2 (more!) days in Paris: The college roommate edition

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Steve and I only had one full day in Paris last fall, so when we learned we were going back to London, I booked a train to Paris for two days. I planned to take in the sights and sounds solo, but by good fortune, my college roommate, Natalie, who is currently traveling the world, was in Western Europe at the same time. She and her traveling friend, Katy, were able to arrange their schedules to join me for two days in Paris!

(Just want to know my thoughts on certain places? Look for the BOLD words. Just want general tips/observations? Skip to the end.)

Day 1: Crazy travel, my Airbnb, Montmartre, sunset at the Eiffel Tower

In the US, you show up 5 minutes before Amtrak leaves, hop on the train, and you’re set. Eurostar used to be like that, but what I took as a suggestion to arrive 30 min before your train is actually a requirement now. Oops.

After missing Train #1, I paid to get on the next train, went right through security, and stopped dead in my tracks. I’d forgotten my passport in the hotel safe. SERIOUSLY!? At this point, looking back, I’m glad that I was meeting Natalie because otherwise, I likely would’ve thrown in the towel. Instead, I hopped on the Tube back to the hotel, back on the Tube, and paid AGAIN to change my ticket.

After all of that, I was on my way to Paris! I easily found my Airbnb just 5 minutes from the train station and met Sandra and her husband and daughter. (It was my fist time staying with others!) They were all lovely and not at all intrusive; I just came and went as I pleased. (They were also kind enough to let me come early to drop my bag and held it for me the next day so I didn’t have to lug it around Paris.)

Natalie and I had been messaging and sent each other THE EXACT SAME PLACE to meet in Montmartre (eerie), La Cave Gourmande, which didn’t feel too touristy. It was SO crazy to walk around the corner to see one of my closest friends running toward me; we hugged and I said, “I cannot believe that we’re seeing each other — IN PARIS.” It was all a little surreal.

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Katy and Natalie told me all of the tales of their amazing travels while we had some red wine and a light lunch. We popped into a few shops and I took them to see Sacre Coeur, the beautiful chapel overlooking the city that Steve and I visited in the fall. We walked through the church and wandered the streets, in awe of the gorgeous old homes and shops.

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As we passed Montmartre Cemetery, I asked, “Sooo, how do you guys feel about cemeteries?” Cemeteries in Europe are totally different; they’re really pieces of sculptural art combined with parks. (Remember San Miniato in Florence?) Luckily, they were totally into it. We checked out the map and saw that Degas was buried there, so we set out to find it. After a lot of walking/getting a little lost, we found it.

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We found a metro station and took it south so that we could go to the Eiffel Tower. There was a lot of security because of the Euros (soccer), but we got through quickly and hiked the 669 steps to the second platform for an unreal view of the city. We bought wine and settled in for the sunset, which didn’t happen until almost 10pm.

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Since Natalie and Katy were staying in the 17th, we went back to Montmarte for dinner. It was almost 11pm, so options were more limited, but we settled on Cafe Marcel. I indulged on a dinner of only red wine, bread, and cheese after walking more than 14 miles … and IT. WAS. AMAZING.

Day 2: The D’Orsay, Luxembourg Garden, Notre Dame, Marché des Enfants Rouges

I struggled to wake up on my second day in Paris; my loft was SO HOT and the bed was not the most comfortable, so I only got a few hours of sleep. I grabbed a croissant at a local boulangerie and  met up with Natalie and Katy at the D’Orsay Museum after a bit of a detour due to a flooded metro station. We enjoyed it, but were sad that several areas we wanted to see were closed for renovations.

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I can’t recall where we had lunch; it was a small cafe on an adorable street in St. Germain des Pres. I knew that we were close to Luxembourg Gardens and it was a gorgeous day; I really wanted Katy and Natalie to see it. The park was packed and kids were out with the push boats; it was really idyllic.

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The one thing that I really wanted to do was see inside Notre Dame; Steve and I were only able to walk past it last year. We waited in a pretty quick line to check out the (free!) 800+-year-old church. The French-Gothic architecture is absolutely amazing and Katy gave me a quick religion lesson so I’d better understand the purpose of the different areas. Between my love of art history and architecture, I was in complete awe the whole time. The line for the towers was pretty long and I had to be back at my Airbnb by 5pm to get my bag and catch the train back to London, so we skipped it — but next time!

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We walked through le Marais neighborhood; now see why my friend Emily always stays there. It had such a cool, young vibe and so many great shops and restaurants. (I’ll definitely be staying there next time.) We checked out Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris’ oldest covered market, which was mostly closed at 4pm but looked like a great place to grab lunch.

I said my goodbyes and was on the 6pm train, back in time to have dinner with Steve in London!

General tips/observations

  • Plan for security! After recent terrorist attacks, the UK and EU have really ramped up security.
  • Take a chance on a shared Airbnb. It was easy, I was barely there, and it cost so little.
  • As always: Walk. The metro is great, but walking allows you to see so much more.
  • Remember your passport 😉

Would I go back?

While I had the most amazing time with Natalie and Katy, Paris didn’t enchant me as much as it did the first time. It felt a little dirtier, a little grittier. That said, walking through Le Marais made me realize how much I haven’t seen (and how much I want to spend time in that neighborhood), so I definitely plan to go back to take in more of what Paris has to offer.

4 (more!) days in London: Southwark, Notting Hill, Chelsea, Shoreditch

4 days

When Steve heard on the day we returned from Turks & Caicos that he’d be going back to London for a week for work, I WAS SO EXCITED. I loved London in the fall and was so excited to see it in the spring. While I was in the city, I’d be working remotely, so I chose three different neighborhoods to spend time in while working: Notting Hill, Chelsea, and Shoreditch.

I was also really excited because Steve and I didn’t have a day together in London last year,  so to fly there together and have all day Sunday (and dinner some evenings) was a big plus.

(Just want to know my thoughts on certain places? Look for the BOLD words. Just want general tips/observations? Skip to the end.)

Day 1: Spitalfields Market, St. Dunstan-in-the-East, St. Katharine Docks, Butler’s Wharf, Bermondsey St in Southwark

After an easy flight and quick ride on the Heathrow Express (which I highly recommend) and then using the HailO app (no sponsorship — it was just awesome!), we were at the Grange Tower Bridge, just north of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, both of which I visited last fall. It was a great location, much closer to things that stayed open in the evening, unlike our previous hotel. We set off to get lunch at Spitalfields Market, which was bustling. We perused the stalls and I picked up a cute dress. We grabbed chicken naan wraps at Scarlet Grill, which were so messy but so good.

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After lunch, we walked a good distance to St. Dunstan-in-the-East, a church from 1100 that had been destroyed during the London fire and the blitz of WWII. The old structure is now a small park and was so gorgeous. Then we walked to St. Katharine Docks (which I was excited about since they spell Katharine like my Katharine!) The marina is a gorgeous mix of old and new with lots of shops and restaurants. It’s so cool to know that places like this have been around for 1000+ years.

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We crossed the Tower Bridge to Butler’s Wharf, one of many wharfs along the River Thames. It’s also converted to mixed use space and made for a gorgeous walk. (The area is also called Shad Thames, if you’re researching.) From there, we went to Bermondsey Street in Southwark (not pronounced SOUTH-WARK — it’s SOWTHERK.) Southwark is a cool up-and-coming neighborhood, home to Borough Market, the Tate, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

I wanted to go to Jose on Bermondsey, but they were closed, so we walked the street, checked out the shops, and ended up at Woolpack for a drink before dinner. EVERYONE was having the Sunday roast and hanging out on the back patio, which was soaked in sun — abnormal for London. (Steve had a really good IPA here, Beavertown Brewery Neck Oil, which was light and kind of floral.) We decided on Garrison Public House for dinner, where I had an amazing beetroot gnocchi with watercress, cashews, and Brie sauce, and Steve had the fish and chips. (I stole his mushy peas — YUM.) (Also, it’s listed as pretty expensive, but it wasn’t at all.)

Jet lag was kicking in hard core, so we walked back over the bridge and passed out by like 11pm.

Day 2: Southwark Park, Notting Hill, Kensington Palace, Commercial Street Tavern, and Hawksmoor

Seen on my run

Seen on my run

I vowed that if I took up space with running stuff when packing, I was going to go. I set off early over the Tower Bridge, along Butler’s Wharf to Southwark Park. I got a little lost looping through and ended up doing 5 awesome sightseeing miles.

I hopped on the Tube and went to Notting Hill to Granger & Co, which Casey recommended. I had wifi, an outlet, and an excellent acai bowl and avocado toast. Oh, and tea! Of course. Perfect to knock out a few hours of work.

During lunch, I walked along Portobello Road to check out the market, which was less impressive than I thought. I guess it was a Monday, so it wasn’t as lively, but it was kind of standard vendors.

I set up office #2 at Continental Pantry, which had a very cool vibe and good food. (I loved my prosciutto and fig sandwich and chocolate croissant.) The cafe had colorful couches, quirky lighting, and was quiet for the afternoon. After work, I went to Kensington Palace, which was closing the last time I went. I was so sad that the newest section about Diana and more recent royals was closed, but I still loved seeing the palace and thinking that I was SO CLOSE to the royal family. (British police, I don’t mean that in a creepy way.)

Kate stood in this exact spot the VERY NEXT DAY

Kate stood in this exact spot the VERY NEXT DAY

After a quick stop at Zara (of course) and a bike ride through Hyde Park (because who can resist?), I met up with Steve to go to dinner. We stopped for drinks at Commercial Tavern, which is such a cool place. I had a massive gin & tonic (they have a whole G&T menu!) and couldn’t stop looking at the space. It was kind of like grandma’s house, if grandma was super cool and hip and fun.

Dinner was at Hawksmoor Spitalfields, which I was told is THE place to go for steak in London. I don’t eat red meat, but Steve does, and he throughly enjoyed it. I attacked another plate of pasta — ricotta dumplings with spring veggies — and loved it. We split (aka I ate 92% of) THE MOST AMAZING DESSERT, the sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream. I don’t know what the hell clotted cream is, but this dessert is SO FREAKING GOOD. I could smell the chocolate and toffee as soon as we walked in and salivated every time I saw someone order it.

Day 3: Groupon UK, Natural History Museum, Chelsea/South Kensington

On Tuesday morning, I got in another run along St. Katharine Docks to Wrapping, lucky to have another gorgeous day on the water.

Before I left, my colleague put me in touch with the Groupon UK comm team, so I stopped by the office to meet them. They have an amazing view of the Thames and it was awesome to hear what they’re working on and similarities/differences between Europe and the US.

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Before I went to my next coffee shop, I stopped at the Natural History Museum to see the architecture. It’s mind-blowing to see these structures and imagine how they created them. I walked through South Kensington to Chelsea and set up shop at L’etto Caffe, where they kindly let me hog the outlet. I had a gorgeous egg white omelette with spinach & tomatoes with sourdough toast.

I had to check out the shops on King Street and at Duke of York Square, but quickly realized I couldn’t afford to shop at any of them. It started raining and I had to get on a call, so I ducked into Polpo, a cute Italian place. One thing I love about Europe is that because the countries are so close, you’re getting a guy who is actually from Italy running the place. The broad bean, mint and ricotta bruschetta was so good, even though it sounds kind of weird.

Dinner that night was at Dickens Inn at St. Katharine Docks, which had reasonably good wood-fired pizza, but the service was pretty terrible. I had to be up early and it was close, so it worked.

Day 4: Shoreditch: The Book Club, Redchurch Street, BoxPark

Maybe not cocktail time ... yet

Maybe not cocktail time … yet

Day 4 was actually two days after Day 3, with a quick trip to Paris in between, which I’ll post about soon. Since the day was a little shorter because of travel to Amsterdam, I stayed in the area and hung out in Shoreditch. How could I resist a place called The Book Club?? There are no books inside, so I’m not sure where the name came from, but it was great food and a perfect work space. (I wanted to swap out the poached eggs for scrambled egg whites, which was very difficult for them to understand, but they got it.)

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With the little time that I had, I ventured to Redchurch Street, a great shopping area, and stopped at Labour & Wait, which I’m fairly certain is the most Instagram’d shop in London. It’s so cute and the owners were really nice. I popped into a few more places and then checked out BoxPark, an awesome former shipping container turned into shops and restaurants. The top is all food and drinks and the bottom are basically micro shops.

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Off to Amsterdam! (But the Paris post will come first.)

General tips/observations

  • Definitely take the Heathrow Express to/from the airport. Taking a cab is SO expensive and takes forever.
  • The sun DOES shine in London! It was sunny and in the 70s almost the whole time we were there.
  • The chip credit cards are good, but the US is still lagging. Apparently now people can just wave their cards and enter a PIN. They immediately know you’re from the US when you put in a chip card.
  • Walk as much as possible. There are so many things to see, and it’s easiest to see them by foot.
  • There were these gorgeous wood and fabric chairs in Hyde Park, by the lake. There were about 50 of them — with no security. Nothing tying them down. And no one took them. They’d be gone in a second in the US.
  • People are baffled by Trump. I’ll leave it at that.

Would I go back?

Remember how I wasn’t super excited to go to London the first time and then ended up loving it? I love it even more now. Obsessed.

Must-try: New restaurants & menu items in Baltimore

Charm City is continually upping its culinary game and local chefs are pulling out all of the stops. I recently tried new menu items at Rusty Scupper and B&O American Brasserie and attended a media preview of Gunther & Co. (opening 5/20!) and was impressed with what I saw/ate/drank.

B&O American Brasserie

Chef Mike Ransom is really one of my favorites. He’s such a nice guy and is constantly coming up with new ideas for dishes. His recent additions didn’t disappoint.

We started with a Wagyu carpaccio with apple pear, watercress, shaved yolk, kewpie mayo, horseradish, and harissa with house crackers. It’s shaved so thin and Mike explained how they shaved the yolk, as well. (I can’t describe it. You basically cure it and can then shave it.) We also loved the giant English peas and fresh herbs in the mixed greens salad.

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To Steve’s delight, grilled calamari was added to the menu. We waxed philosophical with Mike about how much better calamari is when grilled rather than fried. Why hide the deliciousness with fried breading??

IMG_4061There were several new entrees, so it was tough to decide what to try, but I went with the market fish (rockfish) with warm potato salad, more English peas, and corn shoots. The corn shoots are fascinating; they’re from the top of corn and taste exactly like it but look nothing like corn. The potato salad wasn’t mayo based; it had a light lemon dressing.

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Steve went big with the center-cut New York strip and didn’t regret it. He loved the duck fat potatoes, giant asparagus, and roasted maitake mushrooms.

Per usual, Brendan and his team behind the bar mixed up amazing cocktails for the season. (Listing them as Paris in the Springtime made me even more excited to go back to Paris in a month!) I started with the Purple Rain, which was actually created and named before Prince’s death. The lavender infusion was so light but packed a kick. Steve had Learning to Fly with Aviation gin and lemon, which was really light and fresh.

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I was talking with Eric Fooy, who was heading the bar that night, and mentioned a drink, the Horsecar, that Brendan made about five years ago but was only on the menu a short time. Eric found the recipe and whipped up the blend of gin, thyme, blueberries, and simple syrup and, to my sheet delight, presented me with the drink I’d had dreams of for years.

Gunther & Co.

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Gunther & Co. is the new concept from owner Nancy Mola of 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring. The awesome team at Collins + Wilson invited me and others in to check out the space, menu, and amazing drinks.

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We started with champagne and oysters in the bar and were treated to head bartender, Shaun Stewart, whipping up amazing drinks. He used the new Sagamore Spirits whiskey to create a version of the Meet the Beet-alls, swapping the gin but keeping the Cynar, beet liquor, rhubarb bitters, and fired orange peel. I could drink this … a lot. It’s dangerously good. He also created a light, tropical-esque pineapple drink with Papa’s Pilar rum and reverse egg white … you just have to go to understand.

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We sampled several menu items throughout the evening as we moved through the space, including my favorite, roast pork with mango chutney on a buttermilk biscuit. (I’m having a love affair with chutneys recently.) The roast duck was cooked perfectly and accented with citrus and olives, a unique combo. The shrimp and lemongrass potstickers were a surprise; I wasn’t anticipating Asian influence on the menu. The chocolate pave and buttermilk panna cotta with citrus for dessert made for a perfect ending as we checked out the view from the mezzanine.

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I’m excited to get in to Gunther & Co. to try the full menu — especially brunch. The bar opens at 4pm followed by dinner service at 5pm on Friday, May 20, so prepare yourself to be there!

Rusty Scupper

Rusty Scupper has been the go-to seafood restaurant at the Inner Harbor for decades and, with new executive chef William Wilt at the helm, are coming up with innovative new dishes.

Rusty Scupper William Wilt

Steve and I chatted with Ed, the GM, who is always so nice and welcoming. We had the chance to meet William, as well, and he was really excited to share his new dishes and spice up (no pun intended) the classic menu. Chef is changing up the menu each month; below are the May offerings.

APPETIZER

Soft Shell Tempura – Tempura-fried jumbo soft shell with spicy cabbage slaw, Sriracha sauce and wasabi aioli

ENTREES

Corn Flake Crusted Whale Soft Shell – Whale-size soft shell crusted with a corn flake-fennel crust served over corn and crab risotto with grilled asparagus and sun-dried tomato basil beurre blanc

Crab Stuffed Soft Shell Saint Michael – Jumbo soft shell stuffed with lump crabmeat dredged in seasoned cornmeal and pan-fried, served over whipped potatoes with warm corn and tomato salad with red pepper coulis and lemon-caper aioli

MARKET

Blue Point Oysters/large plump salty

Oyster Sampler with Blue Points/large plump salty

 

 

1 week in Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, the OBX of the Caribbean

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos review

When Steve and I returned from Europe, I promised him that he could choose our next trip for so kindly allowing me to drag him across the continent. He wanted a super relaxing beach vacation and had heard great things about Turks & Caicos, so off we went!

A few things before we get into the details of where we stayed, ate, and what we did:

  • There were A LOT of families — like whole generations. Grandparents, parents, kids … so many. We started calling it the OBX of the Caribbean because it had the same feel, but with palm trees.
  • Rent a car! Everyone told us this, but we’re resistant and like to walk everywhere. Once we realized that the town is a little more spread out and we wanted to go to other beaches, we caved and rented one.
  • It’s expensive — more so than other islands we’ve visited. A 12-pack of Coors Lite? $33. A box of Nature Valley granola bars? $7. Even the local beer, Turks Head, was at least $5. (In St. Lucia and Barbados, the local beers were like $2.) Our cheapest lunch was $50.
  • Like most Caribbean islands, a government tax (12%) is added to purchases. In restaurants, most include a service tax, which is considered the gratuity. You don’t have to tip on top of the tip!

STAY

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos review

We heard amazing things about Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, the westernmost T&C island. (GBB has been named the most beautiful beach in the world.) We wanted to be close to the beach but not pay the crazy prices for oceanfront hotels. We opted to stay at the Caribbean Paradise Inn (get thousands of Southwest points by booking through RocketMiles!), a short 5-minute walk to the beach.

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos review

The hotel was great with a beautiful pool and a local cat, Petra. Wen, the hotel manager, was fantastic and gave us so much good info. The hotel has chairs and umbrellas on Grace Bay Beach, but when we went to others, Wen loaned us chairs, an umbrella, and a cooler. (Always ask your hotel about things like this! People buy them and leave them.)

The location was pretty good. There are a few restaurants along the beach where we had lunch and dinner, but it is a little bit of a walk to others. The area felt a little more spread out and didn’t have a “town” feel like we prefer.

Tip: Ask for a renovated room unless you’re getting a suite with a kitchenette that walks right out to the pool. We opted for a first-floor room thinking that it would open to the pool — nope.

EAT

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos review

  • Pelican Bay: One of the restaurants by Grace Bay Beach with good rum punch and pina coladas. We had basic sandwiches and wraps.
  • Caicos Cafe: Make a reservation on a weekend! We didn’t and ended up sitting at the bar. Steve had great grilled calamari and I had burrata and gnocchi because the owner is originally from Italy.
  • Seaside Cafe: Another oceanfront cafe with tables overlooking the beach. The tangy pulled pork and burger (which aren’t normally great in the islands) were winners.
  • Jimmy’s Dive Bar: A 10-min walk from the hotel with a fun pirate-esque vibe. The mojitos were delicious and fresh and come in a plastic cup that you can keep. I had the Cuban, which was ham with pulled pork — delicious.
  • The Deck at Seven Stars: This place is a maze! The restaurant is on the beach in a massive resort, so someone actually has to walk you to it or you’ll get lost. It’s beautiful and casual, and we split great fish tacos, sweet potato fries, and a Margherita pizza.
Fun fact: Male and female conch both have penises; the females' never develop. Eating them is apparently an aphrodisiac.

Fun fact: Male and female conch both have penises; the females’ never develop. Eating them is apparently an aphrodisiac.

  • Bugaloo’s: Awesome beach-front dive in Five Cays, on the way to Taylor and Sapodilla Bays (see below). A guy was harvesting conch out on the water and showed us how to do it and gave us a taste. There was a sweet little black cat who I had to share a few bites of my fish sandwich with, too. Order the plantain chips! They’re more like little cakes. Steve had his first conch in the form of Buffalo poppers.
  • Somewhere Cafe: We drove to this one, which is a little west of Grace Bay in the Coral Gardens resort. The road to get there is a little sketchy, but the cafe is really cool. We had the friendliest service. They’re known for barbeque (the owner is from NC), so Steve had the delicious pulled pork BBQ quesadilla. I was craving fish tacos, so I ordered the massive ones, which were my favorite of the trip. I had the Key lime pie for dessert, one of my few sweets on the trip.
Conch shell islands!

Conch shell islands!

  • Da Conch Shack: This is a world-famous restaurant on the water where there are literally islands of empty conch shells that have been harvested. The plantain fries are amazing — more like steak fries — and the house rum punch is strong. I had a huge conch salad and Steve went with conch fritters.
  • Mango Reef: We drove here, too, because it’s farther west, in Turtle Cove. It’s right on the marina and lit up with pretty lights. Steve had great island wings and I went with veggie pasta.
  • Sharkey’s Beach Bar: This waterfront bar is a part of Club Med and we tried to go for lunch, but they don’t serve food until 3pm. Assuming the clientele is likely rolling out of bed at noon …
  • Thursday Fish Fry at Bight Park: This is a must-do — a weekly fish fry with tourists and locals. The Park is right on the beach and it’s basically a food truck fest. All of the stands are set up and everyone has conch. We had grilled conch with amazing, sweeter plantains and I sipped on my drink from a pineapple. We also bought some candles and soaps from local artisans and listened to the band. (It was the day Prince died and they did “Purple Rain.”)
Plantains at Dolphin Restaurant are a must!

Plantains at Dolphin Restaurant are a must!

  • Danny Buoy’s: Just by Salt Mill and Regent plazas, this sports bar has outdoor seating and karaoke. My mojito came with a real sugar cane! If you need somewhere that feels like America, this is your place.
  • Grille Rogue at Grace Bay Club: This is another Grace Bay Beach establishment that’s a little pricier. I had a great fish burger (with avocado, which I was so excited to finally see) and these amazing thin, salty fries. (Ugh, we ate so many fries.) Steve had a Lebanese chicken wrap, which was a nice departure from the seafood and basic sandwiches.
  • Bella Luna Pizzaria: Must go! There’s a restaurant upstairs that has less-than-stellar reviews, but everyone loves the pizzaria. It’s quaint, in a garden, and you’d never know it’s right beside a somewhat busy road. We split a pizza with mozzarella, tomato, ham, mushroom, artichoke, and olives, and I had tiramisu for dessert. Steve stuck with beer, but I was thrilled to have some decent wine after a week of fruity cocktails.

SEE/DO

We’re beach bums, so we basically just stayed at the beach all day. The waves at Grace Bay were pretty rough (and they’re supposed to be very calm), so we did rent a car (through Sixt) and went to two other beaches that Wen recommended for calm, clear waters. We were going to try snorkeling but never got around to it. Too much relaxing and drinking to do.

Taylor Bay Providenciales Turks and Caicos

Taylor Bay

I drove a car on the left side for the first time ever! It was actually pretty easy. Taylor Bay was a quick 20-min drive, winding through a very industrial area and turning in to a neighborhood. There were cars parked along the dirt path, so we knew we were in the right place.

The path opened to a stunning white-sand beach with crystal clear water and NO waves. There are no restaurants or shops nearby, so keep that in mind, but it’s so peaceful. You could walk out SO far until you were even waist-deep in the water.

Sapodilla Bay Providenciales Turks and Caicos

Sapodilla Bay

Many people recommended checking out this bay, which is just before Taylor Bay. The parking is right after Las Brisas restaurant, along the road. (You’ll likely see others parked.) A short sand path opened to another amazing beach, dotted with gorgeous villas. (I plan to rent this one some day.) The water gets deeper more quickly here, which we liked, but is still so calm and warm.

Grace Bay Providenciales Turks & Caicos review

Overall, it was a great, relaxing trip. We probably wouldn’t go back again, but would still recommend it to others.

 

 

 

Baba’s Kitchen’s Farid Salloum opens restaurant in Remington

The wonderful Farid is opening ARBA at R. House in Remington

The wonderful Farid is opening ARBA at R. House in Remington

Inspired by the street food vendors of the Middle East, Farid Salloum, the chef and owner of Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen (my neighborhood favorite!) in South Baltimore, is opening a new concept in R. House  this fall. ARBA’s authenticity is derived from its fusion of old-world and new-age Mediterranean foods.

Meaning “four” in Arabic, ARBA’s focused menu will feature classics like house-made falafel, shawarma and hummus, alongside creative Middle Eastern fare like grilled octopus salad, kefta kabob rolls and eggplant fries.

“The idea for ARBA came from a visit to the ‘old country’ with my parents many years ago,” said Salloum. “As we walked the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets, we were overwhelmed by the incredible smells and tastes the Middle East is famous for. It hit me. For thousands of years, street vendors have provided authentic, time tested and delicious fare for people on the streets of Jerusalem, Cairo, Beirut—all over the region. This is why I am opening ARBA – to serve the very best Mediterranean street food to the people of Baltimore with original flavors and aromas evocative of the old country.”

“As a tribute to my family, I want to carry out the traditions of my father and mother, who brought with them from the Middle East their passion and hope, and their love for and intimacy with Mediterranean food,” he added.

With a degree in Chemical Engineering, an MBA in Marketing, and a management career spanning two decades, Farid Salloum left corporate America in 2008 to leverage his skills and experiences with the food service industry. Salloum has made it his business to understand what his customers want, and produce the freshest, scratch-made, affordable Middle Eastern fare in the neighborhood.

StitchFix #15 (or the one in the office when the wifi was out)

SF15

I was planning to post this Stitchfix tonight, but the wifi went down in the office, so why not have a little fashion show? I asked my co-workers for their opinions on each item and also texted them to Steve, because I know you all care about his opinions.

So, which do I keep? What goes back? Help me, Interwebs! (Wanna see preview reviews? Go at it.)

Renee C Frank Split Neck Top $48

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This office background is stunning, isn’t it? I guess it helps the color pop. Dana mentioned that it would be perfect in Turks & Caicos, where I happen to be going in 23 days. Marissa thought it would be cute with shorts, which is a look that I love.

Steve: “Looks like a solid outfit for someone who went to Woodstock.”

Le Lis Allysen Mixed Print Knit Top $48

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I’m so dizzy. Looking at this top — which was SO soft and fit SO well — felt like staring into a ’50s TV set. I do love the cute polka dot detail on the side.

Steve: “This is like Project Runway meets prison uniform.”

Skies are Blue Becky Cutout Detail Blouse $44

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This top has a very cute pattern and I love the green detail, but the cap sleeves and wide neck aren’t really my style. The ladies felt like it didn’t really have any shape, and I have to agree. The cutouts are fun and different.

Steve: “The front looks ok but the back looks like you got in a fight with a grizzly bear.”

Le Lis Ariell Lace Shoulder Blouse $48

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Well, it’s clear how I feel about this, right? It has wings! Why? (Becky kindly tried to make a GIF, but I think this is sufficient.)

Steve: “This looks like a zebra collided with some curtains in Grandmom’s house.”

Le Lis Mari 3/4 Mixed Material Knit Top

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I’m waffling here. I feel like it’s a little wide on the bottom, but everyone loved it. I can see how it would look cute with black leggings or black shorts. I’m not sure where I’m landing …

Steve: “This reminds of half of an Oreo.”

HELP!

 

 

Run Baltimore: 10.5 miles on the BWI Trail

BWI Trail

I needed a change for my long run and texted a friend who had run the BWI Trail by the airport. With her report and a Google search with some in-depth info, I had a continuous loop to get in my 11-mile long run.  I started at the Thomas A. Dixon, Jr. aircraft observation area and ran opposite the road.

Note: This is technically a bike route, so there are a lot of bikers, but they were good about passing.

Pros

  • 1 big loop with little stopping
  • Lots of bathrooms (including 2 port-a-potties at the start)
  • Pretty flat — only two hills
  • Really well marked

Cons

  • Little protection from wind or sun
  • Noise from airplanes (obviously) and busy roads
  • Boring in some spots
  • No water available

BWI Trail

Mile 1 – The fist mile kicks off through a wooded area (and by “wooded,” I mean some trees to mostly block the road noise) and winds along a mostly flat trail. It’s pretty and if you forgot to use the bathroom before starting, there’s a Royal Farms right before you hit mile 2.

Miles 2-4 – This was the most boring part for me. Get it out of the way early, right? Pro: There’s a Subway and 7-11 right after mile 2 in case you missed that Royal Farms. Con: It’s almost all open and along a pretty busy road. Unless you like street noise, I recommend some music.

Mile 5-7 – This is where the horses are! I saw pics and heard about them, but I didn’t actually think there was a real horse farm — but there is it. Tons of horses and more wooded areas. There’s a decent hill going up to open wildflower field with a winding downhill. It’s really open to the wind with an ugly view of the airport parking, but I’ll always take a downhill. You’ll hit a turn by the Amtrak station; go left to keep on the trail or right to the station if you need a restroom break. (If you have cash, you could grab something from the vending machines. Maybe there’s a water fountain?)

BWI Trail

Mile 8 – After the Amtrak station, you hit mile 8 and the other hill. Again, nothing major, but worth mentioning. You’ll hit a bridge where you make a sharp right or left, but the sign is very clear to go left. These are some winding side roads on the way south back to the park.

Mile 9-10.5 – The remaining miles are on quieter side streets (rather than 4-6 lane streets) with a few cute wooden bridges. It’s certainly not scenic, but it’s better than the busy-ness of earlier miles. There’s a small shopping plaza with a gas station and Burger King if you need a bathroom or drink. You wind back around at about 10.4 and do a final 0.15 in to the park and watch the plans come in.

BWI Trail

Overall, it’s a nice loop to get in longer miles without having to stop to cross streets, wait for lights, etc. I also hate out-and-back runs; I get way too bored. I wouldn’t want to run this in the summer with no shade, but it was good for a mid-50s run in February.