Life, Travel

Las Vegas- We came, we drank, we had wonderfully awkward family time

I had to book it to Vegas over Labor Day weekend for my Uncle Vay’s wedding reception. Since it was a bit short notice, driving was the way to go. Yes, driving! Unfortunately my friends decided to bow out on the trip, so it was just me and Ryan splitting the 10 hour drive, but it was not as bad as it could have been.

Friday- 9 hours of driving 11pm-8am.

Saturday-Check in to hotel. Pass out… er…Sleep. Food. Drink. Frantic shopping for swimsuit because I packed two bottoms. Swim. Drink.Drink some more. Fancy dinner and fancy family wedding photos. Sleep.

Sunday-Eat. Walk. Swim. Drink. Eat.Sleep.

Monday 6 am- 5ish? A 1o hour drive back to San Francisco. Work in the car and try to pretend that there is nothing weird about getting work done while driving through the desert at 6am.

Vegas was good-a little family and a little heat- both things that I don’t encounter very often. It was a nice time, although near the end I was happy to leave Vegas. The dark side of the city really depresses me sometimes. Also, it was really hard to get a decent healthy meal in town and not feel totally swindled.

My entire family was stationed at the Trump, and I gotta say, I was impressed with the little touches of Trump ridiculousness. There was a well stocked kitchenette (Le Creuset tea kettles, WHAT?), jacuzzi bathtub AND shower, and a television in the mirror in the bathroom.Wow! Too ridiculous. The hotel was off the strip and had no casino on the ground floor, but those are definitely good things. I’m feeling majorly thankful to my uncle for inviting me and Ryan along for the silliness, putting us up, and feeding us well. Now I just have to find him a nice wedding present before Friday, when I take off for Los Angeles.

Life, Travel

I’ve been on two very lovely trips in the last few weeks, and with no more travel on the immediate horizon, I’ve officially got the post-vacation blues. I love my San Francisco life, but still am feeling a bit down. Adventure! Drama! Danger! It’s just not as likely when you’re at home. Luckily I saw my mild depression at the reality that is my life coming. Here are a few things that I’m doing to make the return to work and regular life easier:

1. I scheduled a “transition day” between the end of my vacation and the beginning of the workweek. This is essential for maintaining sanity!

2. I made sure to spend time with my friends, and to set up playdates for the upcoming week.

3. I took care of laundry, cleaning, and groceries ASAP, to make sure I’m clean and well fed for the coming week. Nothing like a clean bed and yummy foods to feel happy to be back at home.

4. While on vacation I mostly avoided work emails. I will get to them when I am back at work. One must set boundaries between personal life and work!

5. On a whim I purchased new attachments and toys for my Diana toy camera. Now I’m looking forward to learning more about my camera and using the new attachments.

6. I also started a new book- Just Kids, by Patti Smith.

7. Yes, I’m scheduling another trip! You gotta have something to look forward to. Shanghai? Morocco? Miami? I don’t know, but wherever I go, it will probably be solo.Exciting.

Life, Travel

Hello from Chicago, Illinois!

Can you feel the Illinoise? Last night I got back from my trip to Chicago. Ryan was moderating a panel at Northwestern’s Kellogg Tech Conference and I decided to tag along. Poor thing, he had to work the 9-5 while I was out and about every day.

Favorite moments from my trip:

-Wandering around for hours everyday, just marveling at the architecture.

-Riding around on the El. I loved feeling like I was on a roller coaster throughout the city.

-Meeting up with Drew, an old friend from San Francisco. He was as wonderful as ever, and as crankety as ever. It was just so nice to see him, and to know that good people like him are around in the world. I love having friends that inspire and amuse me.

-Having late night drinks at the Drake Hotel, a fancy local institution where Cary Grant used to live! Unfortunately I was a little bit too drunk to appreciate it at that point, but it was lovely being there.

-Seeing Max Raabe and Palast Orchester at the Chicago Symphony. They’re still on top of their game.

-Eyeballing the hipsters in Wicker Park and thinking “This is it?”

-Taking 10 minutes to photograph a mummified rodent- with three different cameras!

-Eating many fantastic meals- great food city.

Every time I travel I wonder, could I live here? Over the years I’ve realized that I prefer smaller sized, walkable, vaguely European cities. For example, in my travels I’ve preferred Montreal over Toronto and Madrid over Barcelona. And after college I chose to move to San Francisco over New York. While I was in Chicago, I felt the largeness of the city. All the while, it still felt entirely comfortable and doable. Could I live in Chicago? It is a maybe, which is pretty good, considering how picky I am!

Here are some photos from my trip. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the picture.

Life, Travel

Austin Chronicles: Part Two

The rest of my trip to Austin, in pictures.

For breakfast on the last full day of our trip, we went to Juan in a Million. Little did I know that this place had been featured on Man Vs. Food!

I accidentally ordered Juan’s special breakfast taco- the equivalent of like 5 tacos. Surprise! Great value for less than 4 bucks. Each special taco includes: 1 entire potato, 2 eggs, cheese, bacon, etc. Jeez.

This is what the normal breakfast tacos look like, for comparison.

Afterwards we spent the afternoon swimming at Barton Springs, a natural springs converted to a swimming hole. It was beautiful and peaceful.

Great stuff, and the pool was topless friendly, not that many women cared to go without.

After lazing at the pool for a few hours, it was off to the Salt Lick, a famous barbecue joint about 40 minutes out of town. This was Ryan’s design, as you might imagine. I was at this point feeling incredibly out of sorts due to the food I was eating, and barbecue felt… like just asking for pain. Did I mention that this place was ALSO on Man vs. Food? Jeeeeeeeeeeez.

This was my attempt at a “light” meal, LOL. Turkey, ribs, and sausage.

Ryan was very pleased.

We met up with a friend of Ryan’s and headed down to the water to check out the Austin bats! They’re Mexican bats that come up from  March- early fall, and during this time they live underneath the Congress bridge, coming out around dusk for food. We came early and waited for so long that we decided to leave if they didn’t come by 8pm. At 8pm as if on cue, a few critters started fluttering out, so of course we had to stay. I wasn’t able to get any great photos of them, but good video can be found on Youtube.

Willie Nelson Boulevard

Our last full night ended with barhopping. First fine and fancy drinks at the historic Driskill followed by  beers at the Lustre Pearl. Perfection!

Life, Travel

Hello From Austin, Texas!

Last week Ryan and I took off for a quickie trip to Austin, Texas. We had just missed South By Southwest (SXSW), the huge music and technology festival, which was by design. SXSW is notoriously a drunken multimedia mess, and we were in search of a calm retreat. We’d both never been to Austin before, and really wanted to get to know what the city is really like (when there aren’t an extra 25,000 people there).

Some cities are great for visiting, others are great for living. Austin seems to be one of those rare cities that is both cool to visit and seemed totally livable.

I have a few photos from the trip, so I’m breaking this up into two parts.

On Wednesday we took off for Austin, and with the lovely flight delays that American Airlines provided us, we barely made it. Once we were in Austin, we caught a bus ($1!!!) downtown, and then hoofed it to the apartment that I’d booked on airbnb.com. Then we wandered down to the local bar and ate and drank way too much.

Thursday we walked down to the local bakery and had treats for breakfast. We walked past this love note engraved on the sidewalk, and I could tell already that this city was going to be silly.

Afterwards I was still hungry, so we stopped by the Whole Foods across the way for a little something extra. I was really impressed by the electric vehicle charging station and the bicycle parking + repair station. So progressive!

After more food we wandered over to Lance Armstrong’s bicycle shop with the intention of renting a bike. There was really nobody around to help us, so we left not sure quite what to do. With no plans, it was straight to the drink.

Much better.

While we sipped margaritas we harnessed the power of the internet to rent a car. Yes we lasted maybe 3 hours in Austin without a car. Tragic.

Things were much better once we’d gotten the car (70 bucks for several days, totally worth it). We moved on to South Austin, and got haircuts at a shop that offers you a beer the moment you walk in. I am noticing a theme in my vacation!

A couple wearing matching flip flops, t-shirts and camouflage shorts were in the barber chairs getting matching mohawks. Their parents and a friend were there for support. Perhaps they were getting hitched?

The parents in the background watching…

Afterwards we went vintage shopping. The vintage scene was alive and well in Austin, but also seriously overpriced. 17 dollars for nasty modern Converses??? Please.

We did stumble upon a really cool toy store though. Toy Joy was near the UT campus and carried all sorts of geeky toys from The Settlers of Catan to Aquasaurs to Asian bug eyed Hello Kitty knock offs. Heavenly!

Choose Your Own Adventure Books are coming back! Can you believe it?

For dinner we headed to the Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater that serves dinner as well. You just write down what you want on a little pad in front of your seat. Great place! Really laid back, and it was awesome to have a pitcher of beer and dinner while we finally saw The King’s Speech. I don’t know if it was really best picture worthy, but it was lovely to look at, what with Colin Firth and the army of Corgis.

We got there a bit early… Our waitress was kind enough to indulge.

In the same strip mall area was The High Ball, a 60s style lounge/bowling alley/music space. There was a rockabilly country band playing so we danced a little, but really couldn’t keep up with the spirited dancing of the locals. All that swinging and two-stepping! Near the bowling alley twenty-somethings bowled and watched a psychedelic Russian cartoon about a dinosaur wanting to be born.

It was at this point that I knew this city was truly strange…

We did some more things worth sharing, but I’ll put that up another time. 🙂