Category Archive: Travel

May 13

(No title)

This weekend[info]aklikins and I are heading to DC to do the first Washington Post Tropic Hunt, which is based on the annual Miami Herald Tropic Hunt (which I did — and throroughly enjoyed — back in 1994) .

The site explains the setup far better than I but suffice it to say that if thousands of people all trying to solve larger-than-life scavenger-hunt-puzzle-games sounds like fun, you’d probably love it.

If you’re already planning on going, let me know — I’d love to meet up!

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Jan 30

Random bits

OK, who had the genius idea of putting a major concert & sports venue on one of the two main roads into Raleigh?    I was stuck in Hurricanes (hockey) traffic for almost 40 minutes last night trying to get to trivia — yecch!

By the way, I will be in Toronto next week on business. Two business trips in three weeks, not having traveled for work in 5 years!  Big kudos to AmEx who overnighted me a card so I could actually book the trip within corporate guidelines!

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Jan 22

Quick update

I’m in Vegas for the Nortel sales conference… in a nutshell they had a contest for employees (writing/video) and (with the help of my producer (aklikins) I won!

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Sep 04

a few pics from Asheville…

(more here)

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Sep 04

Labor Day… not laboring at all

aklikins and I headed up to Asheville for Labor Day weekend and had a spectacular time (one of those vacations where the worst thing you can say about it is that it ended). Amongst the highlights were staying at the Hill House B&B, which is a favorite of mine, massages at Spa Theology (highly recommended), and visiting Adrian’s friends from high school at their restaurant/bar in Brevard, The Square Root.

The Square Root has *wonderful* food — my favorite was a “Surf & Turf” appetizer featuring strips of delicious, rare steak and sashimi tuna with a teriyaki-style demiglace — YUM!  Also tasty was the pecan-crusted fried Brie (and yes, fried + cheese is almost always a win in my book), though I shouldn’t have eaten the raw apples with it, as they triggered a little bit of my food allergy.

Since we were there on Sunday, which is trivia night at the Square Root, we stayed for that and didn’t do too badly considering it was just Adrian, Scott (Adrian’s friend from high school) and me (and I suck at trivia).

The other restaurants of note were the 28806 Deli, which is tucked away in a little quasi-industrial-maybe-used-to-be-a-drycleaner-building, yet serves some amazing fusion cuisine (a salad of lump snow crab meat, strawberries and mango with spring greens and a ginger-papaya dressing, for instance) and Fig, where I had perhaps the best pork tenderloin ever, served on a puff-pastry tartlette with figs and vidalia onions.  We finished with the pana cotta and pots de creme — meltingly wonderful.

Add to that some quality shopping and an adorable traveling companion and you get an amazing vacation — HOORAY!

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Jun 28

Home again, home again

I’ve just gotten home from five days at DeBordieu with my roommate from high school, her husband, their two children, a good friend from high school, his wife (artykim), their two children, and another couple (who have also become friends) and their (single) child (1).

Kudos to all you parent-people.  They (the littles) are VERY energy consuming (and I think I might be a wee bit lazy).

The weather couldn’t have been nicer and I got more than my share of lounging-on-the-beach-time (without, for a change, getting completely lobsterfied).  Read two grown-up books, two People magazines, one O magazine and several children’s books (and think I’m going to buy the Lemony Snicket series for myself).  Frolicked in the ocean and in the pool (2).  Walked many miles on the beach.  Got a blister the size of a dime on the bottom of my foot (3).

Rode nine (!!) miles on a bike.  One of those was with a flat tire.  Yes, that wasn’t very bright, but honestly I didn’t know the thing’d gone flat.  The thinking went something like “Well, Gina, of course it’s getting harder to pedal. You just rode more than six miles, three of which were on a fire road/carriage path, on an old-skool, gearless (and somewhat rusty) bike.  You can do it!  Keep pedaling!”  Eventually, though, my pep talk failed and I climbed off, only to find that the rear tire was as flat as the proverbial pancake.

Whoops.  I suppose that would be the problem.  Mr. Nice Security Man came by just a minute or so afterwards, fortunately, and he was kind enough to load the bike in the back of his pickup truck and take me the last two blocks home.

Napped.  A lot.  Also was able to sleep significantly later than all the parental units (see above, re: Hard Work Involved In Child Raising).

We also ate far better than I’m accustomed to eating, as generally I eat whatever’s leftover from the last time I ate dinner out (which I also do far too often).  At the beach we had lasagna (veggie — and delicious!), baked chicken, panzanella, fresh vegetables, etc. etc.  Well balanced — and tasty — meals.

The strange thing (and the only part of this post that’s even a tiny bit profound) was the juxtaposition of remembering these sort of trips from my childhood — when I thought “Ah, someday that’ll be me” — and actually *being me* in one of these sort of trips.  A bunch of families at the beach with their kids…everyone playing in the ocean…and I’m one of the adults (chronologically speaking, anyway)!

(1) Whew.  For anyone counting that’s 5 children, all under the age of 7.  Though they all were pretty darn well-behaved, that’s still 5 children more than I’m used to dealing with for more than an hour or two at a time.

(2) I am part dolphin, I think.  I float beautifully (no comments from the peanut gallery, please).  I love swimming underwater and flipping over waves.

The sand and salt I like less well.  Basically I want a wave pool the size of the Atlantic.

(3) From *sand*!!  I know I say I’m a Delicate Southern Flower (from a ease-of-skin-damage POV at any rate), but this is ridiculous.

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Nov 03

Heading West! — CA ppl pay attention! (there will not be a quiz)

To everyone in the SF Bay area — I’m heading your way (run, run now!!!) from Nov. 17 through Nov. 22. The first couple of days (17th-19th), I’ll be up at Wilbur Hot Springs with a buddy of mine from high school, but the evening of Sunday the 19th through the morning of the Wednesday the 22nd, I’m in your neck of the woods.

Unknowns at this time:

  • what I’m doing
  • where I’m staying
  • whether I’ll be vehicularly enabled or not

Knowns at this time:

  • Leaving Wilbur Sunday afternoon… will be back Bay-ish by Sunday evening. Will probably start in South Bay
    Front of lodge at Wilbur Hot Springs resort in...

    Image via Wikipedia -- Wilbur Hot Springs

    area, as I know I need to end up in North Bay areal

  • Flight is 12:30 out of SFO on Wed

So, if you’re around, and want to catch up, give me a shout!

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Aug 07

Return of the LiveJournal

I don’t know what it is about summer, but I seem to always “fall off the planet” as far as my online presence goes (goodness, that’s a pretentious thing to type).

No Europe trip this year for me (through Jeff made a quick run just to meet up with the rest of the group), since we went to my “baby brother”‘s wedding (which was *lovely*) and Maine for Jeff’s parents’ 50th (!) wedding anniversary.
(If you ever wondered who in my family I take after, check this out…)

There are also some new puppy pics (and we’re in Week 5 of Puppy Class!).

I have about two months’ worth of reading to catch up on LiveJournal-wise (and I probably should tackle the stack of bills on the counter too, huh…).

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Jun 01

Memorial Day Fun

This past weekend Jeff & I escaped to Beaufort, NC, a place long-familiar to me, as I spent the summers of 1989 and 1990 there (the first summer I was taking classes at the Duke Marine Lab; the second I was a Residential Advisor for the Duke Talent Identification Program, a summer “edumacational” camp for really smart 7th-10th graders).

It was a most wonderful weekend (interspersed, of course, with moments of supreme anxiety — hey, I’m still me!). The anxiety was primarily due to the fact that mom was keeping India for the weekend — Mom’s first time puppy-sitting India, and India’s first overnight away from me. And, well, my first overnight away from her too. I had always kind of wondered at (and perhaps snickered a tiny bit at) the worries of my friends who were leaving their kids with sitters for the first time. I’d been a baby-sitter… I’d been a very competent baby-sitter. Babies just weren’t all that tricky (at least for a few hours)… why in heavens’ name were they getting so worked up about this?

Now I understand. The anxiety was not (for the most part) about the sitter’s ability to manage a kid for a few hours. The anxiety was about the wee one’s happiness! Would the little one be miserable, scared, confused?

I had no worries about Mom’s ability to handle a pup — she grew up with dogs and has a heckuva lot more experience than I do in that respect (she also raised me, and I turned out OK. Mostly). Plus I’d written a novelette about what noises India might make and what she was allowed to do and how much kibble she’d eat and how many times she would probably need the piddle pad. (This made most parents’: “Bedtime is at 8:30; help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge” instructions seem incredibly trusting).

No, I was worried about whether India would be OK — would she miss her little guest bath palace? Would she cry? (If I haven’t mentioned, she has THE MOST pitiful cry on the planet… it’s both ear pleasing and incredibly sad…1)

India, FWIW, was fine. Happy, even. Disappointed, perhaps, to leave the nice lady who spoiled her rotten.

So, Beaufort (pictures). We did all the things I was looking forward to — all my most favorites plus some new ones (it has been *quite* some time since I’ve been there — I think Caroline and I may have gone in 2000(?) to see The Nudes, a band [since disbanded] that I was once very fond of.)


  • hit the Sanitary fish market on the way into town Saturday (quotient of hush puppies: filled)
  • went on a “sunset sail” on a catamaran Friday night & saw dolphins (quotient of boat and acrobatics 2: filled)
  • had an *amazing* breakfast at the Cedars Inn — mixed berry french toast & cheese grits & fresh fruit (quotient of calories: exceeded)
  • went to the beach (Fort Macon) (quotient of sun: WAY exceeded)
  • swam (me) (quotient of waves: filled) with dolphins less than 15 feet away (no quotient, thus a total and wonderful surprise)
  • went to El’s Drive-In for lunch (1950’s roadside food quotient: filled!)
  • took a driving tour of the marine lab (nostalgia quotient: filled)
  • napped (apprently quotient of sleep is still not filled)
  • shopped — cute little store on Front Street was having “buy one thing, get any other thing of lesser-or-equal-value” half off.  Most of the stock was Beaufort t-shirts, but they also had some Columbia travel/adventure wear, so Jeff got some pants-that-can-be-shorts and shirts-that-can’t-be-shorts-but-can-be-short-sleeved and I got some SPF 70(!!) sunscreen (“Black hole sun, won’t you come…”) — sadly it was too late to save the backs of my legs and shoulders or Jeff’s kneecaps. Anyway, (shopping-on-sale quotient: gleefully and productively filled!)
  • dined at Aqua, recommended by friends Allan & Inez — sooooooo gooooood. Highlights were lobster tempura with a key lime-garlic aoli and a creme brulee the size of your head. Menu claimed it “feeds 2-4”. We got that and a molten chocolate thing. Finished them both. Menu doesn’t know sugar fiend sun waves = Dessert Destroyer!!! (quotient of calories: I should have stopped counting at this point…)
  • Had vanilla pancakes and cheese grits for brekkies (cheese grit quotient: filled. Didn’t know that was possible!)
  • Borrowed the inn’s bikes and road around downtown Beaufort (exercise quotient:… oh, who am I kidding?)
  • Lunched at El’s (cheeseburger quotient: filled! [I had grilled cheese on Sunday])
  • Dairy Queened on the way home (happy quotient: filled to brimming).

The only crushing bit of the weekend was when Mom brought India back3. I’ll be darned if my little baby girl didn’t cry when “Granny” left!! Was there any “OMG! I am so glad to see YOU, Mommy!!!”? Not so much really. Sigh.

1 You know how some people cry more attractively than others? They don’t blotch up and snot and squint and sound like wailing banshees? India has a cute cry. I don’t.
2 The cat we were on was a 40-ft. model with two nets up front bridging the gaps between the hulls and the center-line support (warning, link plays an annoying faux-reggae file). Of course I spent the entire time up in the net — best place for bouncy waves and best view! Towards the end of the cruise I discovered that if you stand up on the beam that holds the “front end” of the nets (bow end, for those that are nautically inclined), you can somersault and land on your back in the net. That was way fun. Apparently entertaining for everyone else on the boat too. While walking along Front Street the next night, I was i.d.’d by a passing couple as “the flipping girl.”
3 We brought Mom a little thank-you present for taking care of India… a plaque that says “Now let me get this straight… my grandchild is a DOG?!??!?!”

Oh, if you want to skip the blahblah, here’s the picture-book version.

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Jun 22

All passengers on board — departing soon!

So a goodly part of this week and this past weekend (after the Aimee Mann show(1), which was fabulous) has been devoted to getting ready for the Europe trip, for which we depart on Friday!! We start in Heidelberg, as always, to pick up and pack the bike (and recuperate from the trip a bit), then moving on to Antwerp, where a good friends of Jeff’s, Carlo and Gabi live (that’s Gabi in the front of the boat, with her son, Tomas, behind her). We’re staying in the city center, and I intend on shopping most mightily. And eating frites. Lots of frites.

At some point during the Antwerp bit we’ll probably take the bike to Bruges for a day, as it is supposed to be lovely and it’s only an hour and a quarter away.

Then on to Spa, where we hope to be able to have Spa treatments, but at worst we’ll have spa baths. (Scheduling mishap on my part — I didn’t think to make reservations far in advance, which I’m normally quite anal about). Oh well. Worst worst case, we’ll do something like the Castle at Rochefort or Chimay (aka Trappist ale land).

On Thursday, the rest of the gang shows up. This year will be a big one, as it’s the 10th anniversary of EP, with folks coming from Switzerland, Germany, USA, Japan (1), Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Sweden and Ecuador! Needless to say, I can’t wait. I’m not as anxious as in years previous, as I feel like I know folks, and I’m quite glad to be seeing everyone again.

Post-EP we head for Luxembourg for two nights, after which I fly home and Jeff continues on to ride unencumbered for a week more.

The good news about the getting ready is that my comprehensive list (which I update every year with learnings from the year previous) makes everything pretty simple, even though the logistics of preparing for a motorcycle trip can be complex (you have all the normal packing issues, with the additional constraint of everything having to fit in a small waterproof duffel. Add to that the fact that the “gear” is critical — and also complicated — and the whole thing has the potential to be a nightmare.)


In other news, one of my cow-orkers (thanks thebrooomecloset for the terminology) has a cell phone that’s set to play Reveille (you know, the “I can’t get’em up, I can’t get’em up, I can’t get’em up in the morning” song). In general, I think phones should ring, not sing (particularly as they do it so poorly), and in specific, phones should NEVER do this.

(1) The Aimee Mann show was wonderful! Heather and Steve met Jeff and me at the Wellspring (I refuse to call it Whole Foods) to procure foodstuffs. Two loaves of bread, chicken salad, hummus, three kinds of cheese, three kinds of meat, strawberries, cherries and mini-desserts later, we headed out for the show. Product endorsement: I have one of those rolling cooler thingies (that’s not the exact model I have…mine was cheaper at Target) and it ROCKS! Also highly recommended are the chairs that have backpack straps (not the ones that come in the green bags… I don’t like those one bit, as they’re too tall) — they’re low, portable and have a great big pocket on the back into which you can stuff more goodies.

Anyway, she was great. At one point someone hollered “Free Bird” and she joked about wishing she knew how to play it, but then went on to play something else. Much later in the show (during the encore?) she was hemming and hawing (but in a cute way) about what to play and someone (perhaps even the same one) hollered “Free Bird” again.

And she started to play it! Or something like it. She was clearly making it up as she went along (geez! I wish I could play *any* instrument by ear!), so her version contained the hilarious lyric: “You can’t tame a bird” rather than the “And this bird you cannot tame.”

She also was tres amused by the spinney flashy light things and asked the light-bearers (which sounds a whole lot more profound than “drunken concert-goers”) to do an “interpretive dance” to the next song. They did, which apparently surprised her — so much so that she started laughing three times at the beginning of “Deathly” (I think that was it, anyway), and had to scold herself: “be a serious artist now” :-D

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Jul 11

With some trepidation,

I announce the availability of photos from Europe-by-Motorcycle v.2004″ .  I’m trying something new with this one and hosting them on their own (as opposed to Ofoto or whatnot), so let me know what you think (unlike Ofoto, this puppy won’t log visitors, which makes me somewhat sad, but oh well …it was integrated well with the image management software, so we’ll see how it goes).

Stories to come.  Soon.  Really.

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Apr 12


Jeff and I split town for the weekend, which was a Very Good Thing. We left Thursday night and got haircuts in Greensboro (yes, I drive to Greensboro for haircuts…have I mentioned that before?), then headed on to Charlotte to spend the night there. We added 2 hours to our drive time down, but were able to leave “early” (for me at any rate) from Charlotte (and get shorn en route), which put us in Charleston at 11:30 am and well rested (with “hot donuts now” for brekkies…mmmmmmmm!) .

We stayed at the Charleston Place, which was absolutely fabulous — definitely one of the nicer hotels I’ve stayed in. Jeff found a good deal (he’s the king of finding good deals) on the Executive Club level, so we splurged and stayed on the seventh floor. The nifty thing was that on the Executive Club level there was a nearly non-stop supply of food and drink — so much so, in fact, that we only ate out once (!!!) between arrival Friday morning and departure Sunday morning.

The “schedule” of treats was as follows:

  • continental breakfast — pastries, cereal, fresh-squeezed orange juice, sliced meats, cheese, fresh fruit, etc.
  • afternoon tea — this was the winner for me. A classic cream tea, with cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, Camembert, fresh fruit, cheesecake, truffles, pasties, tea (of course) and coffee
  • evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres — heavy hors d’oevres, including spring rolls and miniature spinach quiches, cheese, pita & hummus, grilled vegetables, wine, beer and “spirits”
  • after dinner cordials with desserts — including cheesecake, pistachio cake (odd, but quite good), truffles, cookies, fruit and cream tarts, and, of course, liquors. (I’ve decided my favorite after-dinner drink is Bailey’s, Kahluha and cream (which seems to be a mudslide minus the vodka)

A plethora of food choices — all delicious (these were not the typical continental breakfast stale danishes!).

After arriving and checking in Friday we headed to the historic part of town, where I took about a gazillion pictures (links to come as soon as I get them sorted out). We headed back in time for tea (of course), and arranged a carriage tour with the “club level” concierge. A wee respite from the heat in our room, then the driver picked us up at the hotel. There are apparently six different routes the carriages take and which one you get is determined by a lottery ball in the carriage-driver-routing-stand. (I kid you not). After boarding the carriage, we left the hotel and went to the routing station, where our driver had to give his license number and wait for the assignation. We were lucky and drew the “historic homes” tour, which is only available before 6pm (since the neighborhood deserves some peace & quiet at night). Our driver was full of content (most of which I admit I missed, as I was busily snapping photos and ogling at the houses), and the ride itself was lovely. (There are two types of carriages, BTW: the ones run by the tour groups, which are more like trams that are pulled by the horses, and which have 6-9 people on them; and the “proper” (IMHO) carriages, which are what you think of when you think of horse-drawn carriage, and which hold only two (or four, I suppose., given that the seat facing us was empty. We opted for the latter, and would definitely recommend it.).

One funny thing — as we were at the stand waiting for the route, we overheard one of the drivers telling his cart (it was the other type of tour) that if you see what looks like a ball floating in a puddle DON’T let your kids pick it up. Apparently the drivers carry markers that look like half a superball with a little flag on top, which they use to mark the piddle puddles so the sanitation crews can see which areas they should hose down!

We arrived back at the hotel in time for hors d’oevres (=dinner … I wasn’t joking about the food) and pre-sleep cordials.

Saturday morning we got up in time (for breakfast and) the Easter Hat Parade. This was a blast (and should definitely be seen, so I will post photos soon). The parade was comprised of about a hundred ladies (who lunch, I imagine) in fabulous hats and one tiny chihuahua in a tuxedo parading through downtown Charleston. Truly startling! I was a bit sad, as I’d wished I’d brought one of my “fancy hats”. As it was I only had my squashable black straw travel hat (which was, I guess, better than being hatless!).

Post-parade we hiked north and rented bikes. Charleston is, IMHO, the ideal biking location, as it is completely flat. Yah! We rode the bikes further north and visited the Charleston aquarium, which was nice (good exhibits, clean, etc.) though sort of small. Admittedly I’m biased, as aquariums are a “thing” for me (undergrad was in Zoology with many of my courses in Marine Sciences), so I’ve been to some really fantastic aquaria (Monterey Bay, Baltimore and Chicago Shedd top the list). I was curious about one of the exhibits: an “open” bog (plants and water and mud and turtles in a big, open container, with no lid, so you could lean over and see them). I’m not sure how long they’ve had this exhibit, but I noticed it contained several tadpoles (one of which had its rear legs), which made me wonder if there was someone whose duty it was to monitor the polywogs for “legginess,” as it seems that once they’ve gotten legs, they could just jump right out. Frog on the loose!

Oh! And on the way to the aquarium, we passed MINIland! This giant parking lot *full* of new little MINIs all waiting for their people (normal people would call it a “shipping depot,” I think). I am, I am 90% sure, buying a MINI very soon, so this was quite exciting.

Then south on the bikes to the “point” of Charleston — a long ride on an avenue with sea breeze a’blowing. Very nice on the way down. A wee bit tricky on the way back, as the lovely breeze was blowing the wrong way, impeding progress. We turned the bikes in and hobbled back to the hotel so as to (a) have tea and (b) recuperate a bit before our dinner out. (And shop, too, although I was quite restrained, in light of upcoming MINI goodness).

Dinner was at Tristan’s — wow! We did the chef’s tasting menu and were quite pleased at his willingness to deal with our peculiarities (I won’t eat spicy food and Jeff’s not all that fond of seafood and is experiencing a lack-of-tummy-happiness with raw tomatoes of late). Let’s see, dinner was:

  • corn chowder with sauteed shrimp (me) and black bean soup (Jeff)
  • amuse bouche of tiny quail leg with some sort of sauce
  • grouper cheek with some sort of savory/sweet sauce (mango?) (me) and duck confit with cherries on an arugula bed (Jeff)
  • skate wing with sausage butter (me) and sauteed duck breast with confit sauce (Jeff)
  • Halibut with shallot sauce, squash medley and garlic mashed potatoes (me) and and rotisserie leg of lamb with rosemary/garlic juice and vegetable medley (Jeff)
  • chocolate hazelnut mousse (yet, solid, somehow) with mint ice cream (me) and pear tart (Jeff)
  • cotton candy — yep! a big plate of cotton candy as the final treat!

Was I in heaven? Why yes, I was.
We stumbled home in a state of bliss.

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