California Trip: San Fran & Oakland

Happy Thursday! Looking forward to a wine tasting tonight with some friends. It’s almost the weekend and we’re in a celebratory mood. But first, let’s wrap up my visit to Cali. I’ve summed up our drive south and our drive north, but what about my time IN the bay? Here we go, my dears.

Unfortunately, I don’t have too many pictures of my time in the cities. We were too busy chatting and running around from place to place that I didn’t spend time lining up for decent shots. So here is a brief summary:

Berkeley: My first night there, we went to a chic dinner at Chez Panisse. Highly, highly recommend. The food was so fresh. The whole street, known as the Gourmet Ghetto, is dotted with eateries run by acclaimed chefs, so I think I need to find my way back there again real soon.

Oakland: My friend lives here so I really got to experience some of the highlights this city across the bay has to offer. It is awesome! It’s totally up & coming and not at all touristy. I recommend visiting Oakland if you are traveling to the bay area. While it’s definitely on the up and up, gentrification has its downsides (less diversity, more expensive, etc) and it will be interesting to see how that affects the environment in Oakland. All I can say is right now is a great time to go…

Oakland, CA

especially with all the trees flowering – so pretty! As for what we did, we (seriously) enjoyed chicken & waffles at none other than the Home of Chicken and Waffle, basically an Oakland landmark…

Chicken and Waffles

and it was surprisingly delicious and, not surprisingly, SUPER filling. We also walked around the quaint Jack London Square, grabbed scrumptious macarons at Miette, got foot rubs while drinking tea at the Foot Spa and Tea Bar, strolled the three mile loop around Lake Merritt (twice!)…

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

poked into the shops in Rockridge, ate our weight in cheese from the Sacred Wheel cheese shop and feasted at Burma Superstar for a flavorful dinner and Cock-A-Doodle for a hungover brunch. Basically, it’s the best. I loved all the places we checked out and would recommend them to all my friends.

San Francisco: Well, obviously. I love this city so much. We had done a lot of the tourist attractions the other times I visited (visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, drinks in the Marina, shopping in Union Square and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge), so this visit was more focused on hanging out with friends. I did convince Marisa to ride the cablecar with me from Powell to Hyde and that was really fun. It passed a lot of the attractions that SF is famous for. Beyond that, we checked out Golden Gate Park, took in the views from the tower at De Young

San Francisco, CA

ate made-to-order sandwiches and teensy treats (that’s what their bitty desserts were called!) from Andronico’s, laughed and gabbed our way through a Peruvian dinner at Limon in the Mission, followed by drinks at pub-style Elixir and dance-y Beauty Bar. It was GREAT. Again, I’d go back to any of these places and gladly recommend visitors to check them out.

And finally, I don’t know what I’d do without these two…

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CAThese are friends I’m so lucky to have, especially now that we’re all living on the west coast. It was just like old times, but in a new place. Sometimes familiar faces (and a little bit of sunshine) are all you need to pull yourself together and say, “Okay, we can do this.” This is pretty much everything going on in my unsettled life right now. That’s all going to change soon.

I came back to Portland refreshed and relaxed. That’s the point of vacations, right? Thank you, California!

xxx

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California Trip: Redwoods & Wineries

Happy Wednesday all! I’m feeling better and this week is looking up. Way up. Woo hoo!

So, yesterday I shared the coastal part of my trip to Cali, today is the next installment when we drove north from the bay. Our first stop was Guerneville, a somewhat remote town on the edge of some majestic redwood forests. It’s a tiny one-street “downtown”, perfect for stopping and stretching your legs.

Then we headed into the woods. We explored nearby Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. The thing about redwoods, if you didn’t know, is that they’re really tall. Like 300 feet tall. And they’re really old. Like 1,300 years old. This is what we saw as we walked among the giants…

Armstrong Redwoods

Armstrong RedwoodsArmstrong Redwoods

Pictures really don’t do them justice. They be huge. And reserve itself is really nice and close enough to the bay that you can get your redwood fill without having to drive four hours up to the national park. (Though I still want to visit there sometime.)

After a morning “hike” through the reserve, we obviously needed refreshments and headed into wine country. Not far away in the Russian River Valley, was a stretch of small, adorable wineries along a country road called Westside. We stopped at Matrix (which does not distribute) and tried maybe 8-10 wines for only 5 bucks! Try finding that kind of deal over in Napa. Traveler Tip: Want to experience the vineyards without all the hype (or the traffic)? Check out the options in the Russian River Valley. They are much more low key. I definitely suggest it to fellow wine lovers out there!

After that grueling morning, we realized we were becoming hangry. So we drove over to Calistoga, a sweet town at the north end of the Napa county, for lunch. Stopped into Checkers for some hearty salads and then continued merrily on our way down the Silverado Trail through all those lovely vineyards. Traveler Tip: The Silverado Trail runs parallel to the main drag through Napa, Route 29, but is much less congested. Highly recommend if you just want to drive through Napa and take in the scenery, but not necessarily visit the heavy hitters like Sterling or Robert Modavi (you’d have to get on 29 for them). These were our views…

Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley, CaliforniaWe finished out the day in Sonoma. Traveler Tip: Sonoma is the underdog of Napa Valley. Don’t get me wrong, I love the glamour of Napa and Yountville from my last visit, but with that comes higher prices and more people. This was a different experience and maybe that’s because of the time of year too. February isn’t as hot a ticket as September. I guess I’ll have to go back again to be sure. Anyway, it took a bit of effort to climb over the ridge to get to Sonoma, but it was so worth it. I’m definitely making it a priority the next time I’m in the valley. Such a pretty town, with a cute main square and lots of little boutiques and wine bars. I only managed to get this shot of the sunset over the trees…

Sonoma, California

The sky looked like, I don’t know, cotton candy? Not that I’d ever eat it, but it’s pretty.

Another great day in California comes to an end. Still more to share about our adventuring in Oakland and San Francisco. Coming soon…

xxx

California Trip: Route 1

Hey friends. It’s safe to say that I’m in love with California. It’s the state that has it all. Dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches, rugged mountains, charming vineyards, towering redwood forests, sophisticated cities, the SUN, and so much more. What a spoiled state. (One could say that Oregon has these things, but the weather being what it is, I haven’t experienced them, so hmph.)

For one day, we drove south from Oakland on Route 1, otherwise known as the Cabrillo Highway. We occasionally pulled over to take in views like this… California

strolled along the coast through Monterey and Pacific Grove after a huge meal at Cannery Row Brewing Company

Monterey, California

detoured to do the famous 17 Mile Drive, which includes Spanish Bay…

Spanish Bay, California

Spanish Bay, California

Point Joe…
Pacific Grove, California

California

and the gorgeous Fanshell Cove…
Fanshell Cove, California

Then we came upon The Lone Cypress, landmark of the Pebble Beach Golf Club…

The Lone Cypress, California

And played under this pier…

Pebble Beach Golf Club, California

Before heading back home, we drove through part of Big Sur (which is lovely, but we never found a good spot to pull over for pics on those twisty roads) at sunset.

I highly recommend this drive; it is so scenic. Even the 17 Mile Drive, which costs 10 bucks just to enter, is totally worth it. The beauty in this route is that it can be done any time of year. You are guaranteed incredible views. We experienced some strong wind, but the sunshine was plentiful and the skies were clear. Traveler Tip: In some stretches, towns are few and far between, so fill up your tank and bring snacks. No one likes a hangry passenger.

Stay tuned for more Cali adventures…

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Dutch Countryside

Happy Monday, kids. Is Monday ever really happy though? It’s not a happy one for me. I’m sick. Again. Just got back from California on Saturday (can’t wait to share that trip with you!), and felt like I was log-rolling into another cold yesterday and it was confirmed this morning.

So. While watching terrible day time tv in bed, I was going through the few photos I have on this computer and came across these beauties. Jaro took them when he was on a boat ride with co-workers and you can clearly tell the higher quality of these photos with our fancy lens. I usually avoid hauling it around (it is extremely heavy), but after looking at these pics, I think I have to.

Doesn’t the Dutch countryside look so peaceful?

Dutch Countryside Dutch Countryside

Dutch Countryside Makes me miss living in Holland. If I ever move back, I want to live in that house.

xxx

 

 

Monday Travel Memory: Kiev

Kiev, UkraineHard to believe it has been over seven months since we were in Ukraine. I still love this night shot showcasing the decayed glamour on Kreshchatyk.

And now, here I am in Portland. Heading to Oakland/San Francisco tomorrow to escape the rain and I see that I’m bringing the rain with me (hopefully just for one day).

Figures.

xxx

Daydreaming about… San Sebastian!

We had such a nice Valentine’s Day evening bonding with some new friends. It truly reminded me to be thankful for the relationships in my life, whether new or old, close or casual.

After a crisis this morning regarding our house (when will it end?), I can get back to what I was going to share today….

BIG NEWS. I tend to keep quiet about things going on with my family and friends, but this is too good to keep to myself. My baby sis just got official word that she will be studying abroad in San Sebastian, Spain for the fall semester of the coming school year. I’m filled with pride; she worked so hard to make it happen. And I’m over the moon excited for her to experience life abroad. I think she’ll find it wildly fascinating.

Of course this means that I have to go visit her. Now that I’m nearly halfway around the world (it’s an 8 hour time difference), this will take significant planning. (Sidenote: Imagine if we were still living in Amsterdam or Stockholm! Dang it.) From my initial research, I gather that San Sebastian is a beautiful and glamorous city on the northern coast of Spain, nestled in the culturally-exuberant, wine-rich Basque region. Looks like I’ll shoot for a September/October time frame, so that gives Kimberly a few weeks to settle in (although, let’s be honest, I’d just as happily be there waiting for her as she arrives). Gotta brush up on my Spanish…

San Sebastian

This is going to be a big trip – stay tuned!

And Kim – I’m so proud of you.

Have a great weekend.

xxx

P.S. My most recent trip to Spain.

{image via (what looks like it will be) a very helpful (and funny) expat/travel blog}

Happy Valentine’s Day

Wes Anderson

I love these valentines from flavorwire. And Wes Anderson films. And this quote, specifically. It actually sums up my relationship with Jaro quite well. When we started out on our journey almost six years ago, we had NO idea where it was going (and still don’t). It has taken us from Chicago to Amsterdam, almost to Stockholm and now to Portland. It’s been a crazy ride. And I look forward to continuing it with him for the rest of my life.

Hallmark commercialization aside, I don’t mind the excuse to shower those you love with… love. What’s the shame in that? We always try to do something a little special.

Several years ago, back when we were newly dating and being the food freaks that we are, we went to this restaurant in Chicago. Our dinner cost about the same amount as a weekend trip to Mexico. (I always compare costs of things to travel, like that’s a plane ticket to Europe! Do you do that too?) As much as we love food and as incredible as that nine course tasting menu was, we vowed to never do that again.

Last year, Jaro was traveling for work, so I went out in Amsterdam with some girlfriends to MOMO, a see-and-be-seen spot where we drank and laughed and happily stumbled home.

Tonight, we’re meeting new friends (yes, friends!) for some wine. (I know, on a Thursday. Living on the edge again.)

Hope you all find a way to celebrate love today.

xxx

Booked: The Bay Area

As I mentioned yesterday, I have booked my first trip outta Portland. I leave a week from today. That was quick, right? I only lasted here for about six weeks before concocting my first escape. …And we’re about to close on a house. …And we need to get a car. …And there is still a lot to coordinate. …And …And!

I know. The truth is, we have a lot to do as we continue settling in. So why am I taking this trip already, in the middle of all the chaos? Well, there are several reasons. Here is my rationalization:

  1. Marisa has the week off and we are adventurous little partners in crime, so I pretty much have to take advantage of this glorious opportunity to explore with her. Another good friend just moved there too. (I’m looking at you, David.)
  2. This whole stale corporate apartment thing, crummy rental car situation, and lack of stuff (which I have complained about numerous times) is… well… I need a break. It’s like the perfect storm of misery.
  3. Speaking of rain, I might sink into a deep(er) depression from this weather if I don’t find some sunshine. Portland winters really are the pits. While very similar to our Dutch winter last year, I’m struggling a lot more with the frequent rain and overcast skies. Why, you ask? Two reasons. Reason 1: See point #2 above. Reason 2: The city isn’t as walkable/charming as Amsterdam and I don’t feel like getting in the car every time I want to go out. That’s just the urban warrior in me, I guess.
  4. In my opinion, Portland is missing elements of urban culture. At least, in the way that I’m used to. To me, that means museums, shopping, entertainment, dining, and all connected by decent public transportation. The only factor that stands out to me up to this point is the restaurant scene. That scene is thumpin’ and I’ve been impressed with the foodie culture here. But, for health & wealth reasons, we’re trying to limit that to weekends only. Living on the edge, huh?
  5. Speaking of things to do on weekends, what I’m realizing is that Portland’s a decent place to live where you are still close to the great outdoors. If you take a look on tripadvisor.com, the #1 thing to do “in Portland” is visit the Columbia River Gorge – which isn’t in Portland. Of course, I want to get out there, but not now (see point #3). It’s not exactly hiking weather. Even if it was, I don’t have my hiking stuff. Right now, it’s ski season. But I don’t have my ski stuff (see point #2). Inconvenient.
  6. Bonus: Jaro was/is in full support. He’s pretty much the best.

I realize that sounds like a lot of complaints about Portland. I’m sure many of you are thinking, make the best of it or spend this time getting to know your own city. I will. After this trip. And truly, things will be different by this time next year. They’ll be better. I’ll (hopefully) have found school or work that prevents boredom motivates me. We’ll be settled down, have the equipment and stability and knowledge and resources to enjoy this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.

Back to the Bay I go. The nice thing about visiting friends is that I don’t have much planning to do. Accommodations and transportation – dunzo. We have no set plans; just going to see where the breeze takes us. Looking forward to exploring San Francisco, Oakland, possibly taking day trips to Big Sur and Napa, with a fresh perspective, a full heart of gratitude and an open mind.

How do you justify travel? Do you ever rationalize trips for yourself even if you don’t necessarily have to? Are you impulsive about it, like me? I have to admit, sometimes I can be quick to the draw about booking travel (especially given my liberties last year) and then afterward, I’m like, oops, should I have done that? The answer in this case is absolutely. Sometimes, I just need to spell it out to remember why.

xxx

P.S. In celebration of Fat Tuesday, we’re going to meet up with our Run Club tonight. …And go out for beers after. Living on the edge, ya’ll. 

Monday Travel Memory: California

I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali.

That’s right dudes! My first “trip” out west is heading down the coast to visit my bud, Marisa, in the bay area next week. She’s the darling that braved two weeks in Eastern Europe with me. Hopefully, I get to see some other wonderful friends living down there too.

The last time I was down there was back in 2010, which seems like ages ago. Marisa has been living out there for years and we awesomely (stupidly?) decided to road trip out west from Chicago to San Francisco to haul both her car and adorable dog out there. I should write about that adventure sometime…

Anyway, I love the bay. I love Muir Beach (even though it was freezing in July, what the heck), that foggy view of the Golden Gate, strolling down the waterfront in Sausalito, grabbing drinks (and late night burritos) in the Mission, and of course, ice cream from Bi-Rite. All my pictures are on my computer… which I don’t have yet… and won’t for another 40 days or so… so trust me. I’ve been there. And I love it.

More on my upcoming trip soon. Sorry I didn’t write much last week. I was having a rough one and just wasn’t up for it.

xxx