San Diego: Food, Fun, and Fauna

Continuing the recap of my San Diego trip with family in August, I would say there were three primary highlights of the trip.

1. Food (obviously)

Food was delicious and also provided lots of good table time sitting around and talking about the days. My favorites were True Food Kitchen (a natural food cafe with great juices):

IMG_8247 IMG_8249

Breakfast at Cody’s La Jolla:

IMG_8274IMG_8275IMG_8276

…Cody’s also had a dog menu!!

IMG_8280

And all meals eaten on the back patio of the house facing the beach:

IMG_8256

When we were at Cody’s La Jolla, a woman sitting near our table commented to us that she was impressed that no one had their phones out during the meal…good job quality family time!

IMG_8270 IMG_8271

2. Fun!

Fun defined as activities out and about but primarily biking

IMG_8260 IMG_8261

Papa Bear in action:

IMG_8268

We took a couple breaks during our rides to check out the water and views (clearly my parents have a thing for wearing college apparel):

IMG_8283

Goofin’:

IMG_8292 IMG_8293

3. Fauna

So fauna might not be the most appropriate word, but it was an alliteration. We went to the zoo – an establishment I have had a great affection for since childhood.

IMG_8303

This was the best day. We were at the zoo for a loooong time – 6 hours maybe? But it is huge! And amazing! And has pandas!

IMG_8305 IMG_8328 IMG_8332 IMG_8307

Good times on the gondola:

IMG_8312 IMG_8314

Last but not least, it’s always a treat to enjoy the eccentricities of family. 

Samuel with homemade sun protection:

IMG_8259

Classic Dad explanation mode:

IMG_8269

And…unfortunately I don’t have enough photos to document it, but the number one most exciting thing to happen was…meeting a new family member! I hadn’t yet met my gorgeous and lovely baby (although not quite a baby anymore!) cousin. We only had a brief visit, but it was great to spend a little time together! (the light in the picture isn’t great, but you get the idea) 🙂

IMG_2403

Boston Highs and Lows

I’ve been in Boston nearly three weeks now, and – my – what a whirlwind it’s been. Here are some of the highs and lows…

High – finding an apartment!

After a relatively painless few days of apartment searching, Noah and I have our own place! We’re moving September 1. Yay!!! (side note: photo below is to trick you and is actually not of the apartment we’re moving to…)

IMG_8112

Low – stolen bike 😦

My beloved bicycle was stolen while it was locked to a bike rack and I was at dinner. Major bummer…but in optimistic spirits, this can become a high…

High – a new bike!

IMG_8150

I got a new, beautiful, Trek FX Disc 7.2. I love it. 🙂

High – exploring the city with Noah!

IMG_8128

One of the highlights of our explorations so far has been an architecture cruise on the Charles River with the Charles Riverboat Company. The cruise lasted about 90 minutes, and we got a Groupon deal for it so it was pretty cheap! We went up and down the Charles, getting some great views of the city skyline, learning about the prominent buildings and history of the city.

IMG_8126 IMG_8127 IMG_8129

High – a visit to Martha’s Vineyard 

We spent a lovely 5 days on Martha’s Vineyard with Noah’s family, and it was the perfect relaxing vacation – lots of reading, game playing, bike riding, and delicious fresh fish!

IMG_1398(thanks, Paul, for this great photo!)

Low – sleeping in too late!

I’ve been enjoying my lazy schedule a little too much and have been sleeping in! This has, unfortunately, meant that I haven’t been getting up in time to go to the November Project with the full group. I have, however, still been going to the Harvard Stadium once a week to run the steps on my own – my time has gradually been improving!

IMG_8109

High – learning the little things

One of the most fun things about moving to a new city is learning the little personality traits of the place. I’ve really enjoyed learning little things about Boston and its eccentricities. For example, we’ve seen some of these solar-powered Soofa benches that have been installed throughout Cambridge recently. The benches have hook-ups for you to charge your phone while you’re out around town!

IMG_8125

Here’s to many more “highs” during my Boston years. 🙂

Bike culture in Amsterdam

Although I’ve recapped the activities of my 5-day trip to Amsterdam…

posts here:

Travel day and hotel
Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhof Gardens
Canal Cruise, Museum of the Canals, and the Old Jewish Quarter
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam City Museum, and Oude Kerk
Day trip to Rotterdam

…I would be remiss to conclude a recap of my trip without mentioning the incredible bike culture in Amsterdam. Yeah, yeah, it’s legendary, but I still couldn’t help being amazing when basically every.single.road had a protected bike lane along it. Not only were there bike lanes, but also bike traffic signals, bike parking garages, and bike culture was clearly strong enough to be considered a primary means of transportation for more than just the most committed segments of the population.

IMG_1717 IMG_1716 IMG_1715 IMG_1714

Wow – this sure would be a fun city to bike in! Before the trip, Noah and I had thought that we would definitely rent bikes one day and do some sort of bike trip or tour. Unfortunately, when the weather was very different than we anticipated (ie, rainy and cold instead of sunny and warm) biking no longer seemed like the best activity for the day. Still, we loved seeing so many bike paths and bikers. It reminded me a little of my beloved Minneapolis (admittedly, this may be the first city I’ve seen to really rival – and dare I say, succeed – Mpls’ bike path system).

IMG_7276 IMG_7277

Oddly enough though, with all these bikes, I didn’t see one helmet. Hmmm…

helmet [source]

One other noticeable difference between the Amsterdam streets and others I’m familiar with was the abundance of electric vehicles. Even the taxis were electric – we got from the airport to the hotel in a Tesla Model S!

There were charging stations for electric vehicles along almost every street. Here’s a picture of a charging station near one of the canals by our hotel:

IMG_7129 IMG_7130

And a nearby charging station with a Tesla plugged in:

IMG_7132

Yes, Amsterdam certainly seems to be a good city for the eco-conscious!

Hiking and Biking – Ein Gedi and Hula Lake

My parents’ visit to the Holy Land involved many outdoor adventures. I addition to swimming floating at the Dead Sea, we also went on a hike during our time in Ein Gedi.

The hike we chose was at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. This Nature Reserve has an easy hiking trail as well as a longer trail that juts off from the main area and heads up one of the area’s hills.

IMG_5889

Along the trail, we had some great views…

IMG_1289 IMG_5894

…and passed some of the small pools and waterfalls that are a highlight of the trail:

IMG_5892 IMG_5895

In addition to beautiful views of waterfalls and geological features, we saw a lot of Hyraxes while we were at the Nature Reserve.

IMG_5891 IMG_5893

Hyraxes are small and rodent-like. But, they are actually closely related to the elephant. Amazing, I know.

We didn’t go very far up the ‘advanced’ trail, but we did hike a short distance to the first lookout point for a beautiful view of the Dead Sea:

IMG_1299

Couples’ retreatin’

IMG_5897 IMG_5898

After a couple days in the Ein Gedi area, we headed to the northern part of the country to the Galilee. One of our primary activities in the Galilee was to visit the Hula Lake Nature Reserve (I just noticed the Nature Reserve theme of this post…).

500 MILLION birds migrate through Israel twice a year during their flight between Europe and Africa. Nearly all of these birds find their way – at one point or another – to the Hula Lake. This lake, in the middle of the reserve, has become an ideal spot for bird-watchers.

In addition to bird-enthusiasts, the reserve is also a great stop for families or anyone who is casually interested in seeing (and hearing!) LOTS of birds. The lake is surrounded by a 5-mile trail, and there are options to rent bikes or a golf carts if walking that distance doesn’t fit your fancy (or time schedule!). We decided to rent bikes to make our way around the lake:

IMG_6025 IMG_6026

The flatness of the valley provided great views of the surrounding mountains:

IMG_6031 IMG_6027

Nearly as soon as we started our ride, we could hear the clamor of what sounded like a BAZILLION cranes! In real numbers, an estimated 20,000-30,000 cranes make the Hula Lake their home during the winter. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get too close to the area where all the cranes were gathered, but we still got some views from the pathway:

IMG_6030

In addition to seeing a lot of cranes, we passed several of these little guys in the grass and water along the trail:

IMG_6032

This animal is a Coypu – a water rodent that lives in the banks of wetlands. Fun fact: Coypus were imported to Israel from Argentina in the mid-twentieth century. Originally, they were imported for fur trade, but that never really took off, so they are now just one of the most common mammals in Israel.

All in all, we spent about two hours at the Hula Lake. My only regret is that I didn’t bring binoculars!

48 hours in Tel Aviv: Day 1

Last weekend, Noah and I took a lovely two-day trip to Tel Aviv. A mere 45 minute drive from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv feels like an eternity of difference. While by no means are all of the people living in Jerusalem religious, the city definitely has a certain feeling of piety about it, and there’s a sense of holiness and connection to the past that seems to linger here. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, is by every measure a modern city, complete with sky scrapers, clubs, a beach where tzniut (modesty) can be completely forsaken, and trefe (food that is categorically unkosher, ie, pig or shellfish) can be easily be found on menus.

While in Tel Aviv, we stayed at The Cinema Hotel, in Dizengoff Square. The Cinema Hotel used to be a movie theater, and old movie posters and video cameras comprise the bulk of the hotel’s decor:

IMG_5403 IMG_5405 IMG_5406

Our room was comfortable and clean with a view looking out to the city:

IMG_5407 IMG_5409

Dizengoff Square, where the hotel is located, is an elevated square above a busy road crossing. The highlight of the square is the Dizengoff fountain which, four times a day, puts on a fabulous fire/water/music show. I thought the show wouldn’t be that cool (it’s a fountain, right??), but in the end it turned out to be AWESOME (in my humble opinion). Spoiler alert: there is FIRE in the fountain. YES, REAL FIRE!

IMG_5402IMG_5488

Can’t get over that one. In addition to the fountain, there was also an antiques market at the square on Friday selling clothes, books, and basically every knick-knack you can think of:

IMG_5416 IMG_5417

We were also right next to the Dizengoff shopping area (essentially like any American shopping mall) and the Dizengoff tower:

IMG_5467 IMG_5468

Breakfast was included with our room, and the hotel offered a fairly typical Israeli breakfast spread – eggs, cheese, bread, vegetables, fish, fruit, coffee, juice, yogurts:

IMG_5411 IMG_5413 IMG_5414 IMG_5415

In addition to breakfast, we also got a free happy hour at the hotel which included snacks, wine, and great views off of the hotel’s terrace:

IMG_5473 IMG_5474 IMG_5471IMG_5475

We saw this fun sculpture on a neighboring building:

IMG_5478

On our first day there, we rented bikes through Tel Aviv’s bike-sharing program, Tel-O-Fun:

IMG_5418 IMG_5419

We biked about an hour north of the city center, primarily on protected bike paths along the beach promenade:

IMG_5425 IMG_5420 IMG_5422

Along the way, we got some great views of people heading out for a beach day, and we also saw a portable beach library!

IMG_5424 IMG_5423

Originally, our plan was to bike to the Yitzhak Rabin Center and view their exhibits, but we ended up getting to the museum too late (it closed early on Fridays), so we had to satisfy ourselves with looking around some of the HUGE (and, oddly, empty) rooms of the building:

IMG_5429 IMG_5430

Instead of more biking, we decided to walk back to the city center…which turned into quite a journey!

We meandered our way along the Yarkon River for a bit…

IMG_5426

…taking us through a park with a Coffee Bar (non-stop!!!)…I had a laugh about the name

IMG_5431

and, SURPRISE, a zoo!

IMG_5433

We were extremely surprised to find this mini-zoo in the middle of the park. And it was way more than just a petting zoo! There were ibexes, deer, turkeys, emu, and – somewhat strangely – a single white bunny rabbit:

IMG_5432 IMG_5434 IMG_5435 IMG_5436

In the words of Noah, this was, “the best zoo ever.” He has the gift of being easily entertained.

By the time we were out of the park and back in the thick of the city, it was late afternoon and we were ready for lunch. We stopped at a cafe called The Streets and ordered a cocktail and cold coffee while we waited for our food:

IMG_5447 IMG_5441 IMG_5440

For the meal, I ordered an Israeli breakfast and Noah ordered a roast beef sandwich:

IMG_5442 IMG_5443 IMG_5444 IMG_5445

Continuing after lunch on our walk back to the hotel, we passed by Habima, the Israel National Theater, and the surrounding Habima Square:

IMG_5463 IMG_5465

The square included some interesting artwork including this sculpture called “Ascension,”

IMG_5464

And a small garden that moves from, on one end, desert plants to, on the other end, beautiful and abundant flowers. Clearly a metaphor for the land of Israel itself!

IMG_5459 IMG_5462

Finally, our last stop for the day was Rabin Square, so named after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated there in 1995. The spot were Rabin was shot is now marked by a memorial and some preserved messages in response to his death:

IMG_5448 IMG_5449

Rabin was shot by an Israeli terrorist who opposed Rabin’s peace initiatives. Sadly, Rabin’s efforts and progress towards establishing peace for Israel and Palestine has not been replicated since his death. Visiting the square, it was somewhat tragic to think what things might be like today if he had remained alive and continued the process of peace negotiations at that time.

Besides the memorial, the square also offers a lot of open space, an artificial pond (where there were lots of people laying out on chairs, sunning and reading), and a memorial sculpture commemorating the Holocaust:

IMG_5451 IMG_5453 IMG_5454 IMG_5455

After a long day of walking and exploring, it was seriously time for some down time!

IMG_5466

Check back soon for a post about the rest of the Tel Aviv trip!

Vacation Weekend

After the long bike trip on Friday, we were overdue for some serious relaxation. On Saturday, we  woke up and prepped a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and coffee:

IMG_4473 IMG_4474 IMG_4478

I sported my new gear from Menemsha Blues:

IMG_4475

After breakfast, we plotted out our day:

IMG_4479

The plan was to relax at the house, visit the towns of Chilmark and Menemsha, and make dinner at home. The house had three beautiful porches:

IMG_4489

and we enjoyed taking in the incredible views and looking at boats through the binoculars:

IMG_4505 IMG_4491

After enough time at home, we headed into the nearby town of Chilmark. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Chilmark General Store (they had pizza, sandwiches, salads, prepared foods, and a small grocery and convenient store):

IMG_4515 IMG_4519

After lunch, it was time to head to the towns main attraction: Chilmark Chocolates. Chilmark Chocolates is – you guessed it – a chocolate shop selling homemade chocolates, truffles, toffee, caramel, and general forms of decadence. Not only is their chocolate universally praised, but they are also a socially-conscious organization, employing many people with special needs and partnering with the local community to give back. The only downside is that their hours are limited, so when they are open there’s a long line!

IMG_4510

The line moved quickly though, and before long we were in and out the door with this beautiful box:

IMG_4514

After safely tucking the chocolates into our bike bag, we were off for a second visit to Menemsha. We were exhausted and it was dark during our first visit to Menemsha, so we were excited to go back and get a better look at the town. Menemsha is a fishing village, and there was a lot to look at between the personal and commercial boats, gorgeous water views, and fishermen going through their day’s work:

IMG_4523 IMG_4529 IMG_4536

We even saw a special bike ferry to carry bikes between Menemsha and the nearby Aquinnah.

IMG_4526

Also, ice cream. Obviously.

IMG_4524(from the Galley)

The last stop before leaving Menemsha was at Larsen’s Fish Market.

IMG_4533

Larsen’s sells fresh fish and seafood (all caught that day) and also serves up lobster sandwiches that appeared to be quite popular (judging from the length of the line!). We bought some halibut which we had with summer squash and potatoes that night:

IMG_4534 IMG_4539

After a glorious day of relaxation, it was time to hit the road again on Sunday. Rather than reversing the trip from Friday, we took an alternate route that included two buses to get to Vineyard Haven, a ferry to Woods Hole, biking 20 miles to Bourne, and a 45-minute trip on the Cape Flyer back to South Station.

The CapeFlyer is a special train that runs only on the weekends and brings passengers between the city and Cape Cod. The train is very bike friendly; check out this special bike storage room onboard!

IMG_4542

When we finally arrived to South Station it was late, dark, and we were exhausted, so we took the T home. I’m already missing my vacation weekend. 🙂

Biking to the Vineyard (a 6-step program)

Remember all the biking Noah and I liked to do in Minnesota?

IMG_3719IMG_3281IMG_3509

A top priority in exploring our new state is to test out the biking scene. Despite our total lack of training or experience with bike touring, we decided to bike to Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend. Previously, the longest ride we had done was 40 miles on the Minneapolis Grand Rounds. Martha’s Vineyard is about 90 miles from Boston, and we’re not totally crazy, so we decided on a route that included one train, one ferry, and about 60 miles of biking.

Step 1: Prepping the bikes

Since we would be taking everything for the weekend with us on the bikes, we needed to do some prep work. Noah cleaned and oiled the chains,got new tires for his bike, we filled the tires to capacity, and we borrowed some sweet saddlebags from Noah’s parents.

IMG_4424 IMG_4431

Step 2: Train

To begin the trip, we took the train from South Station in downtown Boston to Plymouth. Maybe you’ve heard of it….there’s a rock there. 😉

Biking to South Station was a bit of a harrowing experience on the crowded Boston Streets…

IMG_4428 IMG_4429

…but we made it to the train and to Plymouth in one piece:

IMG_4433 IMG_4436

Step 3: Bikes

After Plymouth, we biked along the Claire Saltonstall Bikeway to Sagamore and then biked along the Cape Cod Canal to Bourne. After crossing the Bourne Bridge we made our way to the Shining Sea Bikeway that took us from North Falmouth all the way to the ferry terminal in Woods Hole (thanks, Noah, for planning an awesome route!!)

In all, this leg of the journey was about 40 miles. The biking itself was fun: we set a good pace, saw some great views of the ocean, and enjoyed the adventure of it all. Although overall enjoyable, there was definitely a significant portion of the ride that took place on roads with little to no shoulder. Some cars were good about slowing down and scooting into the other lane when traffic was clear to give us room but others were not, and there was more than one occasion that I felt pretty nervous about the proximity of our bikes to cars zipping by.

I had one ill-fated fall, but luckily there were no cars racing by at that moment, and I made it out with nothing more serious than a few scrapes and bruises.

IMG_4448

Nothing that an iced coffee can’t fix!

IMG_4447

Step 4: Ferry

Woods Hole is on the far southwest corner of Cape Cod, and it’s the departure point for ferries heading to Martha’s Vineyard. Noah and I were planning to take a ferry to Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard, and we had about an hour to kill between our arrival in Woods Hole and the ferry’s departure. We took the opportunity to get some food (a burrito bowl at Quicks Hole Taqueria) and the aforementioned iced coffee.

IMG_4453 IMG_4454

The ferry sure was HUGE!

IMG_4459

Not only does the ferry hold hundreds of passengers, but there’s also space for cars aboard! As bikers, we waited for all the cars to file in and then we were able to park our bikes along the side:

IMG_4461

Step 5: Bike Again

The ferry trip took about 45 minutes, and we still had a solid 15 miles of biking left to do from Oak Bluffs, so we were ready to get going!

IMG_4457 IMG_4444

The house we were heading to was on the western side of the island near Menemsha, and when we finally arrived we were exhausted – but pretty darn proud of the day’s work!

Step 6: EAT!!!

After a long and draining day on the road, we were ready for some serious eats. We headed into the nearby town of Menemsha (yes, more biking, but it was a short ride!) for some food at The Home Port. We went to The Home Port’s ‘back door’ – a walk-up order counter.

IMG_4467

The day’s events put us in the mood for some greasy goodness:

IMG_4470 IMG_4471

We agreed this was just about the best meal we’d ever had…although we did wonder if it would have tasted so amazing had we not just biked 60 miles.

Before heading home to crash hard go to sleep, there was one more stop to make.

IMG_4468

We went to Menemsha Blues, an apparel shop whose shirts I have long admired. The visit officially commemorated my first visit to the Vineyard.

Check back soon for more pictures and recaps from the weekend!