Friday, November 21, 2008

Buenos Aires

BA is so full of life and energy! The city is a hybrid between Manhattan and Mexico City. We arrived here, again, yesterday and meet up with Brian in Plaza Serrano. So far we´ve discovered:

The cafes, with afordable glasses of wine cafe con leche´s are considered places for social gatherings and business meetings.

The restaurants, which fill up around 10 PM offer so much more than the affordable steaks and trout on their menus. Their easy going slow place also offers it´s dinners a small vacation from the busy outside streets.

We´re off to explor Recoleta and La Boca....more to come soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

From BA to Mendoza

So far, I owe my wonderful trip to Dramimine (sp.) which knocked me out cold on the 11 hour plane ride to BA and again on the 12 hour bus ride to Mendoza. I´m currently locked in a internet cafe slash Subway sando shop with a group of on lookers who keep telling me to watch my bag....apparently I look like a tourist. It´s nice to be in a place I can experience something new everytime I move my eyes away from my computer screen.

Our day and night in BA was amazing. We stayed at a fantastic, small, hotel in Palermo called 248 Finesterra. The garden and sun deck were inviting, even if we didn´t have the opportunity to spend any time on either of them. We immediatly went out for lunch at a steak place down the street after we checked in and moved on with our day by wandering through the massive park, and Palermo (SOHO and Hollywood). I should be floating by now, based on the amount of cafe con leche´s I´ve drank but I simply can´t stop (not only are they good, they jolt my tired braincells awake). After a nap at the hotel, we headed out to dinner (again in Palermo SOHO) at a Brazilian place with the best Capprisha (sp.) I´ve ever had. Then, of course, we had to have a bottle of Malbec with our flan desert, which paired together made one of the most fantastic desert expereices ever.

Today we´re in Mendoza, which is far quiter and smaller. We´re deciding on a wine tour and trecking or horseback ridding tour for the next two days. We´re off to find Jerome a guitar so he can play in the garden of our hotel (the amazing Posada de Rosas with a huge room and kind care givers).

Missing you all with tired eyes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alternative Responses to the question, "how are you?"

Someone, at the offical Saints bar in manhattan (Bar None) gave me an honest response to the half-hearted question, "how are you," today and it made me think...what's the best way to answer that question? Here's some options off the top of my head:

I don't speak with strangers.

Every day outside of the cell is a great day!

The grout is back.

Do you want the honest answer or the polite answer?

I feel alone, and hopeless (then watch the interviewer's face).

Alrighty then (which I reserve for geeky conversations).

Fine and dandy (which is dangerous in the south).

Like the weather.

I'm fantastic/wonderful/amazing (or any other version of theses words you'd like to use to portay wonderfulness).

Fuzzy as a peach.


What's your favorite reply?

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Tribute to Pam Hamilton

Pam Hamilton savored life and lived it with a hilarious zeal.

When she laughed she threw back her head and opened her mouth wide enough to let all the sound out.

She had a certain appreciation for girlfriends that I've always cerished.

I never saw Pam "get tired" of anything -- she simply joked her way past it.

She always had painted nails and astonishing jewelry.

She loved scotch and football (an awesome combo).

She threw themed superbowl parties every year and spent a full-day finding a rotating hot dog machine one year.

She cleaned her own gutters, which she usually waited until the dead of winter to do and had a special yellow rain outfit specifically picked out for the job.

She intimidated the hell out of most men who tried to cross her and simply couldn't see how anyone could be scared of her.

She had a bit of Clevland, NYC and Marin personality in each sentence she spoke.

She cracked me up.

Pam was my first real "boss" and introduced me to the wild world of PR (not to mention the insanity of working in front of a computer screen M-F). She remained in my life as a supporter, cheer leader and mentor. She passed away in Marin County, CA this morning and moved on to a pain-less, happier place.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the day...

"Damn brotha, you're as old as Yoda."

"I know Yoda, I kicked his ass last time I saw him."

-Overheard on the block of 122nd between Adam Clayton Powell and Fredrick Douglas.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


The Eureka's -- an stellar team of friends including Jerome, Bonnie, Erick, Davina and myself -- took the Conflux East Village scavenger hunt by storm yesterday. We scavenged (see photo) throughout the village, solving puzzles about everything from the location of the 1988 riots to the meaning behind Adam Purple's garden on Eldridge Street. We were supposed to earn points by gathering items from seperate challenges, proposed by the teams who were playing alongside us. But, either the heat/humidity or our hangovers got the best of us and we decided to just focus on the puzzles. At the finishline, the Eureka's lack of challenge points hurt our final score significantly, and we came in close to last (close being the key word here). But - I'm pretty sure we had the most fun....and in my book, that's all that counts.

Storm King

Finding serenity in NYC can come in a variety of forms, from a quite subway car to an old-fashion in a heavily wooded bar, or from a few quite moments in front of an air conditioned store with their doors open to a jog through Central Park. Last weekend, we found a new form of serenity -- just outside NYC.

We had heard of a magical place called the Storm King Art Center, but we never imagined it would actually re-set and restore our serenity-meters the way it did. We booked a zipcar for the weekend, after a lazy Sunday afternoon conversation with our friend about heading away for the weekend and began searching through our "NYC getaway" notes and resources for a place to go. After a rainy Saturday in NYC -- which we spent at the Buckminster Fuller exhibit at the Whitney (which I highly recommend)-- we were hesitant about the weather. But when the sun shone through on Sunday morning we packed our picnics, beach towels, hiking boots and friends into the car and heading towards the mountains.

Pictures can describe Storm King, far better than words. But as an overview, this 500 acre park, marries the relationship between art and nature better than any other sculpture garden I've visited. The careful placement of each sculpture and care for the grounds gave each visitor pause as they approached a new piece. To finish off our abandon-NYC-day we did a quick 1 hour hike up Bear Mountain, watched the sunset over the hills and dined on NYC Dinosaur BBQ. Ahhhh, refreshing!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's nights like these...

What makes NYC special? I know it's different for everyone, and has changed for me over the years -- but it all comes down to the people. Last night, like many nights in NYC, I sat table side on the sidewalk of a busy pedestrian street (this time it was St. Marks Place) and hung out with my friends. We drank wine and dined on Korean food letting hump day pass us by. It's the best way to kiss off summer, even if I don't want to let it go.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Camping in NY

Camping a few hours away from NYC was a completely new experience for me. Past my quite California and European camping trips, there's something to be said for NY camping. Here's my positive spin on it....

  • You show up at midnight and your campsite is already brightly lit by your neighboring campers ultra bright lantern.
  • You set up your tent to the base of rap music coming from the campsite 2 sites down, with a metal swing set on it.
  • You meet George, the firewood delivery guy who manages this campsite, and is somehow living your quasi-dream-life.
  • You watch in amazement as your friends swiftly build a fire, a talent you never knew they had.
  • You can hear a slight babble from the creek you sleep beside, over the music and crackling fire.
  • You realize that the motor homes on the campground may have been there longer than just a few days, as their Christmas lights and turf lawns spot the landscape.
  • You can walk to get another bag of ice when you run out.
  • The local store you buy ice at is also the town's DMV.
  • Your hike for the day includes of a mile and a half long walk along a highway with no sidewalks.
  • You hike up to the top of Mt. Temper Tantrum, which takes about 2.5 hours, exposes beautiful views of the entire Catskills Park.
  • Your dip in the creek after your hike feels a fresh and cold, but it doesn't quite "clean" you off.
  • Waterfalls are note the easiest places to pee in the water.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why don't they just leave sports broadcasting up to the experts?

I've been trying to catch every last bit of the Olympics that my schedule allows. Sadly, I love the coverage but can't seem to stand the commentators. Aside from a few past athletes that are reporting on behalf of NBC, many of the reports seem to lack any hope or aspiration for the game. The negative tone, and lack of knowledge leave me saddened, and missing my ESPN sports reporters.

Unfortunately, I usually end up so frustrated with the commentators that I have to turn the sound off and watch the swimmers motor through the pool to a Jack Johnson tune, or gymnasts tumbling across the floor to the sound of Rancid. Life is usually better with a unique soundtrack anyway.

Screaming at the TV makes the Olympians work harder

Maybe it's because I was raised as an NFL fan and althlete, but I'm part of that special slice of Americans who believe yelling at the TV will make a diffrence. Luckily, I wasn't raised to scream slurs at the opposing team or player, but I certainly feel like hollering at my own team to "go, go, go," gets them there faster. Despite some tough losses, I don't think anyone can disprove (or prove) my I'll keep doing it until my throat is sore and my lungs hurt. Just be happy you're not in the room with me when it happens.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rancid - Round 1

I survived a Rancid, Sick of it All, and Bloodclot concert last night. Of course, that was only round 1. Round 2, which includes one of my all-time favs, Westbound Train, is tonight. Round 3? That's Sunday. Hopefully I'll live to blog about it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Lock Out

So, for the first time since moving to this wonderful city I locked myself out of my apartment last night. Technically, I didn't lock myself out, my brain damaged mind locked me out.

So, I bought a new work-out bag on Monday to encourage more frequent trips to the gym. But, on Tuesday while giving the bag a trial run I decided to test out all of it's many pockets and cubby holes while rushing to get ready for my spinning class. Obviously, not the best idea in the world...but really, who would be stupid enough to loose something in a bag they are carrying on their shoulder?

I would.

So, after a fun-filled work-out I jumped on the train home (yes, sweaty and all) and barely climbed the subway stairs out of the 125th Street station. By the time I made it to my door at 8:45 the exhaustion that I'd been fighting off for hours swept over me. I unloaded myself on to my stoop stairs and began searching for my keys. I searched through my day purse and continued searching through: the outside mesh pocket, the inside mesh pocket, the outside long pocket, the inside small pocket, the hidden key pocket, the water bottle holder pocket. No keys.

I tried buzzing my neighbors to no avail. I called my boyfriend who didn't answer. I even called the gym to ask if they had my keys and they didn't.

I sat on the stoop and waited. 20 minutes later some of my braincells started firing again and I decided to shake my bag and listen for my keys. I heard them (enter shining light music). I poked and prodded around my new bag until I found another zipper. The large side pocket zipper. I opened the pocket and found my keys....feeling like a complete idiot.

So, at 9:30 I walked up my stairs and began my evening at home. I found an amazing recipe in Jerome's Food and Wine Magazine for a triple tomato sauce (sun-dried, fresh and paste) that actually complimented our watermelon and feta salad amazingly well. And of course, watching the men's 4X800 relay in under 7 minutes made the evening even more divine.

So, it turns out my evening was not a complete waste :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fall in August?

Fall-like weather took over NYC this morning. Although the streets still give off their very own heat, I think I'll exercise outside today instead of heading off to spinning class with my colleague as planned.

Perhaps I'm just a bit stir crazy. I moved into a new office last week, a window-less office. It has all the perks my last office was missing like foot-traffic, my own space and a full-sized desk but lacks the ever important...sunlight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gearing Up for SF

I'm gearing up for another trip to California this week. This time, I'll be headed to my homeland....the Bay Area. Among the things I'm excited about are hanging out with Grandma Alice, mom and dad in Golden Gate Park, seeing M&M and hearing about their trip to Japan, taking a cap-nap on my parent's back deck, watching my friend Serene get married and having a drink with her after, squirming around in my feminine side while getting ready for the wedding my lovely friend Jenny, hearing all about my amazing friend's adventures and life-changes like Shi who recently moved back to SF, Ashley who recently moved into the city, Heath who is slowly building my dream home in San Rafael and so on. It's always a rush to see everyone and catch-up but I still can't wait.

See you on the flip side....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two More Favorites in the LES

I'm undergoing another East Village and Lower East Side phase, which seems to be cyclical with warm weather. We met up with 8 friends in the LES last Saturday night for dinner and discovered 2 more favorite spots. The first, a Cambodian noodle bar called Kampuchea (75 Rivington Street at Allen) offered us easy-to-enjoy cocktails, a tropical like setting, and wide long tables which made sharing food easy. We dined on amazing Cambodian crepes, which actually came with lettuce leaves and chili sauce for fun-food dining, seasoned corn, perfectly prepared noodles, pork "sampler" sandwiches, tiger shrimp and some tasty white wine. It's now been elevated to one of my favorite noodle bars in the city. Perhaps next time I go I can talk them into turning on the AC and abandoning the tropical feel of the great outdoors.

After dinner we headed to Nurse Bettie's (106 Norfolk St. at Delancy) which my colleague recommended a few weeks back. It was a perfectly relaxed, mid-to-small sized space that actually had their AC pumping (thank gawd!). It felt like a neighborhood staple with charm, as all the pin-up girls looked down on us sipping cocktails in one of the small booths. The melting pot crowd had a positive drive and all seemed to be enjoying their relatively cheep drinks. It will be added to my list of "fun bars."

Dying to see The Dark Knight

So all the buzz on the newscasts and "around the water cooler" is about the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. While I've always been a comic book fan, I've never really been the first one to run out and catch the blockbuster comic book movies. In recent years, I've loved the different versions of Superman along with Ironman and Braveman thrown in there, but I have not been enchanted by the Batman movies of the past. But, based on what I've heard, this version will blow me out of the water. Here's to hoping I'll get to see it soon :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ai Chihuahua

The illness of 2008. The illness that nipped at my ankles for days like a frenzied chihuahua before moving up my legs to grab a hold of my calves with its lock jaw has finally subsided. The chihuahua, or kidney infection as my doctor liked to call it, took hold of me during my trip to San Diego last week.

The beast attacked me full-force on my return to NYC, including a few nice days of involuntary sweating (followed by some unpleasant ice-cold baths), the shakes, the shivers, a sore back and an overly sensitive belly. I don't remember being that sick since I was a kid, although I know I've used that line in the last 4-years.

Now that I have shaken the chihuahua back down to my ankles I can make fun of it again.....daydreaming of the day when it will be completely gone.

Ai Chihuahua that was close.

San Deigo -- July 4th

It felt like a wave of stress was flying me into my July 4th vacation. Now that it's melted away, I can't even remember what I was so stressed about in the first place. Isn't that how it always goes?

Anyhow, visiting Brian, my brother, in sunny Southern California always mellows me out. So, I was ready for the trip and welcomed it with open arms. The first couple of days, sinking my toes into the sand and swimming out into the crashing waves I wondered what in the hell made me even think to leave California.

Midnight swims, sipping cocktails overlooking the sunset and driving everywhere (oh wait, maybe I just remembered why I moved to NYC) all offered us good times. But, as many of you know, I am not much of a sun-bather or "modern settler" as I like to call them. You know what I'm talking about, those fantastic mellow people who can lounge all day outside without a-care-in-the-world and do...nothing. I occasionally accomplish this on my couch, but somehow it's different there (I blog, and somehow, sadly that makes me feel as if I've accomplished something).

So by day-three Jen, my travel mate from SF who also flew down for the weekend, and I were ready to try our hat at surfing. We had a tough time, but caught some waves and grew an amazing amount of respect for surfers before our arms got too sore. We also talked Michael (Brian's room-mate) and Brian into takeing us up the coast on their motorcycles. Although I wondered a few times if my brother was trying to kill me for something I had done to him in the past, we all made it home alive.

T'was a great trip, checking out his new diggs(a brand-new-god-only-knows-how-many-square-foot home that sits a mere mile from the beach), partaking in far to much debauchery, and getting to know everyone in his life a little bit better.

If only NYC and San Diego were closer.....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer Visitors -- 2008

Summer always brings a wonderful influx of visitors to NYC. Our first round of visitors this spring were Ian and Kim, visiting from LA for the weekend. They won the award for "Amazingly Agreeable Visitors," sharing our interests and tastes throughout the city; they were a blast to have and easy to please. We took them to the enjoy the intensity of Fuerzabruta, my favorite "show" in NYC, to experience some amazing sushi and sake at the underground sake den, to eat hot-dogs, and sandos along the way and hit up some crazy bars around town. Overall, it was a blast to have them.

A couple of weeks back, my parents also dropped by NYC for a week-long visit en route to California from Newfoundland and Boston. Mom and Dad, the happy, traveling, "country mice" (mom's words), arrived in NYC on a Monday after 3-solid weeks on the road. After settling in, to their priced-just-right accommodation they surveyed their new Upper West Side neighborhood. After multiple visits to NYC throughout their lives, including yearly visits since I arrived here, they have a great comfort level with the city and all it holds. Which, as a host in a city, gives you great comfort for your guests but also presents you with a problem. What new things and experiences can you introduce to them on their trip?

Throughout the year, in between my parents visits, my daily adventures in this city reveal so may cultures, ambiances, experiences and opportunities I want to share with them. So, I tend do I say this, "over plan" many of their trips. I never thought of myself as a "planner" until my parents started visiting 4-years ago. Now I'm the go to resource for many of friends who have heard of my "famous" 10-day itineraries sure to exhaust any reasonable human being. Before this last trip began, I willed myself to leave plenty of wiggle room in our schedule which worked out surprisingly well.

We experienced some new adventures including different neighborhoods, attractions, and shows, along with some old hauts such as favorite restaurants, shops and strolls. Of course, the new experiences are the memories that have stuck.

Perhaps the most outlandish was The Slackers show at Irving Plaza in Union Square. The two-parts-SKA, one-part-Rock NYC band always puts on an amazing show. They draw fans and skankers of all ages, which made it a fun show to rock-out at with the folks.

The rest of the top-4 list included: the NY Botanical Gardens, with picturesque rose gardens, and perfectly manicured laws littered with Moore sculptures for the summer; a trip down Arthur Ave. for some real no-menu-needed Italian fare; and a viewing of the acclaimed Broadway play, August:Osage County, which was a life-changing experience and quickly entered my top-5 best plays list before the curtain fell.

Surprisingly we tried on some new restaurants for size, like Hakana Grill, Stone Rose Lounge and my personal favorite out of the bunch, Cafe Nior. The old staples like Da Andrea, Saigon Grill, Calle Ocho, Dinosaur BBQ, Republic, Paladar, Corner Bistro, etc. all made re-appearances for good reason.

We toured the city by foot, subway, taxi and occasionally, bus. We caught-up, chatting about their month-long journey to India, 3-week long trek through Newfoundland and New England, and our recent mini-trips to Vegas and New Orleans.

It's like food to the soul....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Squeezing in Relaxation

Memorial Day weekend this year came at just the right time this year. The week before I'd exhausted myself at work, including a painful business trip that included a 9-hour delay at the Charlotte, NC airport. I needed some rest....but I rarely listen to my body at times like this.

Luckily J was in the mood to relax this weekend too, so as much as I wanted to run outside and take full advantage of the sunshine and less-crowded local hauts I was coarsed inside onto the couch for most of the weekend. Of course, I did enjoy a fun-filled BBQ where Jerome and I staged a less-than-valiant drink off and some good old catch up time with old friends via phone. But, most of what I did for a full 3-days was rest, relax and clean. Now that I'm gearing up for a friends wedding in Vegas next week and a my parent's visit the week after I'm happy I took a little bit of time to just.....chill.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Mother's Day looks like Easter and feels like silk. It's one of the only "Hallmark Holidays" that actually make me warm and fuzzy inside....but that's more of a testament to my mom than Hallmark. My mom is one of those women that amazes those around her and never seems fazed by slight downturns in the road. I can't tell, from the stories her brothers and sisters tell, if she was always such a kind, generous, witty, even-tempered woman, or if my brother Brian and I drove her to that state.

She had to endure a lot when Brian and I were growing-up and somehow manages to only cling to the happy memories from our younger years, which she tells in her half-laugh-half-talk voice when we go home and visit her and dad for Christmas. She rarely snapped and never looked disappointed to see us at the end of an entire day of teaching high school kids (which in retrospect seems more like a superpower than a characteristic). She empowered Brian and I to do it all, which seems to have worked if two happy and quasi-sane grown kids count as success. Sometimes I wonder if she regrets telling us to follow all of our dreams down every rabbit hole, or reaching for the top until we had smiles plastered on our face. Sometimes I wonder if Brian and I were less ambitious, travel-hungry fiends we'd still live close to home and be around for the Saturday tennis matches and Sunday BBQs.

She'd never raise her kids like that, which I suppose answers my question. But I still wonder as I sit here in a coffee shop in NYC and think of her on a slightly foggy day in San Francisco with her mom and all of our cousins and aunts and uncles gathered around one table.

I miss her smile :)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ambitious Andrea

I'm feeling very ambitious about my weekend on this rainy Friday afternoon. I've been really crazed at work all week and finally hit a mini lul...which feels amazing. So, with this wonderful piece-of-mind I'm going to ride on into my weekend.

I'm going to spend my Saturday papering my apartment, with an Andrea-style cleaning (pause for laughter) from kitchen to bathroom and meal including fresh salsa and fish tacos. Then Sunday, I'm going to take care of myself, with a pedicure, jog and financial plan that will hopefully help me save money throughout the remainder of the year. I may even get a chance to pull down my spring and summer clothes and do laundry if I plan right.

Oh Ambitious Andrea, do not be drawn to the green couch that resides in your living room, or the bright sun that floods the open fields in the Park. Do not spend half your day making pasta sauces and roasted veggies for next week.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Hangover

Why do you cause me pain? Why do you insist on making me loath the beautiful rays of the sun beating down on my skin and piercing my eyes? Why do you make me feel so lazy I can’t even move off of the green couch or away from the living room? Why do you hurt me so?

I’m think I’m going to clean the bathtub and take a bath before I decide if I can drag myself out of the house to meet friends for dinner tonight.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Orleans, Ode to Alyson

I just returned from my trip to New Orleans and I'm slowly recovering and easing back into work. J and I met two friends from home (California) out there and painted the town red while dizzily sipping on hurricanes, hand grenades, Abita beer, and Jameson whiskey. Although it was tempting, we did not spend our entire time at sidewalk cafes, and outdoor bars. We toured the city by taxi, bus and my personal favorite – trolley.

Out of all the sites, sounds, and amazing views in NOLA the best thing about the city was the food. I visited what I consider to be the top restaurants in the city and came away amazed…well 5 times out of 6, which isn’t bad. I am extreemly lucky to have a Louisianan as a close friend. Her love and passion for NOLA has always blown me away but the list she created for me before I headed on vacation was priceless. She sent me to incredible jazz bars like the Spotted Cat, which featured a jazz quartet that played everything from Brazilian jazz to swing the night we visited. She detailed out the best places for Muffalettas, which we enjoyed on a sunny day in Jackson Square, and beignets, which sent us around the French market on a sugar rush after a few bites. Most importantly she recommended that we visit three amazing restaurants in the city – which truly made my trip memorable. At Restaurant August we dined on fine Creole cuisine and met chef John Besh table side, at Mothers we chopped down on Po Boys and gumbo I knew I could never re-create, and finally at Jacque Imo’s we ate fried chicken and catfish among brightly colored walls and beaded lamps.

I also couldn’t recap my trip without mentioning how wonderfully friendly the people of NOLA were. Our hotel, the Quality Suites in downtown had one of the kindest managers I’ve ever met. His thoughtfulness far surpassed anyone I’ve ever met at a hotel front desk. The waitresses (except of course at the famed Emeril’s, the only foodie spot that let me down) were all amazingly friendly and even the cab drivers were overwhelming happy and talkative. It’s an incredible place to visit.

So, since she can do a better job of telling you what an amazing city it is – here are her recommendations. My ode to Alyson:

Now, you know I could write a novel…but here are a few basic suggestions on what to do. This is based on if you have one free weekend:

Friday night – if you’ve never been, you might want to head down to Bourbon St. The locals don’t really hang out there, but if you’ve never been to New Orleans, you’ve got to experience Bourbon. If you decide to go into any bars, I would recommend two places – Pat O’Brien’s (piano bar with great hurricanes) and The Tropical Isle. The Tropical Isle is fun for a few minutes, but you have to order a hand grenade. Delicious fruity drink that tastes like a green jolly rancher and is seriously strong although you can’t taste it. There is also a decent Zydeco bar somewhere along Bourbon St. Shockingly, I can’t remember the name of it since I’m always wasted when we go there – I have to be to endure Bourbon St. to begin with. I’ll ask a couple of my friends if they know the name of it.

On the way home, stop at Café du Monde for beignets. The best thing you’ve ever eaten at 4 in the morning.

Lunch on Saturday: Mother’s on Poydras St. in the business district. Great po-boys, gumbo, jambalaya. And the name is perfect, it’s exactly how my mama cooks. And if you have some people who want breakfast items instead of lunch items they have that too. Complete with grits and good biscuits.

Saturday afternoon: I highly recommend walking around the French Quarter and the French Market during the day. It’s very fun and a completely different atmosphere than at night. You can start at Jackson Square and see the cathedral and the Cabildo (buildings on the side of the cathedral). Then walk passed Café du Monde to get to the French Market. There are local artists selling things and a few great stops along the way.

If you need a snack at that point, stop at Central Grocery for a Muffaletta (you can split a half of one between two people, but it does have meat in it, so not sure if you want that). Stop and have a beer or two at Molly’s. Great place to rest for a bit and wet your whistle. It’s all right there along Decatur St. in the French Market.

For dinner on Saturday: Jacque Imo’s in Uptown New Orleans – seriously the most amazing food. It’s got GREAT character and a very eccentric chef. There is even this weird painted pick-up truck parked out front and there is a table set up in the bed of the truck. It only seats two though. I would recommend making a reservation if you can – great place for dinner.

For Saturday night, head to Frenchman St in the Marigny district (any cab driver should be able to take you here). DO NOT WALK, I repeat, do not walk to Frenchman St. from the French Quarter. It’s not safe and easy to turn down a bad street. I love The Spotted Cat – great live Jazz music. Across the street from there, you’ll find Café Brazil – they always have live music too. And d.b.a is a great hang out bar. I like to get a seat in the windows there and watch people walk down the street - it’s awesome!

I’ve got two recommendations for breakfast on Sunday before you head out of town. The first is the Camellia Grill. It’s a greasy diner and is another local favorite. Last time I was there, I met Harry Connick, Jr. The cooks are all very lively and they sing as you eat and they’ve all got crazy New Orleans accents. Good omelets and cheeseburgers, etc. The other recommendation is a little more fancy (pricey), but it’s classic New Orleans. The Court of Two Sisters has the most amazing jazz brunch. I think it’s one flat fee for everything you want including mimosas and bloody marys. But it’s truly amazing.

Other fantastic restaurants – but if you can’t make it to these places, rest assured that you pretty much can’t go wrong…

Mesparo’s (casual place – great po-boys)
Ralphs on the Park
Palace Café (Brennan-family owned, but a little less pricey)
Restaurant August
Acme Oyster House

Other bars to consider:

Preservation Hall – this is a place to hear classic Jazz music.
Rock-N-Bowl – Zydeco music and bowling…it’s an interesting spot!
Tipitina’s – great classic New Orleans bar

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Watching Dinner

I'm watching J make me dinner this evening, fresh linguini with his own twist on Bolognese sauce, from my nest on the couch. It smells amazing and makes me wish I hadn't forgotten to buy Parmesan cheese today. He makes the most amazing meals from Filipino soups and stews to Italian feasts and some nights, like tonight; I realize just how spoiled I am.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Getaway Weekend: Catskills

Deciding to take a weekend trip is easy. Deciding on what kind of trip you and your travel companion want to take is another. And then, choosing the perfect location for your trip.... well, that’s usually the hardest part. J and I were facing this issue Easter weekend, when we cam up with the perfect plan.

After moving to NYC almost 4 years ago, I realized how little of the East Coast I've climbed up, driven by, bussed past or barreled down. Some of my favorite getaways in California were to local state parks and beaches. The redwood trees in Northern California provided the perfect canopy for a car camping trip and the bonfires out at Bolinas Beach allowed for daylong retreats that felt like a full week of relaxation. So, when I checked out the map for a good Easter retreat in NYC city the first thing that caught my eye was the state parks.

I've always wanted to visit the Adirondacks, which I've driven by a number of times on my trips up north for leaf peeping and similar adventures. But, understanding that a 5-hour drive was not in the cards for me last Easter weekend, I looked a bit further down on the map and found the Catskills Park. It looked like a large enough section of green on the one-dimensional map to satisfy my outdoor craving. And it appeared to have plenty of hiking and skiing options for the adventurer at heart. So, the Catskills it was...

We headed up Friday night, and including a 1-hour detour where we cursed the Garden State Parkway up-down-and-sideways for not providing ample on-ramps we made it to the Catskills Lodge in Windham by midnight. The lodge, which I choose based on their basic, but sweet Website, the kind voice of the woman who called me to confirm my reservation and the stellar Trip Advisor traveler reviews. Although our room was fairly small, it proved just large enough for us to get dressed in the morning and fall into bed at night, which is pretty much all we used it for. The ground floor was fairly nice, with a fireplace, pull down projector screen, large dinning table and but wouldn't have made much of an impression if the brothers hadn’t been there.

Three brothers run the Catskills Lodge and welcome their guests with such kindness and generosity it really feels like home. During our stay, over Easter weekend, we dyed eyes during the Lodge’s regularly evening happy hour and finished off 3 litters of wine with our group of 12 while chatting about our day. At night, we leisurely headed over to the recommended restaurants in neighboring towns like Woodstock and Jackson and dined on fancy fare like grilled cheese and turkey dinners.

Saturday was really the highlight of the trip. J and I are always out, which usually institutes some form of wandering the streets of Harlem, LES, West Village or lately Park Slope. But, as city-mice (my mom's term) we don't get much time to triumphantly dash up a mountain or slide down a slippery bed on a mission to find a waterfall. So, Saturday we set out to hike a mountain, walk completely around a lake we couldn’t see the other side of and embrace nature. Thanks to the chilly weather we ended up sliding up a frozen path to the base of a frozen waterfall, skidding around a frozen lake and almost falling through the thin ice, and downing cold beer to cool down the frost burn that had taken over most of my face. It was such a perfect reminder of why J and I are so happy together, no matter how icy the path gets.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Field Trip: Arthur Ave., Bronx

As a lover of Italian food, and past resident of Firenze, I’ve been eager to visit NYC’s ‘Real Little Italy’ since I first heard about it. Finding Italian ingredients at most major grocery stores seems simplistic, but uncovering the freshest most flavorful ingredients is another story. The single year I lived in Italy opened my eyes to what fresh veggies, herbs, and pastas can become when selected and combined together properly. Over a year, I fell in love with cooking, particularly Italian cooking.

The historic shopping area of Arthur Ave. was about a 15-minute walk from the train station (D, Fordham Road) and did not disappoint. My friend Risa and I started off with lunch at Emilia's on Arthur Ave. just down from 187th Street. They offered affordable lunch specials and great house red wine, which we tested (it still counts as testing if you drink a ½ litter in my book.) Although everything was good from the small ricotta raviolis to the hot antipasti but Risa’s gnocchi alla ragu won top honors at our table.

After we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant we headed across the street to the closed-air market, which offers everything from Italian cigars to fresh veggies for a price. We found tomatoes that actually smelled like tomatoes and basil that you could sniff from over a foot away. We chatted it up with the butchers at Mike’s Deli and treated ourselves to some sliced imported proscuttio de Parma (for a mere $6.)

Then we set out to find all the ingredients for our evening feast. We started our food journey at Calabria Pork Store for some Italian sausage, panchetta, and salami. The meat market was full of cured, and fresh meats alongside bins of olives and fresh mozzarella. One taste of the salami assured us that our dinner was going to be a hit. Our next stop, for our linguini and clam entrée was Randazzo's, right across the street. The little neck clams were beautiful and priced at just $4 a pound. After stopping for a quick coffee break, which included a debate with the café manager over Benicio Del Toro’s sexiness we moved on to Mt. Carmel for some wine to accompany our meal. We found some of my old favorites from Italy and packed up our purses.

Once along 187th Street we found the famous pasta house Borgatti, which cuts pasta to your preference for $2 a pound. We bought over 4 pounds of fresh pasta and 100 spinach and meat ravioli’s, which taste like little pillows of heaven. Then we speed down the street to Casa Della Mozzarella on the corner of 187 and Arthur, which sells 1.5 pound balls of fresh mozzarella for around $6 per pound. We picked up some parsley at a corner store and ciabatta, provolone bread and canola at Madonia Bread Store on our way home before we hiked back up to the subway station. The walk back was quite a bit more tedious than the walk there but was still quite rewarding.

Our dinner was a success and made me want to book a monthly shopping trip to Arthur Ave. Perhaps my next trip will be in spring when I can hit up the NY Botanical Gardens as well.

All the information I found to lead me to these wonderful places along Arthur Ave. were online at Chowhound (my favorite),, and of course

Feild Trip: Astoria

As the snow melted last weekend J and I decided to take a field trip to Queens.

Friday, after hiking around through the snow for the better part of the day (see post 'Winter...' below) I picked J up at work and headed off to dinner. Since J and I keep such different schedules, I knew J would not be up for a mellow dinner in the neighborhood or take-out at a friend’s house. So, we decided to do what we’ve been meaning to do for the past 2 years in this city….experience the Greek food in Astoria. Really, who hasn’t heard about the amazing Indian food in the East Village, the fabulous Pizza in Brooklyn, or the incredible Greek food in Astoria?

An amazing woman I had the joy of working with last year grew up in Queens and recommended her local favorite on Ditmars Ave., Aganti. I remember my friend mentioning it’s close proximity to the subway station, and didn’t second guess heading out there on a snowy night with tired legs. After a half-mile stroll from the subway station, searching for the restaurant I reconsidered my decision. But, J pushed on and we found the cozy, brick-walled eatery on the comer of 19th and Ditmars.

After a 20-minte wait, in which our pain was eased with a complimentary glass of wine we were seated among the Greek movie stars hanging from the walls. We were happily stunned when they seated us (on a busy Friday night) at a 4-top in a cozy corner of the restaurant. It’s funny to get used to being cramped but apparently I’ve grown comfortable eating off the lap of the stranger next to me.

The food was AMAZING and the prices were somewhere around what I’d expect in Philly (ok, really anywhere outside of Manhattan). Their Tzatziki holds the key to the perfect amount of dill and cumber citrus to the bitterness of Greek yogurt. The Moussaka, which I like to order as my measure of authenticity, certainly passed the test. And the Greek salad was the closest to the one I had in Athens that I’ve been working to recreate for 6 years. The sausage and mushroom phyllo pockets were fairly standard but I can’t wait to come back in the summer and try some of their seafood dishes.

The only disappointment was the service, which can ruin any dining experience. We were seated at the same time as another couple, which I later decided must have been Greek royalty. The two waiters and three busboys stopped by their table 5 times before they asked us if we’d like tap or bottled water. Sadly, half of our meal was spent trying to get a waiter’s attention without being rude (I suggested throwing forks but J protested) and took away from our amazing meal.

After our tummies were full of Greek goodies we headed out in search of a local bar to grab a drink. As we neared the subway station (N, Ditmars) J spotted a dark looking bar with a Guinness sign dangling in front of its sturdy wooden door. We entered the long bar around 10:30 and were met with a few unusual stares but thought nothing of it and took a seat at the bar. As the bar began to fill up we noticed the unique clientele was, from young women with bleach blond hair and TIGHT short dresses to older gentleman who spoke in whispered tones with heavy Greek accents. After 3 drinks we concluded that we must have stumbled into a Greek mafia bar and soaked in the experience.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Human Sheild

As I was crossing the busy intersection of 57th St. and Broadway today I realized how strongly I rely on ‘the human shield.’ My level of reliance depends on my surroundings and my mood, but I’ve stopped paying full attention to the cars in the street and moved my focus to the pedestrians working to cross the street with me.

When I’m faced with a red-light situation and one of my fellow pedestrians step out into the street I take a look up or down the street to see what the oncoming traffic looks like. If several people step off of the sidewalk in anticipation of crossing, I usually step out onto the street before glancing onto the street for cars, bikes or busses headed our way. Although most of this has become instinctual, based on thousands of city-street-crossings over my lifetime it’s still a bizarre realization.

I must believe that my fellow pedestrians will create a human shield to protect me from the metal fenders or handlebars barreling down the street at me. I must think that NYC strangers are only there to protect me and watch over my every move as I sail through the city unharmed (well, usually unharmed.) And unfortunately I must think that others, in packs, will not make stupid mistakes like walking out into oncoming traffic.

As I think this out loud it sounds asinine…insane…and clearly stupid. And, I’m not exactly sure where this habit came from or how to stop it. I wonder if they have some sort of insert you could put in your shoe to shock you from doing such silly things as using the human shield in busy streets during the day. I don’t know whom I’d trust to hold the remote to any such shocking mechanism but perhaps that will be my next invention.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Winter Finally Made it to NYC

There's nothing like freezing your ass off for 3 months straight with nothing to show for it. No heroic stories of how you brazed the blizzard of '05 or endured endless hours of 'snow watch' on TV because the newscasters keep interupting your favorite TV shows. No photos of snow angels or memories of playing silly games in the car stuck while stuck in a winter storm. Nothing...

It's an odd feeling, wishing for snow. It's like hoping your fingers will turn red when your trying to pull your metro card out and praying that you will not be able to wear any of your cute winter clothes out on a Friday night. But, I do hope and pray for snow along with thousands of other New Yorkers ever winter. When it arrives, I run around like a little kid in a candy store. I run out of the front door and into Central Park like I did today to watch kids sled down the hill and help build snowmen. Then, as the snow turns brown and is taken over by the filth of all the consumers in this city I hope and pray for it to go away and spring to arrive.

But in the meantime, I got some great shots of the snowfall today.

In our neighborhood....

And in Central Park....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Am I Addicted to Happy Endings?

I’ve always loved film, and I do a decent job of keeping up with the stellar movies of the year but I’ve never generalized myself as a lover or one genre of film over another. While discussing some recent movies with my friend at happy hour yesterday I realized most of my complaints and criticisms were about the negative emotions that a specific movies brought up for me.

Like Rocket Science, which was utterly painful for me to watch based on it’s neo-realism take on high school and all the suffering kids must endure during this right of passage into adulthood (not that I consider myself an adult.) The stuttering kid who stumbled his way through his first love, anger and a year-in-the-life of a high school kid played the part beautifully but I still despised the movie. It was too real to ignore and the final scenes of the film did not provide any closure to the story for me. But, perhaps that’s the point, life just goes on and…. I’ve just become addicted to happy endings.

I’d prefer to think that I’m a storyteller who appreciates hearing (or watching) a good story. When a story doesn’t have a solid ending, it’s not a real story it’s a beginning and middle searching aimlessly for an ending. Occasionally these half stories work in film, and story stories, which leave the audience guessing and wondering about the final outcome of the characters. But, it only works when the characters are developed well enough to make the audience care. Which is a rare find in film these days.

I think I’ll just subject myself to some more films and find my niche…. which I hope is not just happy endings.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Field Trip: Williamsburg

Although it wasn’t an official field trip, I spent Friday night exploring and enjoying Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And, since I haven’t had the opportunity to write about one of my favorite NYC neighborhoods yet, I figured now would be the perfect time.

J, Bon, Enrico and I headed over to Williamsburg after work on Friday and took advantage of the nice weather (as in, above 30 degrees) to explore the neighborhood. We took the L-train to Bedford and headed south on Bedford Street towards our final destination, The Slackers concert at the Luna Lounge.

Every time I visit Williamsburg I never make it more than 1/2 mile from the train station before I get sidetracked and stumble into a vintage clothing shop, boutique, bar or restaurant. So, heading in the opposite direction of the Brooklyn Brewery essentially opened up a whole new Williamsburg for me. Of course, I can’t wait to spend another sunny afternoon at the Brooklyn Brewery’s Friday happy hour once the snow melts and my bones de-thaw, but I digress.

My amigos and I made it all the way to Visa Versa, a fun unique clothing shop along Bedford Street, before we veered off the beaten path and into a store. There, J found a killer Fedora/Stemson black and white checkered hat and Bon found a perfect white disk belt. Having worked up our thirst for our first Friday night cocktail, we headed down the road to a thirst quenching bar. We found the perfect spot on Grand Street at a placed called Iona (, which kindly served us some tasty cocktails. It was the kind of place you’d love to call your neighborhood bar, with plenty of room on a Friday night to actually choose between a table or a bar stool and friendly faces to share a drink with. Although it was cozy inside, snuggled up next to a table of Brits watching soccer (yes, the real football) I’m looking forward to coming back for some outdoor ping-pong and BBQ.

Since we had some great foodie recommendations from a local Williamsburg resident at Enrico’s office we gathered ourselves and headed over to Fette Sau, for some BBQ. Unfortunately, we hadn’t read about how popular the place was and decided not to wait it out for a table (or eat outside, which was option B.) The BBQ and sides smelled and looked phenomenal and I loved the interiors of what is actually an old auto body shop. But, the few interior tables weren’t enough to hold the crowd and we had to give way to the 20 or so diners who had made it there before us. Again, another great spot for a summer day where the great outdoors can be enjoyed to the fullest. If you’d like to check it out here’s a link (

So, we headed back up to Bedford Street and around the corner to Bonita (, which was crowded but seated us quickly. I’m a native Californian and don’t expect much from NYC places who boast ‘real Mexican food,’ based on several lack luster experiences I’ve had since I moved here. Luckily, Bonita proved me wrong. The Mexican-cart-style-corn ranked favorite among our table and the unique evening specials made ordering fun. Items like the breaded chicken burrito with cilantro aioli sauce and the deep-fried quesadillas with succulent pork and chili sour cream put a new twist on NYC Mexican food for me. My fish tacos with shredded cabbage and crema brought me back to the beach in Cabo San Jose (even if tacos were only a dollar in Mexico.) The only downfall of Bonita was the lack of beverage options, which was limited to beer and wine. Based on their location, next to a church they don't have a full liquor license. But, living in Harlem, I’m getting used to that.

After dinner we headed over to Luna Lounge for The Slackers show. The venue actually reminded us of somewhere in San Francisco’s Mission District; with it’s bar like atmosphere and unprotected stage. The few tables and chairs kept the skaners in the center of the floor but once Tonight and Sister, Sister came on there was no way to avoid dancing. The band, originally from Brooklyn, told stories about growing up in the neighborhood before locking into one amazing set after another. It was an awesome show to say the least.

Heading back to the L-train we found one last bar, filled with friendly locals who only served to remind us that Williamsburg is an awesome place to spend a day…or night.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day….an afterthought

I’m not a Valentine’s Day fan, or naysayer but I’ve never pretended to understand this supposed ‘holiday.’ Religious holidays make perfect sense, along with holidays commemorating some of the leaders and activists who founded and shaped our country. But, a single day to commemorate love seems a bit silly to me. And, I hate to admit it but it’s female holiday. And I being a female do enjoy the few of the perks of Valentines Day.

I always email my girlfriends to let them know they are loved; this year I sent them all kisses from Abreva, which in turn gives a donation to Operation Smile. And, I do love making dinner with my boyfriend, which is our Valentine’s Day tradition. But, what I don’t understand is why this ‘love and appreciation day’ is confined to one day a year. I’d prefer if Valentine’s Day could be renamed ‘Monthly Appreciation Day,’ or even ‘Love a Friend Day,’ and be celebrated monthly, inspiring each of us to reach out to our best friends, our parents, our boy/girlfriends monthly to let them know they are loved and appreciated. With all the shit in our daily lives aimed to make us more self conscious or get us down it’s worth a monthly reminder to tell our friends and family how much they mean to us.

And now, cheesy girl has left the building...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Unforgotten

Now, after working my way through the busy holiday season and defeating my technical difficulties on I can finally post again. Yey!

So, where have I been and what have I been up to? Well, just because I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. So, from finishing up my volunteer work (and hopefully making a positive impact on humanity) to completing my Portugal travel journal I’m looking forward to catching everyone up. Sorry if the posts are a little out of order….

Along the Portugal

Jerome and my flight to Lisbon, a red eye, was fairly uneventful after a tablet of Dramamine and a beer in the airport I don’t recall much of the flight. The food, which we supplemented with our own local fare, was unmemorable and I medicated my body with plenty of water during my waking hours.

When we arrived in Portugal around 8 am local time, I was disoriented, tired and lost. The customs checkpoints and baggage claim were fairly simplistic as was finding the Hertz rental car pick up. But, arriving in a new airport, in a new country half awake can certainly disorient a girl. But armed with Internet maps, and googlemaps driving directions to our next destination I felt secure…until we got on the roads.

Partially because Jerome thinks I’m a crazy driver and partially because he’ architect he decided to drive. While I’m not exactly a stellar ‘map-girl,’ I had come prepared and printed out directions for our 5-hour drive from Lisbon to Porto days in advance (placing all my trust in Googlemaps). I even worked in several stops along the way, which I centered around breakfast, lunch and rush hour traffic. Our maps and directions worked well, although the hidden freeway signs and uniquely lettered or numbered highways sent us in the wrong direction more than once.

Luckily, our comical 4-volt car which I lovingly named Wee-Man (although Jerome wouldn’t stop calling him Man O’ War after a Portuguese jellyfish) made it safely onto the correct freeway and topped out around 80 MPH.
Our first stop was Obidos ( in the Estremadura region, which we reached about 10 am. After reading about it’s romantic past, as a medieval walled city gifted from King Dom Dinis to Queen Dona Isabela in 1228 and it’s divine annual chocolate festival, I was eager to add it to our list of ‘must see cities.’ The city was everything I wanted for our first stop, historical but not overwhelming, quite but open-for-business and big enough to offer options but perfectly walkable. We toured the small city by foot and saw it’s churches, schools, shops, omnipresent castle and aqueduct before we sat down for a snack of homemade hummus noodles. It was a sweet city and a great first stop just a hop, skip, and jump away from Lisbon.

Our second stop, a short time later was the inconspicuous city of Alcobaca, which I choose based on the description of its monastery, Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaca Some of my favorite travelers reviewed this 12th Century monastery as one of the main architectural and historical wonders in Portugal. It also held one of Europe’s largest kitchens, the tombs of star crossed lovers Dom Pedro and Dona Ines and the sleeping quarters for 999 monks which was more than enough to entice me to visit.

Traveling in the off-season has its perks and here, in the monastery, the lack of tourists and the beauty of silence was the most obvious. Jerome and I wandered from room to room through the abbey completely alone; fully armed with our maps and history books we took over the entire place for a few short hours. As we entered the nave of the church the doorway put us in our place, towering over us in a frightening way that only gothic architecture can do.
Once we entered and paid the small fee we began our circle through the interior corridors of the cloisters, which took over 40 years (and thousands of monks) to build. Although I can still remember each room clearly I’ll just tell you about my favorites so you don’t have to skip over this part.

The Portuguese are well known for their blue and white paintings on Azulejos, or ceramic tiles. The first room we entered was covered in beautiful Azulejos paintings from floor to ceiling and told the story of the Portuguese kings, prices, and warriors in the 12th and 13th Centuries.

The next on my list of favorites was the kitchen and refectory, which came alive before my eyes. It’s massive size, which apparently came from alterations made to the abbey in the 18th Century must have allowed from some extravagant meals. They even included a water channel which runs directly through the center of the room, suppling the entire kitchen with drinking water at their fingertips (or fee as the case may be.) The spit and open air chimney (see photo) was big enough to fit Jerome in….not that I tried. The hidden staircases leading up to the refectory were almost enough fun as the refectory itself. And the pint-sized doorway between the kitchen and refectory is said to be the monastery’s size-meter. If a monk was unable to pass through the doorway due to his weight, he was forced to fast until he was thin enough to move through the doorway with ease.

My last, but not least, favorite room was the main chaple. The nave of the chaple houses the tombs of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines, which gives the entire church an overbearing sense of sadness and betrayal. Their tombs, both intricately designed, feature guard dogs, angles, and thorny crowns which tell the tail of their dark past and hopefully bright future.

The story of the star crossed lovers:
Prince Dom Pedro, the son of Portuguese King Dom Afonso IV, fell in love with Dona Ines who was his wife’s ‘lady-in-waiting.’ Due to her families Spanish ties the Portuguese king would not allow them to marry. So, as any crazy young couple in love would do, they snuck off and got married secretly under the moonlight. In 1355, still unaware of his son’s secret marriage, the king sent his men to kill Dona Ines based on his advisors urging. Once Dom Pedro was crowed king of Portugal he ripped the hearts out of Dona Ines’ killers and forced his court to kiss Dona Ines’ decomposing hand to pay respect to their queen. He requested that their tombs were positioned foot-to-foot so that when they wake up they can rise and see each other immediately.

After leaving the monastery we had our first Portuguese meal at a local restaurant. We shared a fish stew with delicious chucks of hearty white fish, shellfish, bread and a light tomato broth. The fish and spices differed significantly from Chippino, which I’d grown to love when I lived in Italy. It was just different enough to make me feel like I was traveling but familiar enough to make me feel like I was at home.

Our last stop before Porto was Coimbra, which was a couple of hours up the road in the Beiras region. The Romans founded Coimbra but were forced out by the Moors who prospered in the city before they were evicted in the 12th Century. The city’s rich history is topped off with a towering university, situated atop the city’s steep hilltop. The university was the first in Portugal, founded in 1290, and brought many teachers, artists and intellectuals to the city making it a cultural melting pot. By the time we reached the city center the light rain that had been following us around all day had turned to heavy showers. Unfortunately, we had to cut our tour of the city short but still had enough time to see the grand Universidade de Coimbra.

The cobblestone streets and piazzas leading up to the university created the perfect setting for the beautifully constructed school. The original university, including multiple buildings that are still completely in use, is centered on a traditional square. The square, of course over-shadowed by a statue, is so high above the city it appears to be floating on thin air. The historic buildings surrounding the square including a library, an overwhelming clock tower, and multiple museums flooded my senses. Each building, unique in its architecture and culture, drew me in through the rain. Despite the pending sunset and rush hour traffic we spent some time getting to know the University and it’s cobblestone streets before heading off to Porto…