows coffee.  Grab a newspaper from the independent bookstore down the street, order a machiatto to stay, and fall asleep in the big windows at the front of the store.

    • 5 years ago
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  • Mocha, Gimme! Coffee, New York Mocha, Gimme! Coffee, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      A Mocha from Gimme! Coffee, in New York City.  The Gimme! mini-chain operates two stores in New York, but the only one that's easily reached is in Soho, on Mott Street a few blocks south of Houston. 

      I'm not a fan of mochas-- they're too sweet for me-- but if you think a machiatto or a cortado is too bitter, you might start with this. 

      There are an increasing number of really good coffee stops in New York City. If you can't make your way to Gimme!, then try larger mini-chain Joe, which just opened its fifth branch on the Upper West Side at 84th Street, not far from the Museum of Natural History.

       

    • 5 years ago
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  • Machiatto, Arabica Coffee Co., Machiatto, Arabica Coffee Co., Portland Maine

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      More from the coffee series. This is a very good machiatto from the Arabica cafe in Portland, Maine.  I've had better drinks in San Francisco and New York City, but this stands up very well and is worth the trip to downtown Portland.

      I visited three or four times during my last stay in Portland, and found the espresso drinks to be consistent-- plus, the cafe is well run, the barristas are friendly (and actually care about the coffee), and the vibe is relaxing.  Grab a paper from the bookstore just down the street and waste a few hours.

    • 5 years ago
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  • Paris in (almost) springtime Paris in (almost) springtime

    • From: abalaura
    • Description:

      I spent the last week of March in Paris for work -- here are some of the photos that I took along the way.

       

      The red-eye flight dumped me out at Charles de Gaulle airport at 11am and left me sleep deprived and loopy. By the time that I made it to my hotel, had a baguette sandwich and coffee, and met a friend to catch the Andy Warhol exhibition at le Grand Palais, I was really loopy. But the exhibition was fantastic! When we left the gallery, we walked toward les Invalides and crossed the Seine just as the sun was beginning to set. Here, you can see how tired, but still ridiculously content I am to be there: me over the Seine


      Seine at sunsetStatue over the Seine 

       

      I went a little overboard with photos at this moment, so I'll spare you the rest. The next day I stopped by the Musée de l'Orangerie, a museum in the Jardin des Tuileries, by the Louvre -- it was designed to hold Monet's gigantic Waterlily series -- eight huge canvases of slightly abstracted canvases filled with waterlilies and scenes of his gardens in Giverny that were meant to envelop the viewer. The experience is rather extraordinary, and gave me a newfound appreciation for his work that I'd, for a longtime, dismissed as a tired cliché best suited for a fridge magnet. (Full confession, I actually bought one on the way out.)

      Musée de l'Orangerie

      IMG_0923.JPG

      I started looking more closely at the canvases and started taking photos of parts that particularly intrigued me. waterlily close up

      Musée de l'OrangerieAnd I loved noticing how the composition of Japanese landscape paintings influenced Monet... - He's not afraid of using negative space and placing subject matter off-center, sometimes even cutting it off:Monet's waterlilies

      Though that might have been me cutting off the bottom of the image you see here on your right--my camera couldn't take it all in!

       

       

       

       

       

      Jardin des Tuilieries

      Musée de l'OrangerieWhen we tumbled out of the Musée de l'Orangerie, we had all of the Jardin des Tuileries to admire. And look here! This guy's reading the newspaper! As though there weren't the most amazing view of the Louvre and fantastic people-watching opportunities right in front of him!

       

      After taking the photo of Mr. Oblivious, I turned around and realized that the city had plunked down a giant Richard Serra in the Tuileries -- arranged to line up exactly with the obelisk of La Concorde, bien sûr:

      Richard Serra in the Tuileries

       

      Canal St. Martin

      We followed les Tuileries with a stroll down Canal St. Martin. They weren't near to each other, but it was a beautiful day, and it needed to be taken advantage of.



      Canal St. Martin

      IMG_0964.JPG

      To my left is a trompe l'oeil painted onto the side of a building along the Canal St. Martin. Below is one of the tile tags from French graffiti artist Space Invader:

      I [Space Invader] Paris!





      Later on in the week I had to stop by a tea shop by the name of Les Frères Mariage because a friend of mine had requested that I pick up two kinds of loose tea for her. I was glad for the errand because I'd never stepped into the tea salon before. I fell in love! Paris is full of lovely tea salons, but this one was particularly charming -- and historic! The front room was lined from floor to ceiling with tin canisters of different blends of loose tea and the hardwood floors, large and worn, softly creaked at my footsteps. The men serving tea behind the counter were dressed in dark suits; I was prepared for snooty attitudes but instead received patient, courteous service. And a small small when I asked to take pictures. "C'est si beau!" was my excuse. 

      Frères Mariages salon de thé

      Frères Mariages salon de thé


       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Frères Mariages salon de thé

      Frères Mariages salon de thé

       

       

       

       

       

       

      The tea salon even had a mini tea museum on the second floor to display old labels, canisters, packaging, teapots, and photos from the 1800s, when China first opened to trade.

       

      Frères Mariages salon de thé

      Frères Mariages salon de théFrères Mariages salon de thé

      Sacre Coeur

      The day I wandered up to Montmartre, the sky turned progressively foggier until the entire city looked cloaked in mist. So much for the view! At least the fog framed Sacre Coeur well. 

       

       

       

       

       

      Notre Dame CathedralNotre Dame Cathedral

       

      I was rushing off somewhere -- I think to the Louvre -- when I walked past the Notre Dame Cathedral and it occurred to me, well, just because everyone else was taking pictures of it, that isn't a good enough excuse not to take a picture myself. After all, it is lovely. Again, the weather was AWESOME(ly foggy and overcast). I heard that as soon as I left it turned sunny and warm. Typical, non

       

      Notre Dame Cathedral

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      The last time I was in Paris the musée des arts decoratifs was under renovation. This time I made sure to check it out and fell in love with the small but well curated displays highlighting French designers through the different styles of the ages, from the Middle Ages to today. musée des arts decoratifs

       

      One unexpected treat was a view of the rest of Paris through a small window in one of the rooms in this  former Louvre palace: 

      Paris skyline

       

       

       

       

       

      musée des arts decoratifs

      La fin!

    • Blog post
    • 5 years ago
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  • Machiatto, Gimme! Coffee, New Machiatto, Gimme! Coffee, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      Another machiatto worth trying in New York City-- the machiatto at Gimme! Coffee, a small chain out of Ithaca, New York, with two shops in the big city.  The shop in SOHO (on Mott Street just a bit south of Houston Street) is more accessible for visitors. The other Gimme! is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and you really have to know your way around to find it.

      I've written about New York City mini-chain Joe, and I still rate their drinks a little higher than the fare at Gimme!  This Gimme! machiatto, for example, was just a little too bitter for my taste, though the milky foam provided a pretty good mellowing effect throughout the drink.

      A word to the wise: Don't drink the coffee at places like this (it's good, but not outstanding). Try a machiatto or a cappuccino-- or, if you must have something sweeter, a mocha-- and drink it standing up, and before it gets lukewarm.

      New York City is undergoing something of a coffee renaissance these days, so I'll try to get more photos from new places soon.

    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 712
  • My Staycation in Lower Alabama My Staycation in Lower Alabama

    • From: hmhickox
    • Description:

       

      OK, times are tough, and we all have to pinch the penny a little tighter.  If most of you are like me, my travel budget for the near future is looking pretty lean.  And, since my real estate skills are obviously not in high demand in this crazy market, I have a little more time on my hands than usual.  So,I wrote a couple of short travel journals about our big trip to Europe this summer, and who knew it would be so much fun?  I don’t just mean the actual travel, but also about writing about travel.  I have always loved to see new places.  I love to go sightseeing.  I love to find great travel deals.  I get a thrill from finding a 5 star hotel at a 3 star price.  I am a self-declared expert at making the most of sky miles and hotel reward points.  I have a few trips that go down in our Family Vacation Hall of Fame.   Now, I have the added enjoyment of writing about those experiences, as well as reading those of fellow travelers.  This being said, it brings me back to the part about the lean travel budget.  What is a travel lover to do?  Well, I am trying to embrace the supposedly new concept of a staycation, a word born of this economy.

       

      What Exactly Is A Staycation??? 

      A staycation seems to be all about enjoying things close to home…relaxing around the house or taking day trips—all without breaking the bank (Wall Street took care of that).  This is where I really have an advantage… I live in Fairhope, Alabama.  I guess I’ve been doing unstructured staycations for years and didn’t know it.

       

      Where Exactly is Fairhope, Alabama??? 

      Fairhope is in Lower Alabama, or L.A. as we like to say (tongue in cheek), and sits on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.  We are actually polar opposites from the Hollywood L.A., and all in good ways.  You may not have heard about us, but that’s OK…we don’t have an identity crisis.  Those who know us love us.  There are plenty of stars around here, but they only show up on clear nights over Mobile Bay.  It’s a sight that never gets old.   I love being near the water.  I should say, I NEED to be near the water.  It isn’t a choice. My daughter has inherited this same need.  We are like the sea turtles that are born on land, but have to make their way to the water to survive.  Not any water will do, either.  It has to be BIG water…long vistas, sweeping views.   Fairhope fills this requirement nicely.  The stately live oaks draped with Spanish moss, good food, and friendly folk are all just gravy, which is something we know a lot about in the South.  But Fairhope is so much more than just grits and gravy, y’all.

       

      DSC02987.JPGFairhope was founded in 1894 as a utopian single tax colony by a group from Iowa.  I’ve been to Iowa in the winter, and I understand the part about wanting to get away from that, but I’m not even going to try and explain the single tax colony part.  (http://www.fairhopesingletax.com ) They were certainly planners, these people from Iowa, and left us with a beautiful downtown, which is now full of quaint shops, galleries, cozy cafes, and lots and lots of flowers.  I’ve heard Fairhope referred to as a resort town, which makes it a great starting point for a staycation in Lower Alabama.

       

      What To Do On A Staycation in L.A.? 

      Depending on who you talk to, the exact boundaries of our L.A. could vary, but I think we would all agree that it lies south of Interstate 10.  Since I don’t really think a staycation has clear cut parameters either, I’m going to create my own.   I’ll outline what my ideal Lower Alabama version would be, which involves a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  I’ll break it down day by day.  This way, when your budget permits, you could convert my staycation itinerary into your long weekend getaway.

       

      Friday  

      Sleep in.  Have a light breakfast at home.  Then head to downtown Fairhope to Panini Pete’s for lunch (http://www.paninipetes.com ).  This little eatery was recently featured on the Food Network, and for good reason.   Once you eat the Roast Turkey Panini, your taste buds will never be the same.  Yum.  You can order it with a side of frites, which are skinny little seasoned fries.  Then, walk it off downtown.  Make sure and DSC02998.JPGstop in the shops and art galleries to see what’s new.  When you’re ready for a little respite, grab an ice cream or frozen yogurt from Mr. Gene’s Beans and make your way down to the Fairhope Municipal Pier.  Settle in on one of the many benches and watch the goings-on at this bay front park. 

       

      Next, take a short drive down Scenic  98 to the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort  (http://www.marriott.com). Now, you simply cannot talk about the Fairhope area without mentioning “The Grand,” as we call it around here.  It would be akin to having a family reunion and forgetting to invite your mama.  Unthinkable.   To experience true, gracious Southern hospitality in an idyllic setting on the bay, this is a must-do item.  I think I’ll splurge and cash in some of my Marriott Reward points and stay the night.  I’m not sure if this little detour bumps my weekend out of the staycation category, but this is my own version, so I’m going with it.  Stop in for a casual dinner at the resort’s Saltwater Grill, and then move outside to one of the waterfront swings to watch the sunset on the bay.  I always feel like I’ve been on vacation after a visit to “The Grand.”

       

      Saturday  

      Sleep in.  Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.  Explore the grounds until check-out time (for the benefit of you golfers, you could skip the sleep- in portion of the morning, and play a round of golf at one of several courses in the area).   Swing back by the house for lawn chairs, umbrella, and bathing suits…this is beach day…whoo hoo!!  Don’t forget to pack the cooler with plenty of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks.  DSC00023.JPGHead south for approx. 45 minutes to the white sandy beaches and warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Yes, we do have white sandy beaches in Alabama—remember, we’re next door neighbors to Florida.  There are a number of Alabama State Park access points along the beach where you can park for free.  These are equipped with restroom facilities and outdoor showers, but the new Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion is a little more full service.  For a nominal entrance fee, you have access to picnic tables, airDSC02168.JPG conditioned bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, and a seasonal concession stand.  Not only that, it looks pretty cool as well.  My daughter took this photo a couple of weeks ago when we were down for my sister's birthday.

       

        http://www.alapark.com/GulfState/  

       

      After a full afternoon of fun in the sun, stop by LuLu’s at Homeport Marina on your way home for a bite to eat.  This quirky establishment on the Intracoastal Waterway is owned by Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett’s sister (we embrace quirky in L.A.).  LuLu’s is mostly an open air restaurant/bar/entertainment venue etc., so your “just off the beach” attire will be just fine.  It’s really hard to explain all that is LuLu’s, but there’s always something going on, and it’s always a good time.  Lucy describes it on her website as “… a great escape, a great family spot. We’re all about good food, good folks, good music, and good times.” There you have it…a great ending to “beach day.”   Check out their website before you go. http://lulusathomeport.com/

       

      Sunday 

      Sleep in (are you detecting a pattern here?).  So far, we’ve included some culture, shopping,  R&R, and beach time.  Now it’s time for some history.  After a relaxing morning with a cup of coffee and the paper, we’re headed over to the Causeway to visit the Battleship Memorial Park.  First, I’ll explain the Causeway.  It is, as the name suggests, a series of strips of land connected by bridges across Mobile Bay.  It was, at one time, the only way to get across the bay.  Then the I-10 bridge was built, which we now call the Bayway.   The Causeway sits mostly south of the Bayway (remember, that’s I-10), so it still qualifies for our staycation. Now to the park--the USS Alabama Battleship is the main attraction at the 175-acre park, but there is also a submarine, the USS Drum, an aircraft collection, and an assortment of other military equipment.  According to the website, the USS Alabama saw 37 months of active duty in WWII.  It was saved from the scrapping yard in 1964, and opened to the public in 1965  (http://ussalablama.com ).  I now have a confession to make:  We have been back in Lower Alabama for over 3 years, and I have yet to take my kids to see the Battleship.  Ouch.  Inexcusable.  Well, one great benefit of a staycation is that it makes you take a fresh look at the local gems that are right under your nose.  I will be happy to remedy this situation. 

       

      After spending several hours working up an appetite at the Battleship Memorial Park, you are nicely positioned for dinner.  Another unique feature of the Causeway is the number of local seafood restaurants located there, most notably, Felix’s Fish Camp (http://felixsfishcamp.com), and Original Oyster House (http://originaloysterhouse.com ).  Felix’s view is more southerly oriented on the bay, while Original Oyster House faces the northern Delta region of the bay.  As you can see, I’m real big on maximizing the view.  You won’t go wrong with either one, but whichever you choose, you need to order an appetizer of fried Blue Crab claws—not to be confused with the big Alaskan king crab legs.  This is a local specialty.IMG_3524.JPG Having seafood on the Causeway on a Sunday afternoon is certainly a Lower Alabama tradition, and a great way to wind down a long staycation weekend.  This is the part where I sigh as the sun goes down, and think how lucky I am to live in L.A.

       

       It seems that just as I have been extolling the virtues of Lower Alabama, Forbes.com has been doing the same thing.  They love to make lists and rank everything, and our local paper ran a story just this morning that our area made one of those lists.  The Eastern Shore area (all in L.A.) is considered to be the 4th best small town in which to weather an economic recession.  Boy, do I hope they are right.  Maybe I’ll be back flying those friendly skies sooner than I thought.  Well, until then, I have the ultimate Lower Alabama staycation planned, and I can’t wait to take it.  Hope to see you down here soon.   

        

      Heather Hickox

       

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 2839
  • SB08: Adriatic Adventure ... o SB08: Adriatic Adventure ... or Paunchy and Weedy do Sarajevo

    • From: kristenkay28
    • Description:

      When I was in junior high and high school reading about massacres in Kosovo or the bombing of Sarajevo, it seemed inconceivable that soon I would be bumming around the former Yugoslavia myself.
      The Balkan Amsterdam
      Bum seems to be the operative word, too. Several times I was mistaken for a homeless person, usually in conjunction with spending the night in such lovely places as the benches in front of the Ljubljana train station or the floor of the Bucharest Banasa Airport. Another night, we stayed in a prison. It was a significant step up from the train station the night before.

      Ljubljana, Slovenia was a gem of a city, gleaming and like Amsterdam without all the tourists, with mountains instead of marijuana. We took the train there from Venice, thinking the train would leave at 2 am and arrive at 7, but instead it left at 10 pm and arrived at 2 am. We tried to find lodgings but soon gave up and settled into park benches, then later found the one non-locked place in the train station was the baggage room. Some Slovenian guys joined us almost immediately, though, and snored loudly. They were kind of my heroes for being able to sleep so hard despite it being 5 degrees C and the floor of a train baggage room.

      Ljubljana in bloomA couple days later, we took a train from Ljubljana to Zagreb, Croatia, where we had a sunset picnic in the park across from the train station. Among the tulips, we dined on fruit salad and a traditional Slovenian bread, which happens to be just like Romania's special bread. Then, on to Bosnia via overnight train. Being impoverished PCVs, we did not get the sleeper compartment and instead contorted in our seats all night, or in Matt's case, the floor. At least by 10 pm, we had driven off the other two people in the compartment.

      We arrived in Sarajevo shortly after sunrise. A man from the hostel was waiting with a car should guests happen to arrive. He delivered us to the hostel headquarters, where we were served strong Bosnian coffee in little metal cups and then drove us up the hill — so steep the tires were spinning — to where we would be staying. Our rooms overlooked the city from the Muslim section of town. Just below us was a cemetery entirely of Muslim Bosnian soldiers killed during the siege of 1992-95. Some of the graves were newly dug so not sure where those soldiers had been buried before.

      While the city woke up, we oriented ourselves and found breakfast. Matt got some bad ideas in Sarajevo, proclaiming, "You shall be my harem. Molly is my first wife, but if she displeases me, Kristen shall take her position. Tatiana, you're No. 3. Now I need a dagger to protect the honor of my women." Matt said he was intimidated about traveling with three women and, indeed, we did give him a time of it. For example, Tatiana and I wrote and performed 2 songs for Matt, "Matt, You Got It Going On" and "If You Want Me To, Matt." Matt decidScars of the Balkan war in Sarajevoed to respond with poetry, a series of laments told by the perspective of men in my life. He's not so witty as we are, though, so only managed one. In it, my ex in Kodiak thinks of me as a "bear of a woman" whom he must appease with fresh meat.

      We took a tour with some Canadians to learn about the civil war. Our Bosnian guide took us past the Holiday Inn that housed the journalists during the war and along the front lines of the conflict. Many buildings are still riddled with holes from the violence. Then we went into the hills above the city to the Serbian canton. We started at a museum. It is a family home that marked the end of the trenches and the head of the tunnel soldiers dug under the UN-controlled/ Serbian-sniped airport to bring food and weapons into Sarajevo held under siege.

      The tunnels were fine if you're my height and don't mind 25 km of wet feet as the tunnel flooded constantly. Matt had to crouch over the whole time. We also tested out one of the women-size packs, 28 km, or half the weight of the men's. I managed to get it just off the ground. Matt could get it on but hardly walk. Of course we didn't have the added motivation of our family starving to death if we didn't get the pack through the tunnel. We also watched video of the Serbian army shelling the city, shooting mortars at anything moving. We watched the library with its 500-year-old collection of books burn. It's still in ruins.

      We asked the director of the museum how the war is taught in schools and he said, "Depending on who you ask, you get three different histories, so childen learn in school history to 1992. At home, they learn how to hate." He said kids are separated at schools, much like Romanians and Hungarians in Balan. And yes, they do sneer at each other in Romanian, too. Yay, the Balkans.

      We next went into the mountains to sites from the 1984 Olympics. Climbing on the bobsled course, or what's left of it after the mountain was occupied by the Serbs, we had a beautiful overview of the city. Our guide, Mustafa, said it's hard giving these tours as it means constantly reliving the war years. "It's hard for you to imagine what it was like. It was Hell." He pointed out the new cemeteries that sprang up as a result of the war. Mustafa is bitter about how long the world waited to help the city. Once NATO stepped in, the years-old siege ended in a week. Meanwhile, 11,000 people had died.

      Having just been at the Legion Bridge where the Archduke Francis Ferdinand was shot setting of WWI, we had the geopolitical ramifications of involvement in Balkan conflicts on our minds but bit our tongues instead of bringing up the possibility of Russia taking up for the Serbs, etc. On the other hand, none of that happened so it seems like way too much prevaricating when people were dying.

      We were going to go up farther but had to turn around because of landmines. That was a first for us, having to worry about landmines. Instead we turned back around for dinner with the Calgarians. It was billed as a traditional Bosnian dish, so we had to laugh when it turned out to be sarmale, Romania's national dish, too. And Greece's and Turkey's and probably the rest of the Balkan's, too.

      By sunset, as the Muslim call to prayer sounded, we tucked in for the night as we were getting up at 5 for the next leg of the journey. We caught the bus to Dubrovnik, Croatia. The first half was lovely. The Bosnian mountains are incredible. Lush and cut through by a cloudy blue-green river. There a mosque, there a Catholic church, there an Orthodox chapel. Bosnian mountains

      After Mostar, the scenery was significantly less lush. Assorted olive trees were about all that grew on the sunbaked, rocky landscape. We crossed into Croatia again and eventually arrived in Dubrovnik. This coastal city is famous for its Old Town. The place reminded me a lot of Malta, and sure enough, I saw a Maltese cross on one of the churches.

      We stayed within the fortified walls, near the medieval fountain from which we got our drinking water. We ate seafood and wandered the labrynth that was the city's streets. After Turkish … no wait, Bosnian … no, wait, Croatia coffee (it's all the same) and hot chocolate, we went to a candlelight quartet concert in the chapel of an ancient monestary. We were in the front row, so close that we could read the music over the shoulder of the cellist.

      The next day, I sat at the fountain working on my travel journal and watching the cruise ship tourists get orientated. It was so the inverse of how we were traveling that it was funny to watch. Then we all went off to nearby Lokrum Island. We climbed up to the hilltop fort and than swam, first in the Adriatic and then in a saltwater lake. The island was swarming with peacocks, and it was interesting to hear their screams. Matt and I were sharing the fantastic book "Balkan Ghosts" by Robert Kaplan. He read aloud to Molly and I while we lolled on the docks in the soft evening sun.

      Enjoying the Adriatic at DubrovnikThe next day, we headed to Split, Croatia. To get there, we had to go through Bosnia. It was a lot of passport checking. For some reason, the trip took an extra hour and a half. We picked up a lot of people along the roadside, to the point that there weren't enough seats. So pretty much we could have been in Romania had the road been less windy and the bus in worse condition. Maybe a few chickens.

      The main attraction in Split is the Dioclecian palace. The son of Croatian slaves, he went on to become a Roman emperor. He persecuted Christians so they turned his mosoleum into a church. His palace is now the Old Town as it's so huge.

      We sailed that night with the ferry to Ancona, Italy. We were among the first aboard so found seats. Ah, living the high life. By 5, some Italians had roused and were making a dreadful din.

      From Ancona, we took a train and then another to Venice. We had about 3 hours to see Venice. Since we ended up lost at first, we had about enough time to hurridly weave our way through the maze that is Venice's streets, snap a picture in San Marco Square and then rush back.

      We prayed for some sort of plane malfunction to delay for however long possible are departure from Italy, or more to the point, to delay our return to Romania and our jobs. Matt remarked that it hit him on the plane how fundamentally, soul-deep wrong it felt to go back. Our vacation just ended far too soon, and we were in no way ready to get back to work or to leave behind the marvels of modern plumbing and civilized interaction.A fine spot in Croatia

      We got back and had to hang at the tiny airport waiting for 5 hours before it was about time to catch our train from Gara de Nord. Romanians would stand over us sprawled on the floor and make disparaging remarks. If there had actually been seats available, we would have been in them, but no, all 25 were taken. Also in the airport, a stray, crippled dog wandered in, sniffed Matt and curled up at his head. Matt slept through it, though.

      It seemed fitting that we would end as we had begun: roughing it.

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 1468
  • machiatto, Joe cafe, New York machiatto, Joe cafe, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      Another perfectly made machiatto at Joe cafe, in New York City. I still haven't made my way to Gimme! Coffee on Mott Street, though my friends at Joe say it's amazing. I'll report back on other machiatto, cappuccino, and latte options in the city soon.

      UPDATE: I've been to Gimme! Coffee since this posting, and still find Joe to be the best espresso drinks in the city. Gimme! is very, very good, though, and if you're in Soho you should drop by Gimme! and try a machiatto to stay.  I love the set-up in the Soho shop-- it's pretty much just counter space, so it feels like an Italian coffee experience to me.

    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 1366
  • Joe cafe, Waverly Place, New Y Joe cafe, Waverly Place, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      Joe cafe on Waverly in New York City, in the heart of the West Village. Try a macchiatto or a cappuccino, and drink it while it's warm.

    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 6891
  • Cappuccino, Joe cafe in New Yo Cappuccino, Joe cafe in New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      A cappuccino from Joe cafe in New York City. For my money, Joe cafe is one of the best coffee ships in the city, which is experiencing something of a coffee revolution. It used to be hard to find a good espresso/machiatto/cappuccino/latte in town, but there are now four Joe cafes, a very solid coffee-drink maker called Cafe Grumpy in the West Village (and Greenpoint, Brookyln), and Gimme! Coffee on Mott street just below Houston street. Still looking...

    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 999
    • Not yet rated
  • Cappuccino, Joe cafe, New York Cappuccino, Joe cafe, New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      A small cappuccino from one of the best coffee stops in New York City: Joe. As I mention in a previous photo description (Title: Machiatto, Joe New York City), there are four Joe cafes in the city.

      UPDATE: There are now five cafes in the Joe mini-empire. The last shop was added a few days ago (April, 2009) at 84th Street and Columbus Avenue, not far from the Museum of Natural History.  I've not been to the new store, but I've been to the other four, and so far the growth of the chain hasn't compromised the quality of the espresso drinks.

    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 2040
    • Not yet rated
  • Machiatto, Joe New York City Machiatto, Joe New York City

    • From: steve778
    • Description:

      A machiatto from one of New York City's best coffee cafes, Joe. Joe has four branches, on Waverly in the West Village, on 13th Street, on 23rd street in Chelsea (where I took this photo), and in Grand Central station. If you're in Grand Central, ask a shopkeeper where it is-- they are likely to know.

      UPDATE: A fifth shop was added in April 2009 on the Upper West Side, at 84th and Columbus.

    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 659
    • Not yet rated
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