Saturday, December 22, 2018

My 2018 Travel Superlatives

Whew, 2018 has been QUITE the year for me both personally and professionally. I have not slowed down to reflect as much as I should have as I have hustled to build out new opportunities at work, discovered new amazing places, and tried to stay connected to friends and family in between. I usually do a New Year's post where I lay out what's up for the next 365 days travel-wise, but I thought it might be fun (and good for me) to do a look back first.

I glanced back over my calendar and I have managed to take 25 trips for work and fun, including seven countries (five of them being brand new to me). My most popular destination was Canada with four separate trips there, which if you know me is an excellent thing - definitely love being up north! Also, another random fact, five of the countries I visited are islands (the UK is a big island, but still). Along the way, I picked up some new favorites and unexpected surprises. Here, in random order, are my 2018 Superlatives:

Best local getaway: Miracle at The Rockhill Grille, Kansas City, MO
So this place is actually part of a holiday chain of Miracle pop-ups all over the U.S. (and one in New Zealand and one in London) that started in 2014 but it finally made it to Kansas City. Decorated in nostalgic Christmas decorations of yesteryear, the drinks are surprisingly good. See if there is one near you and get there ASAP!
Most sobering trip: St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands
As the hurricanes hit the Caribbean in the Fall of 2017, I couldn't imagine how devastating it must be for the families that lost everything. When my clean-up crew was sent to this house, complete with very sturdy storm shields over the windows, I was struck by the power of nature and how fragile we are in it. There are still so many communities struggling through the aftermath of those hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires and more.
Best roadside attraction: Cabazon Dinosaurs, Cabazon, CA
Driving down a pretty uneventful stretch of highway from LA to Palm Springs and seeing these beauties pop up on the horizon, I mean, what's not to love? When our car of ladies rolled up, we were literally scream laughing - it was such a hoot to see.
Best new travel tech: Google Pixel 3
If you've hung out with me at all since mid-October, you might have caught on that I am a bit obsessed with my new smartphone, namely the camera. Between wide-selfies and night sight modes (stunning results above), it's fun to see what it can do. This photo is of the iconic Magic Kingdom, which I should note was one of my favorite nights of 2018 with my teammates. We ran around like little kids, going on rides, eating cookies, and watching Mickey's Holiday Parade.
Best design inspiration destination: Eindhoven, Netherlands
If you're looking for beauty in the world, you can undoubtedly find it in many places, but if you're looking for a high concentration of art and design, Eindhoven's maker districts are a fantastic place to explore. If I wasn't a carry-on only girl, I would have tried to take everything home with me.
Best ice cream: Wiz Bang Bar, Portland, OR
The rhubarb anise crumble sundae - amazingly delicious.
Most fearless fun: Aerial yoga (and the hour-long golf cart drive to get there)
I guess the whole trip to Belize falls into the fearless fun category. From flying on a tiny plane to an island I'd never heard of before booking a last-minute trip to snorkeling a reef with sharks and a boat full of strangers to the aerial yoga class above. It was a much-needed, centering trip.
Best cocktail: Who let the gin out?, Hverfisgata, Reykjavik, Iceland
In addition to having my favorite cocktail of 2018 (gin, tangerine shrub, lemon, carrots & honey, topped with Fernet and lemon foam), Iceland took a spot in my top five countries. I can't wait to get back there for more culinary and natural wonders! 
Favorite photo: Dean Village, Scotland
You know when you keep looking back at a photo you took because it doesn't even look real? Maybe it's just me? Anyway, this photo is my winner for 2018.
Favorite restaurant: Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, Kansas City, MO
As you know, if you are a regular reader, I love to eat and have had many delicious meals this year. I have to come back to my hometown favorite to round out my list of tops/bests/favs for 2018 with Corvino. Between the incredible cocktails, the amazing food, the live acoustic music, and cozy decor, I could eat here every day.

There you have it, some of my highlights from the year. As I look through my photos, I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to explore the world. It's truly a gift.

What are your favorite places, near or far, from the past year? Please share, I love discovering new spots. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fall in the UK - Part III

After breakfast, we headed to the castle on the other end of the Royal Mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse where Her Majesty the Queen spends her summers. Because it's still in use, there were no photos allowed inside. However, along one side of the palace is Holyrood Abbey. While it's falling down a bit (and has no roof) I thought it was quite striking.
It was pretty chilly walking around so we headed to Bon Vivant for a cozy lunch. I had this yummy cocktail to warm up a little bit - The Chloé - Tea Infused Tanqueray Gin, Cocci Rosa Vermouth, Grapefruit Cordial, Citrus, and Rosemary.
I also had the vegetarian pumpkin chili with fried halloumi cheese and jalapeño cornbread.
If you are a fan of The Crown on Netflix, you might recall that the Queen, and Prince Phillip, sailed on The Royal Yacht Britannia. It is now a permanent museum that you can take a self-guided tour of (hence my handset above). It was super neat to see all the bedrooms and the galleys, and yes dad, the engine room.
I mean, this was a drawing room on the ship where the royal family played cards and did puzzles!
We ended our day with the most amazing meal at a Michelin-starred French restaurant called Restaurant Martin Wishart. It was so delightful, from the service to the atmosphere and of course the food and drink. We each had a six-course meal, although with the amuse bouche, the bread, and the tray of sweets was more like nine.

Everything was so delicious, especially the white truffle risotto with scallop, the cheese soufflé, and the bread (of course). The sommelier came around and consulted Brian and I on which wines he would recommend based on how many glasses we wanted in total, what we liked to drink in general, and then made the perfect pairings. He even got me to drink a port! It was the perfect end to our little getaway.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Fall in the UK - Part II

I don't normally double post on Instagram and the blog, but this avocado toast at Kilimanjaro Coffee was just too pretty to follow my regular "rules" with. We also had coffees with our breakfast while sitting in the window, watching people pass by.
After breakfast we walked to The Scotch Whiskey Experience for our Master Class.
Known best for the largest unopened collection of scotch whiskey in the world. Purchased by a single collector, Claive Vidiz, the collection features 3,384 bottles that date as far back as 1897, many of the bottles look less than full because of the "angel's share" - or the portion that evaporates over time.
Our Master Class was with two other couples and an instructor. We did a blind smell test - Brian won - learned how to properly taste (which isn't different than wine) and tasted four scotch whiskeys. Since it was 10am, we didn't get too crazy, I even left some in the glasses!
After the tasting we walked around town a bit and then walked about a half hour to Dean Village. Brian had heard it was great for picture taking and he was not wrong. This was one of my favorite photos that I took, I think it looks like a painting.
After lunch at a vegan restaurant, we headed to Edinburgh Castle.
I liked the Scottish National War Museum, the views from the top of the hill, and the prisons (I guess I have eclectic tastes).
The city below the cannons.
After dinner we headed out for drinks at Under the Stairs with one of my colleagues who was also in town with his wife. We had a lovely evening chatting and swapping stories. I had this pretty cocktail (that I slipped behind our table for a photo) - the Cactus Jack - ocho tequila reposado, prickly pear liqueur, basil liqueur, amaro vermouth, watermelon syrup, citrus. So good! 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Fall in the UK - Part I

The first week of my trip in London was spent working on/at our annual festival, mostly, so not too many photos to share from that, well that you might find interesting. The best part of the week was seeing my friends/co-workers and catching up over rounds of delicious cocktails at Nine Lives (if you are in London, don't miss it). 
Brian flew in on Friday to help with the festival, and to see what takes me to London each fall. On our last day of the festival, a small group of us took advantage of a break and had a delicious high tea at the InterContinental London - O2. We had teas, finger sandwiches, and so many tiny pastries and cakes - just enough sugar and energy to power us through the clean up after the festival was over.
On Monday Brian and I took a train up to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days of vacation before heading back home. The upstairs of our Airbnb was too cute. The stone cottage, formerly a coopers quarters and workshop, sat beside a big park and next to one of The University of Edinburgh's libraries. It was a great location to walk to most anywhere from. 
After we got settled in at our Airbnb, we walked back to the center of town to pick up a walking tour of the Blair Street Underground Vaults with Mercat Tours. While the tour didn't really lend itself to photos (lots of grey slabs of stone), we learned about the city of Edinburgh and the history of the fascinating set of underground caverns built in the 18th century beneath the South Bridge. 
After the tour, we headed to Devil's Advocate for a delicious dinner. I started off with this yummy cocktail - Cycling in the French Riviera - Star of Bombay gin, Suze, Cocchi Americano, yellow chartreuse, and cucumber bitters - so good!
After a week of mostly grab and go meals, I needed some veggies so I ordered the roasted cauliflower with tahini, sumac, pomegranate and toasted seeds. It was very good but there was so much of it - and I needed room for the truffle parmesan chips I ordered as well. It was pretty cold outside (40's F) so we bundled up and headed back to our cottage for some much needed and deserved sleep. Had to rest up for a very packed couple of days, more on that tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Fall Weekend in NYC

With my best friend in New York, we try to get together a couple times a year. With six months gone by since my last visit to the city, I booked a trip for Columbus Day weekend to keep on track. On Saturday we ate vegan donuts, went to 'mommy & me' yoga with Jessica and Brian's two and half year old, strolled the farmers market, and went to a yummy dinner at Win Son (which was a little too dark for photos).

On Sunday morning, we headed to brunch at Sunday in Brooklyn (see IG for the giant malted pancakes we shared that you can see in the background). I had a yummy breakfast sandwich on brioche with eggs, avocado, cheddar cheese, breakfast potatoes, and gochujang aioli. I also had an amazingly fresh grapefruit mimosa and an iced latte.
Jessica and Brian pushed Emma in a stroller for a post-brunch walk in Domino Park. It was a little overcast but it didn't stop our exploration of the dog park, the fountains, and the incredible playground. The park is built on the river, right in front of the old Domino Sugar factory (which is being converted into living space).
After some naps and puzzles at home, we headed out to a little fall festival and then to Ops for some amazingly delicious pizza. We had an incredible salad, a margarita pizza. a Juno pizza with broccoli rabe, potatoes, provola, and ricotta salata, and a bottle of natural red wine.
After dinner, Jessica and I walked over for a drink at Featherweight, a little speakeasy in Brooklyn. I had the Trembler (Tromba Reposado Tequila, Lustau Vermut Blanco, lemon and blackberries), super yummy!
On Monday, we worked from Jessica and Brian's apartment and then she and I took the ferry out to Governor's Island where I lived from kindergarten through second grade. We got off and walked to the Collective Governors Island for our glamping adventure. I was last on the island in 2011 and it has changed a lot since then. There are still some remnants of my childhood around, so we rented bikes to have a better look after dropping off our bags.
The weather wasn't perfect but it was warm enough to enjoy some biking and hiking. Jessica took a picture of a family who wanted to return the favor, so we got this photo of ourselves with the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry in the background.
There are many buildings still standing on the island that seem destined to make it, like the movie theater (and others that have been used for NYC Fire Department training). Thinking about growing up here brings to mind all the firsts in my life I had on the island - while it was only three years I learned to ride a bike, started elementary school (P.S. 26), used a computer for the first time in the school lab, joined my first group (Girl Scouts), was in my first play (the nativity play at St. Cornelis), made my first best friend (Erica Selavka), got our first pet (Duncan), lost my first tooth and sort of had my first kiss when Eric B. chased me around the playground and pinned me down and knocked it out trying to kiss me.
A peek inside our Summit Tent. 
Jessica ordering drinks at the bar, which is next to the dining tent.
Every night after dinner they start a fire and have smores. It was fun to sit around the fire in the glow of Manhattan with a group of strangers talking about what a "perfect" marshmallow is. We headed to bed early, as you do when camping, and had a solid night's sleep.
Here's our tent, number 23. After we woke up, we had breakfast in the dining tent which included real NYC bagels, so I was happy. I would highly recommend coming out for a night sometime soon - not sure how much longer it will be around.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Iceland - Days 5 + 6

On Saturday morning, we headed out for an Icelandic horseback riding experience with Íslenski Hesturinn. It was so amazing. We learned so much about the horses, most notably the fact that they genetically have two extra gaits - the tölt and the pace. Most horses only have three - walk, trot, canter. Maybe it's because I used to ride in high school, but this was super fascinating to me. You can watch this video to see what they look like. Brian can now check off horseback riding as a thing he's done!
After getting warmed back up with hot baths and showers, we headed back into the rain for some lunch at Supa (veggie and vegan soups served with the most delicious bread). I loved the painting on the front of their building and the little window nook with a table for one. I had the Malaysian soup - sweet potato, peanuts, tomatoes, onions, and ginger - it was so tasty!
After exploring the city on foot, we got ready and headed back out for dinner at the Fish Market. I started off with this incredibly tasty cocktail called the Dumbo which contained elephant sloe gin, yellow chartreuse, rose hip and lemon.
The amuse bouche was a delectable wonton with tuna crudo (served on a big rock). 
And then we moved on to the best veggie tempura I have ever eaten - perfectly salted and crispy - served with wasabi peas, wakame and jalapeno dressing.
We had sashimi (salmon, tuna, scallop, arctic char, ocean perch and sweet shrimp) that they poured liquid nitrogen into to keep chilled while we ate and the volcano langoustine maki - langoustine tartar with sesame oil, 7 spice and chili on top of maki roll with salmon and cucumber. Everything was so delicious!
On our last day, we woke up late and had breakfast before packing up. We walked around the city to see the Harpa (their performing arts hall) and the Sun Voyager. Afterwards, we headed to Hverfisgata for the most amazing pizza and cocktails. I had the "Who let the gin out?" which was divine - made from gin, tangerine shrub, lemon, carrots & honey, topped with a Fernet and lemon foam. Just incredible.
While this picture definitely doesn't do it justice, the pizza was so amazing - garlic oil, mozzarella, mushrooms, parmesan, and herbs. And the salad we had, so good - it had grass salad dressing, yum! We ate every smell!
Before heading to the airport, we stopped at Kaffibrennslan for coffees and traditional Icelandic donuts - the kleinur and the love ball (which is basically the same thing as the kleinur but with a few raisins tossed in). They were very dense and slightly sweet. Not my favorite but we had to try them out, obviously.

The trip was amazing and I would highly recommend heading to Iceland as soon as you get the chance. And, it looks like the direct flight from KC to Reykjavik might be sticking around for a little while, because maybe I was looking to book a return in May 2019, you know, checking for a friend. Take care and safe travels out there friends!