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Posts Tagged ‘exploring’

wreath tree NYC Christmas

It’s no secret that I love New York City: in the fall, in the spring, even in a sweltering summer heat wave. But I’d never seen the city decked out for Christmas, and I’d always wanted to. So, when my husband told me he had a work conference in Chicago, I made plans for a quick solo trip: 48 hours to wander on my own. It was, as you might expect, glorious.

Every time I go to New York I fall in love. This time, it was with crisp Snapdragon apples and pumpkin cookies at the tiny farmers’ market in Abingdon Square; with the stands of freshly cut Christmas trees on so many corners, tunnels of prickly green. I even fell in love a little bit with the tree-seller who called “Merry Christmas!” and actually tipped his hat.

high line view NYC blue sky

I fell in love with running on the High Line: bold blue skies and views across the Hudson, public art and the sharp angles of skyscrapers and the pounding of my own feet. After my run, I stopped at the Hudson Cafe for oatmeal and a cup of strong Earl Grey, and fell in love with a little dog named Stella. Her owner invited me to sit down and chat, and we talked public transit and city life and unexpected career moves. “How long have you lived in the neighborhood?” I asked her. She grinned, a little wickedly. “A hundred and fifty years!”

Cornelia street cafe awning NYC

I fell in love with the cheery red-striped awnings at the Cornelia Street Cafe just off Bleecker, and with their excellent eggs Florentine (oh my). I fell in love with the stunning array of artisans in the maker space at Chelsea Market, and with the quiet, unpretentious Epiphany Library branch on East 23rd Street. I ended up there when I needed a place to rest my feet and charge my phone (because Hermione is right: when in doubt, go to the library).

red decor west village

I bought a rush ticket to Saturday night’s Live from Here with Chris Thile at the Town Hall. And while I knew I loved Thile’s mandolin music (I’m a Nickel Creek fan from way back), I fell completely in love with his warmth and charm onstage. When he invited the audience to sing along with a few lines from a John Denver song about home, it felt both magical and holy. I’ve been humming those lines ever since.

Some trips to New York are full of new discoveries, and some are about revisiting old favorites. The best are a bit of both, and this was no exception: I made sure to pop into Three Lives for a browsing session and a bit of eavesdropping on the friendly booksellers. I visited Pink Olive and refueled later with Earl Grey at Joe. I went back to Bar Six, back to the Strand, back to the Bryant Park holiday market at the main NYPL branch. I went back, most of all, to the city whose streets I find endlessly fascinating.

I didn’t make it to Rockefeller Center or walk down 5th Avenue to see all the decked-out department stores. But I did get a little of that holiday sparkle. And I did my favorite thing to do in New York: wander to my heart’s content. It was, as always, exhausting and lovely.

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owls mantel painting

Despite living so close to Cape Cod (we’re only an hour – maybe less – from the two bridges that provide a way in), we don’t get out there very often.

But when some friends who were traveling offered us the use of their house on a recent weekend, we looked at each other and said: yes. We badly needed to get out of town, and also the offer of a free, lovely place to stay – during high season! – is nothing to sneeze at.

So we spent a weekend in Falmouth. And it was lovely.

cape sun porch house

Our friends’ house is cozy and airy, with a sun porch (above), a lovely living room, a sweet little kitchen and a resident gray-and-white cat, Percy. I didn’t get any photos of him, but he did eventually jump up on the couch for a snuggle or two.

Friday was the only sunny day, but we made the most of it, heading down to the beach in the late afternoon. Half the town was also there, it seemed, but we sprawled on the sand and read for a while.

k j falmouth beach

We ate dinner that night at Epic Oyster, which lived up to its name – the local Cape oysters were perfection. (The crab cakes were also quite good.) They brought us chocolate chip cookies with the check, and we headed home full and happy.

epic oyster sign falmouth

Saturday was grey and cloudy, but we spent part of it wandering in town, which of course included a trip to Eight Cousins, the local bookstore. I had to get a photo in this wonderful alphabet chair outside.

katie abc chair

After a tasty lunch at the Bean & Cod, we took a long afternoon walk along the Shining Sea Bike Trail, which winds through woods and cranberry bogs. We could hear the music from a wedding starting up across the fields, and ran into plenty of cyclists and dog walkers.

We ate dinner in Woods Hole that night, sampling appetizers and (more) oysters at Water Street Kitchen. (We though the wait would take ages, but we were seated quickly at the bar, which was fine by us.) The atmosphere was lovely and twinkly, and the gin cocktails were wonderful.

water street kitchen bar glasses lights

The next day, we had a lazy, cloudy morning – I spent part of it on the sun porch reading the paper – before grabbing brunch and then ice cream on our way out of town.

holy cow ice cream falmouth ma eat sign

All in all, a delicious weekend. We will (I hope) be back.

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sevilla buildings yellow

When people ask us what we did in Sevilla this summer, I usually arrive at some version of: we walked. And walked. And walked.

bougainvillea flowers sevilla

Walking is my favorite way to explore a city – whether treading familiar paths in Boston or Oxford or NYC, or discovering entirely new settings in cities I’m visiting for the first time.

sevilla street tower buildings spain

Fortunately, Sevilla is highly walkable, with rambling cobblestoned streets lined with beautiful, brightly painted buildings, and dozens of plazas that appear around unexpected corners.

metropol sevilla blue sky

We walked several miles a day while we were there – through narrow twisting neighborhoods, along broad avenidas, down to the river and back again.

sevilla river bridge spain

My feet were plenty sore by the time we left, but I enjoyed every ramble. Andiamos, indeed.

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On our previous two trips to San Diego, J and I have mostly spent time on Coronado, the idyllic island across the bay from the city proper. It was home base this time, too, and we took full advantage of its delights: Bay Books, the Hotel del Coronado and its adjacent beach, tacos at Clayton’s and several long runs through its beautiful streets in the sunshine.

This time, Allison and I also spent a good chunk of our Saturday exploring a new-to-me neighborhood: South Park. We began with a yoga class at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga, up in Normal Heights, then hopped on bikes for the rest of our journey.

First stop: acai bowls at Captain Kirk’s Coffee. I’d never had one, but they’re sort of like a cross between a smoothie and fro-yo, topped (in this case) with granola, fresh fruit and coconut. Yum.

We popped into Target (always worth a visit, right?), wandered the neighborhood, and found – what else? – the bookstore. The Book Catapult, to be exact.

book catapult bookstore exterior san diego ca

It’s no secret that I love an indie bookstore, and this one was just perfect. It’s open and airy but crammed with good books of every kind, from fiction and travel to local interest, nonfiction and a fabulous children’s and young adult section in the back.

book catapult bookstore interior san diego books

Allison and I had a wonderful chat with Vanessa, who was working the register and is a contributing writer for Book Riot. We bonded over YA novels (The Hate U Give, Moxie, When Dimple Met Rishi) and our respective book-nerd haunts online (mine is Shelf Awareness). I came away with a wonderful travel guide to Spain and a fun travel-themed novel.

katie del sur mexican cantina tacos

We were starving by then, so we enjoyed tacos at Del Sur (above) – it was Tacopocalypse, after all. A bit more wandering and then we headed up to North Park to meet the guys. I couldn’t resist a stop at Verbatim Books, a wonderful (mostly) used bookstore.

I could have spent so much money, but restricted myself to a like-new copy of Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year, which I loved but hadn’t quite brought myself to splurge on.

We dipped into Pigment, which is full of whimsical and gorgeous things, before meeting up with our husbands and heading back home.

As I joked to Allison, our Saturday was like a postcard of California: yoga, a bike ride for acai bowls, wandering, tacos, flowers, blue sky. But in case you couldn’t tell, I loved every minute.

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neponset river sky

Mostly we go as far as we dare down the Road that Leads to the End of the World, rounding every corner adventurously and expectantly, as if we were going to find Tomorrow behind it, while all the little evening green hills neatly nestle together in the distance.

—Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery

Since we moved to Dorchester in late July, I’ve been exploring our new neighborhood: trying out the ice cream shop and a couple of restaurants, visiting the nail salon for a pedicure or two, buying potted herbs and cut flowers at the gorgeous garden center nearby. But my favorite thing about our new area might be the walking trail that’s only a block from our house. I’ve spent many weekend hours down there already, lacing up my sneakers and grabbing my earbuds, walking along the curving green path with the Wailin’ Jennys and my thoughts for company.

My first few walks on the trail were short ones: getting a feel for the route along the river, stopping to snap pictures of Queen Anne’s lace and weathered murals, or simply to take in the views. But a couple of weekends ago, I decided to see how far the trail went. I walked for over an hour, past two playgrounds and under several overpasses, enjoying the blue sky and the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

That section of the trail stops at a small public dock that juts out over the river, and I walked out onto the dock and stood there, breathing in deeply, smelling the marshy salt air, watching a gull or two swing through the sky. And I thought of these words from Anne’s letter to Gilbert, which my friend Caroline mentioned on her blog a few years ago: “as far as we dare.”

katie river trail blue sky earbuds

My life, these days, requires more daring than I sometimes wish it did: I am learning every day, sometimes every hour, to face the vagaries of life by summoning my courage. Some of the challenges are what I call garden-variety chaos: the busyness of emails and meetings and work assignments, delayed trains and surprise thunderstorms, tricky schedules and missed deadlines. Those make me a little nuts, but I can handle them, and laugh them off at the end of the day. But I need more daring, more bravery, for the things I can’t possibly deal with in one fell swoop: the heartbreaking headlines, the complicated politics (both at work and in our nation at large), the daily (but far from everyday) deeper challenges of work and life and love.

It felt good, on that recent Sunday afternoon, to stretch both my legs and my courage, and go as far as I dared down the trail that led east – though I didn’t quite know where it went. But I followed it to its beautiful end, and then turned around and headed home, refreshed. I thought of this a few days later when a friend teased, “It’s always an odyssey,” and I replied, “That’s how you find your way back home.”

In Windy Poplars, Anne and her neighbor, Elizabeth Grayson, go for long evening walks (as mentioned above). They walk “as far as they dare” to escape Elizabeth’s tyrannical grandmother and the schoolwork that’s always waiting for Anne back at her house. But those walks, and each other’s company, help them dare more deeply and more often. They make each other more brave.

The people I love do that for me: they push me, by their loving presence, to dare a little farther, a little deeper. We walk “as far as we dare” side by side, and in so doing, we help each other find our way. But my solo walks on the river trail help me do this, too. Sometimes it’s good to test your own mettle, to find out how far you can go alone. To give a new meaning to “as far as you dare,” and to know that you can. That I can. That I dare.

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rocks nubble light maine

Last Saturday, I woke up to grey skies and spitting rain. The hubs was out of town on a work retreat, and my friend Adam and I had planned to drive up to Maine in search of fall colors and fresh air.

fall-color-maine-early-oct

We almost didn’t go. It had been a long week for both of us, and the howling wind made me want to hunker down and watch movies all day.

I knew I’d get cabin fever, though, and we hoped the skies would clear up if we drove north. So we hopped in my car and hit the road.

We stopped first at the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. It was cold (and crowded, despite the photo below), but gorgeous.

nubble light cape neddick maine

We wandered around and took photos of the light and the waves, then bought steaming bowls of soup from a nearby clam shack (chowder for me, lobster bisque for him) and ate them sitting in the car.

Our next stop was Two Lights State Park, up on Cape Elizabeth. Adam had been there before, but I never had. It is windswept and understated and quietly stunning.

rocks waves two lights state park

We climbed all around the rocky cliffs – which go right down to the water, great slabs piled on top of one another to form a sort of natural terrace.

adam two lights waves rocks

Ahead, we glimpsed the blue sky we’d been chasing (though we never quite reached it).

rocks waves blue sky two lights state park maine

The wind roared in our ears, frothing the waves into whitecaps and sending the clouds scudding across the sky.

It reminded me of being in Ireland, long ago: climbing up to an old ruined fort on the largest of the Aran Islands and letting the wind blow my hair straight back and pull the breath right out of my lungs.

katie two lights rocks

Here, on the other side of the Atlantic, I remembered a favorite line from Anne of the Island:

Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.

Without consciously realizing it, that was exactly what we had done: left the city behind to come stand on the edge of the world, letting the wind – and each other’s company – blow the fog out of our souls.

It was a bracing antidote to the daily frustrations and larger struggles of the week. Just what we needed.

Our last stop was Bug Light – a glimpse of blue sky, a dramatic sunset, and the tiniest lighthouse I’d ever seen.

bug light sunset sky

We headed home (stopping for dinner in Portsmouth) – windblown and tired, but utterly at peace.

What are your best antidotes for soul fog?

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Scenes from a day out in Gloucester.

tea plates cafe table
Tea at the Pleasant Street Coffee Bar & Tea Company (with a raspberry jam turnover).

flip flops sidewalk
Enjoying flip-flop weather for as long as it lasts.

jer bookstore
The hubs did some reading while I browsed at the Bookstore of Gloucester.

guitar rug
And we found a super cool rug outside Mystery Train Records.

Hope you’re having a gorgeous weekend.

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