Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Celebrations

"The pioneers, the immigrants who people the continent, were the restless men in Europe. The steady rooted ones stayed home and are still there."- John Steinbeck

The restless woman and accommodating man that we are, we traveled to Boston for a little Thanksgiving vacation. To be more precise, we actually spent Thanksgiving day in Plymouth, the birthplace of the holiday and the welcoming post for the aforementioned pioneers.
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Here is the infamous rock!

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I knew from the moment we saw this rock on wikipedia and laughed at its unassuming stature that we would not be impressed. And we weren't.... because it's just a moderately sized rock behind a fence! But hey, it's a kitschy thing to be in Plymouth on Thanksgiving day (much like Times Square on New Year's Eve) and we haven't shown much aversion to kitsch. Hey, look, a fake pilgrim!

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We were thankful for many things on Thanksgiving. Tops was successfully leaving Plymouth. With no taxi service, we basically had to beg strangers for a ride to catch the last bus to Boston. Thankfully a non murderer obliged us. (Side note: they were visiting from New York, who says New Yorkers can't be nice?)

It was our first time visiting Boston; we spent a lot of time wandering around different neighborhoods, which was fun and easy, since the city seems so compact compared to New York! We also did an early morning running tour along the Freedom Trail, which was a fun and efficient way to see everything.

Massachusetts Statehouse

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Boston from the JFK library

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Boston Harbor

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Last and kind of least, we walked around Cambridge. The Harvard campus somehow didn't meet any of the expectations I had for its beauty, with the exception of this church.

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Julia Child's former house! It's been remodeled and was last sold for $3.7 million.

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The rest of our celebrations took place in New York. First was the day I ate a creme brulee donut which was a celebration because it was the first day I ate a creme brulee donut. Holy shit. The top is carmelized and slightly burny and phenomenal. Whenever I start to daydream about living in a city with cheap rent, I find things like this to daydream about instead.

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And, finally, my birthday! Nick and I took the day off work to celebrate my birthday weekend. Starting with lunch at Jean Georges (3 Michelin stars if anyone is counting!) and it was fantastic. My favorite was the parmesan and mushroom risotto.

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I also took my first ride on the S train, which is one of the random subway lines that nobody ever talks about. It was really cool inside, I couldn't help but look like a tourist and snap a few photos.

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We also wandered around Grand Central Station, found the whispering hallway (you can whisper into the corner and people can hear you across the hallway), and the dirty rock that shows how the ceiling looked before the restoration.

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Next we went to tour the UN, and I stopped in Nigeria along the way.

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Cool doors to Kuwait's UN Mission

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El globe

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Gifts to the UN

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UN general assembly, where the shit goes down

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The rest of my birthday weekend was filled with more eating, with a friend who had her birthday on December 1, shopping, naps. Just the way it should be..... I'm almost 30, I only have energy for the essentials!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big Sur Half Marathon

Even the best vacations include all the indignities of travel. My trip started with a 4am cab, and it went downhill from there; Cinnabon at LAX was the only bright spot until I reached my final destination of Monterey Bay, California and met up with my Iowa running compadre, Nicole. Our first order of business was to drive along the famous 17 mile stretch that runs from Monterey to Pebble Beach, passing by the ocean and through the country's best courses and biggest mansions.

Sand trap at Spyglass golf course

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California's famous Lone Cypress (which is also the Pebble Beach golf course logo)

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And of course, we had to fit a half marathon in there. We both finished, alive and well. My finish time was slightly faster than predicted by my marathon time. I was pretty happy about that, since my age rounds up to 30, and when I ran the marathon, it rounded down to 20.

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Nicole and me with our medals

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After the race, we drove to Big Sur and had a fancy lunch overlooking the ocean. The full marathon (which takes place in May) goes from Big Sur to Carmel, with the halfway point at Bixby Bridge. We were happy with our decision to run the half and drive the full.

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The next day we finished off our trip visiting the Monterey Aquarium.
Jellyfish

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Serious penguin

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We had a great time running around John Steinbeck's old home, next time I'll be bringing Nick with me to appreciate Pebble Beach.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween costumes

Another month without posting....egads! I guess that means we didn't go on a trip for a whole month! And with a misleading title to boot since we didn't actually wear Halloween costumes today! But we did walk around Central Park, which is full of crunchy red leaves. Fall in New York is just about perfect, at least in comparison to the other places we've lived. People here like to complain about the cold, but I think 50-60 degrees at the end of October sure as hell beats snow! It makes more sense to me to complain about all the people who inexplicably stop walking in the middle of the sidewalk or in front of a doorway. So many people who do this, can't something be done?!

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The other night Nick had a trivia event and his team went dressed as the Saved by the Bell Glee club, which is a black and white outfit with a red tie. Since Batman is naturally wearing a black and white outfit, we tried out the tie on him. He couldn't/wouldn't walk around much with a tie on, so taking him trick or treating was definitely out. Trick or treating is a lot different in the city, in comparison to Des Moines, where Nick and I both learned our Halloween norms. From what I gather, everybody goes out during daylight hours, focuses on local businesses for their loot, and kids aren't even required to tell any sort of joke. I kind of miss our old Halloweens, in the dark, going to houses with lights on, being required to work a little for the candy.

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And not to leave Newman out; he looks regal even on a toilet.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

American Idiot

"Tonight the role of St. Jimmy will be played by Billie Joe Armstrong."

We are not theater people, so for us, Broadway tickets only come about once a year. Our first year, we got tickets to Wicked as a good-bye gift from a friend in Europe. This year, we've both wanted to go to American Idiot, which is a Broadway adaptation of the Green Day album. As fate would have it, one of the Broadway castmembers needed a short leave of absence, and rather than using an understudy, the part was filled in by Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day lead singer/writer) for 6 days only. How often is it that the replacement actor is about a million times more famous than the original, wrote the music, and made it popular enough to warrant a Broadway show? Seeing this announcement encouraged us to finally get around to buying tickets for Saturday night.

I've seen Green Day twice, Nick once. My first concert ever, I crowdsurfed at a Green Day concert that was held in a tiny Kansas City gymnasium, and the second I got box seats for a work event. Both times, the band invited some gawky teenage kid on stage to play guitar for one of the songs, making his decade I'm sure. The point is, there is a certain kind and humble demeanor that makes it easy to like Billie Joe Armstrong.

Even though the lyrics and storyline aren't particularly jolly, the night was full of happiness and enthusiasm. The crowd was pumped up, the cast was pumped up (how excited must they be to perform with the guy?), and Billie Joe seemed so happy and appreciative to be onstage.

Here is a clip of the encore (not ours!). For those of you who don't know, Billie Joe is the one with the white tuxedo jacket and black shirt. Around 1:48 is the cutest thing ever.







And the link if you can't view the embed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kloveIvycgs

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kauai, Hawaii

After (and before!) Oahu, we flew to the island of Kauai for five nights, aka Hawaii's "lush, green island" that is known for its scenery and varied landscape. We rented a car to drive around because the island cities are spread out. Overall, Kauai is less touristy than other parts of Hawaii, and there is not as much to do. One night we even ended up at the local Blockbuster to rent a movie. If you want to feel like you've stepped back in time about 10 years, a video store will do it. It really felt like we were in a living museum, with the obligatory overpriced candy, cardboard movie cutouts, and gangly teen cashier. Maybe Netflix hasn't caught on in Hawaii.


There are boatloads of feral chickens running around the island, which prompts the following obvious joke.


Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

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A: Because Nick was chasing it with a large fern!

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In front of Mt. Wailaleale, aka the wettest place on earth, before we went water tubing:

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We stopped at a farmer's market as well, where we bought mangos, mountain apples (strangely shaped mini apples), and apple bananas (sweet, stubby bananas.)

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Nick also bought me my first lei.

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We finished the day watching the sunset at the end of the road. A lot of the roads just randomly end at waterfalls or beaches, because the entire west side of the island is not navigable by car. Luckily, there was a guy whacking the tops off of fresh coconuts, so we enjoyed the sunset with a coconut & rum cocktail. Not coconut flavored rum, a fucking coconut with rum poured into it!

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One main attraction of Kauai is the Na Pali Coast, which is only accessible by boat, air, or foot. Nick and I made sure to cover all three.




We started out exploring the coast by boat, with a sunset and snorkeling booze cruise.

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The next morning, we attacked the coast from 4500 feet in a motorized hang glider. Nick was really scared, but I convinced him to go, and he loved it! Although not enough to do it again. And he liked it! I, on the other hand, was contemplating starting up a hang gliding tour company that flies over NYC. Irrelevant aside: pretty sure NYC controlled airspace is not open to hang gliding.

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A couple of days later, we attacked the Na Pali by foot and hiked the Kalalau Trail. It was a 4 hour round trip, comprised of high cliffs, loose rocks, mud, waterfalls, and views for miles. In fact, it was so muddy and/or I was so hardcore that I threw away my pants and shoes after the hike. Such a scenic place was the perfect setting for senior pictures. Though we graduated ten years ago, and missed our ten year reunion while we were in Hawaii, we took "senior pictures" anyway. As I mentioned, we were on a senior citizen time zone schedule.

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We also drove along Waimea Canyon, also referred to as "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific" (Mark Twain) and "the Mulholland Drive of the Pacific" (Erica). About 10 miles of gorgeous highways, we had to stop so many times to look and gawk.

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Can you see Nick?

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When we left Kauai, I sadly bid adieu to my lei. Since a lei picks up the wearer's spirit, it's definitely not a good idea to chuck it in the nearest trash bin. Some lady on the internet suggest disposing of the flowers in the sea which sounded reasonable enough to me!

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And, with that, mahalo to Hawaii for the adventures, the relaxation, the snorkeling with sea turtles, the rainbows, the signs that begged for rebellion, the mai tais, the Ben Stiller family sighting, the jumping dolphins, and the hula lessons!

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oahu, Hawaii!

We started our two week Hawaiian vacation with a trio of malfunctions. (Or rather, I malfunctioned and Nick bore witness.) #1: I realized mid taxi ride that I forgot my ipod. Awesome start to 14 hours worth of travel. #2: We picked up a snack before we boarded the plane, so I carried on a fountain soda (the first soda I've had in so long!) Unfortunately, the lid wasn't fully secured and I managed to spill the entire thing on myself, my tray table, my seat. The timing was impeccable; I spilled when most of the plane was starting to board. So I sat, helpless and ipodless, with soda drip drip dripping my heart into a fireball. #3: When we unpacked, I realized that I had packed zero pairs of underwear for a two week trip. Oops!


With the six hour time difference, we were on senior citizen time zone throughout the trip, meaning we woke up at 6am and hit the hay by 9PM. One night, we even had the early bird special for dinner! Oahu round 1, we stayed close to Waikiki beach, relaxing and hanging out in the ocean.

Here's Waikiki from the top of the Diamond Head crater.

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Scuba diving to see shipwrecks

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We visited the USS Arizona memorial and the Bowfin submarine at Pearl Harbor.

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Nick in front of the Bowfin

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Me touring the Bowfin

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Entrance to Diamond Head, about a 45 minute walk from our hotel

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Climbing Diamond Head crater (about a 1.5 hr hike)

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Nick en route

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After the first few days, we flew to the island of Kauai for five days, then back to Oahu. The second time in Oahu, we stayed in Waikiki, but rented a car and explored other parts of the island. We drove to the east side of the island (Windward Oahu, which is famous for its views.)

View of Oahu from Nuuanu Pali

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Dogs playing on Kailua beach (that little dachshund was quite the digger!)

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We also drove to Oahu's famous North Shore, which is home to the world's best surfing in the winter and calm beaches in the summer. There is a famous jumping rock at Waimea Bay. Nick didn't want to go first, but he's a Marty McFly at heart, and once I called him a chicken, he scrambled up the rock and jumped right off.

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For the record, Nick jumped first, but I jumped twice, so our bravery is about on par with each other.... and the millions of other stupid teenage boys who were jumping.

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We made once last stop in Honolulu at an unassuming Baskin Robbins.... why? Well, because President Obama worked here as a teenager!


Here is Nick eating some Presidential ice cream

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More about Kauai next time!