Valencia, Spain

Vacaciones en Valencia

Mi amiga, Aisha, y yo fuimos a Valencia para Feriado bancario en Mayo. Yo necesito practicar español en ‘past tense’ así que voy a escribir en español en la blog ahora. Buena suerte a mi!

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Dia Uno: Nosotros fuimos a nuestra airbnb.  Yo comprende mas acerca de la casa porque hay contexto cuando la Señora explico cosas en la casa.  Estoy feliz…pero cuando no hay contexto en las calles de Valencia, mi español mas menor!! Pobrecita!!

Después nosotros ponimos las maletas en la cuarto, nosotros tenemos hambre. Fuimos a Mercat Central!  Muchas personas estaron en el Mercat Central compraron comida y bebidas.  Hay mucho jamón ibérico, vino, aceitunas, fruta y verduras. Compramos pan, aceitunas, jamón, y vino y sentamos cerca de el mercado.

Claro, era un buen dia asi que nosotros caminamos en el barrio. Hay mucho graffiti y edificios bellos.

Yo monte una bicicleta y era mi tiempo favorito en Sábado.  Nosotros montamos a La Ciudad De Artes y Ciencias.  No visitamos en museos en este viaje, pero esta bien.  Los edificios están futuristicos.   Estarlos en un gran parque también.  El nombre es Antiguo Cauce Del Rio Turia porque fue un rio pero ahora el rio es una calle larga en el parque!  Es muy verde en el parque y la gente son muy amables.

Porque nosotros estamos sudados, nosotros necesitamos las duchas.  En la noche, nosotros comimos tapas.  Los hongos fueron mejor que la carne.  Nos vimos una boda también en la plaza.  Fuimos a Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar también pero la música era como jazz en la hotel ascensor.  La señorita puedio cantar pero ellos fueron asi asi– ok, aburridos.


Dia Dos: Fuimos a La Playa Malvarrosa acerca de una hora en el autobus.  Un poco lejos, pero era un day bonita de nuevo.  Hay muchas personas que se viven in Valencia en la playa también!  Nosotros nadamos y tomamos sol.  El barrio cerca de la playa no era como Valencia central.  Yo vi las calles fueron un poco sucio y desgastado. Me gusto los azulejos y calles pequeñas.

Caminamos a Valencia central y Aisha quieria paella.  Buscamosla en una restaurante pequeña que se llama La Valenciana.  La restaurante como una escuela de cocina.  Era una noche fresca y la comida era muy bien!


Dia Tres y el dia final! Primero, porque nosotros comimos mas pan y arroz en Domingo, nosotros ejercitamos.  Despues, compramos cosas en un mercado local.  Hay cosas como maletas, sandias, pan, alfombras, y mas ropa.  No mas comida asi que fuimos a un restaurante cerca del mercado.  Pare Pero era muy delicioso.  Pienso era mi restaurante favorita!  Yo comi atun y mas hongos.  Un joven profesor de ingles hablo conmigo por dos horas!  El vivio en America por dos anos y el le gusto mucho. Tu quieres saber si yo hable en español por dos horas? Lo ciento, no! El hable conmigo en ingles, pero esta bien porque Aisha quería hablar también y ella hablo en ingles. Yo engañade– oi 😦

Nosotros visitamos Plaza de la Virgen, y vimos muchos edificios grandes y bonitos.  Valencia es una cuidad relajada.  Yo pienso gente retirada viajan a Valencia porque es una ciudad fácil.  Si quieres una vacaciones con las playas y la ciudades pequeñas, Valencia es una lugar bonita.

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Algarve, Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal, London, England, Sintra, Portugal

My Very Merry ‘Unbirthday’

IMG_9682Thirty-three is my favorite number.  It was on my basketball jersey for years.  Corey deems it lucky because he’s won money at the roulette table betting on double three.  I also turned 33 years old this past February.  It made this birthday special for me though I understand that this age isn’t a significant birthday when it comes to milestones like 21 or 30.  But Corey and Miya did find a way to celebrate thirty-three for me. They plotted together to ensure that she could visit London the first week of May which is why this post references my special unbirthday gift (only because it’s June and not February).  Cheers to celebrating unbirthdays like this for my entire thirty-third year and many more to come!


What better way to start Miya’s first day than with a good meal–lunch at Ottolenghi! We’ve both cooked with his recipes for the past few years so I wanted her to visit his restaurant in person.  The dessert display from the window is enough to make your mouth water.

* Miya brought Daniel Tiger along to show Daisuke what fun things were happening on Mama’s trip with Tia. Spot him throughout this post!*

We toured parts of our neighborhood and then walked to Brick Lane to see the graffiti art as well as the historical sites in Shoreditch.  Corey and Miya kept track of our steps and signaled when it was appropriate to sit down for a huge dinner at Lahore.


We rode the 341 bus to Westminster Abbey. I’m listing the bus number because we’ve never taken this bus from our house to this part of town.  The ride has a great view from Waterloo bridge when you cross over the Thames.  We walked to Westminster Abbey, which was closed (!), over to the Horses Guard, and through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.  The flowers were in full bloom still!  Corey couldn’t get a word in edgewise as Miya and I talked the entire time we were together.  He hung out with Daniel Tiger a lot.

After learning that you need formal wear for afternoon tea at the Ritz (think ball gowns!), we opted for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea where Mr. Wonka himself shows up with golden envelopes for the table!  It’s a pretty good gimmick.  You can’t use the prize in the envelope if you open it before returning for tea at another time.  We will be back with future visitors for sure.

From tea, we strolled Picadilly Circus, Soho, and Covent Garden.  There’s always something to see at Trafalgar Square like chalk artists and bubble magicians.  In Convent Garden, we were swept into shop similar to Sabon. The gentleman there must have been their top salesman as he got us to buy so many of their products in less than 15 minutes! We had a yummy meal at Kipferl before calling it an early evening.  Miya and I had to catch the first flight to Portugal the next day.


Once we figured out how to program our GPS in English, not Portuguese, we had a pretty smooth ride in the Algarve.  We had a rooftop lunch at Hotel Faro before heading out to Praia da Marinha.  It’s a gorgeous beach, and the sea breeze kept us cool even when there was little shade to be found on the sand.  At first, Miya wasn’t sure she needed to go into the water.  We were content relaxing on our towels and exploring the rock formations along the shoreline.  At one point, though, Miya sat up- “How could I not go into the water? I’m going,” she said matter of factly.  It was a good decision 🙂

Ferragudo is a beautifully small town, and our airbnb was on a cute street with bougainvillea climbing up along the tiled walls.  It’s easy to take a water taxi across to Portimao, a much more built up town with shopping promenades, and it’s also easy to stay put and have an afternoon coffee in the main plaza of Ferragudo.  We rested and showered before our night out on the town.

You can see our amazing meal at Fim do Mundo, where the staff were just as jovial and welcoming as I remember.  Get the clams and garlic sauce as a starter!  For someone’s first time to the restaurant, order the cataplana.  The sheer presentation of the dish is a fun experience.  The menu lists this dish for two or more people. If there are only two of you, ask for the half order, and choose a meat dish to share.  To help digest our food, we took an evening stroll to see other parts of the neighborhood-  where the taxi boats docked, how many different tiles we could find along the walls, and a small church atop a hill.


We took our time to drive out of Ferragudo.  We visited the Playa Grande, a longer flatter beach than Praia da Marinha.  It seemed a great beach for families with young kids as the waters were completely calm.

Miya expressed wanting to see Pena Palace, so we took the day to drive to Sintra and then took a tug tug up to the palatial grounds.  It was fun for me to see Miya’s architectural brain spring to life as she pointed out the columns, nooks, crannies, and influences in the art of the palace.  I love hearing about the connections she was making and I was conscious of how quickly I’d previously moved through the palace without taking note of the details she could see.  I had to remind her to take a break and eat something since she was so enthused by the palace!  I probably should have asked her to write some captions for the pictures below as she was able to explain so much!

We got into Lisbon later than we expected, and were pretty worn out from the long day of travel.  Ramiro Cervejaria wasn’t helping us out with dinner as the wait was over an hour.  We opted for roasted chicken and chips with a glass of complimentary port from our hotel–a quick recipe for getting a really good night’s sleep.

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View from our hotel. Thanks for the hotel points, Core!


It was strange that the three days could go so fast but feel so relaxed at the same time.  Dropping off the rental car was a breeze, and the cafe where we had breakfast was incredibly cute.  Erica and Brian suggested it from their trip, and one of the Leitaria locations was around the corner from Hertz.

Both of us enjoyed taking public transportation to the Tile Museum, or the Museu Nacional Do Azulejo.  Azulejo means ‘small polished stone’ and comes from the Arab word azzelij or al zuleycha.  I was absorbed into the color and glazed shapes of each piece, and the chronology of the museum was really helpful to when comparing eras.  There were also tiles in braille that described the various color schemes in a hands on way for guests.  We were in awe of the numerous boxes of tiles that filled one of the museum hallways.  There seemed so much more to add to the exhibitions but they had yet to be unboxed!

We arrived at Cervejaria Ramiro just a half hour after they opened, and were seated immediately.  I highly suggest lunch here as it’s much less of a scene than dinner.  The seafood was tasty as ever (crab, langoustine medium, and lots of buttered bread).  For the first time, I also ordered the prego sandwich to cap off the meal!

We did some final shopping around the corner at A Vida Portuguese and then had coffee and tea in an outdoor plaza.  It was a perfectly warm and breezy day, and we couldn’t have been happier.


Back in London, Miya had some more sights to see to ensure she had a well-rounded trip across the pond.  Our Kipferl breakfast of pan fried potatoes, streaky bacon and arugula salad was the perfect fuel needed for a day of walking.

First stop: St Paul’s Cathedral.  I can’t get over the mosaics every time I visit.  The Whispering Gallery was as far up as we could walk in the cathedral, but that was more than enough to hear about Miya’s challenging architecture classes at the University of Washington- full of all nighters, sketches and out of this world projects.  Miya’s vote was that we take everyone to see St. Paul’s Cathedral when they visit.

The South Bank and Borough Market are also highlights that we share with all visitors and this trip was no exception.  We shared snacks in the late afternoon, and Miya found some vanilla bean pods to for her homemade tea recipe.  IMG_1237

In keeping with the architectural theme of her vacation, our final two visits of the day were to Kings Cross St Pancras station and The British Library.  We sat under the train station’s arches and sorted how Miya would navigate her way to the airport the next morning.  Then I had to show her the facade of the St Pancras hotel before we went to the library as I really enjoy the treasures room.  It’s such a great sized space to see some amazing artifacts at the library.  You can do it all in about an hour.  Miya packed her bags back at home and we had Thai food at our local spot for her final meal.  The week was up too soon! But I know that a trip like this is one where we’ll relive the memories over and over again…for thirty-three years and beyond!

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Amalfi Coast, Italy

My post from the Amalfi Coast

IMG_9491To quote my friend, Anna Moyer: “It’s hard to overstate the beauty of the Amalfi coast.”  On the bus, every hairpin turn was breathtaking.  You’re incredibly high up from the waters below, and the towns living in the mountainside are beautiful as they peak around each curve in the road.

We arrived in Positano after an early morning flight and two crowded SITA buses, yet time stood still for the rest of the day as we explored the many nooks and crannies of this dreamy place.  Positano is full of numerous staircases, and long winding roads, that will do a number on your calves.  We took a very, very leisurely pace the entire time as this was Corey’s first trip since Tignes.

Near the main docks, there were numerous linen boutiques, sandal shops, and limoncello grocers.  Lemons are big here- not just in popularity but also in size.  I also loved the stores selling ceramic-ware painted with bright lemons against navy on all sorts of bowls and platters.

We dipped our toes in the super clear water, and took a nap on the pebbly beach late in the afternoon, before making the trek back up to the local Trattoria.

The streets are lovely as you can see.  Many of them are draped with wisteria or have brightly painted building.  We imagined how crowded it must feel in the summer as you can barely walk two by two on the narrow lanes.  On the street sides, single file is a must so you aren’t nipped by a local bus or scooter.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures around every twist and turn.


This morning, I tried running stairs to get the day started but I only lasted about twenty minutes.  The Positano steps kicked my butt, but there is no photographic evidence as I could barely breathe, no less snap a selfie!  Wouldn’t an early lunch be a better idea?  Corey found Fattoria La Tagliata, a true gem, up towards the town of Nocelle.  I wanted to visit Nocelle as this is where the Il Sentiero degli Dei (Path of The Gods) trailhead starts/ends, but honestly, if you didn’t want to hike, then I’d still highly suggest a trip to this restaurant as your main activity for the day.  It felt like the Italian grandmother-chefs were picking young garlic right out of the garden to use for our family style meal (and later we discovered there was a mini-farm outside!)  You arrive on the terrace and three small plates with a bottle of house wine are immediately brought to your table. There is no need for a menu.  Prego!!!

We didn’t do the Path of the Gods as it was too strenuous for my kidney-healing man, but we did take the bus to Nocelle so that I could at least say I saw the entrance to the path.  If we return to the coast, I’ll be bringing a solid pair of hiking boots.

The remainder of the day was spent on the small terrace in our hotel room just taking in the gorgeous scenery and reviving my blog (or ‘slog’ as Corey has taken to calling it as it’s majorly delayed in posts (slow + blog= slog).  Better yet, wait for the exclusive to Corey’s blog- or ‘clog’- coming out…. TBD 🙂


Day three took us on a day trip to Amalfi, another town just a thirty minute boat ride along the coast.  The town has a smaller beach, but a livelier square and Duomo.

Visitors can enter the crypts and cathedral for a mere three Euro to see the Monumental Complex of St. Andrew.  We had a seaside lunch followed by a gelato cone (I found the sorbet yogurt flavor and felt very satisfied).  We didn’t indulge in the fried seafood cones along the way, but did some window shopping for linen, leather and limoncello.

We caught another crowded SITA bus up to Ravello, a very pretty town, high up in the cliffs.  Suggestion for SITA straphangers: buy your round trip tickets at the tabacchi shop, and get to the busstop early.  We were visiting in April when it’s less crowded and still felt the pushing and shoving to climb aboard.  Though SITA looks like our version of a charter bus, they line people up into the aisles like a local city bus.

Ravello was as picturesque as ever, and we spent a majority of our time in the Villa Cimbrone, an exclusive hotel with gardens that are open to the public.  The wisteria that hang down along the walk and the stunning views of the Mediterranean made it well worth the 7 Euro.

On the way back from the gardens, we opted for Mimi Bar Pizzeria for a quick meal before our Ravello Piano Concert.  Jackpot!!! The pizza crust was chewy and delicious, and it was the best pasta with ‘sea fruit’ (clams and mussels) I had on the entire trip!!! I can’t say enough good stuff. The trip advisor reviews in the link below don’t have enough exclamation points to do the restaurant justice. We will definitely return if we are in Ravello for more red sauce and seafood.

Ravello’s Concert Hall offers weekly concerts in a small venue with great acoustics.  If you’re into classical music, this would be a must see.  This is illustrated by the fact that we ran into one of Corey’s colleagues while waiting for the concert to start!  She had heard similar reviews of Ravello’s concert society and made sure to stop in as well.  Giuseppe Di Bianco’s piano recital concluded our already peaceful afternoon.  Unfortunately, after the limoncello at intermission, we had to leave to catch the last bus to Amalfi and Positano.  Stepping out into the quiet stone paths after hearing a talented musician made for a great evening.  Add to this, the local church was holding their Good Friday procession, complete with babies dressed as angels, and a candle lit parade.


We left Positano mid morning and spent the day wandering the new, flatter streets of Sorrento.  The area feels a bit less ‘beach-vacationy’ as the beach is much smaller here, though the waters are just as clear blue when you look over the edge of the boulevards. It’s easy to take day trips from Sorrento as well so there is a city/ transport feeling, in my opinion.

There’s more affordable shopping here, and more space for outdoor eateries. We didn’t find a great lunch spot, but we didn’t find a lovely linen shop where the gentlemen dressed Corey to the nines! The fashionista spirit of Italy is still strong though we were many miles from Milan.  We were offered delicious samples at Nino and Friends, a souvenir shop featuring local treats.  I found a purse that I couldn’t resist, and then we made our way to the grocery store to ensure we had provisions for Easter Sunday and Monday.  We learned that many restaurants would be closed or would have limited hours for the holiday so it was time to stock up for an Easter picnic.  Would you believe we met a family from Ewing at the grocery store!?  Corey has a magnet for meeting people around the world!  While he reminisced about dirty Jersey highlights with two college-aged siblings, I purchased mortadella, parma ham, olives and artichoke hearts with their mom.  Her son is studying abroad in Germany, and he and his sister bought their mom a ticket to travel to Italy for the first time on their spring break.

Dinner was around the corner from our hotel, and the fish of the day with homemade pasta was a major thumbs up.  We also spotted many tables sharing multiple pizzas so it seems you can’t make a bad choice at Il Convivio.


Since Sorrento is a hub for day trips, we caught an early train to Pompeii and Erculano to see the historical ruins created by Mt. Vesuvius.  On Easter Sunday, the trains stop running at 1pm so we did a quick tour at each site, and promised to read up on these when we had more time.  You can see just how intricate the cities must have been, and Ercolano still had paintings on the walls as well!

We ventured into the side streets of Ercolano and saw Easter parades with flags and traditional dress.  The slight drizzle couldn’t stop the celebrations and chants. I wondered how much I should be considering that Mt. Vesuvius is still an active volcano even though we were most likely just hearing thunder rolling in with the rain clouds.

We found a serious bakery selling Easter treats and gelato. Yes, of course, we joined in with the purchasing of pastries and spun gelato cones, even in the rain.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch by the hotel pool and spent the remainder of the grey afternoon between the hotel lobby tethered to wifi and the hotel bar for a beer and wine happy hour.

Dinner was at Ristorante Bagni Delfino, a restaurant right on the docks that was open on Easter Sunday.  The staff was incredibly nice, and I must say the gratis pre-dinner prosecco was a nice touch.  After the sun set, the main square in Sorrento still felt lively, with many people out celebrating the holiday.  Everyone was dressed up and out with kids and loved ones, treating themselves to gelato or just enjoying the night lights.


For our last full day on the coast, we caught an early boat out to the Isle of Capri.  We hit a bump in the road, or should I say, a bump in the waves, as they felt reminiscent to the waves on our Thailand trip. Corey soothed me by telling me the waves were not nearly as rocky as we’d experienced before (which was true), and that we were ‘almost there’ numerous times even when we weren’t.  I admittedly found myself pumped with more adrenaline than I’d expected while on the boat so getting back on solid ground was a good start to being on the island.  Truthfully, the views didn’t compare to Positano, Amalfi or Ravello as we took the uphill walk to the town center. High end shops and small cafes line Piazza Umberto, the main plaza, where you’ll find many day-trippers.

We wandered to the Giardini di Augusto to look out on the Faraglioni, two distinct rock formations in the true blue sea.  Unfortunately, there weren’t boats being allowed into the Grotta Azzurra, as the waves were too choppy.  We hear the magnificent blue ocean is supposed to be unreal in this cavern.

We sat along the garden walls with our parma, olives, tomatoes, pesto and bread picnic lunch as many of the Capri eateries are expensive.  Corey treated himself to a ‘Capri Special’ drink: fresh orange juice with lemon granita.  It dawned on me that Capri Sun must be based on this very juice!  We traveled back down to the Marina Grande on the funicolar, a train that goes straight up and down the hill on one track (just like the one on the snowy mountains of Tignes).

O’ Parrucchiano had the most stunning ambiance.  It felt like dining in a magical citrus grove, and I asked that Corey propose to me again because it was such a fairytale.  Stick to the seafood dishes as my veal Milanese wasn’t much to write home about.  As we walked home from dinner, teems of people were spilling out of Gelateria Primavera so we had to try it…When in Rome? (the saying still applies even in Southern Italy, right?)



Naples

A few people told us to skip Naples–that it wasn’t worth dedicating a night of our trip here.  But we liked seeing the different personality of this city.  Yes, it’s grittier than any locale on the Amalfi coast, but it’s also the third largest city in Italy.  It’s a mix of graffitied walls, and quaint restaurants, with neighborhoods that are definitely showing signs of change in many ways.

Our first day of walking was close to Piazza Dante.  The neighborhood lanes had two sides. The main strip, Via Dei Tribunali, was lined with pizza shops, souvenirs booths, and churches offering tours of the underground cities of Naples.  Off this main drag were dollar stores, tobacco carts, and drabber alleys brightened only with hanging laundry.

The central duomo’s interior was beautiful, and the plaza in front was a hangout for teens, and boys playing futbol. We participated in a slightly uneventful tour of the San Lorenzo Maggiore Scavi Museo to see the ancient market buried below the foundation of the church.  The fact that Naples has underground tunnels, markets, and piazzas is really neat, but the tour wasn’t too exciting…more of a tourist trap upon reflection.

Via Toledo is full of commercial shops like H&M and Adidas but this huge street does lead you right down to the water.  We stopped for a caffè nocciolato at Il Vero Bar del Professore, a cafe renowned for rich hazelnut cream coffee.  Before heading to the seaside, you pass the gorgeous Basilica Real Pontificia San Francesco da Paola.  Cars aren’t able to drive along the waterfront (Via Caracciolo and Via Partenope) and it was nice to see joggers in the evening, and friends strolling along enjoying the views of Capri and Mt Vesuvius in the distance (we were sure we were looking at one of these!)

We passed Castel dell’Ovo, a fort-looking castle jutting right out on the waves.  Taking a right up past the huge waterfront hotels takes you to the Chiaia neighborhood. This is an area that feels completely different from the lanes we’d walked earlier in the day. There are boutiques and fine art galleries.  I’d read that we should visit a wine bar with a rooftop but before we found it, we passed BISI.  The owners swept us up before we could say no and they were terrific. The cocktails were perfect, especially since they were keen to create something based on our personal taste. With each drink, you’re served a board of small snacks done incredibly well. Apparently, the owners also have another spot called Trip which we will hit up on our next visit to Naples.

We still hadn’t had dinner but it was good that we had emptier stomachs for our meal at Tandem.  They are known for their rich meat ragu and meatballs.  I loved the checkered tablecloths in the intimate space.


 

 

It was amazing to see Corey’s energy returning each day. For our final day in Italy, he were up for more walking.  We took the funicular up to the Castel Sant’ Elmo to see the view of the entire city.

We visited the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, or Madre, a contemporary art museum listed in the 36 Hours in Naples article. The entrance makes you feel like you’re in a funhouse.  We saw large walls highlighting art with one off kilter photograph, or a large circle with abstract scribbles.  I liked the gallery dedicated to imago mundi, a set of published books.  The works are voluntary and published in a collection to show contemporary art from countries all over the world.

By noon, it was time to brave the crowds to see if we could get a table at Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo.  If you’re in the birthplace of pizza, this is one of the most popular places to dine.  We arrived at twelve on the dot, and we were seated immediately–lucky us!  It definitely lived up to its reputation, and I even had a few bites with cheese to get the real experience.  A YUMMY last meal!!! It’s worth noting that there is another Sorbillo down the block, but it’s easy to tell the difference as there are swarms of people outside of the best one.

My summary for this trip: I can’t wait to visit Italy again! Neither can Corey. Check him out feelin’ good.

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Quickshot:

Positano (and the small town of Nocelle)

  • Eat at Fattoria La Tagliata (this is a 20 min bus ride outside of Positano so get yourself a bus timetable). Fattoria means farm, but I thought it could be a hint that you’ll gain weight after eating here….’fat’toria…get it?
  • Give yourself 4-5 hours for the Walk of the Gods (there are many other websites so if this one doesn’t suit you, no worries)
  • Spend an evening at a local trattoria- this is a more laid back vibe, less formal than a ristorante;  any locals can point you in the right direction. We enjoyed C’era Una Volte, up about 200 steps from our hotel.
  • Get lost in the shopping lanes and winding roads of Positano- no maps needed.  Just take in the views when you need a break.

Amalfi

  • Yes to gelato. All of it will be good.
  • See the Duomo di Amalfi (crypts and cathedral for a quick 3 euro)
  • Boat travel seemed optimal for a day trip to many of the coastal towns. Just make sure to check when the last boat leaves.

Ravello

Sorrento

  • Eat at Il Convivio (pizzeria and ristorante)
  • Walk to the seaside and sit on the docks on a sunny day
  • Eat at O’ Parrucchiano to feel like you’re in a fairytale grove
  • Shop at bottega21 for a bag or wallet or glasses case
  • Walk the main cobblestone lane to Nino and Friends for generous samples of Sorrento treats… even if you don’t have room in your suitcase

Napoli Food Suggestions

  • Apertivos must be at BISI– the owners are too good to their guests!
  • Eat at Tandem for ragu (make a reservation if you can)
  • For pizza, the first choice is Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali, 32). I’ve also heard that Da Michele is tasty and a close walk nearby if you didn’t want to wait.
  • Il Vero Bar del Professore for a coffee pitstop (Piazza Trieste e Trento)
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London, England, Oslo, Norway

Big Barbara Comes to Town

IMG_9234On Friday, I was actually more excited to be in the airport itself than to be in the new city I’d just landed in.  Why?  I was meeting Barbara in just a half hour at the baggage claim!  She was flying across the pond to hang out for almost two weeks, and the first part of our adventure would be in Nesoddtangen with her longtime friend, Trine (pronounced Trina).  I should clarify that I was excited to visit Norway, but I hadn’t done much research on what I wanted to see in Oslo.  This is probably because it was the first time I was traveling to a place where I’d know a local.  For me, the ‘must see’ sights would be any and all suggestions by Trine and her son, Julian.  And, of course, a highlight of the trip would be witnessing Barbara and Trine reunite after many years.

After meeting at the arrivals terminal, Barbara and I texted with Julian to get directions to get to their home.  Nesoddtangen is about forty kilometers from Oslo, right on the fjord.  We ran to catch the ferry at Aker Brygge, met Julian in the parking lot on the other side of the fjord, and enjoyed the short drive to their house. I felt like I was in a combination of seaside home with light blue walls and shells lining the windowsills, and a mountain cabin, cozy with furry blankets and birch logs lining the fireplace.  It made me realize how many big cities I’ve been to and how relaxing it felt to be in a home surrounded by nature.  I lost track of the number of times that I sighed ‘how beautiful‘ in just a 48 hour period.

When I visit friends and family, the first night I expect to stay up way too late because we’re so excited to catch up on everything in our lives.  This evening proved to be no different between Barbara and Trine, friends for over 30 years!


The next morning, after a long lie-in (British for ‘sleeping in’), Trine made us scrambled eggs, fresh orange juice, and gravlax.  We walked with Yogi down by the bath houses along the fjord.  The bath houses used to be connected to a property on the overlooking hills.  Families would use the bath houses as changing rooms before swimming or wading.

Taking the ferry to Oslo takes exactly 23 minutes and you get a great view of the fort, Aker Brygge’s promenade, and the city hall.  The first stop on our list was Vinmonopolet, or the wine monopoly shop.  The government-owned wine shop has limited Saturday hours until 3pm and is closed on Sunday. You have to plan ahead if you want to imbibe on the weekends.  When we asked the staff member to help us pick our red wine to pair with our dinner, she wanted to know what vegetables we’d serve and how the lamb would be prepared and other specific details that no one has every asked when I’ve picked out a wine for dinner. Who am I kidding…I just pick a label I like.

With our wine in tow, we rode a smaller boat to Bygdoy island to check out the open air Norsk Folkemuseum.  This museum showcases life in Norway from the 1500s to present day with 160 historic buildings that have been relocated from regions around the country.  Staff members wear traditional dress native to each region and give various cultural demonstrations for visitors.  Trine actually used to work here when she was in high school, and could remember bits and bobs about her time in these little neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, we were too late to visit the Viking Ship museum but we peeked through the windows to see the most famous ship on display.  After the ferry back to Oslo, we checked out city hall.  Lining the walkway to city hall are huge wooden panels telling the story of creation and depicting Norse gods in various mythical scenes.  We also visited the Nobel museum gift shop before resting our legs at Sputino for an aperitif.

For dinner, we had homegrown lamb!  The couple that rents the attic at Trine’s raises sheep, and that’s how we had Lulu the lamb as a treat for dinner.  Trine made broccoli and mashed potatoes which paired perfectly with our red wine just like the lady said it would.  I forgot to snap a picture because I started eating so quickly.

Here are a couple other random shots from our day.


Sunday, we had another lie in, but as I was up a bit earlier, I spent the time finishing up bits of my blog while watching the fog burn off the fjord.  I could make out boats dotting the horizon and neighbors walking along the path by the bath houses.  I felt so relaxed having Yogi, their black lab, at my feet and their calico kitten nipping at my pen as I was scribbling on the page.  Julian started a fire and we had another lovely breakfast of eggs, cucumber, cheese and marmalade.

Trine explained that her neighborhood is deregulated– no cops or authorities– just artists and alternative thinkers living their lives on the water.  The forest was also just a five minute drive from her street.

We hiked along Trine’s favorite trail that afternoon.  The pine trees were striking and the forest floor was soft with moss.  There were also sprawling blueberry and lingonberry bushes on both sides of the trail.  Berries weren’t in season yet, but seeing how many bushes covered the forest floor would mean more berries than I could imagine.  I can see why Trine considers the Bjornemyr forest her therapist, her gym and her church.

We had just enough time to take a very very chilly dip into the fjord before heading back into Oslo! Trine mentioned how exhilarating it would be, and Julian said it was highly recommended, so when in Rome… ahem, when in Nesoddtangen?!?!

Vigeland Sculpture Park was my last stop before I had to get on the airport tram.  It’s a beautiful park with over 200 naked statues in various still and active positions. Families, joggers, couples and tourists alike were giggling and posing with the statues, making their own fun.

There’s in a word I learned on this trip: dugnad, which means to do something together; create a garden, pave a road, or shovel snow with everyone from the neighborhood helping.  Being in Nesoddtangen, with such natural beauty, made me think about how small I am but how much we accomplish when we do things together in this way.  I guess I just felt a calm sense of possibility looking out over the water each day.  Big shoutout to Trine and Julian for welcoming us into their home, and I’m happily dreaming about what reunions will be like with my girlfriends after 30 years of friendship.




Barbara stayed an extra day in Norway, so our visit in London started Tuesday! Because Corey was home healing his kidney, he and ‘Big Barbara’ would have breakfast and plan out her days’ adventures.  Of course, he started the nickname ‘Big Barbara’ as well.  Here are the escapades day by day.

Tuesday: Corey and Barbara visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, and she climbed to the top to see the 360 view of London.  They spent time in the free exhibits at the Tate Modern, namely in the Rothko section. For a late lunch, we all met up at the National Theater for a proper afternoon tea! We shared sandwiches, scones, and even small meat pie.  The themed menu was based on the plays of the National Theater.  Our gift certificate also included a backstage tour where we saw the props and costume studios, as well as the three stages on site. I’ve only seen a show at the largest theater, but was inspired to check out more show dates in the future.  We relaxed that evening with a meal of roasted veggies at home.

Wednesday: Big Barbara went big! She conquered the West side, visiting both the Design museum and the V&A! She also walked Kensington gardens and still had energy to meet up with a friend of mine for a play called Posh. The play tells the story of a fictional drinking club (think fraternity) at Oxford that must confront their own definitions of brotherhood.  This modern version kept the exact same script but was played by an all female cast creating lots of food for thought.  It was also an experience to see a show where we could understand the literal words of the play, but where we didn’t understand most of the British context,  jokes, or references.

Thursday was Westminster Abbey, St James Park and Buckingham Palace.  Memorial flowers dedicated to the four victims of the attack on Parliament were laid out across the lawn in front of the Abbey.  With a stroke of luck, we saw the changing of the horses guard, and Corey met us for a lunch at Koya, an udon bar in Soho. I went to visit a school in the afternoon while Corey and Barbara made their way back to the flat.  After a day of walking, it was a perfect evening for a feast at Gokyuzu, my favorite Turkish restaurant.

Friday: She is still going!  Barbara checked off the Tower, Tower Bridge, and the South bank. We also had a tasty lunch at Borough market after I left my meetings.  It was a good day to have some Hendrick’s G&Ts at the Pig and Butcher before making a tasty dinner at home.

Saturday: We spent time at the Tate Britain, and then rode the Thames Clipper back to central London.  We wiled away the afternoon touring Spitalfields market, seeing Brick Lane’s graffitied walls, and strolling down Regent’s Canal.

Sunday: Rise and shine for Columbia Flower market, and a hefty Sunday Roast.  Then Kew Botanical Gardens and a final Sunday supper of Ottolenghi take out. Barbara said she felt inspired by the veggie dishes!


I hope that after reading about Barbara’s trip, you’ll feel inspired to visit us as well, and use this outline as a starting point for your own travels. We had such a good time adding new sights to our repertoire and thank you, Big Barbara, for bringing a bit of CA home to London.

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Tignes, France

The Tale of Tignes

It was worth a full day of travel on either end to have two amazing days of snowboarding in the French Alps.  With a flight into Geneva and a full day of riding the bus up to the resort, we busied ourselves with podcasts, naps, and the Heads Up app.  Our hotel, Le Paquis, was a ten minute walk from the Tignes Le Lac bus depot and was smack in the middle of the ski resort!  The decor of Le Paquis was that light wood paneling found in many cabins, accented with red plaid, hearts and fake furry rugs.  It almost felt like I was staying inside of a Swiss cuckoo clock 🙂


The breakfast on Sunday morning reminded me that I was indeed in France.  The bread basket was filled with mini croissants, baguette and wheat rolls- all deliciously warm and toasted.  We also boiled our own eggs in what looked like a deep fryer, and had sides of sausage, bacon and apple compote aka applesauce.  This applesauce would really get you up and smiling in the morning. So good!

By 9.30am we rode the Parafour lift up to our first run of the day.  The sun was already out and the snow was gleaming!  The slopes were surrounded by sharp tipped mountains and sweeping valleys.  We could see the tracks of off-piste skiers and cross country mavericks in these fields of white. I learned that piste means slope.

We got our bearings after the first few rides, sticking mainly to blue runs as the two levels above (red and black) were full of moguls.  There were pretty wide runs for the most part and the snow was great, not slushy or overly powdery, and no ice in sight.  My feet and calves felt sore on the flat straightaways but nothing unusual in that.  My goggles were worn down to the plastic so we did need to break for a new pair.  I guess the padding had been doing its job since 2004!

After I was able to see again, we made our way over to Val d’Isere to do some runs at this second resort.  It was easy to buy a lift ticket that allowed us to ski both sides of the mountain– just six Euro more to access Tignes and Val d’Isere.  I enjoyed the variety of ways to travel from slope to slope: lifts, funiculars, gondolas, and pulleys!  At 3:45pm it was time to meet up for the infamous apres-ski experience at La Folle Douche!  If you are imagining a warm lodge to grab a beer at the end of a long day, erase that image now.  This was a serious mid-mountain dance party.  People are are having beer but there is also a full on performance by go-go dancers, an arial artist, and a crowd that is dancing on the tables in teetering ski boots!  At one point, champagne was sprayed across the crowd and the hype-man of the festivities skipped around the tables grinding on as many people as possible.  If you’re wondering, yes, you do board/ski down the mountain after these shenanigans.

Madler, Jeremy, Danga, and Castro booked an amazing chalet in Val d’Isere, complete with a ‘butler’ who cooked breakfast and dinner!  The ‘butler’ was really a young kid in his gap year after Uni.  The chalet also had a fireplace that was the perfect setting to drink wine and play rounds of Jenga.  Of course, an impromptu competition started called ‘who could start the best fire’.  Madler and crew generously offered for us to have dinner at theirs which was so nice after a long day.

Finding our way back to Tigne Le Lac proved a bit tricky at 10pm as there weren’t buses running at that time, and the first two cab companies were closed. Corey finally got in touch with a company that sent a large van.  While we were loading our boards, an English gentleman came running up to ask if we were heading to Tignes?  We ended up with nine blokes in a six seater van riding back on the winding mountains talking politics and US/UK comparisons the entire time.  They also paid for our ride as well which we realized would have been a hefty price for just two of us.


The second day of snowboarding always reminds you that you have muscles you never knew existed.  We still felt energized and excited for another great day on the pistes, especially since Madler, Jeremy, and Castro would come to our side of the mountain for the day.  We had a great time in Tignes Le Lac showing them our favorite runs from the day before.  For lunch, the crew loaded up on seriously gourmet burgers and a plate of lasagna!  I was content with a granola bar as I get too heavy and then can’t finish the day.

We headed to do some runs back on their side of the mountain before round two of apres-ski.  At the end of a long day, zigzagging down the piste with little jumps, Corey took his infamous spill, actually knocking the wind out of him.  I think, like many adults, it takes us longer to get up from a fall since we’re just not accustomed to falling like that in our day to day 🙂 No one thought anything of this fall compared to his others…so after a quick rest, we skied down as usual.  (Madler did get the whole thing on his go-pro if you’re interested in the video, but it’s a bit long to post here.)

At the bottom of the run, the group split up and I went back up with two other guys while the rest of the group headed to Coco Rico for apres-ski.  The last run of my day was taking the funicular up and down the face of the mountain.  The goal was for Joe, Jimmy and I to board down the longest blue into Coco Rico, but it was closed when we got to the top of the mountain!!!  This meant that we’d be re-routing down red and black runs on the face of the mountain at the end of the day!  Needless to say, we could only laugh when we’d fall, slide down half the run, and takes out most of the moguls on a singular piste.  I’m sure the skiers were looking at us sideways. Moguls are not made for snowboarders in my opinion.

We definitely earned our beers by the time we slid into the bar, live music blasting and friends singing along.  Corey looked rough.  That last fall of the day was taking a toll.  He didn’t finish his beer and was in the bathroom for 20 minutes. Apparently, he didn’t even need to go, but he just wanted to sit down.  At this point, it was time to go back to our hotel.  Madler helped carry his board to the bus, and I carried both to the hotel after a rocky bus ride (he threw up twice).  He self-diagnosed his injury as bruised or cracked ribs which you can’t actually do anything about. I got the emergency number from the hotel just in case, and bought some paracetamol (Tylenol in Europe) before the local pharmacy closed.  He was in so much pain that he didn’t sleep that night, but wanted to brave traveling back to London and then deal with it all then.


Snowboarding in the Alps was incredible and I felt so lucky to go in my time out here.  However, the next part of the story isn’t fun at all.   Corey, after refusing to go to the doctor for three days, finally went to the GP after I pointed out that his symptoms seemed to be pretty intense: not being able to go to the bathroom, zero appetite, not sleeping for longer than 1.5 hours at a time, and a few other things that he can share on his own if you ask.

The GP immediately directed him to the A&E (emergency room) where, after a day of tests, the doctors found that Corey had lacerated his left kidney in at least 2 places -1cm each.  He had a subcapsular hematoma (a blood clot) around his left kidney that was compressing his kidney to 3cm (a normal kidney is about 10 cm). He was transferred to two other hospitals for more specific and urgent care.

After a week in the hospital, you’re probably not surprised to hear that he’d made friends with the entire staff at the Royal Free Hospital. Sometimes I’d return from work while nurses were running tests to determine if he’d need a stent or surgery or just bedrest, and sometimes the nurses would just drop by for a chat, or to tell him that they were leaving for the evening.

I felt lucky to stay with him as our private healthcare offered a cot for relatives so I could come and go from work, and stay with him in the evenings.  Friends from work visited, we facetimed our family, and he even received bouquets of flowers.

We’re still monitoring his blood pressure at home, and I haven’t seen him sleep so much in the decade that I’ve known him, but ultimately he’s healing and he shouldn’t have any loss of function in his kidney by the time his clot dissolves in another month.

He loves to tell the story so definitely ask him how he’s doing, and thank you to everyone who has reached out with their love and support while he’s been healing and getting back to his old self.

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Athens, Greece

Κανόνες Αθηνών! Athens, Greece

IMG_9018“Nonfiction is the Real Thing!” This motto was the big posted tagline in the back of my classroom at Infinity (shoutout to Allison!), and I felt like I was living ‘the real thing’ being in Athens as we were experiencing the ‘topography, vegetation, and water’ of this ancient city.  I was excited to see the Acropolis up close as I taught my sixth graders about ancient Greek history and culture back in Harlem.  

The center of the city is called Athens, and the Acropolis is like a beacon seen from every neighborhood and lane.  Attica is the surrounding area of Athens and is full of apartment buildings and storefronts that are most akin to strip malls. These neighborhoods are mostly beige colored buildings and there is a lot of tagging on the sides of the walls.  Some of the blocks are lined with citrus trees that create small sunny green spaces, but about a third of the shops on the outer blocks are run down reminding us of the struggle that Greeks have been facing for the past decade.  On our long walks, we did find neighborhoods that were lively- full of art, evening hangouts and baked goods.  And each time we remarked on the lovely weather with a neighbor or driver or server, they cheerily responded ‘Of course… it’s Greece!’ 

Our airbnb was in the Makryianni district, an easy walk into Athens.  We started our ventures with a very late lunch at Manh Manh.  This pulpo appetizer that could have been a meal on its own, and we had a great white wine.

From lunch we went onto the Acropolis museum, and we had a little over an hour to explore the three floors.  We’d suggest visiting the third level first as this level is floor to ceiling windows making it a great setting for sunset.  On the third floor, I also liked watching the Parthenon video before visiting the ruins as we didn’t have a tour book to guide us when we were at the site the following day.  I told Corey stories of the Greek gods and goddesses as we explored the friezes, metopes, and sculptures on the remaining floors.

For me, Plaka, the old town center, had similar vibes to some of Rome’s narrow lanes: waiters beckon you into their restaurants and the main stone road is packed with souvenir shops.  Strolling the labyrinth of streets gave me the feeling that our evening would be long and relaxed. Greeks don’t go out for dinner until about 9/10pm, but instead of dinner, we found Lukumades, and devoured a snack of fried dough balls smothered in honey.

The Agia Irini Square was buzzing, maybe similar to the lower east side but in a much, much smaller space.  We were on a mission to hit up Clumsies, a recommended cocktail spot!  It’s actually rated as one of the top 50 bars in the world (!) according to the website called worlds50bestbars.com.  The crowd gathers as the evening goes on, but the vibe is very laid back and the music was basically a playlist of the original songs that many current hip hop and r&b artists have sampled.  The Siren was my favorite drink of the night!


Today was Acropolis day (and any other ruins that we could walk to).   Unbeknownst to us, the first Sunday of every month means that you get free entry to all of these sites!  We couldn’t believe our luck!  We started our walk up to the Parthenon by 8.30am.  The East Slope near the Acropolis Museum allows you to see Dionysus Theater and the Odeon of Herod the Atticus, both early amphitheaters.  

The temperature was cool as we walked the path and we could see the view of Attica was breathtaking even though we were only half way up the hill.  The 2500 year old Parthenon has been destroyed and rebuilt many times due to fights between religious groups and rulers. The story goes that Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, the god of the sea, were dueling over Athens to give the city a name.  Athena gave the best offering to the people, the first seed of an olive tree in the ground, and thus became the patron saint of Athens. The Parthenon is dedicated to her, and ancient Greek citizens would enter the lines of Doric columns to visit a towering statue of the goddess.

The walk down to the Roman Agora and the Ancient Temple of Haphaestus is lined with olive trees, green brush and rolling green space.  The Roman Agora illustrated how ancient the city actually is, with very few of the ruins remaining on the green quad.  An agora is a meeting place where ancient Athenians would share their artisic skils, their athletic talents, and their philosophical ideas.

You walk through the large flea market of Monastiraki, full of bric-a-brac and also elderly gentlemen who’ve saddled up to their friend’s stall to have their morning coffee together.  The ancient Agora listed on our map showed many other temples dedicated to various gods, but when we arrived, we realized many of these ruins were almost invisible.  The map was really just illustrating where the temples would have been standing had we visited thousands of years ago.  

The Temple of Haphaestus was the only temple still standing in the ancient Agora.  He is the god of blacksmiths, metalworkers, and is also known as one of the ugliest gods, which is important in his myths as he was married to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.  The Stoa of Attalos is also still standing, though rebuilt by American architects in the 1950s from what I can remember.  This long corridor of columns became a marketplace for many Greeks.

We wandered north through the neighborhood of Psyrri with various walls of graffiti art, and modern coffee shops and bars coexisting with warehouses and older apartment buildings.  We lunched at Kavika, a spot on the promenade near the ancient Agora, but I’d venture to go back to Psyrri for food the next trip to Athens.

We endeavored to hike up Lycabettus Hill after lunch, but the walk up to the trailhead itself proved enough of a trek in the afternoon sun.  With so much sun, we opted instead to visit the promenade of Flisvos Marina, where there are expensive yachts and young and old are out having frozen Greek yogurt similar to Pinkberry.  

The tram is easy to catch to Piraeus, where we were on the hunt for a seafood restaurant suggested by Corey’s colleague.  The section of Piraeus we visited felt like a cove surrounded by bars and restaurants with large bay windows looking out on the sailboats.  While the suggested restaurant was actually closed when we arrived, it’s easy to choose another spot for dinner just based on the number of people inside of each location.  We were excited to grab a corner table looking out over the pier while the sun was setting!


We rented a car for the last day to take a day-trip along the Attica coastline.   But first, we had to hit up the Temple of Zeus and the original modern Olympic stadium!  How were these only a 15 minute walk from the car rental place?!

The Temple of Poseidon, out on Cape Sounio, was our actual destination, but with the car, we’d be able to stop along seaside towns as we pleased.  It’s about an hour drive out to Cape Sounio, and the roads wind along the seaside cliffs similar to Route 1 along the California coast.  The air is seaside fresh at the Temple of Poseidon and you can look out and begin to imagine how lovely a trip to the Greek islands must be.


We dipped our toes into the sea on a short pitstop and then headed for Vouliagmeni lake, a thermal spa sunk into the side of a mountain that is warm year round.  For me, it was painted as an idyllic getaway where I’d be seeped in steaming waters.  However, we arrived in the car park and saw the likes of a swimming pool with one side full of plastic chairs.  We voted no on the lukewarm pool.

Instead, we had lunch and then drove to Glyfada, a popular seaside hangout for the “in crowd” of Athens. This basically means there were wide pedestrian sidewalks with plenty of boutiques to get lost in.  We weren’t too interested in shopping at this point, so armed with gelato, we waved goodbye to the shops, the sea, and made for the airport.


Quick Shot:

For Food:

For Sights and Neighborhoods

  • Dedicate one day to the Acropolis! Definitely include the museum if you can.
  • Plaka, Psyrri and Monastiraki neighborhoods
  • Head to the sea to see: Flisvos Marina, Piraeus, and even Cape Sounio for the Temple of Poseidon

 

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Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Island Ride: Koh Samui & Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

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16Dec2016

We conquered our long flight from Heathrow by sharing favorite wedding memories, reading about the Thai islands and watching three (subpar) movies: Finding Dory, Suicide Squad, and The BFG.  Koh Samui’s airport welcomed us in the humidity with a one loop baggage claim, and a small taxi stand of drivers eager to pick up tourists. We were using Koh Samui for its convenient airport, but we’d be heading immediately out to Koh Tao, a smaller island famous for snorkeling and diving.  However, at the ferry dock, we were told the Koh Tao ferries were canceled for the day as there was ‘big wave’.  ‘Big wave’ meant that it wasn’t safe for boats to travel to Koh Tao until the following morning.

A small glitch in our travel plans, but we made the most of it.  After a quick booking at the Mermaid Inn, we started to explore this part of Samui island.  We passed the ‘smelly market’, as locals call it, due to the numerous fish vendors who throw out their fish remains at the market entrance.  I was wowed with the toads, and mounds of homemade curry pastes on display.

It was easy to spot the major landmark here: The Big Buddha. The Big Buddha was very big indeed.  It was flanked by various smaller statues and ngars (snake like figures).  I used a kimono style robe from the shared tourist rack at the entrance as my shorts were not long enough to enter the grounds.  This was a first of many borrowed accessories needed to enter temples in Thailand.

Leaving the temple, we wandered towards the Bob Marley jams playing out of a local spot.  It was decorated with shells, colorful lights, and cabanas with bean bags.  The owner let us know the food set out was free and that we should help ourselves to fresh seafood!  She hailed from Leicester and had been living in Samui for eight years.  We met a variety of characters that night since she had a group of English friends reuniting together on an island vacation.

We tried the various Thai beers to find a favorite for the remainder of the trip (Singha, Leo, and Chang– in that order for me).  The evening was so relaxing even though we didn’t make it to Koh Tao as planned.  We’d be on the first ferry at 8am the next morning.


17Dec2016

I’m not really sure how to post about today.  We were in a rocky situation with our boat trying to get to Koh Tao—so much so that we didn’t make it to the island.  The waves were so rough that we, and all of the passengers, were holding on for dear life.

Blogging for the memory of this event seems strange as it was an unforgettable experience.  Passengers were losing their stomachs all over the place, the anchor of the boat broke off and hit the front window on the boat, and the waves were so high that even while Corey was gripping his seat, he was still flying up in the air.  I spent most of my time squeezing his arm, keeping my eyes shut tight, and using my deepest yoga breathing.  He was a rock for me while the waves were crashing on top of the boat, and he was also a source of calm for other people as well.  The Thai crew were barefoot outside on the bow in the sheets of rain trying to fix the anchor, but no one gave any announcements about what was happening when the motor stopped!  It felt like an eternity before they told us we’d go back to Koh Pha Ngan due to ‘big wave’.  One of the crew members played  ‘My Heart Will Go On’ as we filed off of the boat.  I didn’t think it was funny.

We spent the next 24 hours with a small group of travelers- the You Only Boat Once crew (YOBO!).  We huddled around a cell phone and wet maps to find a place to stay on such short notice, especially as so many places were packed with full-moon-partygoers. We found the Sabaii Bay hotel and made our way to what felt like an oasis.  It had been two days on the islands and I hadn’t laid on a beach, but I was grateful just to be on land!

We went for lunch in a garage with a woman cooking the daily specials in just four silver pots.  We took a walk in the rain just because we could.  Then we had happy hour with the YOBO crew: a newlywed couple from Vancouver, a younger couple from Gothenburg, and an Argentinian woman about our age traveling on her own.  The day’s events definitely brought us closer together. We shared stories about traveling, work, and ‘must see’ places for our remaining weeks late into the evening.  It felt like a good sign that the rain stopped while we were getting to know one another.


18Dec2016

Our boat ride was an easy one!  The weather was sunny and I even had time to walk on the beach before we took off.  Before the trip, everyone in the YOBO crew seemed to be carefully weighing breakfast options in anticipation for the upcoming ride.  Overall, we were all in hopeful spirits with the sun shining.  On the boat, we sat in our same seats, almost superstitiously.

Just walking to into our last hotel on Koh Samui was incredibly different to our past two evenings.  This hotel was luxury.  Thank you, SPG points!