Vancouver, Canada 2022

When visiting Vancouver, BC, the question is not what to do but what to do first. I’m excited to share our recent adventure and then you can take it from there. It’s glorious to get out and travel again!

GETTING AROUND

To/From the airport: It’s a breeze to take the Canada Line Skytrain from Vancouver airport to downtown. Built originally to handle visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics, it will take about 25 minutes and cost under $10 per person to ride to downtown. Purchase tickets on the platform-signs in the airport will lead you to the platform. An Uber will cost you about $50 at least for that trip and take at least an hour in the heavy traffic that Vancouver has most of the time.

Vancouver is a walking town but, if your legs wear out, we had no problem getting an Uber or Lyft within 5 minutes. If you don’t use those apps, my advice is to find the nearest hotel when you are out and about and ask their doorman to get you a taxi.

WHERE TO STAY

As a former frequent business traveler, I’m still local to the Marriott brand, which includes the Westin Bayshore. It is right on the water next to Stanley Park and has both an inside and outdoor pool. I’ve also stayed at the other Marriott hotels in downtown Vancouver, and they were fine as well.

If you want more of a boutique hotel, I walked by the Sylvia Hotel, which is on the opposite side of Vancouver from the Westin Bayshore but it is across from a beach and close to lots of cafes including their own outdoor patio with a lovely view. I could imagine myself sitting there with a cocktail watching the waves roll in. Next trip!

EATING OUT

I am not a foodie but there is one restaurant that I always go to when I am in Vancouver, and it never disappoints. Water Street Cafe has a variety of delicious menu items but I had the salmon on this trip, and it was SO good. On past visits, I’ve had the risotto and wanted to lick the plate clean. Seriously.

We also enjoyed a nice happy hour with a view of the water at Cactus Club Cafe Restaurant | Casual Fine Dining at their Coal Harbor location. Again, I had delicious fresh seafood.

Try some dim sum at New Town Bakery/Restaurant at 148 Pender Street in Chinatown. Check out the hours before you go-everything closes early in this neighborhood and bring some cash-no credit cards accepted. Don’t miss taking some bakery items (egg tarts!) back to the hotel for dessert.

I read an Anthony Bourdain book recently, “World Travel”, and he recommended Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca | Vancouver (cioppinosyaletown.com) and Home – JAPADOG for a more casual meal. Next time!

ENTERTAINMENT

I love to see concerts, theater, and sporting events when I’m travelling. I usually go to Ticketmaster and check out what’s happening in a town when I will be there. You never know!

Queen Elizabeth Theatre | Vancouver, Canada | Latest Events and Tickets is a great venue in downtown Vancouver-no bad seats. We saw Hamilton there on our trip. Fabulous, of course.

SHOPPING

Local brands abound to check out in downtown Vancouver. Walk down Robson Street and check out all the cool stores. They even have Muji, a favorite Japanese chain store we shopped at in China. Here are some other favorites:

Fluevog Shoes in Gastown showcases their handmade unique shoes-I have several pair and can attest to their quality and design. I get so many compliments on them!

Roots chain for true Canada clothing-heavy duty sweats and flannel!

Lululemon for exercise wear primarily but I have a pair of Lululemon black travel pants that I wear on every flight. Comfy, tailored, and non-wrinkle, they are perfect in every way, and I love them.

TO DO

Our hotel was near Stanley Park, so we took advantage of the proximity to really enjoy this urban oasis. Walking/running/biking around Stanley Park should definitely be on your list! Our hotel graciously supplied bikes free to guests, which we took advantage of! There are also many bike rental places close to the entrance of Stanley Park. The paths are nice and flat. Get a map from the hotel concierge and take off. If you get hungry, stop off at Stanley Park Brewpub in the park. Yummy food and local brews to try out. Just don’t try too many brews-the bike paths are one way and you have a healthy ride to get out of the park from there.

Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tour 2022 – Vancouver (viator.com) was a fun way to learn about the history of the park and get the lay of the land. You can book in advance or just show up to the kiosk that is near the front of the park as you enter from downtown Vancouver. We went on a rainy day and our group had almost the entire carriage to ourselves. We snuggled under blankets and had a great time!

If you have time, get out of town and take in the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s still on my “to do” list but I swear next time I will carve out time to go there. I’ve heard it’s fabulous. To get there, you can take the free shuttle from the waterfront. There is a fee to enter the park.

Plan for a shopping/eating trip to Granville Island.  Take the tiny tugboat over from downtown Vancouver. Check out the farmer’s market with gorgeous fruits and vegetables as well as handmade merchandise of all kinds. It’s a great place for everyone to get a different item from the many food stalls and grab a table outside on the water. We love the broom store (they’ll ship your brooms home for you!) and there are many other artisans selling their beautiful items. If you have kids, they have a whole building annex with children’s shops, food, games, etc. to keep everyone busy. Lots of seafood restaurants and brewpubs on the island for the adults. You can easily spend a whole day there.

Raining on your trip as it does often in the Northwest? No problem because Vancouver has a lovely art museum you can walk around for hours in the heart of downtown and it’s conveniently located right across the street from the sprawling Nordstrom store. Win-win! Have kids and it’s raining? Check out the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. It is lovely or so I heard from my sister who attended a private party there for her conference that she was attending. She shared lots of pictures and it definitely looks like a winner, especially if it’s raining outside.

Since we lived in China, we have longed for a great foot massage. We used to go every week for 90-minute foot massages in Shanghai-heaven! I booked our group of six for foot massages at Toe to Soul in downtown Vancouver, an easy walk from our hotel. I had pretty high expectations, but they exceeded them, treating us all to a thoroughly wonderful experience. Some of us got 75 minutes and others, who had never had a foot massage and couldn’t fathom having their feet rubbed for 75 minutes, opted for the 55 minutes. Later, those doubters wished they had gotten 75 minutes because it was just that good. Book in advance. Next door is a fancy gelato shop, making for an end to a perfect evening!

I didn’t get time to do these tours, but they are on my list for the next visit to Vancouver:

Vancouver Lost Souls of Gastown Walking Tour 2022 (viator.com)

Vancouver Harbor Sightseeing Cruise 2022 (viator.com)

Tripadvisor | Whale-Watching Tour from Vancouver provided by Vancouver Whale Watch | Richmond, British Columbia

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g154943-d184433-Reviews-VanDusen_Botanical_Garden-Vancouver_British_Columbia.html

Enjoy Vancouver-a true gem of a city!

New York City Visit 2022

NYC is my most favorite city in the world. I’ve travelled and lived in cities like Shanghai, Moscow, Singapore, Seattle, and more. No place continues to delight and surprise me like NYC when I visit. Finally, after two years of staying home, we were able to begin our adventures again, starting in NYC with a week long trip to visit both old and new places. Here are some tips, advice and best practices when visiting the Big Apple!

TRANSPORTATION:

Walking:

Stay to the right on the sidewalks. Only on really broad sidewalks do you walk side-by-side. Otherwise, single file and stay in your lane-no sudden changes or you’ll get run over. Be aware of bikes, scooters, roller blades, etc. Even on one way streets, look both ways. Everyone jaywalks. Don’t follow others. Check yourself before entering crosswalk. You could die.

Airport:

Travel to/from airports via flying: We’ve flown into all the major NYC airports (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark). Unfortunately, there is no direct public transportation from the airports to Manhattan so you will need a car service. While you can do a taxi or Uber, at these large airports it will be chaotic and take time. If you fly in to arrive not at rush hour, it’s best. The taxi line can be long, the Uber lot can be packed and hard to connect with your driver. I would recommend booking a car service online in advance. When you arrive and get your luggage, you call the # provided by them after you book online and they pull right up to the arrivals curb. Easy peasy and not much more than a cab or Uber would cost you. You’re looking at $92 plus tip. An Uber or taxi would probably run around $80. We used JFK Car Service and Airport Car Services – JFK, Newark & LaGuardia | By Dial7. I would highly recommend.

Uber in the city:

We walked 8+ miles a day in the city, which is our preferred mode of transportation. You soak up the culture when you walk the streets of New York. When your legs just won’t go any further, however, find a business like a hotel or restaurant to get an address to summon an Uber. Everywhere we went within Manhattan, it was $20+ per ride and, if it’s raining, it will cost more and good luck finding a ride. Then, you go to the subway.

Subway and trains:

Very convenient and fast to get around, especially if its raining, use the New York Subway System: Maps, Schedules and NYC Travel Information (nysubway.com) to plan your trip and tap your ApplePay or GooglePay at the turnstyle to enter. Watch for your stop (name on the wall at every stop) because the sign lights in the train often aren’t working and there aren’t any announcements…definitely not the same experience that you may be used to from other big cities with better infrastructure.

For the trains Home | MTA (if you are going to the suburbs like Long Island) you go to the window at the station and get a ticket and then look for the readerboards around to find the track you go to for your train. You won’t find the track assigned until very close to the time you board so be on the lookout and then walk quickly to get to your train.

PLACES TO STAY:

We usually stay at an ARBNB/VRBO when we travel but, for NYC, I would recommend a hotel. If you arrive prior to check-in time (usually around 4 pm) you’ll need a place to check your bags and that’s easier to do with a hotel. When I travelled for business, I stayed exclusively at Marriotts Discover Marriott Bonvoy | Join The Best Hotel Rewards Program and am still loyal to the brand which includes Westin, Residence Inn, etc.  Earn points when you travel and eventually your travel will be free!

Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Midtown East at 148 East 48th Street New York, New York 10017 worked really well for us. This is a business area which means it’s quiet and safe but also walkable to anywhere in Manhattan with restaurants on the block and there are deli’s just blocks away to get room snacks. Room 1419 if you can get it! Why? Here’s what we had:

Hotel amenities: laundry room, large breakfast with hot options, good safety protocol requiring hotel key to enter lobby and elevator

Room amenitites: refrigerator, dishwasher, hot plate, plates, wine glasses, 2 rooms both with TV’s, pull out bed in living room, big shower with awesome water pressure and hot water

SHOPPING:

Big department stores are grand, especially at the holidays: Saks, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s Herald Square, Nordstrom’s (new and amazing)

PLACES TO GO:

Central Park Central Park : NYC Parks (nycgovparks.org) – you could spend days here but at least set aside time to pick up picnic food at the Whole Foods on Columbus Circle and stroll along and see the highlights including Belevedere Castle. If you don’t want to do the picnic thing, then make reservations for the Boathouse which is a lovely respite in the middle of the park. Eat on the patio and then rent a boat to row around the lake (bring cash $20/hour).

The Met Home – The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org) is my favorite by far with the Temple of Dendur and rooms upon rooms of impressionist paintings like Monet. Take the elevator from the lobby to the fifth floor for a free awesome view of NYC from the rooftop. Enjoy a beverage and rest in between walking the galleries. Book timed entry tickets in advance to avoid lines. The cafe on the balcony is a wonderful lunch stop. Check for music and events on their site. I got $10 off discount for the gift shops in my email confirming my online tickets which I used. Love their gift stores!

The Museum of Natural History American Museum of Natural History | New York City (amnh.org) is awesome especially for kids. They have a Night at the Museum audio tour on their site if you are so inclined. https://www.amnh.org/plan-your-visit/self-guided-tours/night-at-the-museum

 Buy timed tickets online in advance to avoid crowds. Also, book a Hayden Planetarium show if you can. Truly amazing.

MIDTOWN:

Times Square: Dont touch the characters that are everywhere. If you take their picture, they will want money and aren’t the cleanest. Watch your stuff. These are all tourists so it is a target rich environment for thieves. Do not ask a stranger to take your picture if you want to keep your phone. Looks can be deceiving. Trust no one. Seriously.

Bryant Park-behind the NYC library and full of fun stuff. Free concerts on the lawn in the summer. Bryant Park – Home

NYC Library-take the free tour! Stephen A. Schwarzman Building Tours | The New York Public Library (nypl.org)

Rockefeller Center-iconic and in the winters you can ice skate and in summer roller skate on the rink Rockefeller Center | NYC’s Famous Cultural Landmark & Observation Deck

St. Patrick’s Cathedral-open to visitors and beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral | New York, NY (saintpatrickscathedral.org)

FLATIRON/MADISON SQUARE PARK:

Walk around Madison Square Park (seems like there is always a movie or commercial being filmed here) and the Flatiron building. We lived near here so we love this neighborhood.

Eataly-eat and shop Eataly New York Flatiron: restaurants, market and classes

Strand bookstore, 8th and Broadway Strand Book Store

Fishs Eddy, 19th and Broadway Fishs Eddy: We do dishes!

Allbirds 17th and 5th Sustainable Shoes & Clothing | The Most Comfortable Shoes in The World | Allbirds (my favorite shoes for travelling-you need for all the NYC walking! This is one of the few physical stores Allbirds has-mostly online sales)

Shake Shack-well known outdoor eating in Madison Square Park Madison Square Park | Shake Shack

Old Town Bar-featured in movies this is an iconic old time bar with great food Best Old Bar (oldtownbar.com)

DOWNTOWN: (all very close together)

Little Island https://littleisland.org/ is a new park built on the Hudson River. If you go before noon, you don’t need timed entry tickets. Great views!

Chelsea Market-eat and shop CHELSEA MARKET

Whitney Museum Whitney Museum of American Art

Greenwich Village To find a wealth of diverse food experiences, walk through Greenwich Village and eat at one of many cozy outside patios. More like Paris life here with cafe culture. Lots of small retail shops to explore but only during the day. Grab an Italian pasty and coffee at Home – Pasticceria Rocco.

CHINATOWN AND LITTLE ITALY-great for walking around, shopping and eating

BROADWAY THEATER:

Never pay full price for Broadway tickets! Get the TKTS app TKTS Ticket Booths – The Half Price Ticket Stands in NYC (nytix.com) and track what shows are usually offering tickets the day of performance for 30-50% off. You have to cue up starting at 3 pm on show day to buy tickets.

OR

Go online and get todaytix app TodayTix | Theater Tickets to Musicals, Plays, Broadway, More for slightly less off but you don’t have to stand in line. Tradeoff. I usually pay around $100 per ticket for good seats with the discount. Most theaters are small so really no bad seats. They will tell you if there is obstructed view which usually means you can’t see one corner of the stage but usually still a good experience.

If you really want a bargain, go to theater the morning of performance and ask about “rush” tickets that sometime are available for great value $35 or so many times these are single seats so if you don’t mind splitting up from your friends, go for it.

HAVE FUN IN NYC AND SOAK UP THE ENERGY OF THIS SPECIAL PLACE!

One Day in Taipei

Jet lag be damned!  With only one day off, I needed to make it count.  So, I set out on Sunday to explore Taipei and found a delightful city filled with temples, art, shopping, easy transportation and friendly folks.  What’s not to like?

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I always love to just walk a city to get a feel for the people and culture.  Taipei 101 is THE building in downtown so off I went to get a view of this famous building.  Along the way,  many shops had opened and the shoppers were out in force.  As in many China cities, there are little clothing boutiques and drugstores (no OTC meds just beauty items) everywhere along with the high-end luxury brands like Gucci, etc.

I was first struck by several differences between Taipei and Shanghai, where I lived a few years ago:  drivers of cars and scooters seemed to actually obey traffic signals and stay on the roads vs. driving on the sidewalks as they often did in Shanghai.  Crazy! I felt a little safer in Taipei though I still was cautious crossing streets.  The streets were clean yet I didn’t see the street sweepers that you would on mainland China who cleaned up after everybody.  I’m thinking the Taiwan citizens seem to be very tidy and I’ve yet to see the many smokers or public spitting/urinating that I got used to after living in China.  Not knocking my former home in Shanghai because it was awesome but the differences were noticeable.

After seeing Taipei 101 in the distance and it is a lovely unique skyscraper, I jumped on the blue line subway and off I went to Longshan Temple.  The subway was clean, staffed and signed in English.  For less than 50 cents, I arrived across town and walked through a lovely park where groups of men were playing games and socializing, very similar to Shanghai life on a Sunday.  Packed with locals burning incense and praying at the Temple, I was one of the few Laowai’s enjoying the experience.

A fellow traveler from Warsaw, Poland was nice enough to snap my pic at the koi pond, where a cat stalked from the roof above.  I love meeting new people on my adventures.  On the subway, a mature lady smiled as I sat next to her and, though not an English-speaker, she gestured at my map and seemed excited when I got off at the Temple stop.  Another lovely gal in the subway was toting her pup in a front-facing backpack.  I need to get one of these for Thor!  He would love to be carried around to see the sights.

After taking in the Temple, I was off on the subway again-first the blue line, then transferring to the red line and finally taking a cab the rest of the way to the National Palace Museum which was on the outskirts of Taipei by the mountains.  Tour groups of China tourists dominated the galleries where for only about $12.50 US, you can view three floors of treasures from jewelry to vases to calligraphy, all ancient and beautiful.  The only gallery not packed with people was the Tibet exhibit.  Hmmm…  Every item was behind glass to protect from the hordes taking it all in.

The jet lag finally kicking in, I jumped in a cab to get to the red line, then the green line and arrived back at the Westin ready for room service and a good night’s sleep.  Wish I had more time in Taiwan to explore-a vacation with Thom is definitely now a necessity!  Monday we start meetings and then off to Hong Kong on Tuesday-the journey is just beginning!

 

Back Home Again in Asia

I didn’t realize how much I missed the Asian culture until I landed in Taipei last night.  The sounds, the smells, the friendly people!  Waking up to a cloudy view of the mountains and the local neighborhood after a 20+ hour journey to get here from Boise to Seattle to Tokyo to Taipei, I couldn’t wait to get out on the streets and explore!

 

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Hat courtesy of caution cone/vest?  Staying safe on the crowded streets of Taipei!

 

This is a business trip, hopping to a new city every 2-3 days for meetings, so hubby Thom is not along for the adventure.  I’m on my own and, after lengthy conversations with the Westin staff and maps in hand, I started to just wander.  Of course, the hotel team tried to talk me out of walking around “too far!” but I like to walk and they aren’t used to visitors wanting to do that.  I get it and just smile and keep on walking.

Originally, I had planned to book straight to the National Palace Museum via the subway but a combination of uncertainty and self awareness that I get lost easily plus a desire to absorb the local culture vs. art, I decided instead to try and find a temple nearby.

First, though, I noticed a Alice in Wonderland theme in the Westin lobby bar and checked out the adjacent gardens where it looked like a wedding might be taking place today with decorations everywhere.  How fun!  Wonder if the bride had an “Alice” dress to walk down the aisle?  She will definitely need a parasol as it is quite wet here today.

Instead of a temple, I found a delightful street market where I was the only Laowai, aka foreigner, in sight.  Fish, fruit, meat, pigs feet, dry goods and handmade noodles in stalls lining the narrow alleyway-it was packed with shoppers and very reminiscent of my old neighborhood where we lived in Shanghai.  I thought of my friend Patti when I saw the cherry tomatoes merchandised in the fruit stalls next to the apples and oranges.  Yes, Patti, tomatoes are considered fruit.

As I reviewed my map, still hopeful I could find the temple, a 20-something young man walked by me, stopped and considered, and then came back to offer his assistance.  How kind and friendly he was to help me plus he spoke English!  Even with his guidance though, after a few more blocks, I gave up and just enjoyed the journey.  Glad I did too or I wouldn’t have seen the quiet neighborhoods or the lovely lady in the “cautionary” hat displaying her lovely fruit or the antique noodle maker cranking out the sheets of pasta.

 

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Making noodles

 

Ahh, to be back again in Asia is indeed a beautiful thing.  After a few business meetings, I’m off to Hong Kong (TurboJet to Macau at night for fun!), Shenzhen, Shanghai (home!) and Beijing.  Two weeks of work and fun!

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If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a scooter!

 

See the Andrew Wyeth Exhibit at SAM!

Experiencing the Andrew Wyeth in Retrospect exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum is a day well spent, especially on a rainy Seattle Sunday.  Room after room filled with amazing art.  Damn.  I’m in such awe of this artistic talent.

When my antique phone couldn’t download the app for the SAM audio tour, I forked over $4 to rent the old school technology wand to listen to the audio tour.  How embarrassing!

Quite the scoundrel, Wyeth painted up until his death at age 91, sneaking away starting at age 53 to secretly paint a neighbor’s caregiver, Helga, in the nude during a 15 year period without telling his wife.  Oops.  Of course, this was after he had started doing other nudes in a dramatic pivot to erotic art and his wife, Betsy, had told him, “If you do this again, don’t tell me.”  So, he didn’t share and painted nude Helga privately while also cranking out landscapes that he DID show his wife.  Hmmm….

 

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Wyeth’s muse, Helga

 

I appreciate the audio tour interpretation of the paintings because I gaze upon them and think simplistically, “pretty picture” when I should be seeing all kinds of imagery and subtexts telling me about the meaning of life.  Nope.  Not unless I’m told by the kindly intelligent audio guide do I see the “death as a subtext” message and “sex as a rebirth” theme.  I’m an idiot but I do enjoy viewing art as did the huge crowd packing the museum today.

One masterpiece did speak to me, after the audio guide explained that “Snow Hill” was a memorial piece created in 1989 and dedicated to his models, both living and dead, symbolizing renewal and reevaluation of life’s purpose.  The models dancing around the May Pole was quite evocative.  Well done, Wyeth.

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Snow Hill symbolizing renewal

Wyeth painted in tempura and watercolor and pencil sketches.  The attention to detail was incredible especially the blades of grass in the landscapes.  His dad was a famous illustrator who taught him starting at 15 years old.  Wyeth sold out his first NYC show at the ripe old age of 22 and continued to paint until he died in 2018.  He is known for his realism.

 

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.”              -Andrew Wyeth

The exhibit will be at the SAM until January 15, 2018.  In addition to the paintings and sketches, the SAM has done a nice job incorporating videos about Wyeth’s life and an interactive area with touch screen devices where you can create your own art.  I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!

Foy Vance takes the stage

Foy Vance is a brilliant artist.  His vocals soar and lyrics inspire.  Moving from piano to ukulele to guitar, Foy without a band at The Triple Door was a totally different experience than when we last saw him at the Columbia City Theater.  Less rocking and more talking.  He opened the show with Free Falling, a Tom Petty tune, and finished with a haunting Irish song in acapella.  Awesome.

A Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter, he was signed to Glassnote Records in 2013 and has been touring non-stop.  The Triple Door gig was his next to last U.S. stop before a well-deserved break to go home.

Clink, Clink, Clink.  W.T.F.  Foy was not amused.  Clearly used to playing larger venues opening for artists like Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Josh Groban, you could tell it was painful for him to sing and endure the irritating noise from the audience dining.  “Are you still on the first course?  Entrée? Dessert?”  Will it never end?  Clink, Clink, Clink.

Inspiring singalongs on a few songs, the sold out crowd knew the words and didn’t want to stop being Foy’s back-ups.  When one patron yelled out “More”, Foy let him know that he was not a “fecking jukebox” and that was that.

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I do love The Triple Door because the seats are comfy and they pour an amazing strong and plentiful Old Fashioned.  However, the crowd can be noisy when enjoying their food and tend to chat as most tables seat 4-6 and encourage groups.  Of course, we were at one of the counter tops and the guy next to us thought we had paid to hear HIM sing not Foy.  Wrong!  I quietly protested by covering my ear closest to him with my middle finger to block out his musical stylings.  I wonder if he saw or cared.  Probably not but it made me feel better.

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Next time Foy needs to share his artistry at The Moore or The Paramount.  No delicious shrimp noodles but better acoustics and focus on the really important thing.  His gorgeous voice and storytelling.  Until next time, Foy, cheers!

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Blade Runner 2049 & Biscuit Bitch-A Perfectly Seattle Combo

How do you top seeing Blade Runner 2049 on a 70mm wide screen on opening weekend?  Well, after this dazzling movie you hop on over a few blocks after the flick and hit up Biscuit Bitch for an AMAZING basket of bliss.  Damn. Perfect. Saturday.

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First, Seattle Cinerama (owned by Paul Allen) is THE best place to see movies, possessing surround sound, comfy seats and a 70MM wide screen.  Seating 500+ on opening weekend, the chocolate popcorn and alcohol were flowing as the sold out 11 a.m. crowd buzzed with excitement pre-movie in the lobby.  It’s highly unusual for crowds these days not to look incessantly at their phones during a film or get up to go for bathroom/food runs but nobody moved the whole 160 minutes of this flick, glued to their seats not knowing what the hell was coming next.  A retro Merry Melodies cartoon featuring Michigan J. Frog  amused the 20-something and predominantly  male audience after the previews.  They probably had never seen such a thing before in their young lives.

Not to stereotype male Seattle tech nerds but this movie seemed to be squarely made for their lane with lots of naked females, high tech everything and violence galore.  Still, amazingly, I enjoyed it though it was definitely NOT in my normal preferred genre of light comedy, but even I could respect the complexity of this flick.  And Ryan Gosling’s adorableness.  Just saying, he is too CUTE and boy can he kick ass!

No spoilers but let’s just say the whiskey-loving dog got a good laugh and Harrison Ford still rocks.  How is it Harrison has gotten older and yet I never age?  Hmmm…   Ryan Gosling played his complex character well and if this film doesn’t win all the lighting awards, I would be surprised.  Stunning.  This future world was just harsh in all aspects and, while the women dominated the power roles, they were seriously evil bitches and this civilization had a whole lot of prostitutes and gigantic naked holograms.  No one needs to see ta ta’s that large looming over them or is just me?  Disturbing.   Prior to Trump, I couldn’t imagine such a bleak world but unfortunately now I can.  With just one tweet, we too could be looking at forgotten cities condemned forever after being nuked.  While not an uplifting film, it was well done.  Go see it!  While we’re all still alive.

So after contemplating a world where the rain never stops and there are no trees or flowers, what’s a girl to do?  Hit up some biscuits, bitch!  Starting out small and now with 3 locations in Seattle, Biscuit Bitch was just as good as the reviews make it out to be.

Luckily, the Belltown location didn’t have a line by the time we dropped by, close to their 3 p.m. closing after our movie, so we walked right up and got us a “Hot Mess Bitch” meal to share.  Cradled in a paper boat, the layers of biscuit, gravy, cheese, eggs over easy, garlic grits, grilled Louisiana hot link and jalapenos were plenty big enough for 2 to split for $11.70.  Holy Smokes!  It was hot and messy and DELICIOUS.  Their motto is “trailer park to table” and they keep the menu simple and focused on biscuits.  Smart.

Love their smiling staff, the cool tunes being played, bitchin’ logo and the upbeat décor.    I’ll be back.  Hope everyone’s Saturday was just as fun as ours has been.  Now, it’s time for Seahawks football!

 

Japan to Italy in One Seattle Morning

On a sunny fall Seattle morning, it was time to visit different cultures without leaving downtown.  Thom and I love to experience new places so, from Japan to Italy, we decided to get out and savor the warm weekend weather.  Time to explore!

First stop-Seattle Japanese Gardens in the Madison Park neighborhood is a 3.5 mile oasis of tranquil ponds and flowering trees.  Now, parking is scarce especially as the garden parking lot sits next to soccer fields filled on a Saturday morning with cheering/jeering parents coaching their little ones on ferociously.  Be quiet, Mom and Dad, and let the tykes play.

After driving by and circling back with no spot in the lot, we just parked on Madison St. and walked down.  For only $6 per head, you can achieve zen and see some very hungry koi.  Bring your camera as everywhere you look is an Instagram moment.  They have a teahouse where you can buy tickets for an authentic Japanese tea, which I’ll have to try sometime.  Winding through waterfalls, streams and bridges over the ponds, I was so happy to see lots of turtles (I have a fascination with these ancient creatures) sunning themselves on the plentiful rocks in the pond.  The koi were colorful and hungry, being fed by the small children visiting the gardens.  A few of these koi may want to consider eating less carbs and swimming a few more laps around the pond-they were HUGE!

After wandering back by the soccer fields (we can’t wait until Mia starts playing!), we enjoyed putting the top down on Sexy Beast and driving back home to check out the Festa Italiana Seattle at the Seattle Center.  Oh my holy Hell those meatballs were delish and I rarely eat meat.  I didn’t even take a pic of them because I ate them so fast.  Swimming in lots of spicy sauce, my “tub of meatballs” went down quickly-tub being an overstatement as there were only five so I refused to share with Thom.  Waddling down to the exhibits where they had music, dancing, a wine garden and lots of vendors, we quickly sought out the Borracchini Bakery table and purchased cannoli’s, biscotti and other treats to take home to enjoy later.  When in Italy and all.  To be honest, they didn’t last long after we got home so I just might have to visit the Festa Italiana again tomorrow for another bakery run.  So. Good.

In another building, there was a fierce bocci tournament going on.  Such a game of finesse.  A show with elaborate puppets for the kids was enchanting and well attended.  The festival also showcased Italian dogs, Cirneco dell-Etna, small, wiry and high-strung Sicilian hound that hunts rabbits, as well as cute Vespas and classy Maserati cars.  Oh those Italians know how to live!

I love living in Seattle and going from zen to festa in a matter of minutes.  I’ll never take living here for granted.  Now it’s time to lift a glass of vino to toast the start of another great Seattle weekend.  Cheers!

Boise Bday Booze Tour

What could be better than spending quality time with my lovely daughter Hannah exploring Boise’s best bars and sipping tasty cocktails?  Maybe adding in some tasty nibbles along the way so that we can sample more spirits?  Having Thom as our designated driver? What a perfect afternoon!

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Hannah knows her momma well and surprised me with a thoughtful birthday present that we could enjoy together.  After your kids grow up and leave the nest, you quickly find out that any time you are able to be together is precious and to be savored like a fine wine or aged whiskey.  Luckily, she gets me and gave me not only time with her but tasty hooch.  LOVE. THIS. GIRL

Her birthday card made me cry and I am not a crier like Thom-just saying.  “You are the absolute best mom and Nai Nai!”  Nothing beats that.  Ever.  I’m going to laminate this card and pull it out every time I’m having a challenging day.  “Let’s go scout some bars & restaurants so you can have some new fave places when you live here full time.”  She wants to spend time with her momma?  Be still my heart.  I’m not sure when we’ll be able to make that dream of living in Boise full time real but I’m working on it.

So, off we went this past week on the Boise Booze + Bites Happy Hour Tour hosted by Indulge Boise Food Tours.  I like their tag line, “Eat Well.  Indulge Often.”  Okay, I can embrace that wisdom.  Our friendly tour guide, Lauren, told us about their company which started in 2016 when the owner decided to get off the corporate track working for the WNBA and settled back in her hometown of Boise.  Thom and I have taken advantage of walking tours and cooking classes all over the world in our travels.  Not only do you meet cool people but you learn stuff too.  We like them.

On this tour, I learned all about my daughter’s first drinking escapade (at a much younger age than previously disclosed), her favorite booze (beer-New Belgium Rogue) and her favorite food (Thai or sushi).  Lauren prompted discussion at every venue we visited with probing conversation-starting questions.  Even with family members, this can be fun and eye opening.  Hannah’s choice of the one place she would live if she could?  DC.  She spent a summer interning for Congressman Minnick while she was in college and it was political heaven for her even with multiple roommates (including cockroaches).  Me-NYC.  No place like it in the world.  Fav meal and drink for me? I would choose a Caprese Salad  with a nice Cab.

We explored new places like Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza tucked away on the second floor in an office building overlooking the downtown core.  I would probably never have gone to this place but the flatbread, washed down with a tart Raspberry Lemon Drop, was delicious so we’ll be back.  Hannah’s drinks during our tour had a summer garden theme either by accident or design:  Sage Cucumber at Flatbread and Lemongrass Sage with a Lemongrass straw at Press & Pony.

Mai Tai’s house cocktail, Mai Thai Old Way with dark rum, rhum agricole, dry curacao, orgeat, fresh line and mint, was a refreshing way to wash down some veggie spring rolls.  The atmosphere here is beautiful with overhead glass sculptures and water features.  Lauren said their Happy Hour is legendary and embraced by Boise locals.  I’ve had lunch there before but was impressed with their Happy Hour cocktail list, which I hope to sample in the future.

Now, I have started my own “Best of Boise Old Fashioned” contest to justify my tasting of the classic cocktail wherever we go.  So, I sampled The Mode and Press & Pony on this tour.  No contest.   Press & Pony, an intimate speakeasy with serious bartenders, won by a large margin.  The Mode’s Old Fashioned was okay but lacked the nuances of the one at Press & Pony.  There, Eric took my challenge seriously and laid down a cocktail I could enjoy with my Boise Fry Co. veggie burger (black bean and quinoa) and red potato fries.

Indulge Boise offer several types of tours:  Historic Downtown Boise Food & Cultural Tour, Capital City Sunday Brunch and private tours.  Check them out here if you are visiting Boise or are a local who just wants to have fun.  Cheers!

 

Balloons Invade Boise!

Hot-air balloons are truly a majestic sight.  Doesn’t mean I want to jump in and share a tiny basket with blasts of propane gas hurtling me through the skies but the balloons do photograph well and I appreciate them.  From a distance.  From the ground.

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Filling the blue skies as a colorful hurrah to the last days of summer, dozens of rainbow globes rose quickly.  Only Mia could get Thom out of bed and in the car before he had his first cup of coffee at 7ish on a Sunday morning.  For me, no way.  The last day of the Spirit of Boise balloon classic created a sense of urgency to get our lazy asses up and moving to see the awe on our granddaughter’s 3-year old face.  Was it worth it?  Certainly.  For her, anything.

For five days over Labor Day weekend, this annual event delights those who trek to Ann Morrison Park to get up close and personal each morning.  If you are not an early riser, you miss them as they take off at around 7 a.m.  We actually braved the crowds and shortage of parking on Friday evening to catch the Night Glow Spectacular where some of the balloons light up and stay tethered after dusk but left after we saw the humongous crowd and realized we were unprepared without chairs to gaze at the spectacle.  Next year, we will know better and come early in the evening with wine, munchies and blankets to recline on to enjoy the show.

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The festival even has a kids day one morning, allowing children to take a short flight in a tethered balloon and pose for photos inside a balloon basket.  Since Hannah probably won’t allow Mia to ever go up into the skies in a balloon (wise momma) this will be the only way for her to experience it.  I can’t say that I blame Hannah.  Thom and I flew the Arizona skies as one of the experiences on a business trip I won and it was f*&king terrifying.  Packed into the basket with other company folks, we quickly saw that the driver couldn’t exactly control where we went or how we landed, which was HARD in a random field.  The basket carrying us tipped on its side quickly, dragging us through the field with one poor woman screaming as her hair got stuck between the basket and the ground.  Yep, she lost part of her ponytail.  I just screamed in general but without any painful hair extraction.  No more ballooning for me.  Thom loved it.  Freak.

But, back to Boise.  The Spirit of Boise is a wonderful crowd pleaser for all of Boise to enjoy and all activities are free and painless.  While parking is limited, it’s an easy stroll from downtown where you can find plentiful parking.  Bring your camera!  Thom left his good one back in Seattle and was kicking himself.  Next year!  Boise typically is hot as hell and dry this time of year, allowing the balloons the perfect weather to fire up and have fun.

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With balloons inflating all around us, Mia didn’t know which way to look next.  In addition to the beautiful rainbow colors, there were specialty ones like Darth Vader, Yoda, Liberty Bell and Owl.  Several companies proudly displayed their logos-happy use of marketing dollars seen by thousands of local residents.   Walking back to the car after taking in the sights, we were thankful that we made the effort to get up early and enjoy the Spirit of Boise.  Can’t wait until next year to make this a family tradition!