quebec city, QC

After a lovely trip to Montreal in 2012, I was overjoyed to return to Quebec for a trip to Quebec City. Much to my delight, the exchange rate to Canadian dollars worked in our favor this time around, and the ticket is much cheaper than a flight to Paris. The old fortified city did not disappoint. Historically fascinating, visually stunning, and nutritionally lacking, this trip had all the makings for a wonderful experience.

old quebec

We stayed in an airbnb in an awesome neighborhood called St. Roch. I can’t recommend it enough  – although described as “up and coming” it was really hip. It was about 30 minutes walk to Old Quebec, and although very hilly it was nice to get a real sense of the city. The best part was that there were no other tourists around. The neighborhood is filled with French restaurants with a down-to-earth twist. Although we attempted to go to L’affaire est Ketchup, it was booked. We tried the sister restaurant Patente et Machin. I loved the two servers there, both burly food-lovers (and one being a Philadelphia Eagles fan), who made sure we understood every detail of the menu, reciting it in both English and French. We also adored La Cuisine and went twice! A local spot with classic board and video games, they also have an “at home” vibe. We were the last ones in the place while facing off in an unsettled game of chess. When we absolutely could not eat another bite of French food, St. Roch wow’ed us once again with Hosaka-ya Ramen. Hot steaming bowls of ramen comforted us on a rainy summer night after a long day of sight-seeing.

ile d'orleans

One of my favorite days was spent on the Ile d’Orleans. As soon as a Quebecoise mentioned, “the island is our orchard,” I knew i had to go. We tried ice cider, which is made from frozen apples in Quebec’s freezing winters. The result is a much sweeter cider. We tried strawberries, chocolate, and even had lunch at the Panache Mobile, a food truck version of Quebec City’s most renowned restaurant. It was only fitting we climbed a million stairs after lunch to check out the top of Montmorency.

ile d'orleans

Of course, wandering through Québec City’s cobblestone streets and hearing French spoken left me blissful for many days. The stunning Chateau Frontenac had musicians playing classic French romantic music, and I feel for it very hard.

chateau frontenacA la prochaine, Québec…

 

Maine

Sitting here in the bitter cold, I am dreaming about our trip last September to Maine. We visited Portland and Lamoine (outside of Bar Harbor). Living most of my life on the east coast between NYC and DC, I feel that Maine is truly an under-discovered treasure.  There is a reason artists take refuge there, although most Mainer’s will tell you they deserve to covet their summer gem as a reward for suffering through the harsh winters.

munjoy hill portland Portland was funky and we tried some amazing food, including Blue Spoon in Munjoy Hill, Eventide Oyster Company (an absolute must for wine and oysters) and Duckfat (a rich trove of craft beer and fancy sandwiches). We even found a old-fashioned soda bar called the Fizz House and took flaming (virgin) shots.

eventide oysters

In Bar Harbor, I had lobster for the first time ever. I had been told what to expect, but it was still so surprising to pick out your lobster and sit outside in an adirondack while they are steamed in big smoke-stacked pots by the water. With plastic bibs and silverware, the $10 lobster was juicier and way more fun to eat than shelling crabs. I loved people-watching as everyone had their own methods for plucking the lobster out of its shell.

maine lobster

Growing up going to the Jersey shore, I was absolutely shocked at the lack of crowds. There was no traffic, nobody else at the beach, no lines at the ice cream stand. One evening our host told us about a neighborhood “pond” that was much warmer than the ocean. We drove by after our trip to the beach and had the entire lake to ourselves.

IMG_6084

We used airbnb, my absolute favorite method of travel. We stayed with Anne, a lovely artist who made fresh bread every morning with Maine country butter. Her house was exquisite and filled with antique furniture you see so often in local stores. She also had a chef’s kitchen, a barn studio for her artwork, and a huge garden with veggies, fruit, and butterflies!

acadia national park

Acadia National Park exceeded my expectations. We only spent the day there, but I would love to go back for an entire week with my bike. There is a charming beach area, tons of hiking trails, guided tours, and bike paths. I cannot wait to return…

Crater Lake, Oregon

Last summer, I went on the trip of a lifetime from Portland, OR to Big Sur, CA. The highlight of the trip was Crater Lake National Park. It is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Driving up to the rim of the crater, your first glance at the lake takes your breath away. The water is so so blue, and the color stays vibrant throughout. As a Philadelphian who is used to the flowing colors and sounds of the ocean, or the murky Schuylkill river, this was quite a treat.

Crater Lake Oregon

The island in the middle of the Lake is called Wizard Island. This lead to Harry Potter imitations for 90% of our visit there. You can take a boat out on the lake and onto the island, but we opted to hike down to the base of the lake and jump right in. The water was absolutely frigid. The impact on the water was so cold I couldn’t breathe, and hurled myself onto a rock, sympathizing with Rose from the Titanic.

crater lake or

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first night we went on a guided sunset hike to the top of the crater. We saw some hikers climbing the Pacific Crest Trail that goes from Mexico to Canada on our guided hike. I didn’t know much about it, but later read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and wanted to go back and hike it. And by hike it, I mean spend a day or two walking the trail with modern conveniences nearby.

Crater Lake OR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time we got back down, it was already dark and all of our neighbors in the campsite were asleep. Feeling like idiots, we fumbled in the dark and attempted to start a fire. Upon success we cooked weenies on a stick for dinner: they became unappetizing after a half-of-a-weenie, so we ditched the entire endeavor and went to bed. As it was freezing and we were sleeping in Target grade children’s sleeping bags, it wasn’t the best night of sleep. When we woke up, we felt so accomplished for surviving our first night “in the wilderness”.

salt lake city, ut

Last winter I went on a business trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was my first time in the mountain west and it was exactly like the mountains on the Coors cans, but real. They were icy, they were blue, and the entire time I felt like I could reach out and use my hands to pull down the Hollywood backdrop surrounding the sprawling, tacky metropolis that is Salt Lake City.

The thing to do is avoid SLC and head to the mountains. Except when you get hungry. When you’re hungry, SLC has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. One thing that was unexpected about Salt Lake City was the excellent craft beer selection. Epic and Wasatch were two fun breweries to visit.  Wasatch brewery is in Park City, perfect for an apres-ski. My favorites were the “evolution” amber and “polygamy” porter, mainly because the labels were cool (shh). Or when you’re not cool enough to hit the slopes at Alta, and all you can muster is a nice snowshoe through the woods, reward yourself at the Bayou, a hip downtown bar.

alta

alta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving into SLC, I wasted no time and immediately got in line for a Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) favorite: the Red Iguana. This is a MOLE favorite, a brown and generally visually displeasing sauce poured over delicious Mexican favorites. There are lots of moles to choose from: I chose the negro, and then immediately wept tears into my beer when the girl next to me got a sample platter of all the moles before she chose. How do they get so much flavor in mole? Also, I don’t know how to pronounce this, but order rajas de chile pobleno con queso con chorizo. Key word being chorizo. You’ll die, and then regret finishing the plate because you need to save room for mole.

Red Iguana

Antelope Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best thing I did in SLC was visit Antelope Island. It’s called Antelope Island because there are actual antelopes that roam there. As well as foxes, bison, birds, and other living mammals that are usually not seen outside a zoo. It was a heavenly retreat from earth. The greys were not as much grey but cooling, the oranges were dusty, and the slices of light scoring through the clouds was picturesque. We spent the afternoon hiking and exploring.

The icing on the cake of the refreshing, cleansing visit to Antelope Island was immediately after consuming a greasy, cheesy, burger at this dive bar known for their house-smoked bacon and rosemary-garlic fries. The character in this place was above-average for dive bars, and I loved it.

 

antelope island

antelope island_salt lake city

The trip ended at a surprisingly hip downtown brunch spot. There were lots of knit hats, oversize black glasses, and trendy draping garments: the style I now call Mormon chic. Really quiet, cute, trendy brunch place downtown SLC, where the eggs come cage-free.

 

montreal

Montreal was one of the best trips of my life. Can’t afford to fly to Paris? Want to be inundated with butter, cream, and then try to fit into little black dresses? Allons-y. This was my first time trying Airbnb: boy did I love it. We stayed in a cute little apartment in Outrement – I highly recommend! Out host was an artist and her apartment was absolutely divine for laying on the couch and reading, or dipping into red wine and cheese for dessert. A real treat after biking to the Jean Talon market on our Bixi bikes (which you must do when in Montreal).

 

montrealWe walked into almost every vintage and antique store, one thing after another catching our eye. I could walk around for miles in the Mile End, pretending to be Canadian superstars. When we couldn’t shop any more, we went to the Sparrow for brunch. Starting off with bloody marys, we treated ourselves in the cozy, welcoming retreat and burried ourselves in pulled pork eggs benedict and biscuits. The food was to die for. The decor was English pub meets Portland put-a-bird on it. We even loved the typography.

 

montreal bike signs

Then everything changed when we went to Plateau and ate at Au Pied de Cochon. From stylish and fleeting to hearty and rich. I couldn’t even pay attention to my dinner companions, because the waiters were screaming in English and French, “<insert hearty meat> topped with 25 grams of foie gras,” while describing each dish. Needless to say I left feeling twenty pounds heavier, but I got twenty life points for eating my first poutine topped with foie gras, in addition to my absolute favorite meal in the entire world, blanquette de veau. This blanquette was served with fried cheese curds. Need I say more?

montreal_evan and brenna

Then we ate Middle Eastern at Rumi in Outrement. Wow! We were wandering through our neighborhood, looking for Rumi, which was recommended by just about everyone in the downtown hotels I had been staying in for work. The ambiance was amazing; after heavy eating all trip it was so refreshing to each veggie tajine and drink warm tea and relax before heading home.

What I loved most was feeling completely and utterly at peace. Riding my bike up Mont Royal and seeing the beautiful colors of fall was simply a sight to see. Montreal, je t’aime.

 

 

gift guide 2012: books

My mom gave me great advice yesterday. She said the best gift is something frivolous (lipstick, handbag, ridiculous kitchen goods) and a good book. Here’s my favorites from 2012.

Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud, Jonathan Safran Foer

This book had me laughing and crying on the same pages. I couldn’t put it down, because I fell in love with the main character. While some complain it was hard to read, the curiosity and innocence of the main character stole my heart and reminded me that working with kids is truly a gift. How Safran Foer did it, I’ll never know.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And other Concerns) Mindy Kaling

Mindy writes in the opening that her book is not better than Tina Fey’s. I would beg to differ. She is funny and wise, a gift that rarely coincides. I loved her witty writing and refreshing take on life. Similar to Bossypants, I love that Mindy also struggled through her 20’s just like the rest of us, and made it out on top. The rest of us can only hope that survival equals a book deal. Girl power!

Every Last One, Anna Quindlen

This is not  a book I would usually read, as the protagonist is a mother of 3 in her 40s. Somehow Quindlen managed to create a deep bond between the main character and I, only to tear my heart in two. One of those books that stays with you long after the final page has been read.

Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo

One of my girlfriends in Philly recommended this book to me. It’s a true story about a boy who “dies” during surgery and goes to heaven, able to recount specific details to his family and friends. Inspiring to read, even through the dramatized passages.

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

Apparently Collins stole the idea behind this book from someone else: guess what? I don’t care because I skimmed through these three babies in only a few days. Definite beach reads but totally worth it. #teamgale

Bonne lecture ;)

 

 

toulouse and southwest france

Sometimes when life is spinning by you, all you need to do is book a ticket to France. I was invited to a wedding in a 13th century abbey in the south of France this summer, and somehow I couldn’t refuse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus, I had some friend therapy seeing my old rommates from our little yellow kitchen. We rented an apartment and fell in love. We had our very own French appartment and our French friends in town from Paris for the wedding even stayed one night and cooked us dinner. It was so cozy: my Scot even brewed me his very British tea in the evenings before bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toulouse was our home base for the week. We listened to jazz at Toulouse plage, had a few rounds at the local student bars, took walking wine tours and generally traipsed about the city visiting museums and vintage books shops, tasting local treasures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a few days trips, one being to Carcassonne, the Medieval walled city, and the other to Lourdes, France. Lourdes was an absolutely amazing experience. I have never seen such beauty in devotion, and it is something to appreciate no matter what you truly believe in.

And of course, watching the marriage of our friend was simply amazing. In true French fashion, we  huddled in an tiny, ornate chapel somewhere in Southwest France. The reception was in a restored Abbey just a few miles down the road. The champagne, dancing, and brunch the next day in a huge country chateau made it a weekend I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about therapeutic. No matter what the price, sometimes it takes a wild adventure to make you realize that even if you don’t shave your legs everyday and sometimes you daydream during important conference calls and you love a little too much just when you should be guarded, that’s really living.

 

stay classy, san diego

This  June I went to San Diego for work and extended my trip a few days to enjoy the city and surrounding area. I was so excited to visit SD after my 5th grade project to “spend a million dollars” was a trip to San Diego with a visit to the zoo. It surpassed all my ten year old expectations by far! While I had never heard of “June gloom” (the weather in SD can be rather cloudy in June) we lucked out after a few cloudy days and got lots of good sunshine.

Eating and Drinking Downtown – Visit the Gaslamp district by going on a tequila or local brewery tour! San Diego is known for its Mexican food, and the carne asada fries at La Puerta with some delicious local beer was one of my top meals I had there. El Vitral also had excellent food and tequila! The outdoor section looks over Petco park, so even if you can’t make the ball game there’s excellent spectator seating over lunch. For evening drinks, try Altitude, a rooftop bar looking over the baseball stadium. Gorgeous on summer nights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Trips: Defintiely take the ferry to Coronado, a lovely beach town where the Naval Base is. I walked through the downtown to Hotel del Coronado and took in the beautiful views, treated myself to ice cream, and if I had more time would have rented a bike. A perfect day trip. Further out is Oceanside/Carslbad, where I caught up with a friend and went surfing. It is absolutely beautiful and a total California activity. Don’t forget the post-surfing trip to In-and-Out burger, (order everything animal style). Another amazingly beautiful area is La Jolla (soft J people), a ritzy part of town famous for its sun bathing sea lions. The breath-taking views reminded me of Les Calanques in the South of France. A must see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to Do and Visit: Sea World was great, the only slightly frightening part was the rehearsed, cheesy rock concert style Shamu show. The first time I had ever seen something like that at an aquarium, it was interesting. Balboa park was the most beautiful area, Spanish style architecture everywhere and amazing museums and of course, the zoo! While the zoo is expensive, it is one of the nicest in the country and I loved having the employees around the explain about the personalities of the different animals and the gossip inside the glass. Didn’t even mind that I was older than all of the kids there! I also caught a game at Petco park and watched how the Padres played on the west coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Moment: One night I stayed in Ocean Beach, a very hippie part of town. We sat by a bonfire at night and listened to the ocean, only to wake up the next morning to have breakfast on Ocean Pier and watch the surfers wait patiently on their boards for the perfect wave. A wonderful trip indeed to a unique, relaxed, delicious city. My top trip of this year.

diner en blanc, philadelphia

Since I’ve been trying to get invited to the Diner en Blanc celebrations in Paris and New York for years now, I was overjoyed to find a new Diner en Blanc pique-nique coming our way in August! Here are some photos from the event.


How fabulous! My day finally came when I can fest with others who splurge on smelly cheese and appreciate the timelessness of white as a fashion statement. Diner en blanc is the most refined event to come to Philadelphia since Tory Burch’s birth in 1966.


Diner en Blanc is all the rage because of its secrecy. Invite only, you must pack a picnic. No jest: large baskets, cumbersome tupperware and champagne glasses encouraged! The location is kept quiet (a pop-up party at City Hall? Rittenhouse Square? Art Museum steps?) until the final moment, when throngs of picnic-goers show up basking in the glory of inclusion.

 

Let me (french wanna-be, cheese enthusiast, lover of clean, classy fashion) be your guide to Diner en Blanc Philadelphia (the above sandwhich was created by me during a real, Parisian picnic at the Cinema en Plein Air).

The Ultimate Philadelphia DEB picnic basket:

 

Please, I am willing to do anything to attend this event (baking? picnic basket building? I’ll even use my trusty Schwinn to transport your items the night of the event to avoid mussing your white frocks!). Send love to a wanna be Frenchie in Philly. Invite her to DEB and make her dreams come true.