The Sagrada Familia was one of my most favorite sites on our trip to Spain and France earlier this year. It is gorgeous and awe-inspiring and totally unlike any other religious building I’ve seen. When you think that the architect, Antoni Gaudi, conceived of it in the late 1800s it’s only more incredible. If I am ever back in Barcelona, I would visit it again in a heart beat.

60 Minutes featured Sagrada Familia in a segment called “God’s Architect: Antoni Gaudí’s glorious vision”. If you have any interest in architecture, sculpture, or astounding feats of engineering, I suggest checking it out.

Morimoto Philadelphia Omakase

We had the omakase for dinner, as well as the beverage omakase. So many courses, soooo yummy. The descriptions are sometimes vague, as I had a hard time both hearing and remembering everything they said. The Kobe shortrib might be the best, but it’s hard to choose.

  • Amuse bouche
    Salmon tartar with lemon and jalapeño oil

  • First
    Blue fin belly tartar fresh and crunchy chives sturgeon caviar

  • Second
    Kummomoto oysters Japanese salsa, lime ceviche, jalapeño slice

  • Third
    Evolution 9 varietal blend
    Oregon Snapper carpaccio ginger, apple

  • Fourth
    Morimoto Jumai Saki
    Amberjack fish, micro-green salad, carrot oil, yuzu foam

  • Intermezzo
    Raspberry lemon soda

  • Fifth
    Spicy lobster creme fraiche

  • Sixth
    Cabernet sauvignon
    Kobe short rib, wasabi greens, vegetables, red wine reduction

  • Seventh
    Ji saki
    Sushi: Tuna, amberjack, Bonita tuna, red snapper, clam

  • Dessert
    Sauvignon blanc dessert wine (I think. Not sure what she said.)
    Ginger peach cheesecake

The pictures at the end are the inside of the restaurant: a rather phallic-looking table light, divider walls that changed from lime to pink/purple, and organic-styled ceilings and walls.

For my birthday weekend we went to Montreal to visit my father. We drove up Friday, had a yummy dinner on the grill, and spent the night at his girlfriend’s house. It’s always interesting driving through Canada. It’s not that far from the US, and you’d think it wouldn’t be too different, but it is, in many ways. The land gets much flatter after leaving Vermont. The architecture of houses and such are different. The traffic signs are very different, often pictographic rather than worded. While some people may call it the 51st state, it seems like a foreign country to me.

Saturday, we started off with scrumptious pastries and coffee. It seems like all the food up there is good. After a slow start, we made our way into Montreal and checked in at the hotel my father got for us for the rest of the weekend. It was pretty nice. It looked like it had recently been redecorated, in a modern style.

After leaving the hotel we wandered over to the Beer Festival, which I enjoyed very much. There was no entrance fee, so we were free to wander around and check things out. We got some sausages for lunch. There were a lot of sausages there. Then, we bought some drink tickets and souvenir glasses, and it was off to the stalls. There were many beers represented, and they put a good amount in your glass. Each beer had an associated ticket cost, and all were quite yummy. We sampled quite a few and listened to the celtic band playing, but ultimately, it was too hot and crowded to hang around any longer.

After a stop back at the hotel to drop off a few things, we headed out into the city, and ended up in the section they call Vieux Montreal, the old area of the city. There were lots of cool buildings to admire. And lots of yummy food! We wandered the streets for a while. Some of the buildings are quite old and quaint looking, somewhat European. We had dinner at a restaurant, wine bar, and jazz club, Modavie. I had venison medallions, in a fruity sauce, accompanied by risotto and an unusual vegetable assortment, including some types of squash that are apparently common in Canada but not the US and beet puree. Later we had gelato at a cafe. Creamy and yummy!

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I caught breakfast at a chain cafe called Van Houtte, which looked like a safe bet to accept credit cards since we had no Canadian cash. Despite being a chain, the food was very tasty. They had yummy pressed sandwiches (mmm, ham & brie), and I had a salad that was kind of like coleslaw, but so much better, made with yet another special Canadian vegetable. My father met us there, and we spent some more time in Vieux Montreal. We saw some crazy street performers and some cute shops. We stopped at a church, which was apparently dedicated to sailors. It had many small boats holding candles hanging from the ceiling. There was a group singing classical songs acapella with some medieval instruments thrown in, so we listened to them for a while. Ultimately, we ended up in the Chinatown of Montreal, which was very small. We stopped at a Chinese pastry shop, which was self-serve, an interesting difference from those in Boston.

As it was Sunday, my father and his girlfriend left early to get home to her son. We were left to our own devices for dinner, and I had my eye on the crepe restaurant I had seen earlier. I had a chicken crepe with mushroom sauce. It was a little odd with the slight sweetness of the crepe. Maybe I’d try for a different filling next time. But dessert, oh dessert! It was chocolate fondue, with fruit, marshmallows, and little rolled up slices of crepes. The marshmallows were a bit too much sugar, but I loved the crepes and the fruit is, of course, a classic. Stuffed, we were happy to call it a night.

Monday was yet more food, with breakfast (at lunch time). Croque monsieur sandwiches at a “home made” shop. There’s a special word for “home made” in French, but I can’t remember it now. We also stopped in Burlington, VT on the way home and had a sandwich at a local cafe that my boyfriend’s sister recommended. The weather was beautiful, and Burlington is an adorable city.

It seems like we didn’t get around much in Montreal, but we didn’t really have any specific activities we wanted to do. It was nice to just hang out.

Spring is sprung. It’s been a lovely weekend in Masachusetts. Well, last weekend in Great Barrington was pretty springy, too. My mother and step-father came up to visit for the long weekend. I didn’t get the house nearly as cleaned up as I had intended, I’ve just been too tired after work and busy most weekends this month. Soon, I think, soon. I’m starting to get the itch.

Saturday night we went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which, while not the best Indiana Jones movie ever, was decent enough to be entertaining. I enjoyed it. We followed up with dinner at Not Your Average Joe’s.

Sunday was a long day of sightseeing in Boston. We took the walking tour led by colonial figures that starts in the Boston Common. I’ve seen groups of this tour outside work for the past few weeks, so I was wondering about it. It’s a 90 minute tour of the sights of the Freedom Trail between the Boston Common and Faneuil Hall. (Wow, I spelled Faneuil right the first try.) The tour guides are dressed up as patriots from the colonial times. We had James Otis, whose name I vaguely recognized from school. He would ask the group questions at various points. Of course, the one who answered the most of them was a kid. Ah, I remember when I still knew that much stuff from my school lessons.

After the tour, we went back to the Common and the Public Gardens, areas I haven’t spent much time in, especially during nice weather. We wandered across the Common and into the Gardens. The swan boats were closed, but we got to see the last couple boats out on the pond, and we even got to see a swan or two. We laid on the grass for a while, resting in the cool breeze and watching the trees. When we finally roused ourselves we headed to Boston Beer Works for dinner (mmm, blueberry beer), then took the T back to our car, then home.

On Monday, my mother prepared a delicious picnic lunch, and we took it to the Harold Parker State Forest to grill. There was even an ice cream cake for an early celebration of my birthday. It was really nice just to relax in the beautiful weather.

All in all, it was a most excellent Memorial Day weekend, and it came to an end all too soon. (Don’t they always?)

We slipped out to Western Massachusetts this past weekend to visit my brother. He lives in Monterey, which is next to Great Barrington and Stockbridge. It’s a very pretty area, I must say. It’s full of cute New England houses and picturesque farms and towns. Yes, it’s pretty touristy with all the New Yorkers hanging around, but lovely nonetheless.

After snacking on some fancy cheese and bread my father brought, we drove around town a bit, attempted to stop in some galleries, but things were pretty much closed at that point. We did drive through the campus of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, the college my brother attended. The country campus is a far cry from my alma mater, Drexel, in Philadelphia. Afterwards, we parked in Great Barrington and strolled around a little, then went to dinner at Bizen, a Japanese restaurant. I had some grilled tuna and sushi, including a fat roll called Kiss My Bass, which was quite good. On the way back to the car, we stopped to admire a recycling bin made from recycled street signs. Apparently it’s a series of bins made of various recycled materials. My brother made one, but his wasn’t out yet. Simon’s Rock is a rather artsy school, which definitely lends some atmosphere to area.

The next morning, my father took off early, so the three of us went out to breakfast after he left. Yummy fresh ingredients, and well-prepared to boot. Then we had to head back east.

It was a short weekend, but it was nice to visit with my family and see some more of the other half of the state.

We made another trip to New York City to visit jamah and orange girl at the end of March. Despite the fact that all of our friends who were also going to go backed out — party poopers! — I had fun.

This time, we took Friday off to extend the weekend a little, but, despite my best efforts, someone couldn’t get out of bed, so we didn’t make it down until 6pm. Although the last half hour was mostly made up of circling the downtown/financial district trying to follow directions for the hotel that I think were slightly out of date, what with all the construction still going on down there. Eventually, we zeroed in on the street for the nearby parking garage (another small adventure in trying to figure out where to put the car while some people left, not helped by the somewhat surly attendants), parked, and proceeded around the corner to the hotel.

The hotel was my first experience with Priceline bidding, and it was a good first start. I got the Club Quarters Downtown for a pretty decent rate, I think it was about half off other rates I could find for the hotel. It’s apparently some kind of members-only place, mostly for business travelers, but they seem to offer rooms through hotel resellers like Expedia. It was a pretty nice room. It looked like it had been refurbished fairly recently. The furnishings were nice, the sheets were comfortable, the bed was covered with a duvet (no scratchy blankets, woo!), and the bathroom was tiny, but had a shiny stainless/marble sink and counter.

The room itself was a pretty decent size for NYC, I think. It was rather tight between the foot of the bed and the bathroom of the wall, but the rest of the room felt spacious enough. There was a flatscreen TV and free wireless internet access, but that was proxied annoyingly. There was also this really cool machine in the hall that dispensed drinking water into plastic bottles that you could then close with a self-locking cap. Presto, instant bottle of spring water!

… Okay, so I’m easily amused.

After we settled in, and o.girl got off work, they met us at the hotel, and we had coffee at the Financier Patisserie, a place we heard often spoken when jamah worked in the area. Sadly, I was trying to make room for dinner, so I didn’t partake of the scrumptious-looking pastries. Next time!

After coffee, we headed over to ISE, the fabled Japanese restaurant that jamah has raved about for so long. Only open Monday to Friday, so this was our big chance! It was indeed very good Japanese food. I had a combo with chicken teriyaki, some tempura, and sushi. We also had one of the yummiest sake’s I can remember. It tasted almost like white wine, but more delicate.

Saturday we were on our own, as jamah and o.girl had an unexpected family commitment. There was one spot I was determined to hit, and that was the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I’ve been wanting to go for a long time, because one of my favorite author’s, Madeleine L’Engle), set some of her books there, since she was a librarian for the Cathedral. It was absolutely worth it. The cathedral is enormous and, although unfinished, it has some interesting features. We didn’t get to see the nave, because it was walled off while they’re performing restoration work after a fire in 2001. The altar and chapels had already been worked on, though, and they were gorgeous. There are huge, huge, huge granite columns from Maine, I think, around the altar. The scale of the whole building is really just staggering. You can’t see the top of the dome from inside, because it’s lost in darkness. Each chapel around the altar was dedicated to a saint from a different country, and the chapel was done in a style of that country, so there was a wide variety. We toured the grounds a little, though not much was growing. There were some interesting sculptures. There were also several peacocks, including a white one. There was a lot to see, and I definitely plan on going back when the rest of the cathedral is open.

By then, we were ravenous, so we stopped for brunch at a little bar near Columbia, called Radio Perfecto, then headed back toward the subway and stopped at Times Square. It was mobbed, as always, but I wanted to find a bookstore to buy a map of Manhattan, since I couldn’t find the one I used on my last trip. As we walked past the theaters, an elderly woman was trying to give away matinee tickets to Prelude to a Kiss starting shortly. I stopped for a second, but kept thinking it was too good to be true, and someone else started talking to her first, so I wandered away. I would have felt kind of weird about taking the tickets, also, but boy, I would have loved to see Alan Tudyk. After that, we walked to Grand Central, because Ed had never seen it, and I think it’s a really cool building. There was also a display about one of the architects of the subway stations at the Transit Museum annex. There were all sorts of drawings and a lot of samples of tiles that were used. The stations used to be quite pretty. That was definitely a different age.

After that, I had to sit down for a while. Too much walking. Finally, we proceeded to the nearest subway to hit the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. We wandered around the mall; mostly it was just the same fancy-pants stores that are in the mall my office is over, but I thought the Samsung Experience was nifty. It was a giant store space filled with Samsung goodies, cell phones, TVs, music systems, even a TV with a computer in it or something. Lots of stuff to play with, though I’m not sure you could actually buy anything.

I wanted to check out Central Park a little, so we left the mall before it got dark. We ended up just wandering across the bottom end of the park. Yet another area of NYC I need to explore more. When we got to the other side, we proceeded down 5th Avenue past the fancy hotels and such, then stumbled upon the Apple cube store. It looked really neat lit up at night. Mostly I just wanted to see the store itself, since I didn’t need to shop there, and I’m glad I did. After that, jamah and o.girl came to meet us at the store and we went to dinner at Joe’s Shanghai. It was pretty good, more authentic stuff, not American Chinese. Then a long subway ride back to the hotel.

Sunday, we met jamah and o.girl for brunch in Brooklyn Heights. They took us to Bubby’s Pie Co.. Best. breakfast. food. ever. I had a smoked salmon omelette and a sour cream pancake. All very yummy. Then we wandered over to a chocolate place called Jacques Torres for hot chocolate. They had all sorts of treats there that I couldn’t resist. We proceeded down to the park along the river and over to the water taxi stop that looks out on Manhattan, which was a very pretty view. It was nice to see more of jamah’s neighborhood. We ended up back at their apartment, which has a cute garden area in the back and, as a one bedroom, is a big difference from the studio he had before he got married. We had tea (and chocolate!) and chatted for a while, but finally my exhaustion caught up with me, and it was time to go home.

It seems like every time I go to NYC, I end up with more things to do next time. But that just gives me a reason to go back! Hopefully we’ll pick a better season next time. Last time was sweltering hot. This time the weather wasn’t bad, but it was still chilly and overcast. I want to go when things are growing. Maybe next year.

We started Monday bright and early, in order to take the bus tour of Wine Country we had planned. It wasn’t a bad way to go. Next time, I might prefer to drive and have a little more independence, but I didn’t have a particular winery in mind, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Our bus driver chattered inanely throughout the trip, handing out trivia without any real structure to his speech.

The first stop, Kirkland Ranch Winery, seemed to be a pretty big operation. They just showed us the main building, which used to be a house. It was a pretty cool log structure that the family who started the ranch built. Our guide talked about the history of the place and then took us upstairs to do some tastings. We got to try three wines. The first was a chardonnay. It wasn’t bad. The second wine was a mixed wine, similar to a chianti. I really enjoyed that one. The third wine was a lovely sweet wine with a thick, honey and fruit flavor. I picked up two bottles of that for the holidays.

The second winery was Madonna Estate. It was by far the most interesting tour. They went more in-depth about how they grew their grapes organically and how they made the wine. The wines were good, too. They gave us Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Muscat Canelli. I paid a little extra to try the reserve version of the Pinot Noir, because I was curious how it compared. It was definitely more full-bodied. I liked it. The Muscat was very light and sweet. We brought home Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

At this point, it was lunchtime. We stopped in the town of Sonoma and were given an hour and a half to wander. We sampled cheese in the Sonoma Jack Cheese factory and decided to get lunch at their deli. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted, so I ended up with a strange amalgamation. I brought half of it back to the hotel, but just now, I realized that I forgot to throw it out.

Our final visit was to Viansa. This was also a very commercial feeling place, even more so than Kirkland. The buildings and grounds were very pretty. The architecture was reminiscent of an Italian villa, and rows of grape vines spread out over the hill that the building sat on and the surrounding fields. It was quite picturesque. The staff was not nearly so pleasant. While it was getting late, it was still an hour before closing time, yet they rushed us through the tasting in 15 minutes. I suppose they wanted to give us plenty of time to purchase their myriad merchandising options. I didn’t see anything that interesting. Might have been a nice place to eat lunch, though. They sold a variety of foodstuffs.

Finally, we piled back into the bus and headed home to San Francisco, the bus driver blathering all the way. Saw the “houseboats” of Sausalito. Sorry, they don’t look like boats, and they don’t have foundations.

Back at hotel, we asked the concierge for a good sushi place. She pointed us to Ozuma, a place on Steuart Street. It was much trendier than we expected. While the fish was tasty, there wasn’t as much of a selection of sushi as we usually encounter. What we did eat was good, though, and not much more expensive than we typically pay in Boston, probably due to lower prices in general in San Francisco. We did get to see a few of the Waynes brothers, though, which was amusing. I don’t really like their comedy, but it’s kind of neat to randomly encounter celebrity.

Sunday we wandered around the Union Square area. There was an art show going on in the Square. I especially liked the display of cat paintings by one gentleman. They were very whimsical. We visited the Apple store, for no particular reason, other than to worship at the altar of Steve Jobs. We stopped at the visitor center, pausing to watch the cable car turnaround. The line was huge, so I wasn’t in the mood to wait around to ride one.

We saw a brochure for “the most unpretentious bar,” named Dave’s, so we swung by there. The food was pretty decent bar food. I had a well-prepared BLT and a delicious pear cider. I was a little dubious since I don’t like the pear cider from Woodchuck, but this had a very light, refreshing taste. The owner of the bar was apparently from Massachusetts, so that was cool. After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to utilize the high speed internet access. We were planning on meeting a friend for dinner, so we just bummed around the hotel room for the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner was at one of the many taquerias in San Francisco. These all seem to be very casual places serving Mexican food cafeteria style. It was very good and very filling. By 10 o’clock, the time difference had more than caught up with me, so we headed back to the hotel and to bed.

I’m in San Francisco! I’ve never been to California before, so I’m excited. We rolled into SFO around 10 o’clock this morning, after lifting off from Boston’s Logan airport at 6:30. That was the longest flight I’ve been on since 1997. Also my first long flight over land. It was cloudy, but I caught glimpses of the Rockies and some weird brown landscape that I couldn’t identify.

We caught a van into the city that dropped us off at our hotel, The Inn at Union Square. Luckily, our room was ready, because we were ready to crash. After a few hours of sleep, I still wasn’t feeling too hot, so we hung around the room for a while and watched John Cleese’s “Wine for the Confused”. Where better to watch it?

Feeling somewhat recovered, not to mention ravenous, we headed out after getting a dinner recommendation from the hotel staff. Fino turned out to be a reasonable, delicious Italian spot. We were fortunate to grab seats at the bar, because the small place was packed. Reservations would have been nice, but it worked out well. I’d suggest this place in a heartbeat.

Now we’re back at the hotel, and I’m chilling comfortably after a long hot shower and bath, decked out in the bath robes the hotel provides. It’s a little small, but it seems like a nice place. The staff has been very helpful, and of course, it has high speed internet access in the room. Who could ask for anything more?

Want to see where in the United States and the world I’ve been? Check out the rest of this entry. (The server for this is rather heavily loaded, so I figured I wouldn’t put it on my main page.) States that I have visited. Notice a trend?

One of these days, I really will visit something that’s not on the eastern seaboard, I swear.

create your own personalized map of the USA or write about it on the open travel guide

Countries that I have been to. This map is definitely not as interesting as I would like it to be.

create your own visited country map or write about it on the open travel guide