Category Archives: Travel

East Side Meal

I’m in Pittsburgh today and tomorrow for work, which is exciting since I’ve never been here!

I arrived a little early to go to my favorite stores, Anthropologie and J.Crew, which we don’t have in State College.

I ended up on Pittsburgh’s adorable East Side, where I decided to have lunch at a deli.

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I sat outside because it’s a gorgeous day – sunny and in the mid-70s. I ate vegetarian stuffed dolmas and a Greek pasta salad with feta and pine nuts. The organic carrot juice was delicious too.

Perfect fuel for an afternoon and evening of meetings and sightseeing!

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Road Trip, Day 6: My Jeffersonian Birthday

My 28th birthday was a dreary, rainy Monday in central Virginia. But it was still a success because we spent it immersed in the life of Thomas Jefferson.

We got to Monticello at 9 a.m., and spent about 2 hours at the estate.

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It really is a cool place to visit. First, we took a 40-minute guided tour of the first floor, where we learned about how the retired Jefferson spent his days, who all lived there, and what he all invented around the house.

Next, we toured the slave grounds, gardens, and visited the grave site. We finished with a 20-minute film back at the visitor’s center.

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After our visit to Monticello, we stopped at the Michie’s Tavern for lunch. This was a place for lodging and eating in the 18th century. Today, they offer tours and serve a Southern-style buffet in a historic atmosphere.

For one last time, we loaded up on Southern cornbread, cole slaw, and mashed potatoes.

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And Dave indulged in pulled pork and chicken legs.

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They used authentic plates and mugs for drinks, and the ambiance was reminiscent of colonial America. The staff was even dressed in traditional garments.

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The only bummer was that it was totally overpriced – $17.50 per person for the buffet, which has a pretty narrow selection, with drinks and deserts being separate.

After lunch, we made the five-hour drive back to State College, through Northern Virginia, a tiny part of West Virginia, and Southern Pennsylvania. Now that we’re back, I have been to 43 out of 50 states. Only seven to go! On the way, I read the entire Wikipedia article on Thomas Jefferson out loud to Dave, Because we’re ridiculous people.

Back in Happy Valley, we stopped at Wegman’s for our first healthy dinner in 5 days and some grocery shopping.

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Portobello mushroom, carrots, and bulgur with some Kombucha. My stomach was so grateful for its usual healthy fare.

Back at home, as it was still raining and we didn’t feel like unpacking, we watched a four-hour documentary on Jefferson on Netflix. These things happen to me.

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Road Trip, Day 4: Bonus Day in Wilmington

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Saturday was all about the beach.

Tropical storm Andrea was moving up the coast, so we didn’t want to follow her and delayed our trip to Virginia by a day.

Finally, we got to swim in the ocean. The waves were really high, and the water was pretty warm. We walked along the shore, swam, and relaxed in the sun.

Then we decided to go find some lunch before coming back for a second serving of beach time.

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The Oceanic was exactly what we had in mind – ocean front, seafood lunch specials, and free parking for customers.

Here, we had our first serving of hushpuppies ever.

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They seem to be deep-fried cornbread? You may have noticed that this is not a health-food trip, despite my good intentions. But we have been getting a good idea of Southern Cuisine!

Dave and I both ordered Oceanic Cranberry Seltzers, which we enjoyed in the shade on their outdoor patio, overlooking the ocean.

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I ordered the lobster salad wrap from the specials menu. It was very good.

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With full bellies, we returned to the beach, walked up and down the shore enjoying the salty breeze, sat at the edge of the water for a while, and then ended up going back into the water for more wave action.

The waves were really intense. First, we just kind of stood there and jumped up when a wave was particularly high. But, with time, we got more daring. We swam out and met the waves before they were actually breaking. Eventually, Dave showed me how to stand directly where the wave will break without getting swept away. I was not very good at it, so I was swept off my feet several times. Then, he actually jumped into a wave and let it carry him ashore. I thought that looked really fun and decided to give it a try. Not a good idea. All I remember is that the wave somehow grabbed me and spun me around under water before violently smacking me onto the ground. My lower back felt sand-burned immediately, and I emerged out of the water proclaiming that I was done.

As we walked back to our towel, Dave realized that my back was bleeding badly, and I got pretty worried. We took our stuff, went to wash it out at the showers, and returned to the hotel. It stopped bleeding after the shower, but still hurt pretty badly. At the hotel, I could see that it was fortunately not as bad as I had imagined – at least, the injured area was a lot smaller than I had feared. Dave went to the store to get some antibiotic ointment and some huge band-aids, which he then helped me apply. I was pretty shaken up, especially imagining how much worse it could have been, so I took a nap and watched some Netflix before we had to leave to meet our friends at the last conference event.

The event was at Dirty Martini, which was conveniently located right by our hotel. We walked over there and found yet another elaborate buffet and drink offering.

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I had spinach salad, lobster pasta (soooo good), crab dip with crackers, and some cheese cubes with grapes. For my two free drinks, I got an Old Fashioned both times.

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Oh! We also had shrimp & grits cocktails. How could I forget?

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Another fantastic Wilmington location. There was a little pond along a mall of small restaurants and boutiques. It was a humid night and the mosquitoes were out, but at least their bites don’t itch as badly as Wisconsin mosquitoes’ somehow.

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I enjoyed my last night with these two ladies. Living away from good friends is not fun…

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… especially when they’re not all in the same place somewhere else, but scattered across the globe, so opportunities to get several of them together at once are extremely rare.

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Good thing I have this guy to keep me from getting lonely.

Anyway, we had so much fun again, First, we danced outside to an amazing live band, who played classic rock. Then, we continued dancing inside to current club music.

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Two nights of dancing in a row = happy Suzan. At midnight, it was my friend Ally’s birthday, so we stayed until a little past then.

These three days in North Carolina have been the best. We got the perfect mix of warmth, historic sightseeing, great food, friend time, intellectual stimulation via the conference events, dancing, beach time (minus the wave incident and sunburn), and cultural immersion (the Carolina accents are awesome, along with their people’s extreme friendliness).

I hope to be back here in the not too distant future!

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Road Trip Day 2, Part 1: Exploring Charleston

We got up at around 7 a.m. this morning after sleeping super well due to travel exhaustion. We had a quick breakfast at the Hampton, and then headed out to walk from the center of the Charleston penninsula down to the waterfront.

We chose King Street as our route and were not disappointed. First of all, it’s lined with palm trees and amazing Southern buildings. The buildings often were lavish, some with red brick walls and elaborate court yards, others with French colonial accents. Second, in those buildings were so many cute stores and boutiques, ranging from organic bakeries to handmade jewelry shops to J.Crew, Starbucks, etc.

Although it was only 80 degrees, it was extremely humid, so we got the true South East experience weather-wise.

Here are some pics from our walk

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Me on King Street.

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Dave by a cannon on the water front.

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Me enjoying the salty breeze and the view of the port of Charleston, incluing Fort Sumter!

Next, we went to the Old Slave Mart museum in the French Quarter. It was crazy to imagine all the lives that changed forever, completely at the mercy of traders and buyers, in that building. I learned a lot, and it put the historic beauty and romance of the city into perspective.

When we got done at the museum, we were already hungry for lunch. I had spotted a place named Black Bean Co. on our walk earlier that looked like it may have some great vegan options.

And I was right!

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I went for the Mega Veggie wrap with a side of couscous.

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I had never seen red wraps like this before, maybe it was a beet wrap? Anyway, it was very good. Besides fresh veggies like broccoli and peppers, it contained candied, sliced almonds, apples, and shredded carrots. No sauce needed because of the mix of sweet crisp and juiciness. The couscous was good too.

We headed back to the hotel to freshen up and check out. Then we drove about 15 minutes to the Old Towne Landing, where South Carolina was first settled by the English. It’s mostly and outdoor museum, so we got pretty wet in yet another down pour. But actually, it was kind of nice considering the humidity!

The walk around took us about 90 minutes, and we had audio guides to help us understand the history of each site.

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The tree trunk fence settlers built as a defense against the Spanish.

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Dave exploring the rugged bunk house.

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Small trading ship settlers used to navigate the rivers.

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Antebellum-style plantation house. The people who built this also planted an amazing garden full of oaks and other beautiful trees. They later sold it to a preservation society.

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Me in front of a 700-year old oak tree – the last stop on the audio tour. The whole fortified area/museum was lush and green and smelled absolutely amazing of a mix of salt water and blossoming plants.

Now we’re driving up to Wilmington, excited to see our friends. However, I think Charleston just won a dear spot in our hearts, and we’ll be back in the future to see more of it. What else does it take to create a perfect vacation spot besides history, impressive architecture, amazing food, and the ocean?

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Road Trip Day 1: Drive to Charleston, SC

Our five-day vacation is finally here, and it started with an 11.5 hour drive to Charleston, South Carolina. Since we’re meeting friends in Wilmington, NC, we knew we wanted to go to SC first, so I can cross that state off my list as well. As of today, I’ve added Virginia, NC, and SC, which bumps me to 42. West Virginia will be added on our way back. Anyway, we were thinking about where to go, and Charleston seemed like the coolest option, especially since rain was predicted and Myrtle Beach wouldn’t have been all too fun in monsoon-like conditions.

We hit the road at about 8:30 a.m. On our way out of town, we got soy vanilla lattes at Starbucks and enjoyed them with our breakfast scone and mini-croissants from Wegman’s (we picked up food for the road last night).

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We managed to assemble quite the feast. Wegman’s is awesome. This was my first time trying their bakery, and I concluded they have the most European-like baked goods I’ve ever tasted in the U.S. This is a dangerous realization, but who doesn’t splurge on a vacation?

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My lunch was a seven-grains salad and a roll with baked cheese around it.

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We also got several mini-pastries. This one had a pomegranate filling and was so fantastic that I savored every bite for as long as I possibly could. What better entertainment could I bring on a road trip?

Afternoon snacks included carrots, apples, sweet potato chips, dried fruit with nuts and chocolate, and of course Kombucha.Image.

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We arrived in Charleston around 8:30 p.m. during an epic down pour. Looks like our three days down in the Carolinas will be accompanied by rain, but we’ll have plenty of things we’ll want to see that don’t involve the beach (although I’m dying to swim the ocean as well).

We checked into the Hampton Inn in the historic district, put on our rain coats, and walked around. The hotel location is ideal – there are tons of little bars, shops, restaurants, and boutiques around here. We noticed there are tons of young people, everyone is extremely well-dressed, and it seems like you need a lot of money to live here. Of course, I love the palm trees lining the streets and the warm tropical air. I actually didn’t mind the rain (I’m a huge fan of summer rain, and lobbied for a restaurant with outdoor seating).

We finally settled on 39 Rue de Jean, which is a French restaurant with a nice, laid-back feel right by our hotel. We were able to sit outside in a covered area and enjoy the rain and relative quiet.

The food was fantastic. Dave was happy he gave in and let me push for this place.

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He had the snapper special with baked mashed potatoes, potato slices, and seared vegetables. He was in heaven.

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I had the Grilled Portabella and Ratatoille, topped with some baked goat cheese. It was delicious all around, but the goat cheese was especially amazing. It paired really well with my French Pinot Noir!

Now we’re beat, of course, and excited for some daytime exploring around Charleston tomorrow, before we head up to Wilmington.

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