One of my four goals for our trip to the UK last year was the find my way out of a hedge maze so we headed to the maze at Hampton Court which is a short train ride from London. The Hampton Court Maze isn’t the largest hedge maze in the UK but it is the first one planted in Great Britain, dating from 1690. It’s also reportedly the most famous hedge maze so we figured it would do nicely. Being iconic means that the actual layout of the maze is depicted everywhere even on the sign at the entrance to the maze and, I think, printed on our tickets. We tried not to study it too closely, I mean, spoilers. If you want to see an overhead photograph of the maze there is a good one halfway down this page.
This photo was taken by standing on tippy toe and pointing my camera out towards the center of the maze. Meaning, the hedges were taller than they seem in photos.
In the off season the gardens surrounding Hampton Court are free to explore but the maze itself is about £5. Currently the maze page says there is a sound installation but we heard nothing and didn’t see any evidence of speakers so the off-season tickets might not include it, or we were there on day when it wasn’t working.
That tree seemed so far away while we were in the maze.
We were there in the off season and during a weekday which meant there weren’t many people in the maze so we had whole stretches of time where we could almost feel alone and lost. It was awesome.
We reached the center!
The maze itself doesn’t seem very large from the outside, it covers 1/3rd of an acre and has 1/2 mile of trails inside, but it feels far larger inside. Like magic. Most of the paths are long straight stretches that end in an almost u-turn, which is disorienting. We were there to enjoy being inside the maze though, so we sought out every dead end and checked around every corner and when we found the end of the maze we turned around and found our way back to the entrance just because we wanted to spend as much time as possible inside.
It was, happily, a sunny day so we spent a few hours wandering around the gardens. The most decorative part of the gardens was closed because there was a film crew using it. We couldn’t really complain because they gardens were free.
In the center there you can see famous people. Supposedly.
We saw a lot of filming going on in Dublin and London while we were there. Scott works for a company that gathers movie and tv facts so we kept approaching the guards who were there to keep people like us out and asking, all innocent like, what they were filming. Our secret hope was that they would give us the code name that studios often use to make something sound as boring as possible when in fact Big Stars filming an alley scene for the Next Exciting Huge Thing are just beyond the barriers. To our disappointment all of the guards we talked to were very friendly, apologized that they couldn’t let us get any closer and then excitedly told us all about what was being filmed and which huge stars were right over there. In this case the production was an upcoming movie (tv special?) about Stephen Hawking and the two guards helpfully pointed out that if we stood just here we might capture a glimpse of somebody famous whose name I didn’t write down (sorry). They were young and excited to be working in the industry, it was so adorable I forgave them for ruining our game of being media sleuths.
Early version of Cones of Dunshire? Or just the half of the decorative gardens that weren’t closed for filming?
Hampton Court is a quick train ride from London, unless you are us in which case all the train schedules have been shuffled and instead it will be a strange hour and a half of fiddling with incomprehensible train schedules on your phone while desperately hoping you’re on the correct platform. The train schedules might helpfully suggest you go to a further train station and take a bus, but don’t listen to it! The closer train station is a very doable walk over a bridge and onto the grounds. The court itself looks like it’s well worth the ticket price to get to look around inside but we were there with a purpose: hedge maze and then back to London for fancy dinner reservations.
In the off season the gardens are free to wander but the maze itself is about £5. Even if you don’t have tickets to tour the court there are a few rooms you can access that have exhibits about the history of the gardens and the maze. There is also a gift shop and, I think, a cafe.
There were statues in the decorative gardens all wrapped up. It was incredibly creepy.
I had grand plans of visiting more hedge mazes in England while we were there but from the moment the airplane landed both Scott and myself came down with some a form of head cold that was determined to be the most torturous and the least friendly to getting sleep. So when we were stationed in Bristol for a few weeks I had intended to take a few day trips by springing out of bed and catching a very early train so I could wander a maze, have lunch and be back in time for a relaxing dinner. Instead I spent my days sleeping in because there was no other choice, I needed rest. We had hiking and drinking to do in Scotland and Ireland after all! Seriously though, I was convinced I had pneumonia and was close to checking out how the free healthcare works. For the record, I have not come down with a cold in the many months since we returned from our trip so whatever we survived covered all forms of viruses that swept through the US last winter. How do I train myself to catch and fight all the viruses before my next trip?
Hampton Court Maze and gardens are a perfect side trip from London. A little being outdoors and a bit of puzzle solving and you can be back in time for fancy dinner reservations.
· comments  · 06-11-2014 · categories:travel ·
secret-ish art adventures | Ask MetaFilter.
The Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio and new book! – Boing Boing. I loved the Exploratorium when we lived in San Francisco and am looking forward to seeing it’s new space next time I go back. Which will be any day now. Promise.
2 Lanes, 1 Life: The America Far From the Freeway – Pacific Standard. Her description of driving through the Palouse makes me want to take another Washington road trip.
What’s the best credit card for saving for a trip to France? | Ask MetaFilter. The advice given here applies to travel in general and there are lots of great suggestions for which cards are worth signing up for.
the UGC: Austin, Keeping it Gluten-Free. A tour of all the gf spots in Austin which makes me want to go there very very soon.
Portland Streets That Inspired the Names of Simpsons’ Characters | The Everywhereist. I had no idea!
· comments  · 03-26-2014 · categories:links · travel ·
I’ve mentioned before that I have a knack for finding four-leaf clovers but I didn’t talk about how that skill was a huge part of my identity growing up. It was. Any time when I was a kid bored at a community picnic in a park? Instant treasure hunt. When I went to summer camp and my cabin was sent on a scavenger hunt that included a four-leaf clover? I had that covered. I was the Irish girl with an Irish name who could find four-leaf clovers. My fixation even got me a boyfriend in college. (He wrote a poem about it! It was true love except for the fact that it really, really wasn’t.)
Before Go Mighty and the Life List I never really considered what things I wanted to do before I died except for this: as a kid I decided that one day I wanted to find a four-leaf clover in Ireland. And last November I did!
Last year Scott and I took a work/travel trip to the UK and Ireland. We only spent six days total in Ireland and on the second to last day I, ecstatically, found my four-leaf clover. It turns out that the urban parks, national monuments and historical locations in Ireland are very well tended — which means that patches of weeds (like clover) are not allowed to take over. So I felt that much more lucky to spy a four-leaf clover outside the Kilmalkeder Christian Site in Kerry, Ireland. According to the Rick Steves guide book it was a Norman center of worship that became a 12th-century church where the old graveyard is rising spookily above the soil line while on the other side there are new gravestones being inscribed. We visited as the sun was setting on our second to last day in Ireland and I was beginning to fear I’d be leaving cloverless.
I found a few four-leaf clovers in that precious patch and have them pressed inside a book. They aren’t the prettiest of clovers but they are my favorite because every time I see them middle school aged me is giddy.
· comments  · 03-19-2014 · categories:travel ·
Take A Twilight Tour Of The Tower | Londonist. These tours take place after the crowds are gone and are led by beefeater guides, I really wish we would have been in London late enough to take one of these.
The Kelpies, A Pair of Massive Stainless Steel Horse Head Sculptures in Scotland. We passed these will driving towards Edinburgh during twilight and since we weren’t expecting them it was a bit trippy. They are hugenormous.
“Scalper” ticket source for Stirling Castle Christmas events? | Ask MetaFilter. The advice here would apply to any UK events that you inevitably find out about too late.
Using a prepaid Koodo iPhone SIM in Canada (as a traveling American) | A Whole Lotta Nothing.
· comments  · 12-5-2013 · categories:links · travel ·
We recently spent a month in the UK and Ireland and one of the things we did in advance was get travel credit cards with smart chips, which you’ll mostly hear referred to as chip and PIN cards. Credit cards with smart chip technology are normal in most countries other than the US. Why just us? The reason I’ve read most often as to why we don’t have them here is that it’s far more expensive for credit card companies to manufacture them so until smart chips are required the banks are going to keep with our swipe cards.
One of the things that isn’t necessarily clear when you set out to find a chip and PIN card is that at the current point in time there are very few true chip and PIN cards available in the US, instead most cards offered with smart chips are actually chip and signature cards. The tricky bit? Lots of banks (including my own, urgh) go ahead and call them chip and PIN cards or talk about the smart chip benefits in the description, never quite letting you know that there isn’t actually a PIN involved. It’s very confusing. Dig deep into some travel forums and you’ll find that you can get a true chip and PIN card from Andrews FCU or the State Department FCU, but only after you join the credit union.
So, chip and signature cards. They have a smart chip but no PI number attached to it, which means you still have to sign a little slip of paper when you use them. There is a good list of currently available chip and signature cards here at The Points Guy and other over at Nerd Wallet.
I previously spent two weeks in England and had no trouble using my chipless credit and debit cards. But, there were situations where having a card with a chip would have made things a lot more convenient — for example I struggled with getting a ticket at an Underground stop because the machine just didn’t want to recognize the first card I tried to use. Frustrating because the station was busy and there was a group waiting for me to get my stuff together and frankly having a card refused is never a good feeling. I spent some time reading traveler forums and the only spot where people said that their chip and signature card was refused were automatic pay stations on toll roads or train stations in small remote towns (and always, of course, in the middle of the night when the stations were unattended). Scott and I spent a month in the UK and Ireland in some far away spots and didn’t have any trouble with the chip and signature cards, unless you consider the mild annoyance of some waiters needing to go fetch the machine that prints out a receipt to sign. We took to saying “this will ask for a signature” as we handed over the card.
So, do you need a chip and signature card if you are going on a trip outside the US? Probably not unless you’re going to be gone for a long time and even then it will just make things a little easier. Deciding on one is a matter or what convenience it can offer, transaction fees and how getting another card might affect your credit score. If all the things I just wrote make your head hurt don’t worry, the cards you have already will be just fine. Have a great trip.
We chose chip and signature cards that had 0% foreign transaction fees and either had no annual fee or had perks that we would definitely use and would balance out an annual fee. If you check your current cards you will likely find a 3% foreign transaction fee, which might add up if you use your card a lot or plan to do some serious shopping.
update: Jen mentioned this in the comments and it reminded me, other features that are great to have in travel credit cards are rental car coverage, trip insurance, lost baggage coverage and the like. These seem like pretty obvious benefits but enough of the cards I looked at didn’t have one or the other that it’s worth combing through the fine print to be certain. A note, credit cards generally will not cover rental car coverage in Ireland. A few other countries too, but Ireland seems to be the surprise. Before you rent a car there check with your card, read up about CDW and super CDW and ask a lot of questions. Good luck.
Do you have a favorite travel rewards card? I gave some serious thought to one of those that lets you into all sorts of airline lounges but the impressive annual fee was way too much for me and my three flights a year.
· comments  · 11-27-2013 · categories:travel ·
Last weekend I checked off an item on my life list and the first of four things I’m hoping to do while on my trip to the UK. I ate a Liege style waffle while standing firmly on Belgium soil. While standing in Bruges to be exact.
We found the first one within less than an hour of arriving in the city. It was delicious. Warm and yeasty and sweet and the perfect way to shake off the the slight panic brought on by finding all the train station listings in Belgium to be in Dutch and therefore completely incomprehensible to us and being without a SIM card for Belgium. Oh the horror.
The next day we set out to find more and, delightfully, it wasn’t difficult. I’m including the time stamps below so you can see how easy it is to stumble from one waffle place to the next. In all of these we bought the hot waffles from the window of a shop and ate them while wandering around.
And after that we really needed to stop and go find some salad for dinner.
The next morning we had a waffle from this adorable van. We ate it while standing in a park and looking at a Medieval cathedral. Bruges I love you.
· comments  · 10-21-2013 · categories:food · travel ·
We are headed to the UK! We’ll be there for a month doing a live/work/travel/freaking out thing. I have a few goals for while I’m there:
- Drink Scotch in Scotland. (Easy.)
- Go through a hedge maze in England. (Pretty straightforward. Or twisty.)
- Eat a Liege waffle in Belgium. (Only requires a train ticket.)
- Find a four-leaf clover in Ireland. (Miiight be a challenge.)
If anybody reading this happens to live in Belfast and would be interested in meeting up please email me, I’m going to have a bit of free time while I’m in that city and I’d love to say hello.
We’ll be hitting all the tourist things as we do a loop from England up through Scotland and down to Ireland before heading to London but if anybody has any recommendations on extraordinary things going on that I should do my best not to miss or eat or buy or gawk at please let me know. I’m planning on going on lots of brewery tours, opening Kinder Eggs, staring at really old buildings and being that horrible American driver going too slow because I’m afraid of terrified on the other side of the road. Sorry about that last one.
I’m so excited!
· comments  · 10-1-2013 · categories:travel ·
Disney World for foodies: 11 must-try dishes | Mamifesto. Sushi while bowling!
Where to Take a Date for Cocktails in Portland, OR | Serious Eats: Drinks.
San Francisco Treats « bakerella.com. A great tour of where to go and what to eat in SF. Once again, I’m heartbroken that the Ferry Building was under renovation when I was working only a few blocks away.
The Lost Valley of London | London as You’ve Never Seen Before… A site dedicated to finding the delightful and lesser known things in London. Via The Everywhereist.
· comments  · 05-21-2013 · categories:links · travel ·
Last weekend Scott and I headed to Portland for a weekend where our main goal was to try as much beer as we could. We’d made the plans in January when it was dark and rainy and hopeless and beer sounded like a damn good idea. It turned out that the weather that weekend was one of those perfect pockets of Spring where it’s 70 and sunny and you just want to sit outside and talk about how great sunshine is. Which is basically what we did, every meal and sip of beer was done outdoors. Or at least near a really big open door. It was ah-mazing considering it was still March.
I was armed with a few places in mind and a recent copy of Beer West magazine that has an article on all the beer destinations along Division Street. Most of the restaurant recommendations friends had given me (Pok Pok being mentioned the most often) were on Division Street and I started to wish our hotel had been in that part of town because we kept returning to it.
When we arrived our first stop was at Hopworks Urban Brewery which is huge. They have outdoor seating in the front as well as an upper back deck. Right now they are doing a single hop series of IPAs, I tried a sample of the Simcoe and discovered that I don’t prefer Simcoe on it’s own. I wish I lived closer and could sample all of their single hops beers because I suspect it would be a cheap and enjoyable beer education. Hopworks has an eye towards being friendly to the environment and we’re hoping to take our bikes to Portland (maybe on the train!) and pedal our way up to their BikeBar location this summer.
That night we walked to Ground Kontrol and drank beer while playing console arcade games and it was so damn fun. The upstairs is filled with rows of old electric arcade games, the upstairs is devoted to pinball machines and yes the games take real quarters which you can get from change machines just like the old days. We had the most fun playing two person House of the Dead, with the rubber guns. We nearly made it through Chapter 3 before running out of quarters! We would have planted ourselves in front of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (which we’ve played on our PS3) if it hadn’t been occupied.
They have all the old games I could remember, including Joust, Paperboy, and Burger Time. They also have a tabletop four-person Pac-Man (a hem: Pac-Man Battle Royale) that was very popular all night long. The lights above are reminicscent of D&D dice, the tiles in the ladies room are Ms. Pacman themed, the entry tiles (shown above) are Space Invaders. Also, on weekend nights there is a cover ($2? $1?) and there might be a line, which is good because it means the place doesn’t get too crowded. When we were on our way out I noted there was a crowd around a few of the machines but there were plenty of seats at the tables near the bar, where the tables are illuminated. I heart that place.
The next day we got brunch food from the food carts near our hotel (the standout was Liege waffles with brie, arugula and bacon) and headed out to have a picnic. Our goal was to eat under cherry trees which were blossoming in the most spectacular manner that weekend. But it turns out that was everybody else’s goal that weekend too. The area around the trees near the river (and the Saturday Market) were filled to capacity and the Arboretum was packed. So we took the great advice of Sprizee and headed out to Cathedral Park. It was perfect. An expanse of grass leads down to the water just under the Cathedral Bridge, which makes everything feel very dramatic. We had a huge area in the sun all to ourselves and sat and watched dogs playing fetch. We weren’t right under blossoming trees but we did have a view of some, which was good enough. This morning has become the Happy Place I go to in my head.
Next we headed to Hedge House which is the new-old home of Lompoc Brewing. We grabbed seats on the front porch (there are also tables in the front courtyard area) where we watched families walk and bike past. I had the Calling All Monsters IPA which was very good and I remember as worth going back for if it wasn’t a three hour drive away.
Scott wanted to show me the space where the XOXO Festival had been last year and there just happens to be Cascade Brewing around the block. We had samples of their Noyaux (almond) sour, seasonal IPA and the Oblique Black and White Stout, which has the color of an pale ale but has mellow coffee flavors. (Not shown in order above because they all looked the same and it was freaking 70 degrees and aaaawhhhhh.) The Oblique Black and White Stout was delicious and surprising and on our way out of town we stopped to buy a growler of it, which we buckled into the back seat.
That night we met up with Jenna whom I’d met at Hops Academy last summer. We met at Beer Mongers where she gifted us a precious bottle of Pliny the Elder which we can no longer get in Washington. Beer Mongers is a bottle shop that has a big door they can open in warmer weather. I love drinking at bottle shops, it’s still a novelty for me. Jenna knows what she is talking about when it comes to beer and was sipping this IPA made with brettanomyces, which I dearly wished I’d requested a sip of. In any case it was a perfect end to a beer day.
The next day we managed to made it to Sasquatch Brewery before we left. I got to meet Charlie (aka RagnarBeer) at Hops Academy who the head brewer there. I sampled a beer that is is own recipe, Celilo Cascadian Dark Ale and it was delicious. I’m normally not a fan of dark beers but this made me very happy. Sasquatch has a full menu and outdoor seating in front as well as a nice peaceful deck along the side of the building. I didn’t get to see Charlie because he was busy doing something like the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC. No biggie.
We stayed at the Crystal Hotel downtown which is part of the McMenamin’s empire. It was surprisingly quiet considering it’s in a noisy part of town, though I was roused by the daily 5 a.m. garbage collection. We took advantage of the soaking pool in the basement and had it all to ourselves. Our bed wasn’t very comfortable but the hotel as a whole was good for the price and location. Most rooms share a bathroom in hall, which I’ve never found to be awkward in a McMenamin’s hotel, but I booked an ensuite room because, well, bathroom.
The staff at the Crystal Hotel seem used to asking if people staying there are headed to the music venues later that evening so one day we were asked if we were going to see Anthrax and the next day they asked if we were there to see Bob Seger. I assure you we are not people who look like we’d be headed to either. At least not any more.
Places we didn’t make it too but I want to hit next time we’re in Portland: The Woodsman Tavern, Kask, The Green Dragon and Pok Pok.
Alright Portland people, what else should I seek out next time I visit? Anything particularly spectacular in the sunshine? Or particularly comforting when it’s rainy and dark?
· comments  · 04-8-2013 · categories:drink · travel ·
Ideas for a Solo Traveler | The Hairpin. Great links to more resources inside this post.
London’s best brewery tours – Time Out London. Via Busywork who has probably heard way too much about how much I’ve been liking beer lately!
Five Things to Do on Your Layover at: Chicago-O’Hare || Jaunted.
Things to do in ORD for 8 hours | Ask MetaFilter. There is a four story tall Brachiosaurus on concourse B!
The Urban Grocer’s Guide to Urban Eating, NYC | The Urban Grocer. Great online magazine to keep a link to, note that music plays.
How to work around $20/day hotel Internet in Central London | Ask MetaFilter. Looks like there are no-contract prepaid wireless dongles. I’m headed to the UK next year so this is good to know about.
· comments  · 01-3-2013 · categories:links · travel ·
· comments  · 10-17-2012 · categories:links · travel ·
I was in Boston recently and got a chance to tour the offices of America’s Test Kitchen. It was utterly thrilling! At the time we visited most of the staff were up in Vermont filming episodes of Cook’s Country so the upshot was that instead of feeling hopelessly in the way my group got a chance to have a nice look around. Huge thanks to Steph for arranging and giving us the tour, it was an excellent way to start our trip.
Thanks to Busywork, A and Scott for cheerfully joining me. Especially considering for some of us it was hideously early in the day and for others it was well past lunchtime.
We got to peek at their library of cookbooks and recipe related publications and learned that they have their own classification system. And they do have a full set of Modernist Cooking which I was too afraid to touch without gloves. (This being the second time I was too timid to grab these books makes me all that much more likely to carry my own cotton and/or latex gloves just in case I should encounter the set again.) We also got a brief look into their photo studio which is actually a corner room that gets fantastic light. Their room was full of bounces, which makes a northern-dweller like me feel better about what lengths I’ll to through to get a half way decent photo on dim days.
The offices and studio are in an old building and space is limited so shelves holding cookware are everywhere. Everything is organized and labeled and I desperately envy their collection of All-Clad. Know what? They do use paper plates to separate frying pans and plates when they are stored, just like the tip in the magazines.
They have two kitchens, the larger one you see during the show and a smaller one where recipes are developed. They have walls of ovens and Kitchenaid mixers and storerooms full of the recommended appliances, which they keep for two years in case they need to do some follow up testing with them.
They use gas stoves for recipe development but somewhere, hidden under a countertop, is an electric stove that they test all recipes on to make sure people with electric stoves (including myself) will have the same results.
The show is underwritten by certain brands so they are unable to test and recommend those brands’s products. On the other side they cannot accept underwriting from companies whose products they test and will potentially recommend, which is why you won’t see underwriting from cookware brands you might know and love yourself. They purchase all the equipment they test and never accept freebies.
The larger kitchen looks just like you see on the show but overhead are lights and cords, and when they are filming cameras and sound equipment are crammed all around one counter.
When you see people working in the background of filmed segments they really are cooking, but are doing so more slowly and quietly they they would normally. If they need activity to fill in the background beyond what would normally be going on, we were told, you can often see interns making batches upon batches of cookies.
One of the most delightful things we learned was that all their grilling is done in the alley outside the building. They test things on multiple grills (and we saw at least 20 grills while we were there) so if anything is being slow cooked or smoked there will always be somebody out there.
If you turn around you are looking at a few parking spaces which is where they film back yard segments. This is why they thank their neighbors at the end of each episode. They also send over cookies, which have got to be the very best thank you cookies ever. Gosh I wish I was their neighbors.
One of the most popular places to be at the end of the working day is peeking inside the leftovers fridge where all the food made that day is portioned and available to be taken home by employees. (Curse our 10 a.m. visiting time.)
This oven right here is the one you see Bridget using in the show. Which: Eeeee! I have seen so many perfectly finished things emerging from this oven.
The Wall of Awesome is updated each week with the good stuff people blog and tweet about. This photo was taken really early in the week and I can only imagine what it looks like by Friday. I have to admit I was inspired to know that the people there (who work six or more months in advance) could see the ecstatic results of what they do as they speed past on their way to making cranberry sauce in, say, June. So, cheers to America’s Test Kitchen! I’m amazed at how much quality you pack into such a small space. Here is to many more years of the test kitchen on public television!
· comments  · 10-9-2012 · categories:travel ·
||This post is in partnership with smartwater. smartwater, live a life well hydrated. Click here to learn more.
Scott and I enjoy taking bicycle rides on the weekends and happily Seattle has lots of dedicated trails. It’s good for exercise but as an exceptionally lazy person I found that I need a little extra motivation to get me to put on a bicycle helmet. Something like lunch, definitely on a patio, hopefully with some beer. New trails always feel like an adventure, but finding a restaurant that we wouldn’t have tried otherwise feels like victory
Here are some of my favorite bicycling and lunch combinations near Seattle:
Trip: Marymoor Park in Redmond up to Woodinville (wine country!) via the East Lake Sammamish Trail.
Food pairing: Red Hook Brewery, which has lots of bicycle racks and a big patio. And beer, obviously.
Advantages: If you get there at the right time you can catch a tour of the brewery. Also, you’ll go right past the famous Herbfarm Restaurant (!!!), though they might not appreciate you eating there in your bicycle shorts.
Trip: Carnation to Duvall via the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.
Food pairing: Armadillo BBQ which has a sun dappled back deck and and some hot sauces that might be a challenge. Smokey meats and bike paths go surprisingly well together.
Advantages: The path is unpaved and less used so you can go for a long way without seeing another soul. So much so that when I had to stop and find a bug that had bumped into me and fallen down into my bra (yikes people!) I’m fairly certain that nobody saw. Proximity to curious cows and a few bridges that allow you to watch the fish swim by below you.
Trip: Seattle Sculpture Park to the Magnolia neighborhood via the Elliott Bay Trail.
Food pairing: Maggie Bluffs, a lesser known casual counterpart to the nearby fancy Palisades restaurant. Great views, outdoor seating and shrimp.
Advantages: The ride is mostly along the waterfront so the view cannot be beat. There is a section that goes along some major train tracks and we got to witness the process of train cars being coupled by, essentially, ramming them together. It was spectacular. The train obsessed kid in our neighborhood would have lost his mind with joy.
Next I’m going to get a bicycle basket and we’re going to work on finding spots for epic picnics that cannot be reached by car.
Lunch definitely tastes better when you have traveled there under your own power. Do you have any rituals for bicycle trips? Ever find anything fabulous?
· comments  · 09-10-2012 · categories:misc · travel ·
This summer Seattle got it’s own ferris wheel. It’s on the waterfront so you get a view of the sound as well as a view of the buildings downtown. It’s super extra good if you accidentally manage to get on it while the sun is setting.
Apparently there is a VIP car with leather seats, a glass floor and a television screen. (It’s the darker car in the photo above.) It seems like an expensive ticket for a short ride but, well, it exists.
· comments  · 08-29-2012 · categories:seattle · travel ·
||This post is in partnership with smartwater. smartwater, good taste travels well. Click here to learn more.
This is a story about a weekend that went from unexpected to unexpectedly wonderful. I only have pictures from my mobile phone because I wasn’t anticipating it to be so, well, interesting.
A few months back Scott and I decided we needed to seek out some sunshine. We found a bike trail and a hotel room in Yakima, packed our bicycles into our car and left. We made it about a half an hour before we ran over a piece of metal in the road which was unavoidable because the tire of a semi threw it right at our car. We pulled over to the side of the road safely but dragged the metal with us, hearing it thunk and fold beneath our car. Ouch. Here is the offending piece of metal:
We named him La Mala Suerte. He is currently relegated to being used to prop open our front door.
We had the car towed back to Seattle while we silently regarded the stoic tow truck driver as a superhero. We were dropped off at a garage a measly three blocks from our house, like we pulled the “Go Back to Start” card.
It was too late to cancel the hotel, it was still drizzling in Seattle, the promise of sunshine was tempting and I’m stubborn. So we rolled our luggage to the light rail and took it to the airport where we rented a car eerily similar to the one we’d just left behind. We took extra care when drove past the spot where the incident had happened just an hour earlier. It was all blue skies until we approached Yakima where the skies got dark and it rained so hard we actually had to pull over to the side of the road and wait it out. When we were able to keep going we saw a double rainbow. No, really:
When we (finally!) arrived it was too late to do anything but get dinner and a nightcap at a dive bar with a rather loud bachelorette party who were using the live DJ as their personal 80s music jukebox. It was the perfect end to a strange day.
The next morning we had breakfast outdoors in the sun which is all we really wanted when we set out for this. Then we ignored the many nearby wineries and instead took up the first of many excellent suggestions from Sprizee and went to check out The Teapot in Zillah.
Next we headed to Tieton, stopping for frozen asparagus tamales and a fast food bacon sundae (which was so good, I am not alone in this opinion) on the way. We drove out past fruit stands, where we scored some precious early local peaches, and then up out of the valley to the highlands. We passed orchards and industrial buildings and suddenly found ourselves in a classic American town with a square block park surrounded by local businesses and shady trees and parking spaces. There were people having a picnic in the park and letting their kids run wild and no traffic lights in site. It was like visiting my sets of grandparents or that little town in Pennsylvania that I lived in for a year as a kid. Forgive me for being naive but it was charming and immediately won me over.
We located the building for Mighty Tieton and when we entered we found ourselves in a big, dark warehouse space where lit chandeliers were hanging. They were likely part of the Chandelier Festival from last year and I am so wildly in love with idea of making your own light during the darkest part of the year that I’m already thinking about what I might do. We stood an marveled at a sculpture in that room that I later found was made by Trimpin and is probably his Shhh and I desperately hope I get to see and hear it in action someday.
We wandered into an adjoining huge warehouse space and found a massive piece of manually created felt. It was made by Janice Arnold, who happened to be packing up her car and took the time to tell us about the felt (was wet felted by people walking and then dancing on it the night before, it was about 20 feet by 12 feet, it was amazing). She was kind enough to open a big door to yet another adjoining warehouse space so we could see another one of her pieces, called Chthonic Tent. The door was huge and when we walked carefully into the dark room it slowly closed behind us:
Then we were alone in a large, cool, silent room with only one source of light, a single bulb inside a tent that was in the center of the room:
It was huge and creepy and exhilarating. Later Janice Arnold said that she didn’t mean for the door to close behind us, but I wouldn’t trade that experience. Thank you Janice!
Turns out what we found that day was only part of something pretty cool happening in Tieton. Thanks to a few flat bicycle tires an artist saw some potential in empty buildings, spread the word and now the town is being revitalized by small business that have bound together under the association of Mighty Tieton. Except for Paper Hammer not all the businesses are open to the public on a regular basis but they do have a gallery schedule and regularly participate in community events. I’ll be back. More specifically, I’ll be returning tomorrow to check out Highland Community Days and the 10x10x10xTieton Exhibition.
By the time we headed back home we had completely forgotten about our not-so-great previous day. Except for the fact that we were driving a car that was not the one we set out in.
A note: While this post is in partnership with smartwater all opinions, travel, expenses, misadventures and potentially futile ideas to leave the safety of my house in the first place were all my own. If you’d like to see more photos, including a shot of the bacon sundae rapidly melting while I’m forcing it to pose in the sun on our dashboard, please see my Flickr set.
Have you ever had a weekend that completely turned around? Or found something amazing in a spot you did not expect? Unearth any treasures while away from home? I’d love to hear about them!
· comments  · 08-24-2012 · categories:travel ·