Menton was our last stop in France, prior to returning to NYC (via Copenhagen). It is about a 30 minute train ride from Nice, and sits on the border of Italy. It could be described as a smaller, older version of Nice. We happened to be there during the Fête du Citron, which is the festival of Lemons. As a result, the whole town was replete with large scale sculptures made from lemons and oranges.Continue reading
During our stay in Nice last month, Britt and I took a couple of day trips to some nearby spots. One such spot was the small medieval village in Èze. From Nice it is a 15 minute bus ride along a picturesque coastal highway that winds along the coast. The fare is less the the price of a Metrocard swipe. The bus drops you right at the base of Le Jardin Exotique, which is set atop a very, very old little village. We wandered through the stone walled passages for a few hours including the garden itself. We packed some sammies from the boulanger in Nice and enjoyed them in the garden’s sunny main lookout.Continue reading
There comes a time in a pandemic era after getting all of the requisite shots, playing it safer than most, still getting sick twice, and watching everyone else carry on like nothing is the matter that one throws one’s hands in the air and books a trip to the south of France. I actually have to give Britt full credit for being the one to say eff it and book the flights. It was our first real vacation since the outset of all of this virus madness. We flew into Nice via Stockholm. Both airports were really clean and modern. There is a tram line in Nice that goes right to the airport, so we were able to just walk out of the terminal and hop on the tram to our hotel. Continue reading
We recently spent a weekend in Vermont with some work friends. Sunday ended up being rainy on-and-off. We caught a break in the rain and did some canoeing on the Battenkill river near Manchester. B and I had an awesome time, so did Lola. It started pouring rain right as we approached the exit point. Here are some snaps I took before the deluge.
I went to Utah for a family reunion. Here are some photos from the trip.
In early July, I was fortunate enough to cut loose from the desk for several days and explore some of the back roads of New England. Thanks to Backcountry Discovery Routes, several of such roads had already been mapped out for me. I was able to attend an event at Union Garage (at some pre-pandemic date) where the BDR guys basically unveiled the North East route. After watching the promotional film at the event, I was super stoked about trying it out someday. As it turns out, the route runs right through my neighborhood in the Catskills, and I now have a bike that goes off road. My plan was to ride sections 2, 3 and 4 as far as the top of Mt. Washington (then turn around and come back) in the space of 4 days. Long story short, I learned early on in my trip that it was unwise (borderline idiotic) to attempt some of the tougher parts of this route alone with no cell service. I made it as far as Chester VT, when the forecast turned to rain for the foreseeable future. As a result, I opted to turn around and spend a full day riding back to the Catskills instead of spending multiple more miserable days riding in the rain. As it was, I saw some very beautiful country. I had some very anxiety inducing moments in the deep back country, but ultimately made it out the other side. The ride back was insanely wet and dreary, but better one day than multiple. Here are some photos from the excursion. Most of them were unfortunately cell phone shots (taken in portrait orientation). But here they are anyway-
The photo above is the first section of really gnarly terrain that I encountered. This was on the downhill side, which I found much more difficult than the uphill. It was so rough that it shook my water bottle loose from its moorings. It is a lot of work wrestling a 600 LB bike through this stuff, especially when wearing full gear in 80+ degree (and humidity) weather. I had a moment when I stopped to take this photo where I wondered to myself exactly what I had gotten into.
The section above was another one where I almost got stuck/dropped the bike a few times. It had rained all night, and there was very slippery mud in the rutted out trail. You can see from the haze in the air how humid it was that morning.
Overall, it was an awesome experience. I highly recommend it, if you are into dual sport riding. Hoping to give it another shot next summer when I have (a) a proper luggage solution and, (b) some company.
Nothing like spending the holidays with family. It just so happens that we have some family in Costa Rica, and had the pleasure of spending Thanksgiving with them. It was my first time setting foot in the country and I cannot wait to get back there. We flew into Liberia, which is a chill little airport to the north of San Jose. We spent a week eating, swimming, golfing, surfing and relaxing. Even though I brought an SLR on with me, most of the photos I took were with either with a GoPro or my Fuji range finder (FujiFilm X100-s). Here is a short list of places I can recommend:
- Sentido Norte— Excellent sunset views from this place (see image directly below). The food and drinks were also top notch. I recommend the tuna sashimi.
- Patagonia del Mar— We actually ate here twice. It is a newish spot in the area (although the owners have two other similar restaurants in nearby towns). It was bumping both times we ate there. They had a fantastic selection of locally caught fish and Argentine beef. I was impressed by both the surf and the turf offerings. Supah affordable, as well.
- Playa Avellanas— Delicious waves, offshore breeze and surfboard rentals right on the beach. This beach is also home to Lola’s Bar, which on its own is reason enough to visit. The bar is home to a giant pig named Lola, giving the joint its namesake. Seating is right on the beach under a manicured group of mangroves. Food and drink were tasty and affordable.
- Reserva Conchal— This is where we stayed, and it is also where we golfed. The course is the prettiest one that I have ever played.
- Frijoles Locos— Awesome little surf shop near Playa Grande. Believe it or not, I forgot to pack board shorts. This shop saved the day.
Some additional photos-
Columbus Day is one of those weird holidays. When I say “weird” I’m not even referring to the controversy surrounding the question of why it is even a holiday anymore. I’m talking about the fact that, even though the federal government and the banks are closed, only some businesses observe. Further, is the fact that the weather could go either way in the northeastern US. Some years it is still beach weather on Columbus days. Other years, there is snow on the ground. This year was one of those rare times when Columbus Day weekend in the tri-state area had exactly the weather that one would expect it to have; it felt like fall.
One of the local Brooklyn motorcycle shops (Union Garage) put together a ride to rural PA for an overnight glamping trip. I had been on a few rides organized by these guys before, so I knew that I could expect a mellow, no a-hole type of crew. I roped in my buddy Mike (from this ride), who also rides a Monster, to join in.
We met at the shop in Red Hook around 7 AM on Saturday and rode all day, taking back roads and enjoying the fall foliage. We even did a few surprise offroad miles. It wasn’t ideal for the people riding bikes with aging street tires, but everyone made it back to the pavement in one piece and it definitely made for some great stories. Mike and I skipped the last section of the local route and opted for highway, since daylight was fading and he only had a very tinted visor. Mike and I rolled into the campsite with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare. We were the first ones to arrive, and as result, were able to tap the keg and enjoy the sights and sounds of the rest of the group rolling in.
Dinner was prepared and served by the camp owners. This was followed by a bonfire, and a super legitimate firework show. A lot of the guys did full-on tent camping. Others (including myself) opted for the bunkhouse. In the morning, we woke up to the first frost, and it was a thick one. There was a nice coat of ice on everyone’s saddle. After breakfast, the crew split off into smaller groups and headed back east. We had a really great time. It was a great way to cap off the 2019 riding season. I hope I can do it again next year.
Some of the photos from the trip–
We recently spent a long weekend in Madrid. It was my first time there. We stayed at 7 Islas Hotel, a chill hotel on a side street in a cool part of town. The common space is awesome, and so are the rooms. It was designed by Kikeller, which also has a showroom (and not-so-secret speakeasy) in the neighborhood. More about that, later. We left NYC on a Wednesday night and arrived in Madrid early on Thursday morning. The flight was only a little longer than getting to LA. from NY. The Madrid airport was super easy, as was ground transpo. We got to the hotel around 10 AM, dropped our bags and hit the ground running.
Thursday was our only rain-free day, so it is good that we didn’t waste any time. The city is very walkable, and there are rental scooters, bikes, and e-bikes available as well. Everyone eats late lunch, then takes a siesta in the early evening, and heads back out around 7 or 8. Dinner time is 9 or 10. The siesta is something that should be universally adopted in my opinion. Not only did it mitigate the jet lag, it also made it very easy to stay out until the early hours of the morning and still wake up with the sun. One more general observation before I get into the details; even though everyone there speaks pretty good English, the people in Madrid were very patient with my crappy Spanish. Instead of forcing me to speak English, they would coach me through, to make sure they understood what I was saying/asking. Here are a couple of notable spots that we wandered into-
Mercado de San Antón– It’s like a multilevel Chelsea Market, with a rooftop bar and art gallery. There aren’t a lot of non-hotel rooftop bars in Madrid (that we found, anyway). This one was okay. It was worth checking out, just for the local flavor.
Zombie Bar— This is one of the many spots that we wandered into on Calle de Pez. There were a ton of interesting bars and decent food on Calle de Pez. This spot stood out because of its decor. They had a bunch of throwback 80’s skate decks on the walls, together with Basquiat prints, and skate trucks as bar hooks. Great selection of drinks and interesting menu.
La Colmada— We dipped into this place in the late afternoon just as it started pouring rain. It was already bumping before the downpour. No tourists. Totally unpretentious. Awesome prices. In Britt’s words- “best everything.” We had various types of tapas, and a few drinks each. The check was less than the price of two salads from Chop’t.
Bodega Ardosa— This place is super old school. It feels like going back in time, hanging out in this place. We were there late at night, but here it what the outside looks like during the day. There is a restaurant in the back that you have to duck under the bar to get to. No music here, just old school vibes and scores of locals.
Fabrica Maravillas— This place brews their own beer. We tried a few types, and they were all great. We walked by a few times, and it was always busy. It is a very communal atmosphere. At one point someone ate all of my olives and accidentally grabbed my beer. No harm, no foul (the olives were free).
Clarita— We went to this place around 11:30 PM, and it was bumping! We sat in the bar area. No one spoke English. But it was rowdy enough that everyone was just kind of pointing and doing hand gestures to order anyway. We loved the vibe and the food was excellent.
As James Dean once said, “There is only a certain amount of time that you can spend as a tourist in a non-tropical city without experiencing a bit of boredom”; look it up. Heeding Dean’s advice, we jumped a London bound Eurostar after spending a few days in Paris, and a couple of hours later found ourselves in the (barely) pre-brexit UK. To be exact, we were in Shoreditch, camping at The ACE. Forgive me for oversimplifying, but Shoreditch felt like Brooklyn, east. I mean, I have stayed at The ACE in NYC, and the London version felt more like NY than the one on 29th Street. I was not upset by this fact. Below is a list of establishments that I can recommend patronizing. Here we go-
- Bull in a China Shop – Feels a lot like the Dead Rabbit in FiDi, without the sawdust on the floor, and without all of the finance bros dipping in after their steakhouse dinners. Whatever type of whiskey you are craving, they have it. To keep it chilled, they will make you a customized ice cube, diamond, or etc.. They made us some really nice drinks and fed us some delicious food.
- Flat Iron – This place has a wood fired oven, popcorn, cocktails, and a decent vibe. As a steak snob, I didn’t find the meat to be amazing, but it was above average. In a town with a rep for having bland food, this joint breaks the stereotype. We were there on Thanksgiving, and had our first course of dinner here; a ribeye steak together with some sides, and we were not disappointed.
- Pizza East, Shorditch – I’ll be honest, B did not love this spot. I did. It was a large space with community tables. We were there late (and there is a club downstairs, so the door security was slightly annoying). But… they are open late, have a wood fired oven, and a massive wine list. Vibe was decent, and the pizza was decent (in my opinion, not B’s).
- The Bike Shed – It is funny how long Americans have been biting UK culture. If you want clear evidence that the UK is biting back in a major way, look no further than this place. It is like a giant version of Union Garage tucked under awesome vaulted brick ceilings. They also managed to pack in a full sized pub/restaurant, and barber shop, complete with a giant Brooklyn Brewery neon light mounted on the wall. Oh yeah, and Bikes. Lots of rad bikes. But seriously, you don’t need to be into motorcycles to appreciate this place.
- Crown and Shuttle – This place was chill and had 10-20 beers on tap. We didn’t try the food, but the service was awesome, and the vibe was nice. Despite looking like they used this website to come up with their name, we have only good things to say about this spot.
- The Culpeper – Also a hotel, this joint was bumping on a Friday night! Great selection of beer/wine/spirits with an upscale (but not too upscale) flow. Lots of attractive looking peeps and a steezy ye olde Londonney decor.
- The Ten Bells – This pub was right across the street from the Spitalfields market. So you can whet your whistle after a long afternoon of scooping weird vintage wares and vinyl. Nothing really remarkable about this place, but B and I both put it on our respective lists, so we must have both liked it!
- Found – Buried in the bowels of Ravey Street, this spot had the best cocktails that we experienced in London, hands down. Look for the door with the big number 5 on it. We walked past it twice before figuring out that was the entrance. Get the “Tommy Goes to Thailand” for some spicy deliciousness.
- Old Blue Last – This place has some sort of connection to Vice media. I didn’t care enough to gather the details. But there you are. I didn’t love it. B did. It is a pretty typical pub, with very high ceilings, and a lot of taxidermied big game mounted on the wall. Plenty of brew on tap.
- The Griffin – Possibly the most unpretentious “cool” bar that I have ever been to. I mean, just look at their super basic website. The bar is the same way. No frills, but super genuine awesomeness. We were there Friday night late, and there was a gaggle of people standing around on the sidewalk outside the door enjoying pints. Inside, The Kinks were blasting over the sound system in the most un-ironic way possible. We became pretty friendly with the bartender, and she got a very out of focus photo of us that B and I both love.
Some additional photos from the UK-