Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘cafes’

central park rowboats nyc

Ah, New York in the fall. It makes me want to buy school supplies. (And send bouquets of newly sharpened pencils to charming Internet friends.)

Seriously – the hubs and I hopped down to NYC in mid-October for a long weekend, and it was, as always, delightful.

We arrived Friday night and settled into our apartment – a charming retreat (found via Airbnb) in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

living room brooklyn apartment

Our hostess recommended Chavela’s, promising that the Mexican dishes there would meet even our Texan-snob standards. She was right.

chavelas brooklyn interior

Guacamole + sangria + enchiladas = mucho delicioso.

enchiladas chavelas brooklyn

On our way home, we stopped in at Forte, a brand-new cafe (they’d been open three days!) for apple cider and pumpkin cheesecake. Delicious.

katie forte pumpkin cheesecake

Saturday morning found us checking out the Brooklyn Flea – sadly under-attended due to chilly rain. But J did make a new friend.

jer pink elephant brooklyn flea

We dropped in at the Greenlight Bookstore, a favorite discovery on our last trip to Brooklyn, and popped in to see the Greene Grape’s new digs. (And to split a zucchini-cranberry-chocolate-chip muffin. Wow.)

greenlight bookstore brooklyn

We headed to the West Village later, enjoying chai and a lemon scone at Ciao for Now, then wandered the tangled streets for a while. We ended up, not surprisingly, at a bookstore – Three Lives & Co.

three lives and co bookstore nyc

Its cozy space is chock full of fascinating books. I could have browsed for hours.

We then caught the subway up to Lincoln Center, because the on-site library branch had an exhibit I had to see.

count von count sesame street nypl

Blueprints from the original Sesame Street set, sheet music for “Rubber Duckie” and “Bein’ Green”…

rubber duckie sesame street sheet music

…all kinds of cool Henson/Sesame Workshop trivia, and half a dozen of our favorite Muppets (including Super Grover, in the clouds!).

 

super grover sesame street nypl

We left with smiles on our faces (noting on the way out that the exhibit is “brought to you by the letters N, Y, P and L”).

jer cookie monster

After a bit of shopping and wandering in the neighborhood, we walked up to the Upper West Side for dinner at a sidewalk cafe.

piccolo cafe nyc upper west side

I’m still not sure if the maitre’d’s Italian accent was real, but the pasta and wine were delicious.

katie wine piccolo cafe nyc

After dinner, we headed up to West 83rd Street, to a place I’d walked by but never entered.

cafe lalo exterior nyc

For the uninitiated, Cafe Lalo is the setting for an important scene in You’ve Got Mail – when Kathleen Kelly arranges to meet her Internet admirer and is shocked to see her nemesis Joe Fox instead. (The railings outside are the scene of Fox’s mini-freakout before he walks in: “She had to be! She had to be!”)

Our experience wasn’t that dramatic (thank goodness), but the desserts are out of this world.

raspberry delight cafe lalo

Sated and satisfied, we headed back to Brooklyn for a cozy night in.

More New York photos and stories to come.

Read Full Post »

radcliffe camera st mary's tower oxford

In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, the entire city of Oxford is my favorite place – the place I want to get back to, all the time. But certain corners of it are particularly dear to me, and during my week in Oxford, I was able to visit several of them.

north parade avenue oxford

North Parade Avenue (above) is just a step from the house where I was staying. It contains a couple of pubs, a creperie, a small convenience store (run by two friendly Middle Eastern men), and On the Hoof – my favorite sandwich shop in the world.

 

on the hoof interior oxford

Debbie, the owner, has run the shop for 17 years, and she remembers hundreds of students who have passed through. The shop’s cheery camaraderie and its sandwiches (my favorites include the Sexy Brazilian, Tom’s Le Club and a bacon-and-egg baguette), are equally wonderful.

A couple of blocks away, University Parks offers walking trails, velvety green lawns (for playing cricket or football or tossing a Frisbee), a few ducks, and many beautiful trees.

university parks oxford

On my last morning in Oxford, I took a long walk in the Parks with Laura and her family, plus Jacque and baby Matilda. We strolled through the dappled sunshine and talked of “cabbages and kings.” It was delightful.

jacque laura ja uni parks

The center of Oxford is full of beautiful colleges, but Radcliffe Square is the heart of it all.

katie radcliffe camera oxford

Surrounded on all four sides by university buildings, this cobblestoned square is full of enchantment.

radcliffe square dusk oxford

I made it a point to pass through as often as possible.

cobblestones oxford silver flats

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin stands on the south side of Radcliffe Square, tall and proud. I’ve climbed its tower many times, but I always love to climb it again and take in the four views of the city, spread at my feet.

view st marys church oxford west side

Laura was my companion that day – it was her first climb.

laura st mary's tower oxford

I can’t visit Oxford without a browse in Blackwell’s, so Jacque and I popped in one afternoon.

blackwells bookshop oxford

I came away with three books: a delightful YA mystery, a grown-up mystery set in Cambridge, and a Tolkien Christmas book that I’m saving for December. I also found this gem:

oxford calling postcard phone box

It’s a wooden postcard and it is just perfect. I had to bring it home with me.

Down Queen’s Lane, just down from Radcliffe Square, sits Queen’s Lane Coffee House, which serves a delectable cream tea.

queens lane cream tea oxford

I came here on a Sunday afternoon for some tea and solitude, sitting at my favorite table in the front window, with its view down the High Street. I sipped tea and scribbled in my journal, and savored every last bite of my scones with jam and clotted cream.

For my last meal in Oxford (for now), we girls (Jacque, Laura and their daughters) headed to the Jericho Cafe. They serve yummy soups, sandwiches and heartier dishes, though eight-year-old Molly was content with a basket of French fries.

jericho cafe sign oxford

After lunch, Laura had to go teach a class, but Jacque and I took the girls to another favorite spot: G&D’s.

katie ice cream g&d's oxford

I couldn’t leave without a scoop of ice cream from this Oxford institution (I’d already had a bagel sandwich, earlier in the week). My Dime Bar Crunch was delectable. (Molly, who got the same flavor, agreed.)

girls ice cream g&d's

“When are you going to go back again?” a friend asked, soon after I got home. My answer?

bridge of sighs twilight oxford

“As soon as possible.”

Read Full Post »

A little reflecting at the coffee shop this morning…

reflection darwins cambridge ma

…and a little more in the Public Garden this afternoon.

reflection public garden boston ma

reflection puddle public garden boston ma

Read Full Post »

tulips harvard square

My husband is a focused, determined shopper. Like many men I know, he is generally not interested in browsing. I have finally managed to convince him that bookstores were meant to be browsed, though he usually picks out one book and starts reading it while I wander the aisles. But if we’re at the mall, Target, or the grocery store, he’s usually on a mission: how quickly can he get in, find what he needs, and get out?

While I enjoy browsing the racks at my favorite stores, I’m finding my husband’s mindset helpful for my lunch breaks on these frigid winter days. When I don’t want to get up from my desk, I tell myself I have to – because I have a mission.

Sometimes it’s the post office, the bank or the pharmacy. Sometimes I’m on the hunt for a particular book, or a birthday card for a friend. Sometimes I’m in need of a certain item, as I was last week when my sunglasses broke. And occasionally, the mission is simply to go to the Gap or Ann Taylor or Anthropologie, and see what’s new on the sale rack.

In any case, on these days when it’s too cold to wander and tempting to stay inside, it helps to have a goal in mind, an impetus to propel me outside for a bit of exercise and a break from the computer screen. I always feel energized after I get out and about, and I love walking the tangle of streets in Harvard Square. And sometimes – if it’s just too bitter out or I have no particular errand that day – I head to one of my favorite cafes for a cuppa and a little writing time.

tealuxe interior cambridge ma

How do you give yourself a boost on these cold days? Do you find it helps to go on a mission?

Read Full Post »

Vienna memories

hofsburg-palace-vienna

Vienna was dark. And cold.

It couldn’t have been dark the whole time I was there, though I don’t remember ever seeing the sun. It was late October, when the light changes suddenly from golden to gray, and there is – also suddenly – much less of it. The only golden color came from the trees in the grounds of the Schonnbrun Palace, and from the lighted shop windows, flaring out like candles against the covering darkness.

schonbrunn-palace-park-trees

I was tired after a long solo trip from Oxford to Salzburg, where I met up with four American undergrads whom I knew only slightly. They were sweet, but their puppy-like enthusiasm soon wore on me, the quiet graduate student with a preference for low-key travel. We all shared a hostel room strewn with backpacks yawning open, clothes hanging loosely off bunk beds, late-night fits of giggles over inside jokes I didn’t quite get.

I wandered the Mirabellgarten with them, even posing for a group photo on the Do-Re-Mi steps, and I took them to the shop I knew that sold beautiful, hand-painted eggs made into Christmas ornaments. But I begged off the Sound of Music tour (I’d done it before, anyway) to sit in a cafe named after Mozart and scribble in my journal while I sipped hot chocolate. By the time we hopped a train to Vienna the next day, I was longing for some extended solitude.

We stuck together that first night and day, settling into our two-room flat, wandering around the Hofburg Palace and getting up early to tour the Schonnbrun. After lunch, we split up, agreeing to reconvene later. The others headed off – I knew not where – and I took several deep breaths, then headed off to enjoy my afternoon alone.

I wandered around the Butterfly House, then entered a spacious cafe lined with dark leather booths and filled with cigarette smoke. Patrons – mostly middle-aged men – lingered, reading folded newspapers at marble-topped tables while sipping small cups of strong coffee. I ordered a hot chocolate, stumbling over the unfamiliar German syllables, and sat there writing in my journal, sipping my drink, as long as I dared.

Later, after wandering through tangled streets, I slipped into a dark church, flickering with candlelight and echoing with the sounds of a Vespers service, just beginning. I slipped a euro coin into a collection box and lit a small tea light, breathing a prayer for my mother, who had had surgery that week, back in the States.

church candlelight vienna

When I left the church, the streets were already dark, shop windows throwing squares of light onto the pavement. Craving warmth, I ended up at another cafe, piling my shopping bags on the leather seat next to me, sipping tea and savoring both a chocolate-covered strawberry and my solitude.

Vienna is hazier than many of the cities I visited during that year in Oxford. The images are smudged around the edges, fogged by the rain that threatened and occasionally poured down from above. I don’t remember much, if any, of the history or the new German words I learned, and I don’t have clear images of entertaining incidents, or a mental map of the city in my head.

But I learned a thing or two from that grey, chilly weekend: namely, that solitude and peace can be found in the least likely places, but sometimes you have to pursue it, to ask for it. I remembered that I don’t always have to tag along with the crowd, that it’s perfectly all right to break away and do my own thing for a while, even if it means they’ll think I’m weird. (I was pretty sure this group of students already did.)

That weekend, I rediscovered the quiet joy of walking a city by myself, answerable to no one and nothing but the rhythm of my own feet pounding on unfamiliar sidewalks. And I learned one thing that did not surprise me at all: Austrian hot chocolate (Tasse Schokolade) is delicious.

Read Full Post »

Voyage à Montréal

I turned 30 recently, and to mark the occasion, J and I took off for somewhere totally new: Montréal. Neither of us had ever been to Canada, but since we now live just a few hours from the border, we agreed it was time. So we bought an invaluable guidebook, got a lovely hotel recommendation from a friend, and on a Wednesday afternoon, we headed north.

The weather was chillier and greyer than we had hoped, but we still spent three enjoyable days walking, museum-ing, snapping photos, trying out our (limited) French, and stopping into cafes to warm up with hot drinks and pastries. (We have been eating a lot of veggies since we got home.)

Our first snack in Montreal was a Nutella-banana crepe:

nutella crepe

Thus fortified, we headed to the Musée McCord (free on Wednesday nights), which included a multi-dimensional exhibit on the history of Montreal’s neighborhoods; a gorgeous display of First Peoples clothing and heirlooms; and a special exhibit on Grace Kelly. I am not sure what she has to do with Montreal, but the exhibit included movie posters, gorgeous couture gowns, her Oscar (!), and a slew of correspondence, including love letters from her husband, Prince Rainier (my favorite part).

musee mccord montreal

We ate dinner that night at Juliette et Chocolat, which specializes in chocolate (as you might guess) but also does wonderful crepes (and tea):

crepe juliette montreal

juliette et chocolat montreal st laurent

The next morning, we enjoyed the first of several delicious carb-tastic hotel breakfasts (muffins, bagels, pain au chocolat, yogurt and juice – I wish I’d thought to take a photo) and headed out to explore. We visited St. Patrick’s Basilica (grand, but echoingly empty), then wandered around Rue St.-Denis and the Latin Quarter for a while before heading to Old Montreal to tour the Basilique Notre-Dame:

notre dame montreal

After all that touring, we were famished, so we stopped for pastries and tea at the charming Olive + Gourmando in Old Montreal. (It’s named after the owners’ cats.) I could have stayed all afternoon.

olive & gourmando montreal

Montreal 072

Later, we explored Rue Ste.-Catherine, a major shopping street, stopping in at the Argo Bookshop. It’s tiny, but crammed with wonderful books. I fell in love right away (and restrained myself from buying dozens of books). The bookseller was kind, if a bit gruff – we heard groups of fraternity guys screaming on the street outside, and he said with a sigh, “That’s why I prefer literature.”

argo bookshop interior montreal quebec canada

The next morning, we took the Metro to Marché Jean-Talon, a huge, beautiful open market packed with gorgeous produce:

marche jean talon montreal

Montreal 088

We strolled the aisles for a while, then bought a pint of strawberries and sat down to eat them while listening to a violinist play.

After a walk through Little Italy and another Metro ride, we ended up at La Banquise, a 24-hour hot spot for poutine, Montreal’s local dish. The standard version is French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, but La Banquise has tons of options. J tried a version with three kinds of sausage, and I opted for La Grecque (“the Greek”) – tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta.

poutine montreal la banquise

la banquise poutine la grecque montreal

Greasy, but so delicious.

We headed to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Montreal’s huge, free art museum) after that, and wandered through rooms full of paintings and sculpture.

musee des beaux arts montreal

Fun, but a little overwhelming – we returned to Juliette et Chocolat afterward to enjoy another crêpe. Mmmm.

strawberry chocolate crepe juliette et chocolat montreal

Saturday morning, we toured the Centre d’histoire de Montreal, a lovely little museum about Montreal’s history housed in a former fire station:

centre d'histoire de montreal quebec

Fascinating exhibits (in French and English, thank goodness) about Montreal past and present. (Much less hokey than the video we’d seen at the Notre-Dame light show, the night before.)

We’d heard about the famous pork sandwiches at Schwartz’s, but the line was forever long, so we ended up getting ours to go and eating them in a park. (Delicious.)

After more shopping and wandering, an Italian dinner at Lombardi, and dessert at the lovely Brûlerie St.-Denis, we collapsed. (So much walking, even with the three-day Metro passes we bought for $18 each – a stellar deal.)

We came home with sore feet and lighter wallets, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and a fun chance to explore a new city.

Have you been to Montreal? What are your favorite spots there, if you have?

Read Full Post »

Since starting my new job at the end of February, I’ve been exploring my new Cambridge neighborhood, wandering through the bustling streets lined with shops and cafes (and taking refuge in the latter on frigid days).

I was already familiar with Crema and its delicious tomato soup, but I have a new favorite sandwich shop: Darwin’s, tucked away on Mt. Auburn Street right across from the yard with all the crocuses.

darwins cambridge ma

Darwin’s has two sides: one is a coffee-shop-cum-cafe, where you can get a hot drink and a pastry and take them to go, or settle down at one of the small square tables. The other, with a punched-tin ceiling painted red, is a sandwich-shop-cum-mini-market, where you can buy fruit, veggies, beer or even day-old breads while waiting for your order.

Behind the counter, a line of cheery, flannel-clad hipsters dance around each other, chopping and slicing ingredients and assembling sandwiches, most of which are named after nearby streets or Harvard campus buildings. As you move up the line, you have a clear view of a pastry case filled with tempting cookies and other treats.

darwins interior cambridge ma

My favorite sandwich so far is the Longfellow, which involves ham and cheese, sliced green apple, lettuce, tomato and spicy Dijon mustard. It’s delicious, even if the ingredients tend to escape from the bread after a few bites. But mostly I love the funky local vibe, the friendly staff, and the cafe walls painted the colors of a Texas sunset.

darwins cafe interior cambridge ma

When I forget to bring my lunch (or we’re out of leftovers), you can often find me here, alternately reading my book and people-watching as I savor my sandwich and a cookie.

darwins sandwich journal

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,105 other followers