Wednesday, April 18, 2012

puerto rico

at some point last summer ken and i decided we should cash in some air miles and go to the carribean. we tossed around a few ideas, but pretty quickly settled on puerto rico. one of us had read a travel article about kayaking in the the bioluminescent bays, and the notion of no passport being needed was extremely appealing.

we flew into san juan and stayed in a hotel steps away from condado beach, a very pretty, but extremely urban stretch of sand. our second night in san juan, we found our way to ashford avenue, also in the condado neighborhood. the street is lined with restaurants, boutiques, and high end resorts, like the retro jewel, the la concha. we had fun exploring this strip, but it did feel a little vegas-y. 

old san juan reminded me very much of the french quarter in new orleans, except it was very, very clean and hilly. we spent a day wandering the cobble-stoned streets lined with colonial buildings. and we passed a good bit of time at the bar at the hotel el convento. sitting in the bar, drinking rum, i did feel transported back in time.

after being in san juan for three days, we hired a van to take us to fajardo, which is about 80 miles east of san juan. at fajardo we caught a passenger ferry to the island of vieques, which is about eight miles off the coast of the mainland. after the hustle and bustle of condado, i was looking forward to vieques, but i had no idea what a treat we were in for. the island, sometimes known as part of the spanish virgin islands, is only 21 miles long and four miles wide. the united states navy occupied large portions of the island from 1941 to 2003. when the navy left, the land it had occupied, including some gorgeous beaches, became a wildlife refuge. 

we rented a jeep upon arrival and made our way to our home for the next four days, the hix island house. i'm not sure if i've ever read such polarizing views of a hotel before, but i'm so glad we followed our instincts and decided to stay here. designed by canadian architect john hix, the property consists of several concrete structures with open windows. 

the interiors are very simple, but extremely lovely. our room had an open air shower and a kitchenette stocked with eggs, coffee, and fruit. and, each day we stayed there a loaf of freshly baked bread appeared like magic.

there is also a beautiful pool on the property.

i'm not sure i would like to spend any more time in san juan, but i would love to return to vieques. the pace is nice and slow, the beaches are gorgeous and secluded, the bioluminescent bay was just as amazing as i imagined it might be, and the hix house was such a wonderful place to come back to at the end of each day's explorations. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

another perfect day

i first visited la several years ago when a best girlfriend of mine was living there. it was a great trip: we shopped at the grove and robertson blvd, saw a movie at the arclight, a diane arbus exhibit at lacma, and a great old 97's show at the troubador. on two subsequent visits over the next few years, my friend and i visited the getty, wandered montana avenue in santa monica, took a drive to malibu, and spent an afternoon in silver lake. the weather was nearly perfect every time i visited. once it was raining on the day i arrived, but we went straight to a movie, and as we were walking out, the rain stopped and a rainbow broke through the clouds. seriously. needless to say, after three visits i was hooked. i loved the weather, the proximity to the ocean, the distinct neighborhoods, the cool vibe, the wide openness of it. 

however, one thing i had never experienced was a trip to la with my travel compadre-my husband, ken. so last summer when i got wind of an upcoming show at the hollywood bowl featuring two of our favorite performers, neko case and the national, i knew i had to make it happen. we debated for weeks about where to stay and finally settled on a part of la i'd never been to: venice beach. venice turned out to exceed my expectations: each of our three mornings there, we woke early and got coffee to take with us on a boardwalk stroll. in the early morning, the seediness factor of the boardwalk is quite low; most of the people out are surfing, running, shooting hoops, or skating in the bowls that are built right on the beach. venice is a very walkable area: we walked through the canals, up and down the quite chic abbot kinney blvd., and even meandered all the way to santa monica along the beach. 

other than the show, we did have some specific goals for the trip: find a banksy, eat some great food, and check out some landmark homes. our first banksy-hunting adventure took us to a light industrial area of compton. after circling the same few blocks for half an hour, i finally spotted the very top of the painting we were in search of on a warehouse wall. we could see that it was behind plexiglass, but the very tall fence it was behind offered almost no visibility. when that didn't work out, we drove to watts to check out the watts towers, and i am so glad we did. what an unusual, beautiful edifice. luckily we did find a banksy later in the trip, right in the middle of beverly hills.

by far my favorite food of the trip was at son of a gun and gjilena. gjilena is one of the more beautiful restaurants i've been to-one of those places in which i think, okay, i'll just spend the rest of the trip here. we also visited intelligentsia coffee on abbot kinney several times and even stopped in at the one in silver lake as well.

our visit to the richard neutra vdl II house right across from the silver lake resevoir was a highlight of the trip for me. the cal poly pomona architecture student who gave us the tour of the house did a fantastic job and really translated neutra's passion and innovation for the causal admirer.

then there was the show. the hollywood bowl is the most intimate gigantic venue i've ever been to. somehow i didn't know about the picnic option, though. next time i'll be prepared. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"i feel like i'm in a dream"

one of the guys hanging out at the thunderbird hotel pool told k. he felt like he was in a dream during our 4th of july trip to marfa, tx.

everything about marfa is a little dreamy, and it doesn't take long to get on marfa time. the drive is about 450 miles from austin, and there's not much between here and there. and there's not much there when you get there. but what's there is pretty perfect. since there is so little to do, i found that i enjoyed the things we did in a much more focused way. hanging out at the thunderbird hotel pool and drinking beer and reading magazines, seeing the huge night sky at the nearby mcdonald observatory, eating some great food at the miniature rooster and cochineal, playing the steve miller band on the juke box and letting k. kick my ass at shuffleboard at padre's, visiting the chinati foundation... twice...

the two things i loved most about marfa this time are the same two things i loved about it four years ago when i visited: the first is that people talk to each other in marfa. i had lovely, lengthy conversations with two shopkeepers, one of whom was also the server at miniature rooster. we met a rancher and his crew cleaning up after a wedding that his daughter had organized in a one-time church, turned art gallery. he invited us to ride horses on his bajillion acre property that starts "where the asphalt ends." while we were parked across the highway from prada marfa, we had the pleasure of meeting four young californians on a road trip who had a joie de vivre that was inspiring.

the other thing i love about it is the spaciousness. donald judd, the new york artist, who started the whole marfa art thing, is said to have been attracted to the clean, empty desert. i know very little about art, but the judd installations at chinati certainly utilize the landscape to speak to space and emptiness (maybe?). anyway, it's just so darn wide open out there; the sky is so big, and the desert seems to go on forever until the mountains swallow it up. there's a big feeling of freedom that comes with a landscape like that. i hope to find myself again there soon. want to come?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

10 pictures of india

since there is absolutely no way i can write about the majesty and madness of three weeks in india in a blog post, i decided to post ten pictures that represent my time there.

Friday, October 2, 2009

paris, take two

my husband and i recently returned from a trip to europe. we spent four days in paris for the first leg of the trip. we went to paris several years ago, and it was a lovely first visit-we got engaged, we saw wilco, we spent an afternoon in chartres, and we drank wine in the centre pompidou between floors of the most glorious collection of 20th century art I've seen. what we didn't do very much of was eat, not like a person should eat when she finds herself in paris, anyway. we were a bit intimidated by the process of deciphering the menus and didn't have a lot of money, so we mainly ate crepes (albeit delicious) that we bought from street vendors and bread and cheese that we bought from the corner shops near where we stayed.

when we decided to return to paris, i made a list of things i didn't want to miss this time around, and most of them involved food and drink. the exceptions were a visit to the Rodin Museum, and Les Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre-both of which exceeded my expectations. but, eat and drink we did-the highlights: delicious and decadent breakfasts every morning, a wine and cheese tasting at O Chateau, Josselin for crepes in the 14th, L'As du Fallafel in the Marais on Rue de Rosiers just a few blocks from our apartment, chocolat chaud at Angelina's...we certainly saved the best for last, though. we had a late lunch shortly before we left for Berlin in the Marais at Cafe des Musees. i had a lamb dish with the most delicious ratatouille I've ever encountered; i don't quite remember what my husband had, but the star of the meal (and of the whole European trip) were the steamed mussels that we had to start. the server brought them in a small cast iron covered pot, and when he set them on the table and removed the lid, i knew we were in for a treat. since the trip,i keep ordering steamed mussels when they are a menu option, but nothing has even come close yet. they say everything tastes better on vacation, and i believe this to be true, but i also believe the steamed mussels at cafe des musees were the best i've ever had.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

rock and roll tourism

loving a rock band as much as i love wilco has given me excuses to do some traveling to see them: some of my favorite shows have been the great american music hall in san francisco, the ryman auditorium in nashville, and liberty hall in marfa (that was a jeff tweedy solo show, but the show was the excuse for the trip). i also saw wilco in paris, but the trip was already planned when i found out they were playing-what a lovely coincidence. and might i add that parisian wilco fans are a bit more polite than american ones. 

seeing your favorite band in a new and exciting city is a treat in itself, but some venues are more special than others, so when i found out the guys were going to be at red rocks in colorado over the 4th of july, i knew it was a not to be missed opportunity. the venue is simply stunning; the huge sandstone monoliths that create the natural amphitheater are gorgeous, and from what i could tell, there wasn't a bad sightline anywhere. i've never seen wilco, outside of a festival setting, play for such a large crowd. hearing 10,000 other fans singing along to "misunderstood," while fireworks and lightning lit up the sky in the distance, was perfectly joyful.