White Cliffs of Dover – Kent, England

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s day trip was to Dover, to see the White Cliffs, and the Castle.

The cliffs very conveniently have a section managed by the National Trust, with parking and a couple different options for tea rooms.     There are a couple different walking paths, though the one closest to the cliff-side has by far the best view, even if it’s a bit uneven (I did the equivalent of 73 staircases on my Fitbit that day).

 

 

The longest walk brings you to the South Foreland Lighthouse, where the Mrs. Knotts tea room absolutely won my ongoing survey of British cream teas (for science!) on atmosphere, at least.    It’s actually in the lighthouse, has the most perfect English tea room kit, and was delicious.

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California

So my sister got married on the third.    Which meant we got to go out to CA for the event.   (I was a bridesmaid.)    The family part of the trip is covered on Facebook, and elsewhere, because this is not a family oriented sort of blog, but the BF and I did extend the trip so we could take in the wonders of Southern California.    (There are also a slew of book reviews coming in – I’m just finally getting around to writing those up.)

There will be pictures, and some separate highlights, but some of the non-pictorial highlights:

Driving around near San Diego.    The traffic wasn’t like LA, and the coast is beautiful.   One night, we stopped in La Jolla, at La Pescadera, and had grilled octopus and grilled mahi mahi sandwiches that were just to die for.    Such a nice time.

Three fly overs by the Blue Angels!  (Miramar air show that weekend.)

On our drive from San Diego up to LA – the used bookstores.    Fahrenheit 451 in Carlsbad was awesome.    Actually, I liked Carlsbad – seemed like a nice little town.    (Little being comparative of course, I think it’s like the size of Portland, population wise.)

The Santa Monica Freeway.   Bleh.    Enough said.

We went and saw a taping of Undateable.    First off: the Warner Brothers lot is huge!   Second, does no one read instructions?    We were almost the only ones that left our cell phones in our cars, as requested.    (Though clearly this was expected, based on the cell phone confiscation and storage kit they rocked out at final security stop.)     Third: not necessarily in a hurry to do that again.    That’s a lot of constant laughter.   Fourth: what a fascinating process!

102 degrees is too freaking hot.    Enough said.

Food in LA/Pasadena is great.

The president is on my shit list.   He was landing at LAX as we were supposed to take off.    So we got to boil on the tarmac, and on the tail end, switch terminals in Atlanta in 10 minutes.    We did made that connection.   Our luggage did not.    At least it came on the next flight, the next morning.

The Bay Area, California

So I’ve back from a week in the Bay Area of California.    My sister moved up there from LA last Spring, and a bunch of us decided to join her for Christmas.   (A good thing too, as they’re not terribly fond if the place, and are seriously thinking about move back to LA.)

There will be pictures forthcoming, as well as book reviews of what I read during the trip (which was actually mostly on the travel days themselves, as there was a great deal of hanging out with family.)

There was a whole bunch of fantastic food.    My SIL is a major foody, so had already mapped out a morning trip to Tartine, for when we made it into San Francisco proper, which was fine with with me.     Their frangipane croissants really are that good.    (My sister and I also shared a really fantastic gourgere.)     My niece had specifically wanted a cinnamon roll, and their morning buns did not disappoint.      I will say, it’s a good thing they have outdoor seating.     Otherwise, we never would have been able to sit down.

We stayed in Milpatas (closer to where my sister actually lives), and therefore had some fantastic Vietnamese food in the strip mall closest to the house we rented.     It just goes to prove – the best ethnic food really does come from strip malls.    I had a pork vermicilli dish that had both barbequed pork and pork meatballs, in a sweet and sour sauce.    The sauce was fantastic – definitely fish sauce based, and really good.    We also had fantastic spring rolls and fried egg rolls.

Mexican was accomplished in our day trip to Santa Cruz, at El Palomar.     It’s a hotel banquet hall.   I don’t know how old it actually is, but it looks like it has some fantastic old mission style architecture, and the food was great.    Really good Tex Mex, and a lot of different variety.

In Santa Cruz, we also stopped at Verve Coffee Roasters, which may now be my sister and M’s favorite coffee place in the Bay area.     They had really good lattes, and while the coffee was definitely on the pricy side, it’s that good.

My Sauna, er, Summer Vacation

This summer’s trip was to Washington DC.     We built the trip around a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert, which meant we were crazy enough to go venturing into the craziest humidity zone known to man.   (Ok, that’s the entire South, and I did live in Florida for a summer, and I really did know better ahead of time.)

We flew into Reagan for the first time, which was exciting because it’s right on the Metro.    So naturally, we managed to get picked up and dropped off by car, after being excited about the public transport options.    We arrived on Tuesday, just in time to stop for dinner at the Quarry House Tavern in Silver Springs, which still has the best burgers.

Our first full day was Wednesday, which turned out to be the humidity-pocalypse.    Like it really felt like walking into a wall upon exiting any air conditioning.   No, really felt like walking into a wall.   Our initial plan had been to wander around Georgetown.   One walk to the metro stop about five blocks away, and our plans quickly changed to Smithsonian!    We hit the Air and Space Museum, and went to the Planetarium!   (Narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson!).    There were hordes of screaming children, and we didn’t care!

Next door to Air and Space is the American Indian Museum, and C had mentioned that their dining hall was worth visiting, so we went there for lunch.    The Mitsitam cafe features native style cuisine from several regions in America, and while a touch pricy, was really good.    Definitely a different experience in Smithsonian dining.      After lunch, we stopped by the Hirshhorn Museum, which is, well, a little weird.    It’s all modern art and installations – not really our cup of tea.     At that point, the humidity got the best of us, and we headed back to a pre-concert nap.    (This was the day we discovered the joys of Uber.   I want Uber in Portland.)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was a great show.     Very hard to explain if you’ve never heard of him.    It was also the most devoted fan base I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen the Cure).  Like watching the front of the house felt almost like an anthropological study of something.   All in all, a great night.

The next day was much nicer, weather wise.    We hit the National Art Gallery in the morning, and did lunch at the food trucks at L’Enfant Plaza.    I had a great banh mi from What the Pho?    Our trip to the Hirshhorn paid off here – it’s about a block away from L’Enfant, and has tables in the shade, with a breeze coming from the courtyard fountain.   I may never go inside again, but those tables are our new ace in the hole for food truck lunch.    We had macarons at Paul on our way out to C’s place, where we met with the BF’s cousins, who were coincidently in town, and had food and drinks at the Looking Glass.

The next day, we finally wandered around Georgetown.    There will be a separate picture post of that, but for food, we stopped at Moby Dick’s House of Kebab, because there isn’t much kebab up in Maine, and it’s called Moby Dick’s House of Kebab!    It’s a fast foodish sort of place, probably a little on the plain side, but good.    For some reason, we had a macaron theme to this trip, and were forced to stop at Macaroon Bee, which was next door to the place on Wisconsin Ave where we had some afternoon iced coffee.    Their passion fruit macarons were awesome.    Actually, they were all awesome (better than Paul, though that’s to be expected).     Dinner that night, with C and the cousins, was at the Heights in Columbia Heights, another place we’d been to before, and enjoyed again.

Saturday, we had a little time to kill before the big event, which lead to the discovery of my favorite light fixture ever.

This was at Taylor Gourmet, a great, fast sandwich shop.    Exactly what we needed at that point, as we were saving room for the main event that evening.

The main event was Cantler’s Riverside Inn in Annapolis.    It’s actually across the river from Annapolis proper, in a residential area, on a creek.    It’s the kind of place were you first line up to park, and then have to line up to get into the restaurant.     You then order a bunch of crabs, they dump them on the paper table-clothed picnic table in front of you, hand you a mallet, and you go.

One Claw Down
The aftermath

It was freaking fantastic.    I was covered in Old Bay and crab juice by the end, and crabs are so much work I’ll never feel the need to do it again, but if you go to Maryland and eat seafood, you need to find a place like this, and go once in your life.    It’s awesome.    We finished the evening with a wander around Annapolis and ice cream.    It was an incredible day.

Sunday was for winding down.   We had a great brunch at the Coupe, watched C play some soccer, and had a pot pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies.   We were on the plan at 10:00 that night, and taxied into Portland just shy of midnight.     All in all, it was a great vacation.

Colonial Pemaquid Maine Historic Site

 

 

 

In our bid to fully use our Maine State Park pass, after our stop at the Botanical Garden on Saturday, we stopped by the Colonial Pemaquid Historic Site, by way of several of the fingers of the Bristol peninsulas.    (If you’ve never been to mid-Coast Maine, the coast line is all peninsulas there.   If you only went along Route 1, you’d think there couldn’t be a lot down there, everything goes by so fast.   You’d be wrong.)

Pemaquid is neat.    It’s the remains of several English forts that attempted to protect a settlement going back to the 1620s, so it’s what passes for pretty old archaeology around here.    (I’ll admit to being a little jaded by watching Time Team.    It is a little strange to think you can walk outside and find Iron Age ruins in England, while our natives didn’t leave much that was tangible.)

In our wanders, we happened open Miss Ashley’s Sub Shack in South Bristol, which had freaking amazing Philly cheese steaks.   (The grill was manned by a Philly native.)    That place is so off the beaten path I doubt I’ll ever be able to send someone there, but I want to – it was that good.

Bonus picture of Pemaquid Point Light.     There was a wedding, so we didn’t get to wander around.

Winter Vacation

I’m back from Arizona.    It’s snowing right now, and I’m finding it hard to believe that just yesterday, I was looking at cactus.

I have about 500 pictures to go through, and five books read, so those will be coming out over the next several days.    In the meantime, a few non-pictorial highlights:

Short Leash Hot Dogs – We ended up here for dinner our first night in town.     I had a hot dog that involved mango chutney, and was so good!     They had a curry and hot dog dish that went out to the table next to us that smelled divine.

The Heard Museum – Any one interested in Native American art, especially from the Southwest, needs to visit this museum.   The Hopi Katsina collection alone is worth it, but there’s tons more to see.      They had a exhibition about various New World foods that have now made it around the world that was really interesting.     Their museum shop was also a lot of fun to wander through.

Umami – In other food that we don’t seem to have around here, we hit a ramen place our last full day in town.   (In fairness, there is a ramen place in Portland, but it’s in a hard to park area, and it has mixed reviews, so we haven’t been there yet.)    I love having an excuse to try new things.    (We also hit a Sonic on the day we were out and about near Globe, but even though we don’t have those around here, it’s not like they’re fundamentally all that different than the fast food we do have, though the roller skating servers are fun.)

Watching the Super Bowl outside – I really could care less about football, but let’s face it, the Super Bowl is not an outdoor event in these parts.      So being able to go to a party that was outside was definitely a novel experience.

Other than that, we either relaxed, or there are pictures forth coming.

Versailles, Day 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Versailles is an utterly amazing spectacle.    It is grand on a scale that I’ve never experienced before.     Standing there, looking out from the Palace to the Grand Canal is a glimpse into a very different world.

Versailles is a bit of a trip outside of Paris proper.    We took the RER train (basically the commuter rail), leaving early enough to get there when the palace opened at 9:00.     We only had a bit of a wait at the ticket window (because we’d decided against buying any of the passes that would have allowed us to bypass that), and the line at security wasn’t that bad either.   I’d also found out that of the days we would be there, Wednesday should be the least busy (it’s closed Monday., so there’s a definite surge of people on Tuesday).   Still, even arriving that early, there were a lot of people.    I definitely enjoyed seeing the inside of the palace, but it was nice to get outside, where you could control your exposure to the crowds a bit more.

We did stop at the Angelina tearoom inside the palace, for a pastry and espresso break.   (Actually, we had lunch at Angelina too, but at the Petite Trianon lunch counter).   I had a wonderful concoction called a Millefeuille, which involved a whole lot of cream in some really lovely puff pastry.

The gardens outside were amazing.    The scope is breath-taking, and it’s really hard to take it all in.     There are actually a ton of little garden rooms that you can’t even always get into.    It was definitely one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to.