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Lindsay

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Entries in Travel (45)

Wednesday
Oct212015

This self-professed travel snob went glamping...and LOVED it!

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." J. Muir

...

If there's one thing that my friends know about me, besides the obvious (like how much I love to eat/drink, tell jokes, travel and write), it's the fact that I would rather lick a dirty toilet seat than go camping.  Hell, I can barely bring myself to use a unisex bathroom at a bar!     

About a year ago, I received some intel on Ithaca by Firelight Camps, a "glamp" site located in upstate New York.  Not having a clue what "glamping" was or how it differed from, gasp, traditional "camping," I couldn't get on their website quickly enough.  Here's what I learned:

"For those not familiar, Glamping is a term derived from the two words 'glamorous camping.'  Glamping is also referred to as 'glam camping,' 'lux camping,' 'luxury camping' and many other similar phrases.  Regardless of the specific terminology, the idea is the same; glamping brings the world of luxury into nature in the most seamless way possible.  Glamping has origins in Africa and Thailand, but is relatively new to the U.S. and Europe.  Most people want the feeling of falling asleep under the stars and being in nature without having to sleep on rocks to do it.  Glamping allows for just that.  It lets guests to be one with nature, while still enjoying the luxury of a bed and pre-pitched tent."

The more I read about Ithaca by Firelight Camps and its owners, Emma and Bobby, the further I was intrigued.  Having fallen in love in undergrad, the young couple studied abroad together and learned more about the their respective trades: Business for him and hospitality for her.  During his time in the Peace Corps, Bobby taught micro enterprise and entrepreneurship courses to high school students and women in Nicaragua while Emma honed in on her love for cooking, rock climbing, and eco-friendly tourism.  The two brought their passions together and started their first hotel and café, La Buena Onda, in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.  There, they partnered with local coffee cooperatives, a chocolate factory, artisan groups, and outdoor adventure guides to bring eco-tourism activities to their guests.  While they thoroughly enjoyed their time in Latin America, the couple returned to the states with the intention of creating a new hotel that would have an impact closer to home.  After receiving his MBA from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell, Bobby continued to travel overseas to learn more about the eco-tourism industry.  Meanwhile, Emma worked with ConTENTment Camping at the Bonaroo Music Festival (to launch a village of glamping tents for the festival goers) and started a food blog.  She even became a top finalist on the "Food Network Star!"  It was also at this time when the business plan for Firelight Camps was created...

"We thought the Finger Lakes would be the perfect place to launch Firelight Camps," said Emma.  In 2014, Wine Enthusiast voted New York State "Wine Region of the Year," with the Finger Lakes being a major contributor. "Our community is so supportive of young entrepreneurs, and there was a wealth of knowledge and resources here to help us build the camp. The Finger Lakes is one of the oldest and most vibrant food and farming regions in the country, and is quickly becoming known as an agritourism destination.  It's also home to an astonishing number of waterfalls and lakes, which is a huge attraction for outdoor lovers."

...

In the beginning of this past summer, I booked a single night's stay at Firelight Camps for the second week of October.  I would be in Manhattan the weekend prior for one of my dearest friend's weddings, so it only made sense to make my way upstate thereafter for some R&R.

On Tuesday morning, October 6th, I flew to Syracuse from NYC.  Upon arrival, I rented a car and made the 45-minute drive to Ithaca.  The scenery along the way was absolutely breathtaking; aside from the region's inherent natural beauty, the potpourri of fall colors - in the form of leaves and produce - was everything that I could have hoped for and more.

Dedrick's Farm Market - Dryden, NYThe grounds of La TourelleWhen GPS announced that I had "arrived" at my destination (Firelight Camps), I was both perplexed and a bit relieved to pull up to a full-service hotel/spa and restaurant.  Where the heck was I?  As I made my way further down the drive, I saw a sign for the Camp and continued just beyond the hotel and restaurant, down a little hill, and on to a grassy clearing with a central "tent."

Welcome!I pulled my rental car off to the side of the gravel road and made my way in to the "lobby tent," where I received a warm greeting from the staff and a quick orientation, if you will.  

...I was particularly thrilled to learn that "Happy hour is from 5-6PM when we spark the evening campire and bar remains open until 11PM."  Woohoo! 

Upon making my way over to my tent, I noticed the al-fresco communal hangout area just off the lobby, complete with a fire pit, an assortment of seating options, and liberally strung twinkle-lights.  

Fun to be had by the campfire!The staff told me that I could park my car outside of my tent to unload my suitcases, but that I would then have to parking just up the short hill near the facilities.  Yep, that's right, folks, I said "facilities."  Would they be unisex?  Clean?  Small?  Would there be hot enough waterWould there be hot water at all?  I didn't bring my own towels; would I have to dry myself off with the shirt on my back?  Would there be previous bather's hair and other remnants left behind?  Oh, dear god!!!!!!!!  

Path leading up to my tentMy tent!Beyond the bed, there was a desk and a trunk filled with extra blankets/plus more storage space.My makeshift closet

My amazing back patio overlooking the Buttermilk TrailThis is hard to beat!!After getting settled and unpacking my essentials, I made sure to familiarize myself with the battery-powered lanterns-cum-phone chargers that were located in my tent.  Try walking to the facilities in the pitch dark (There's no electricity in the sleeping tents.) without one of those suckers

From there, I decided to go check out the facilities before stopping over at the lobby for happy hour.  And, I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised by how clean and ample the restrooms and showers were, in addition to being fully-stocked with shampoo/conditioner/soap!

Shower/restroom complexTowels - of multiple sizes - are provided!!Communal sinks5PM couldn't come quickly enough!  I made my way back to the lobby tent for happy hour and enjoyed wines from the local Finger Lakes region, "hard" apple cider (it just so happened to be Cider Week while I was there), and good company.  Amongst a handful of couples (including one with their adorable dogs in tow), there was a fun group of older women on a pseudo college reunion trip. 

Delicious local "hard cider"As the sun slowly set over the glampground, so did the temperatures.  While I was still in the lobby, I made sure to secure a propane heater for my tent to keep me warm overnight, as it was forecasted to dip in to the 40s!

Just after happy hour and a quick shower, I walked over to John Thomas Steakhouse (the restaurant located further up the property) where I enjoyed a fantastic lobster dinner.

Dinner at John Thomas SteakhouseForgoing dessert at the restaurant, I made my way back to camp in anticipation of enjoying a glass of red/nightcap and attempting to roast s'mores by the fire...

Firelight's own homemade s'mores kit!

With a full and happy belly - plus a solid buzz - I made my way back to my tent and prepared for bed: I turned on the propane tank, put on my socks, and crawled under the warm blanket.  Aside from the heater's buzz, the only thing I could hear beyond the mesh of my tent's windows were the leaves lightly dancing and the crickets chirping.  A few hours later, I awoke to the tranquil sound of a rain shower that aided me in to falling in the deepest, most comfortable sleep that I've experienced in...forever.  Wow.   

The following morning, I allowed myself to sleep in before packing up and heading to the continental breakfast in the lobby tent - something I haven't done in quite some time.  Ultimately, however, I was jonezing for a cup of coffee and some sustenance.

Coffee/tea stationAn assortment of local apple ciders Locally sourced bakery items, plus Emma's handmade granolaAlthough I would have loved to stay for another night (or two!), it was time for me to hit the road and explore the region and Ithaca proper, in addition to checking out Cornell's campus. 

With the 2015 glamping season closing at the end of October, I look forward to returning in the summer of 2016 so that I can enjoy more time in the area, plus the bounty of local recreational options (wineries, lakes, hiking trails)!  Plus, I'd love to bring some of my girlfriends; as snobby as some of them are, I am proof-positive that glamping is the prissy girl's - or guy's - answer to conquering the outdoors/nature.  In fact, I loved it.  Alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll of it!  Go ahead and quote me on that...I urge you!

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Tuesday
Jun092015

Reviewed: The Sea View Inn, Carmel (CA)

Having only been to the South Beach (Miami) and NYC 'Festivals, Pebble Beach Food and Wine was Emily's and my first on the West Coast.  It only seemed fitting that we attend; after all, Emily now resides in San Francisco, and I'm in LA.

With hotel options being slim because of the popularity of the Festival, I felt incredibly fortunate that Emily was able to secure a room for us at the Sea View Inn, a bed and breakfast located in Carmel.  Have you ever stayed in a b+b (bed and breakfast)?  Technically, this would be my first time.  And, to be honest, I was a bit nervous; hell, you would be, too, if this is what you were envisioning: A rickety double bed appointed with an ugly floral comforter, powder blue carpeting throughout (dotted with questionable rust-colored stains), lace curtains with sun burns, cheesy knick-knacks laden with dust bunnies, and a dirty bathroom. 

..................Well, I'm proud to report that I could not have been more wrong about my b+b pre-conceptions.  Phew!

___

Situated on a quiet residential street, merely blocks from the ocean and the heart of town, stands Carmel's most charming b+b: The Sea View Inn.

The Sea View Inn: Carmel, CAHoused within a remodeled, turn-of-the-century home are eight beautifully-decorated guestrooms (six of which contain private modern bathrooms) appointed with all of the comforts of home...sans televisions.  Hello, ever heard of relaxing?  Don't worry, I hadn't either.  On the ground level, a spacious French-country inspired parlor/sitting room is centered around an active brick hearth that overlooks both a beautifully landscaped back garden and an expansive front porch beckoning New Orleans (or somewhere else very picturesque in the South).  

GuestroomCommon area (ground floor)Staying true to its b+b classification, breakfast is served every morning on the ground floor.  Specialties include organic yogurt and fruit, cereals, locally-sourced baked goods (from a French patisserie in town), soft-boiled eggs, orange juice, and some of the best coffee this side of Brooklyn.

Breakfast is served: Soft-boiled eggs, coffee cake, individual spinach quiche After a day spent boutique'ing or beaching, guests of-age are invited to enjoy a gratis glass of wine - ideally to be savored on the front porch or in the back garden - and unwind as the afternoon slowly turns to dusk.

If you have future plans to visit the area and want to experience gorgeous Carmel/Pebble Beach as a local (or as much of one as possible), then I highly recommend that you consider the Sea View Inn.  From the lovely accommodations, great location, and warm, hospitable staff - to the delicious breakfasts (that we legit looked forward to every morning) - our experience could not have been more positively unforgettable. 

...

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Apr092014

New Orleans in my words and pictures

Just like Hong Kong, Lyon, and Paris, I had an inkling that I would fall in love with New Orleans.  And that was before I had even stepped foot in the city!  Sometimes, as they say, you just know...

From the moment I landed at Louis Armstrong, I was captivated by the mid seventy-degree spring weather, the warm local hospitality, and the spattering of palm trees.  After all, it made for quite the welcome change from frigid NYC. 

Because of the St. Patrick’s Day parades that Saturday, I was bummed to have to cancel my 1PM brunch reservation at Commander’s Palace, as the concierge informed me that, due to street car-closings, getting to/from could be quite unpredictable for a new visitor to the city.  This deviation in plans actually led me to Luke, a John Besh restaurant, located much closer to the Hotel Monteleone (my residence for the week).  I mention this particular meal because of the friendly local folks that I met while dining solo at the bar.  From this early first impression, the residents of New Orleans seemed incredibly welcoming and genuinely enthusiastic to have me in their town. 

Luke: A welcome toast to myself, from myselfLuke: My first bowl of gumbo!Luke: "Eggs in a Jar" - jalapeno cheese grits, fried Gulf shrimp, pooached eggsPost-lunch, I must have meandered down every street in the charming French Quarter.  Although I knew about the city’s open-container “leniency,” I still did a double take every time I passed someone sucking down their ‘Bloody in a plastic cup while strolling down Royal Street.  When it was my turn to grab a cocktail, I was tickled to note a stack of plastic “to go” cups located at a table near The Carousel Bar’s exit.  That wouldn’t be the last display I observed during my trip, either...

Being a self-proclaimed Francophile, staying in the French Quarter transported me back to the cobblestone streets of Lyon and Paris.  On a daily – and nightly – basis.  Beyond this famed neighborhood, however, the French influence was also present in the names of streets, parishes, food items, and cocktails.  And, speaking of food, I made the following observations: 

  • It seemed like most seafood dishes were composed of local Gulf treasures, from fish to shellfish.
  • French bread is standard/default at nearly every restaurant's table. 
  • For tourists who wish to immerse themselves in local cuisine, it is not hard to go a full week without eating a raw vegetable or fruit. 
  • Everyone has their own rendition of gumbo. 
  • Turtle soup is a delicacy that can be found on most “high end” restaurant menus.   And, despite the fact that I adore sea turtles, I was informed that the meat used in the famous soup is from that of the "mean, snapping turtle" variety.  "Honey, these are the kinds of turtles that will gladly bite your finger off."  It was this tidbit of information that finally convinced me to order a bowl during my brunch at Restaurant Revolution.

Restaurant Revolution: I ate turtle soup...and loved it! Sorry PETA...There were only a handful of nights when I didn’t go to sleep to some sort of pulsing car bass or the music from a jazz instrument.  New Orleanians will find any excuse to party, even when celebrating the lives of the deceased.  In fact, on our walk to Dooky Chase’s, I was warmly taken aback by the large group of family and friends eating, toasting, dancing, and reminiscing over the life of a fellow father/brother/friend/husband (I know that is was a male because his picture was prominently displayed on a tripod). 

In terms of race and culture, I found New Orleans to be just as segregated as any other city in the US.  From observation, alone, it appeared as though most races/cultures stuck together, both socially and residentially.   However, where poor neighborhoods remained heavily ravaged by infamous natural disasters (with the exception of the houses built by Brad Pitt’s organization in the Lower Ninth Ward), wealthier areas were thriving.  The racial divide and disparity between rich and poor could not have been more blatant and, quite honestly, it made me very uncomfortable.  During any given day, there were moments where I felt like I was in Detroit.  Then, not more than a few miles later, I was transported to ritzy Charleston proper. 

Some interesting factoids I learned during my trip:

  • “Dixie” comes from the French word “dix,” which means “ten.” 
  • The meaning behind each quadrant of a FEMA markingPhoto found on Wikipedia

My favorite experiences during the trip were:

  • Shopping, strolling, people watching, and architecture-awing in the French Quarter
  • Street musicians/talent
  • Driving through vacant, hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods
  • Daily praline sampling
  • Southern Candy Makers  It's true.  They really do have the best pralines in Nawlins.  My favorite being the peanut butter variety.
  • Gazing at the Natchez river boat on the murky Mississippi
  • Southern breakfasts, in general, namely from the daily buffet at Criollo: Sausage gravy-drenched biscuits, grits, bacon, roasted potatoes, and scrambled eggs
  • The best damn airport grub I've EVER eaten - in the form of shrimp 'n grits - courtesy of Ye Olde College Inn

The Big Easy is an incredibly special and complicated place that is chock-full of beauty, tragedy, sweet and sour history, and a “gumbo” of cultures and races.  Having had the privilege of seeing New Orleans through the lense of many resident experts (thanks to my very well-connected Master's program at NYU), I can honestly say that this trip was positively life altering. 

I left a piece of my heart in New Orleans.

~~~

Laissez les bons temps rouler, y'all!

The Lunch Belle       

Thursday
Nov282013

If you're going to San Francisco...

In the summer of 1999...

  • I was 18 years old.
  • I had just completed my freshman year of college.
  • I visited San Francisco/Napa for the first time.

That was fourteen years ago.  And, until recently, it had been that long since I last visited the Bay Area.  When my friend, Emily moved to SF (as the locals call it) a little over a year ago, I promised to come visit just as soon as time would allow.  And what better than a long holiday weekend in November?   

Being that all I had, in terms of days to take from work, was Veteran's Day (Monday), I wanted to maximize my time in California.  And, by that, I mean not spending a ridiculous amount of it in the air.  After all, the flight time from coast to coast is roughly 6-hours! 

JetBlue is so 5 years ago, by the way.  Virgin, my friends, is the only way to fly to San Francisco.  From the sexy mood lighting in the cabin - electrical outlets in every seat - and the ability to order food, drink, and retail products from your personal in-flight monitor to the awesome/hysterical pre-flight safety video, Virgin is the shit.  Period. 

After Emily picked me up from the airport, she drove me through a few of her favorite neighborhoods prior to our brunch reservations.  I made sure that we cruised through The Castro, a predominately gay/lesbian neighborhood, with which I became intimately familiar after having read And The Band Played On

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For brunch, Emily and I scored two seats at the chef's counter at Nopa, one of SF's most popular restaurants...

Autumn Cocktail: La Guita Manzanilla, pear liqueur, allspice dramCream biscuit with pear butterDate and crescenza cheese sconeKale salad: Asian pear, walnuts, oregano, pecorinoBrisket with roasted root veggies, toasted croutons, and horseradish cremeCustard French toast with caramelized apples and maple butterBefore you start judging, I will have you know that Emily and I *split* all of the above dishes.  And, yes, they were just as fcuking fantastic as they look! 

Nopa

560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

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After brunch, we drove by a few more sights before returning to Emily's apartment so that I could nap.  For dinner that evening, we enjoyed a pizza and pasta carb-fest at local Italian favorite, Flour + Water.  In fact, I'm *still* dreaming about the white pizza we shared that was topped with hen of the woods mushrooms, nettles, shallots, garlic, and fontina cheese.

Flour + Water

2401 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

~

On Sunday, Emily, her friend, Katherine, and I headed to Napa via the Golden Gate Bridge!

Once in "wine country," our first stop was at Oakville Grocery, a fabulous gourmet market/cafe to pick up some snacks - my favorite being Tout Sweet Patisserie's incredibly delicious pates de fruits!

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Swanson Vineyards

Does it get any more charming than this?

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Cakebread Cellars

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Robert Sinskey Vineyards

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After a long day of wine tasting (I know, rough life!), we checked in to the Andaz Napa.  What a fabulous hotel!

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For dinner, we walked to The Thomas, a restaurant that was opened about a year ago by New York-based AvroKo.

Freshly-baked focaccia and olive oilRoasted beet saladArugula and fried goat cheeseKale and dried apricotsPork ribsBlue cheese-scalloped potatoesI really enjoyed my experience at The Thomas.  From the fantastic venue - first floor is the bar, second floor is the dining room - to the Sunday Supper deal, this place is a local winner!

The Thomas 

815 Main St, Napa, CA 94559

~

For breakfast, we grabbed a bite at the hotel's restaurant, Andaz Farmers Table.

Freshly-squeezed juice for the takingGoat's milk yogurt with grapes and granola.

After checking out of the hotel, we drove to O'Brien Estate Winery for our first tasting of the day. 

 

Paradise!Between sips of wine, we nibbled on cheese, nuts, and grapes.

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For lunch, we drove to Sonoma and ate al-fresco at The Girl & The Fig.

A trio of cheese and accoutrementsSeared scallopsBrie-cheeseburger and friesCroque monsieurThe Girl & The Fig

110 W. Spain St, Sonoma, CA  

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After visiting two more wineries, including Ram's Gate, which was my overall favorite, the three of us drove back to San Francisco.  On our way, I learned that the infamous maximum-security prison, San Quentin, is located in ritzy Marin County!  Random.

For my last handful of hours in San Fran, Emily and I decided to do what we do best...eat!  We were able to score a two-top at local favorite, Burma Superstar.  

Le menuRainbow saladTea leaf saladCoconut riceSpicy garlic shrimpBurma Superstar

309 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

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I really enjoyed my visit to San Francisco and Napa.  As a total NYC food snob, I was very pleasantly surprised by the abundance of outstanding local producers, gourmet shops, restaurants, and cocktail venues.  I think I've met my West Coast match.

~~~

Until we eat again, 

The Lunch Belle