Romania and Turkey Trip: Kaş Days 1-3

15 Sep

Our first destination in Turkey was Kaş. It’s a beachside town a three hour drive from Antalya airport. We arrived in the late afternoon with just enough time to check in, hang out at one of the local beaches and grab some dinner.

This is a sweet little cat who was frantically kneading an ATV. It looks like I sped up the video but I did not – this is actually how fast the cat was kneading.

We absolutely looooved the street cats and dogs of Turkey, so be prepared to see lots of photos! I read that in other countries stray animals belong to no one, whereas in Turkey strays belong to everyone, which explains why they were all so friendly and well-fed. 

The next morning we woke up to grab a traditional Turkish breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Mornings were my favourite time in Kaş – the weather was cooler and the streets were nice and empty. Also look how freaking beautiful it is. PXL_20220807_053508376We passed this bougainvillea and cactus combo multiple times a day and every time I would stop to admire it.

PXL_20220807_070452782A lovely cat we saw on the way to breakfast.

PXL_20220807_053837895And finally, our jaw-dropping breakfast!

PXL_20220807_060151427Afterwards we went to the public beach near our hotel. A lot of the beaches we went to were pebble beaches (apparently quite common in the Mediterranean) rather than sandy beaches, so the stretch between shore and water was quite uncomfortable. All the hotels and restaurants had sunbeds for rent, or for free if you bought food/drinks – but we preferred being in the water so didn’t bother. 

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We took this photo early in the morning so it wasn’t busy yet, but from late morning to late evening the beaches were generally pretty packed. We found that once we got into the deeper water there wasn’t anybody there, so that was nice.

Kaş has cold water springs flowing from underground, so the water ranged from uncomfortably warm to super cold and invigorating. It doesn’t sound that interesting but it was genuinely fascinating to experience – often we’d pass through a freezing cold patch immediately into the warm ocean water, then back into another cold patch, and several times we’d have one arm in cold water and a leg in warm water. I remember at one point James just stopped moving to tread water for awhile, then eventually said “I’m in a really interesting spot”.

Afterwards we had a break in our air-conditioned hotel room, then emerged in the late afternoon to explore the other local beaches. The water was nice to swim in temperature-wise but not really great for snorkelling because there weren’t that many interesting fish.

Us at the still-busy municipal beach, I think around 5pm.

PXL_20220807_144223567On the way back to our hotel there was an Amphitheatre that we stopped at, and we met this chill Amphitheatre cat.PXL_20220807_151133440Also, we passed so many lemon trees, pomegranate trees and olive trees on our walk back – I was incredibly jealous!

Our kebab dinner:

PXL_20220807_170804470The next day we went on a small-group boat trip to some islands and coves near Kaş. There were just eleven of us on the boat and I think we paid around $60ish each, which was very reasonable compared to what it would be elsewhere.

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I was hoping to see a bit more marine life (and to be fair I did see a turtle – and tons of sea urchins!) but unfortunately the snorkelling wasn’t much more interesting than it was at the local beaches. But it was really nice getting to swim at all the empty coves, including one with a sunken ship. And again, the water temperature was quite pleasant and the visibility was crystal clear – there just wasn’t that much to see!

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The boat had a kayak that we could take out:

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At one of the coves we stopped at, the oar slipped away from the kayak while it was stored on the boat, so here is James rescuing it and looking like Poseidon with his trident:

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More swimming!

PXL_20220808_120852537.MPIt really did feel like we had the whole ocean to ourselves (even if that ocean was devoid of interesting fish).

After our first two days of swimming I was so brown. I showed James how dark my legs were compared to my butt and he started to say “it’s not so bad” but then registered the difference and said “oh my God”. (He wants to clarify that he was impressed, not horrified … but I know what I heard).

The next day we signed up for a group boat trip to Kekova to see the underwater city. This was the most popular boat trip from Kaş and all the tour providers offered it. I’d deliberately opted for a bigger group (apparently it can be up to 50 people, though our group felt more like 30) to compare/contrast with the smaller one. It was much cheaper – more like $20 each and obviously had much less personalised service. It was basically a big ferry that took us to cool locations and various swim spots.

The sunken city:

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It was much less “city”-like than I was expecting – you can see the above-ground ruins and also some walls under the water. Swimming/diving wasn’t allowed because previous visitors had stolen pottery fragments from the ruins.

We also stopped at a nearby island called Kalekoy to visit Simena Castle. As you can tell from the photo, reaching the castle involved a lot of stairs. (Also our boat was pretty much identical to the boat on the right in case you were curious)PXL_20220809_113733945Unlike the underwater city, the castle ruins were actually a lot cooler than I was expecting.

PXL_20220809_104530765Nothing was roped off and you could pretty much go anywhere.

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The view from the top:

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We only had an hour on the island, and our original plan had been to climb up, explore/take photos, walk down and grab an ice cream from one of the many vendors near the bottom (apparently the ice cream here is quite famous?) But we ended up spending more time at the castle than we had expected, and we really didn’t want to be late and have the boat leave without us, since we were pretty sure they weren’t doing any sort of headcount before taking off!

This was my favourite swimming spot they took us to.

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One last dive for James.

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(He was trying to teach me how to dive on our various swim stops but I just ended up doing a ton of belly flops).

IMO the only real downside of the bigger group trip (aside from the aforementioned fear of potentially getting left behind) was that it took a lot longer to get on and off the boat when we stopped for swim breaks. With the small group we could jump straight off, but the bigger boat had a lot of people who were scared of jumping off and had to psyche themselves up, plus everyone had to wait for people to swim out of the way before jumping in. We’d done so much swimming the previous days so it wasn’t a big deal to wait. I assumed I’d be bothered by the extra people, but aside from getting on/off the boat it didn’t really feel that much more crowded because in between stops we just sat on our sun loungers and enjoyed the ocean breeze. The $20 trip wasn’t quite as nice as the $60 one, but for a third of the price it was pretty damn good!

So that was our first few days in Kaş. Now I look back on the photos I’m like “oh how nice” but I remember at the time feeling drenched every time we left the hotel. The heat and humidity really took some getting used to – and we still had two more days to go!

Romania and Turkey Trip: Bucharest

30 Aug

Last month James had to go on a work trip to Romania so I decided to tag along and make a holiday out of it by adding Turkey to the itinerary. Fortunately for us, boondoggle work trips are back!

Unfortunately for us, it was during peak summer travel – so massive crowds, heat waves, flights delayed/cancelled left and right, and airports melting down because they weren’t ready for the demand. But still. We got to travel again!

Bucharest is beautiful and very affordable. There’s also not really that much to do – even the highest-rated stuff is kind of lame, and then if you look at the reviews there is a lot of “eh, it’s okay”.

Having said that, on my first day I did a guided bike tour of the city that I would definitely recommend. It was a nice way to get oriented and learn about Romania’s history, and we managed to cover much more ground than a walking tour.

This is the most famous building in Bucharest – the Palace of the Parliament. It took 13 years to build and is the second largest government administrative building in the world (behind the Pentagon).

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Something surprising that our guide told us, was that the buildings in Bucharest are not actually that old. A lot of the oldest buildings were destroyed in wars, fires or earthquakes, so most of the ones you see are only like, 100 years old. He said when they rebuilt they copied the Neoclassical French buildings and that’s why they look older!

Our guide told us this used to be a trading route marketplace with accommodation on the second level. There were several of these dotted around Bucharest.

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We also visited a religious area, including a building where the Romanian Patriarch lives (our guide called him the Romanian Pope, but I looked it up later and I’m pretty sure it’s the Patriarch – but it’s a pretty understandable translation issue). This isn’t the best photo I took, but it is the one that got photobombed by a pigeon, so into the blog it goes!

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Also check out this giant vat of holy water. (James was creeping on my photos while he was at work and apparently all his coworkers marvelled at the bulk holy water). 

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I was quite surprised by how religious people were – for instance, lots of people would make the sign of the cross when passing by a church on the street.

Our guide called this statue a potato on a stick but then said it’s actually an olive to symbolise European friendship, like that made any more sense!

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Also I sadly didn’t get a photo of it, but he took us to his favourite pastry place and we got these great little meat and cheese pastries (kind of like boreks) for around 50c each. I went back several times since it was near our hotel. The pastries weren’t much to look at, but they were one of my favourite things I ate the whole vacation, and I’m getting a little wistful thinking about them now.

For dinner I paid around $14 for a pretty big pizza and a sampling of Romanian wine at a trendy pizza place. James went to a more touristy restaurant with Fitbit and Google and said he was very jealous of my meal.

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(One thing that I kind of wish I’d done is gone to a wine bar to sample a bunch of Romanian wines. Ah well).

The next day I went with a small tour group to Transylvania to see Bran Castle (“Dracula’s Castle”) and Peles Castle. I found two things really interesting:

1. The van had a device that was supposed to measure (and limit) how many hours the driver could drive due to European safety regulations. But the guide explained that the driver would put in false information because the traffic was bad and the drive was so long, and he would always go over his time limit. So about an hour into our tour the driver stopped the van and officially logged his start time, and an hour before the end of the tour he officially logged his end time.

2. We drove on a highway to get to the countryside, and there were several horse-pulled carts on the road, using the lane alongside cars. There was a big, big speed difference. Once I saw a couple of cars change lanes really abruptly and it was because they had come up behind a horse and cart. Unfortunately no photos because we passed them so quickly. =(

But anyway, onto the tour! Peles Castle was the summer castle of the royal family. Much like the buildings in Bucharest it was very impressive-looking but not actually that old – it was completed just before 1900, and had electricity, heating, running water and even a retractable roof!

PXL_20220804_083223846The rooms and decor were satisfyingly ornate and original, but also the whole experience was very on rails. There was a set route to take, and you had to look at all the rooms from behind barricades. James’ coworker’s mum went on the same tour (different company) and James said during the day he and his coworker were comparing the photos we took and laughing because they were identical.

The aforementioned retractable roof:

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Dining room:

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An Ottoman-inspired smoking room:

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The weapons’ room:

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The master bathroom, which I think highlights how relatively modern the castle was. Apparently not everyone got running water though – just the royal family. 

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This was the second floor of the lobby. On the left was a confession box, which the King wanted because he was religious, and then because he wanted it to be reasonably symmetrical, he got them to add a spiral staircase to the other side.

PXL_20220804_081027052And then it was onto Bran Castle, aka Dracula’s Castle, which is the iconic tourist attraction of Romania. Everyone who knew we were visiting Romania asked if we were going to see Dracula’s Castle.

Bran Castle sucked. I’d done some research and knew it wasn’t actually Dracula’s Castle and that it was going to be shit – and it was still shitter than I was expecting.

This was the line to get into the castle continuing down the hill:

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And that was after a line twice as long to actually buy tickets. Madness!

So I’ll try to explain why Bran Castle was so shit. First of all, it’s not actually Dracula’s Castle. Apparently it just vaguely fits the location, so the tourism board just ran with it and declared it to be Dracula’s Castle. The furniture is not original or even particularly old (“they went shopping at Ikea” our guide said derisively). So then what is there to see at the castle?

Nothing. Fucking nothing.

One room had a bunch of cheesy vampire cardboard standees. Some rooms had information about notable (and I use that term very loosely) guests who had stayed at the castle. They had a bit of information about the Queen who funded the building’s restoration. One hall had an antique dress on display and I figured it was a dress from the Queen’s wardrobe or something like that – no, the sign just said it was an old dress. WTF.

Oh yeah, and it was 35 degrees with no airflow. Do you remember the photo earlier of the massive queue to get in? Imagine everyone in that photo slowly filing through the small, cramped rooms. And inexplicably, INEXPLICABLY, everyone was actually stopping to look at these stupid exhibits, so the line was barely moving. 

An example of one of the crowded shit rooms, with a huge bottleneck from the single-file stairwell:
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Once I got to the balcony/walkway area I was slightly mollified by the nice view.

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But yeah, overall it was suuuuuper shit. I did get a nice photo of the castle from the outside though. (Also the castle was built in the 1300s, so is at least legitimately old).

PXL_20220804_114701198.MPAfterwards went to the medieval town of Brasov to have a bit of free time before heading home. It was nice enough, but not really that exciting. All the Peles/Bran tours include Brasov though – I wonder if it’s to make people feel less ripped off by Bran Castle or if it’s a logistical stop to avoid rush hour traffic.

I did get to walk down one of the narrowest streets in Europe (it was apparently originally for firefighters to more easily access the inner streets). On the mountain in the background you can see the Hollywood-esque Brasov sign.

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After my wander around, I got a slice of pizza (which looks a bit vomity but was actually quite tasty) and sat down to eat. 

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I was glad to sit down since my ankles had started to hurt from all the walking, and I texted James to complain about it.

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LOL James.

On the third and final full day in Bucharest, my original plan had been to tour the Palace of the Parliament and Ceausescu’s mansion, but I wasn’t sure about James’ schedule so didn’t book anything, and when he ended up having most the day free everything was already booked out. =( We ended up walking around Bucharest with James’ coworker Jack, just randomly exploring.

In front of the Palace of the Parliament (after we had tried and failed to get a tour). Jack tried to get most of the building in the shot but it was so, so massive.

PXL_20220805_114444241In a park we found a cool little hut with beer, wine and cocktails. So charming!

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While we were walking in the park we saw an old Romanian guy feeding the pigeons. But instead of feeding them normally he just dumped the bag of grain on top of them. I laughed so hard seeing the grain bouncing off their little pigeon backs.

We also went to a coffee place because I’d read a blog post that recommended the coffee and added something along the lines of “make sure you visit the bathroom. I won’t ruin the surprise”. So cryptic! So intriguing! What amazing surprise could this bathroom hold? 

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Actually, that reminds me of something that was very common in Bucharest that I’ve never seen anywhere else; everywhere, even really trendy/high-end places had these odd patches of neglect. The coffee place we went to was quite bougie, and then had that horrific bathroom. We went to a really fancy bar with an amazing interior but a dank, smelly 70s elevator with wood-panelled walls. I’m not sure if it’s a Eastern European thing or a post-Communism thing, but it was interesting how common the pattern was.

We ended the day with some traditional food at a tourist-oriented restaurant. After James’ disappointing Romanian food experience the first night he wasn’t expecting much, but we both liked it a lot more than we were expecting, and James loved the poo-looking meat.

PXL_20220805_160356558The next day we went to the airport to fly to Turkey. It was actually pretty stressful since when check in opened for our airline there was no line, just a scrum. We weren’t sure we were in the right line and there were so many people we were worried we wouldn’t make it in time, but I guess that was self-imposed stress because it seemed like everyone did eventually make it. I wasn’t sure if that’s just how check in is in Romania or if it was because we were flying with a particularly budget airline.

Anyway, that was the Romanian part of the trip. James and I were both more impressed by the food than we were expecting, and it didn’t hurt that everything was so very affordable!

SingleThread!

9 Jun

So, SingleThread reservations are available on the first of the month for the following month, and they go like *snaps fingers*. I refreshed the website the second it hit midnight and still wasn’t able to get a Saturday booking (though doing Thursday to Saturday instead of a weekend worked out better).

You pre-pay for the dinner, and if you can’t make your reservation you can’t just cancel and get a refund – you have to sell it to someone else. So a week and a bit before our trip we were being super Covid-paranoid; James worked from home, I wore an N95 while grocery shopping and at my pottery classes, and stopped going to the pool since obviously I couldn’t wear a mask while swimming. Such a hassle – but totally worth it!

This was how the table was set when we arrived.

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What a strong start to the meal!

The waiter said it was like a scavenger hunt, and we were supposed to root around for little snacks in the foliage. I had a lot of fun lifting up a fern frond to find a teeny tiny plate of deliciousness, and everything was so beautifully presented.

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Also at the end of the night they gave us a printed menu, the owl card (with a handwritten note signed by the staff) and the floral arrangements that were on our napkins. Thanks to the menu I didn’t have to remember everything we ate!

Siberian caviar with lotus root. 

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Bream with gold-painted leaves and a roll of intensely condensed spinach:

PXL_20220514_010144972Clam with dashi and tofu:

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For drinks, we did what we always do and split a wine pairing. For the sake course though, the sommelier gave us one each, which was nice. =) He presented us with a basket of sake cups and we could choose which one to drink out of.

PXL_20220514_010702742Sake being poured into our chosen cups:

PXL_20220514_011340255.MPOur next course had the sauce/broth hibernating in these mysterious vessels.

PXL_20220514_013055868.MPAnd then poured over our black cod.

PXL_20220514_013246288The next course was duck, but we opted to upgrade one of the duck courses to Wagyu beef (I think for $90). James thought the Wagyu was the clearly superior choice, but I preferred the original duck – so we were both happy!

PXL_20220514_020150494.MPEel with rice and radish on an artistic platter:

PXL_20220514_022554547A kumquat palate cleanser and a traditional Japanese dessert biscuit thing that looks like an ice-cream sandwich but isn’t quite. I remember we had something similar at Den in Tokyo.

PXL_20220514_023644004Another dessert – spiced carrot and hojicha.

PXL_20220514_024430640And a final, beautiful dessert platter:

PXL_20220514_030053926Also they had really nice, fancy Japanese toilets. They had them everywhere in Japan but whenever I encounter one in the US it feels so luxurious – sometimes I think we should just buy one for our bathroom but then I remember we don’t have a conveniently-placed outlet. =(

It’s been such a long time since we had a huge, splurgy meal, and I’m glad SingleThread was the one we chose to break the drought because we had such a wonderful time. =) 

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A Weekend Getaway in Healdsburg

21 May

We continue to dip our toes back into travel!

Last weekend we went to Healdsburg, which is in wine country, a little over an hour from San Francisco. We’ve visited before and prefer it as a chiller alternative to Napa and Sonoma. Plus I had managed to get a reservation at SingleThread, which is currently rated one of the top restaurants in the world, so we built a long weekend around that.

We actually went Thursday to Saturday, which I would highly recommend. Healdsburg was a lot busier on Saturday, both in terms of foot and car traffic, whereas Thursday and Friday were much more low-key and we could do walk-ins at all the downtown tasting rooms and restaurants.

We had lunch at Troubadour, a trendy little sandwich place.

PXL_20220512_191737633(James didn’t really enjoy that beer btw. He looked to see who made it, saw that it was a local brewery, sighed and said “at least I’m supporting small business”).

Next we headed to LIOCO and Bloodroot where we did a couple of wine flights. We really enjoyed the wines and I was pleased to see that both wineries used the same Gabriel Glas glasses that we have at home. Though at Bloodroot we ran into a wine tasting conundrum – if you opt to revisit one of the wines you tasted, are you expected to purchase a bottle?

In a panic, we messaged Tim, James’ foodie/wino colleague in NYC who said no. But Tim is also a lot ballsier than us – he books five restaurants for the same night, then cancels the ones he doesn’t feel like going to. We polled some other friends, and Kyle offered this diplomatic solution:

Screenshot 2022-05-21 18.05.28(We did end up buying a bottle of the rose, since James really liked it).

For dinner we went to Little Saint, a new vegan restaurant by the same owners as Singlethread. It was amazing. I’m not normally into vegan food because I don’t like substitutions – bean burgers? Cashew cheese? – those are just inferior versions of their far tastier counterparts. But Little Saint was about highlighting gorgeous in-season produce, so you didn’t miss the meat or feel like you were getting a “lesser” experience.

My favourite dish was probably the strawberry gazpacho soup, which somehow managed to be savoury but also strawberry-y. They also had fabulous cocktails.

PXL_20220513_020650644And here I go back on what I said earlier, because in some cocktails they had aquafaba (basically chickpea water) as a substitute for egg white and I didn’t care/notice at all. 

On Friday morning we went for a bike ride after breakfast at our B&B. It was a very car-light road and passed by lots of scenic vineyards, so you could easily make an afternoon of it by dropping into one (or more!) of the many wineries on the way.

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Here is James scooting along happily on his One Wheel. The round trip was 23 miles (37km) which was by far the longest he’s taken the new GT out for – and he still had 18% battery left!

PXL_20220513_172713936Afterwards we chilled in our room, then got an afternoon coffee from Little Saint.

And then it was time for the main event – dinner at SingleThread! Everyone we talked to in town said that it was incredible. It has three Michelin stars and is rated in the top 50 restaurants in the world. James’ aforementioned foodie/wino colleague’s first question when he found out we were in Healdsburg was “are you going to SingleThread?” Needless to say, our expectations were sky high.

Did it meet those expectations? Yesyesyes. It’s hard to say if we’re viewing it through rose coloured post-Covid glasses, but we both agreed it was up there with the best meals we’ve ever had. I’ll make a separate post about it because everything was so beautiful and we took a ton of photos. =D

Saturday was our last day, and we went to Crane & Condor bakery to grab some goodies to take home and then did a walk-in for brunch at Little Saint. My original plan had been to grab some barbecue but what can I say, Little Saint was just that good. And yes, if you’re counting, we went there every day we were in Healdsburg.

We started with their bread and trio of dips. Every table seemed to be ordering this, and for good reason.

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It turned out the bread was the sesame loaf we had just purchased from Crane & Condor. We checked the Little Saint store to try and buy the dips to take home and recreate the meal, but unfortunately they weren’t available that day. =(

The bread was too stingy and/or the dips too generous, so we also ordered some fresh veggies to go with the dips. And a good thing we did, because they were spectacular.

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The snap peas were picked that morning from the Little Saint farm, and so crisp, plump and flavourful! They weren’t just the best peas or even the best vegetables I’ve ever eaten – I’d put them right up there as one of the most memorable food experiences I’ve had. I did not know that peas could taste like that.

We also had roast potatoes and a garlicky mushroom bread, and they were great, but the peas! The peas. I liked how crazy the bread looked though. =)

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After our brunch we headed back to San Francisco. We had such a wonderful, relaxing time in Healdsburg, and were quite pleased that we left just as it was getting busy and the weather was heating up. We drank great wine and had fantastic meals (even if we didn’t particularly branch out haha) and on the drive home we were like “this is so close – why don’t we come here more often?”

Maybe next time we can try a couple of the restaurants that we didn’t get around to this trip. Or SingleThread again once they rotate their menu. Or maybe peaspeaspeas.

Another Two Weekends of Day-Drinking (Slightly Offset by Cycling)

1 May

Last weekend we ventured into Berkeley to meet up with some friends. We went to a brewery called Rare Barrel, which had nice sour beers, but a very annoying ordering system (no QR codes – you had to get up and order at the bar, and it was a busy weekend so each time you wanted another beer you were waiting in line for 10 minutes).

James and a couple of sour flights:

PXL_20220423_221105419We’d had a massive Indian meal beforehand, and that combined with the beer made me feel fuller than I have in a long time. There were a couple of beers at the end that I didn’t even taste because my stomach was like “no, I can consume nothing more”. 

Bonus photo of the cholle bhature (otherwise known on the menu as “the big puffy thing”) I had for lunch at Viks Chaat: 

PXL_20220423_202657724Then yesterday James and I took the ferry to Angel Island. The plan was for me to cycle and him to ride his One Wheel, but when we arrived a ranger told James that he wasn’t allowed to ride it! Apparently the rule is no rollerskates and skateboards, which is kind of annoying because electric bikes are allowed. I mean, the ranger was apologetic and nice about it, but it’s a stupid rule. People can zoom by on electric bikes but aren’t allowed to be on a manual skateboard? =/

But since we’d already paid the ferry fare and were already on the island, James rented a bike and we both did a couple of laps of the perimeter. The views were beautiful – bridge to bridge views of San Francisco. Unfortunately I couldn’t fit both bridges in the shot.

PXL_20220430_172500111And here is the Golden Gate Bridge, with fog covering the western half of the city:PXL_20220430_171921530James enjoyed cycling but was lamenting how nice it would have been on his One Wheel. He said people have recorded rides on Angel Island, so either they rode them out of sight of the rangers, or maybe there’s just that one ranger who is a stickler for the rules. Ah well.

We had the ferry pretty much to ourselves on the way back, since I guess everyone was staying a bit later. I had responsibly worn sunscreen but you can see James is getting a bit red!

PXL_20220430_184421810The original plan had been to head home, but instead we went to a brewery near Mission Bay so James could get a bit of a ride in. We chose it because we thought the name was clever: Seven Stills (a nod to the Seven Hills of San Francisco), but it turned out the drinks and food were really nice also.

I had a sour beer and James tried a whiskey flight.

PXL_20220430_201810745Then we cycled/One Wheeled home and I had a massive nap because I’m hardcore like that.

Some Nice Boozy Spots Near Us

12 Apr

We’ve had an unusually alcohol-filled couple of months!

For my birthday we checked out a cider bar near us called Upcider. They had cider flights, which I loved.

PXL_20220323_024901499The bar was surprisingly chill and uncrowded, though I guess that’s to be expected on a Tuesday evening. Though our friends went on a Saturday night and said it wasn’t busy then either. 

We also hung out with those friends at a couple of breweries in Alameda. I forgot to take photos, which is a pity because it was a beautiful warm day and we had a gorgeous view of San Francisco. The original plan had been to head to Russian River to stand in line for Pliny the Younger, but this seemed like a more relaxing option.

Speaking of relaxing, we spent last Sunday morning walking around the Embarcadero. We walked to the Ferry Building, hoping for a roli roti pork sandwich, having forgotten that the truck isn’t there on Sundays. =( Then we headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf.

PXL_20220410_181710125(Me considerately angling my head so you can see the cool ship)

We ended the walk at at Ghirardelli Square and checked to see if Ghirardelli had resumed their free chocolate samples (they had not), then went to the San Francisco Brewing beer garden.

They had nerds-flavoured sour beer!

PXL_20220410_192055865I ordered it first and James liked it so much he included it in his flight. I was surprised because he normally doesn’t like stuff like that. He hated the strawberry sour I got next though. =(

There are a few new bars and restaurants that I also have my eye on, but one reservation that I’m pretty stoked about is SingleThread in Healdsburg next month. =D

A Ski Trip to Salt Lake City

1 Mar

James and I went on a trip to Salt Lake City where we skied/boarded at Solitude and Brighton. Our Ikon passes let us access a bunch of mountains, and since United doesn’t fly directly to Mammoth anymore, other destinations became equally convenient/inconvenient.

At the airport we were impressed by the dedicated ski/oversized baggage carousel.

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We stayed at the village in Solitude, which was really convenient because it was walking distance from the chairlifts.

It hadn’t snowed since December, so we figured the snow wouldn’t be amazing, but it was actually way better than we had expected. The groomers were fun and fast, and even some off-piste parts were still soft – maybe because the snow is drier than in the Sierras and the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much?

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This was our favourite chairlift at Solitude. It was one of the two chairlifts we could easily walk to, and not as busy as the other lifts because it was far from the main parking lot.

The photo above was actually taken after the resort had closed, because in the morning we had seen this sign:

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!!!

A group of about 15 of us gathered there and waited for half an hour, but no dog showed up. I think someone went to ask ski patrol, because they came over and explained that the sign was for another day and they had accidentally left it up. But they did still bring over a ski patrol dog (Lumen!) and did an impromptu Q&A which was really nice of them.

This is Lumen. =) Apparently floppy-eared breeds are better avalanche dogs because the ears help waft the scent of humans towards their noses.

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(She is staring intently at her handler, who told her to stay for the photo)

We explored Solitude our first day, then Brighton our second day. They are two separate ski resorts that you can ski between if your pass allows it.

This was the view from Brighton at the top of … I think maybe the Crest chairlift?

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Our friend Matt joined us for the remainder of the trip. We got super lucky because on Wednesday it snowed!

Also a group of skiers gave Matt a free lift pass!

And the snow was wonderful.

Since it was the first new snow in a couple of months the mountain was much busier than it had been previous days. Though it wasn’t super slammed – the longest chairlift line we waited in was probably 10 minutes and most of them we could ski straight on. I’m used to Mammoth, where you get the whole mountain to yourself if it snows midweek (though on the flip side, Mammoth often closes lifts for avalanche control or wind, so on popular days lift lines can go 30-60 minutes!)

We got tons of runs in, had a great time, and I was absolutely exhausted at the end. Worth it.

The next day we headed back to Solitude to show Matt our favourite runs.

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Matt and James behind me on the Sunrise chairlift.

PXL_20220217_175342182The chairlift actually seated three, but I am always filled with anxiety getting off the lift, so we thought it was safer to separate. Also look at the gap between James and Matt – is that a comfortable Kaye-sized space? I think not.

On Friday the lifts opened at 9am and checkout was 10am, so I managed to get in three morning laps of Sunrise (I timed it – nine minutes up on the chairlift, two minutes snowboarding down). Then we loaded the car and Matt drove us to Salt Lake City.

It was … not a long drive lol. Maybe a little over 30 minutes? So jealous. We killed time before checking into our hotel and spent the morning at Kiitos brewery. They had lots of really fun flavours, like creamsicle, blackberry truffle, key lime pie and cucumber tart. This flight was actually one of the tamer ones (it was the “leftover” additional flight we got at the end, since all of us had a couple of extra beers we wanted to try after our first tasting).

PXL_20220218_185801387.MPSalt Lake City wasn’t as dense/compact as other cities we’ve visited, but it was very easy to drive around and find parking. And beautiful mountain views in every direction! We visited some nice restaurants and even a speakeasy. A couple of things that surprised us about the speakeasy:

  1. The cocktails were more expensive than in San Francisco! $16-18 vs $15 at Bourbon and Branch. I guess because of lack of competition?
  2. They had a special device that regulated and tracked how much liquor they used in cocktails, and the bartender said that the state would audit them to make sure they weren’t using more liquor than their records showed. 

The next day we headed to the Natural History Museum. It was near a hiking/running trail with a gorgeous view of the mountains.

PXL_20220219_183005114We really liked the dinosaur exhibit!

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Afterwards we went to a brewery gastropub, where we had fried pickles and funeral potatoes (basically a cheesy/cornflakey potato casserole – apparently it’s very popular with Mormons).

And then it was time to leave Salt Lake City. In some ways it was a relief, because even though we (I) fantasise about moving to a mountain-adjacent city, our poor lungs can’t handle the cold, dry air. =( We both had cold-weather asthma the whole trip (poor Matt thought we were going to die) and as is tradition, James’ knuckles dried out and cracked from the lack of humidity.

But it was good to get some more snowboarding in, explore a new city, and see Matt again. I would definitely not be opposed to making it a yearly trip!

 

Image

<3

5 Feb

Screenshot 2022-02-05 21.49.48What a thoughtful husband I have. =)

2021 Recap

30 Dec

I know I haven’t blogged a ton this year, but not that much has happened! We’ve travelled a lot less and mainly stuck to a routine at home, with small bursts of hanging out with friends. Which isn’t to say it’s been a bad year – it’s just that when we catch up with people and they’re like “what have you been up to?” the answer is always “nothing much”.

But here are some small updates anyway. =)

Fitness

We’ve gotten better at working out at home, and finally bought some equipment rather than relying on bodyweight exercises. Here is a fat little monkey sitting on our adjustable dumbbells:

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For most of the year we were running 2-3x a week but then I messed up my back One Wheeling and had to take a break. James switched to running before work and I started swimming more often (3-4x a week). The pool is a 10 minute walk from home, so it’s pretty easy to swim regularly. I’ve gone from barely being able to do 50m freestyle to being able to grind out 1km (though I don’t enjoy swimming more than 200m in one go because my technique gets too shit).

Reading

I splurged during the Black Friday sales and replaced my seven year old Kindle Paperwhite with the latest model. The new one refreshes pages much faster! I read 31 books in 2021 and these were my favourites:

  • The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
  • Children of Time and Children of Ruin – Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Hidden Girl and Other Stories – Ken Liu

Things I Bought That I Love

I didn’t buy a ton of things this year, but these were my favourites:

  • 15 dozen eggs

I think this was one of those weird Covid things where restaurant suppliers were selling wholesale to the public, because sadly this deal is no longer available. But I bought 15 dozen organic free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen. Sadly, none of our friends wanted to split the eggs with me (and the one friend I thought was a sure thing was unable to because she had just bought 10 dozen eggs at a Safeway sale). But anyway, this is what 15 dozen eggs looked like in our fridge:

PXL_20210331_195339419I loved the security of always having eggs, though I think James was mildly traumatised.

  • Mini Metro and Slay the Spire

Two Android games I bought for something like $3 and $7, and I’ve played them both to death. I remember James coming into the room to find me playing Mini Metro again and he said “you get good value from games”.

  • Outdoor Voices “The Exercise Dress”

I’ve lived in the TED ever since I bought it. Well, not for home, but for going out! The length makes my legs look slightly less stumpy, and I like the built-in shorts to avoid flashing people. Outdoor Voices had a Black Friday sale and I picked up two more colours, so now I own this dress in the green pictured above, as well as bright pink and a red plaid pattern.

  • Aviator Nation hoodie and sweatpants

I never feel guilty buying hoodies and sweatpants, even bougie overpriced ones from Aviator Nation, because I know I’ll wear them to death. This time I knew to buy the men’s sweatpants because the women’s ones don’t come with pockets. Ridiculous.

I also managed to find the blue Signature Hoodie on Poshmark. That colour has been out of stock for like, three years, so I was pretty stoked. Now I own this hoodie in blue, white and purple.

HDAVN-OCN

  • Tiffany & Co rose gold bean necklace

I’m not a huge jewellery person, but I like the simplicity of the bean necklace. I love the shape of the pendant – it has a little divot in the back, and almost feels like a worry stone when I fiddle with it.

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I am still waiting on my road bike to get back in stock by the way. Maybe next year. =/

The Cats

The boys are pretty much the same! Leon and Kyoto get along pretty well and enjoy cuddling together – well, just like Mouse, Leon likes cuddling with Kyoto and Kyoto puts up with it. But thinking about it, I’m glad that Kyoto just tolerates Leon – I think I’d be quite upset if Kyoto adored Leon – I’d be like “what was wrong with Mousey???”

Kyoto is still a pampered old man who sleeps most of the day. He and James like to do an extended nuzzling/headbutting session before bed. Kyoto likes to give James a vigorous headbutt, but he only gives me a delicate lady-headbutt (you know, like those really wimpy handshakes that some men will give women).

Me: I don’t like that Kyoto gives me the lady headbutt
James: It might not be a gender thing
Me:
James: Maybe it’s a race thing

Kyoto had some minor excitement in November when a couple of leaves fell off my lemon lime maranta. He’s always been quite into greenery.

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Lonny went through a terrible phase where he’d jump on James’ shoulders while James was peeing, but thankfully seems to have grown out of that. Perhaps he got sick of James’ panicked screams.

He still loves hanging out inside James’ hoodie like a little kangaroo.

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And here he is supervising while James hangs some art:

PXL_20211218_190907908We’ve had a couple of friends over to play games and he is gradually getting used to people being in the house.  

So anyway, that was our 2021. Like I said, not an eventful year, but not a bad one. Though still hoping that 2022 is better. =)

Smoked Out Tahoe

4 Dec

We had planned to stay two nights in Tahoe to break up the drive home from Mammoth, but unfortunately this is where our air quality luck ran out. The air was horrible because Tahoe was basically sandwiched in between two active fires and it was so smoky that we had to wear N95 masks outside. A bad day in Mammoth was 200+ AQI and in Tahoe the AQI was 600+.

On the drive from Mammoth to Tahoe we saw some burned-out trees. We didn’t get any photos, but there were areas where it was still smouldering.

PXL_20210826_000100483When we got close to Tahoe we had to change the air conditioning to recirculate air in the car instead of drawing it from outside because it was too smoky. =(

Once we arrived in Tahoe it was absolutely dead. No tourists, a lot of residents had already evacuated and pretty much everything was closed. Ash kept falling from the sky, our eyes were watering, and without an N95 on you could taste the smoke in the air.

Four of our friends were going to meet us to play some disc golf, but two dropped out because they were worried about the fires. Honestly, if we’d been coming from SF we would have cancelled too, but decided to stay one night to break up the drive as intended and then leave a day early.

Here’s Kyle and Ximena walking in Nevada and James walking in California.

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We also saw this massive unit.

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Most of the restaurants were closed but we found a bar that was serving food. Tahoe is normally busy and it was eerie seeing it so empty.

The next morning James, Kyle and Ximena woke up really early to play two disc golf courses when the air was better (mid 100s). I slept in for the first course and joined them for the second.

PXL_20210826_200450353.MPJames said the first course had started to pick up a bit by the time they left, but we didn’t see anyone on the second course. It was very hilly with a lot of nice rocks, and actually ended up being a decent workout (especially in our masks)!

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This was our favourite rock because it looked like a baked potato.

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And this was the sky on the drive back to our hotel:

PXL_20210826_224154440.MPWe saw some guys driving around in a convertible with the roof off. Why??

When we got back to the hotel we showered, packed, and drove home. Kyle and Ximena decided to stay in Tahoe for the planned two nights, and then dropped by our place afterwards. When they came inside they smelled soooo smoky. Seriously, like a couple of ash trays. James and I were like “is that what we smelled like yesterday??”

So that portion of our trip didn’t go as planned, but James played some new disc golf courses and we got to see what Tahoe looked like as a ghost town, so all in all it was an interesting end to our road trip!