September 30, 2012

Looking Forward to Spain...

It’s been almost two years since my husband Jonathan and I made our first trip to Europe together. On that adventure, we visited London (my favorite city in the world) and Paris. We navigated these cities on the Tube and the Metro, saw the sights, and enjoyed good food and wine. We discovered an amazing Pakistani restaurant in the Whitechapel neighborhood of London, went to Stonehenge, and wandered the city streets of Paris in search of a perfect chocolate shop.

Next month we are headed back across the Atlantic again - this time our destination on the Iberian Peninsula. During our trip we will be hitting the road in northern Spain. After arriving in and spending a few days Madrid, our itinerary has us heading north to spend some time in Rioja and Basque Country before turning east to Zaragoza and Barcelona.

I’m looking forward to visiting the cities, seeing the famous architecture, and shopping for Spanish shoes. I’m looking forward to the road trip, visiting Rioja wine country, and taking a cooking class in Basque country. And, perhaps most of all, I’m looking forward to eating lots of chocolate con churros and many delicious Spanish delicacies.

This trip will be different than our previous international journeys. On those trips, either Jonathan or I had previously been to the destinations we were visiting and played the role of tour guide. However, on this trip, we will both be seeing and discovering things for the first time together.

Throughout our trip - and probably for a while thereafter, I will be writing about about adventures and sharing photos of our trip here. Thanks for reading!

September 9, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole for a Cup of Tea

I made a fantastic discovery in the form of a cute little tea shop on the Upper East Side with my aunt on my recent trip to New York City. Located at the corner of West 73rd and Columbus Streets, Alice’s Tea Cup a perfect place to start the day.

This shop is garden level. So, you have to walk down a few steps to enter - just like entering a rabbit hole. Inside, it has a counter where you can buy tea (brewed and leaves for use at home) and pastries up front and a small dining room in the back. Everything about the place is charming. There are quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and images from scenes in the story painted on the walls. A sign in the bathroom reminds employees to wash their hands or “Off with their head”!

When we arrived we were seated in the dining room and given the breakfast menu and tea list to peruse. My aunt ordered a pot of tea with milk. I asked for a pot of vanilla tea with milk and a buttermilk scone. (I considered getting the pot of tea and two scone, but decided to save a few calories for later in the day. This turned out to be an excellent choice.)

Morning Tea at Alice's Tea Cup

Our teapots arrived promptly and the magical tea brewing filled the air. Soon after my scone appeared. Served with clotted cream and raspberry jam, it was one of the biggest scones I’ve ever seen! My tea was excellent - naturally sweet and fragrant - and my scone was flaky and delicious!

Alice’s Tea Cup is definitely one of the cutest tea shops I have ever visited. It was fun and had lovely teas - a perfect place to begin the day. I will definitely return next time I'm in NYC - perhaps for afternoon tea. In the meantime, I wish there was a shop like this in my neighborhood in DC...

September 2, 2012

New York City Again!

I love visiting New York City! Everytime I get on the bus I get excited and this anticipation builds during the four plus hour ride up through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey to Manhattan.

Earlier this summer we made the trip to visit a friend I have not seen in over a year. Spending a long weekend in the city that never sleeps is always a treat - going there to visit a friend is even better! During our time in the city we visited some of my favorite shops and cafes, explored new ones, and delighted in being in one of the craziest and coolest cities on the planet.

On our morning there, my aunt, my friend, and I headed to Bliss Spa in SoHo to get our nails done. This is one of my favorite places to get a pedicure. It has a clean and modern design that somehow retain a warm and welcoming feeling. Spending a few hours at Bliss with friends is fun and rejuvenating! And the best part is that you come out with brightly painted nails that stay looking lovely for weeks!

After being pampered we headed out into the labyrinth of SoHo shopping streets. Our first stop was Mercer Kitchen for lunch. This is one of the places to eat - or be seen eating - in this neighborhood. In addition, this restaurant is a temple to all things beautiful and modern - the food, the space, and the staff. (I think you must be tall, thin, and have no outwardly visible flaws to work there.) But, that aside, their food is modern bistro food and excellent. I ordered zucchini flowers with crab and my lunch companions ordered tomato soup and haddock carpaccio. Everything was very good. And it all came delicious bread served with a lovely, grassy olive oil. After our meal, we ordered tea and relaxed a little bit more before heading out to explore the shops.

My favorite shop in NYC - and a required stop for me every time I am in SoHo is Rosebud on Thompson Street. This adorable and friendly shop stocks simple women’s fashion made by Israeli designers that I rarely see at other boutiques. On this trip, both my aunt and I had fun shopping and left with new dresses. While in SoHo we also browsed the shoes at Camper and Fiorentini + Baker, stopped by Comptoir de Cotonniers, and window shopped along the many streets that make up this fun neighborhood.

A new shop we visited this time was A Uno in the Tribeca neighborhood. This shop carries simple, unique clothes for women. I have to say that while they have some beautiful clothes and I enjoyed browsing their many racks, the prices were higher than my favorite store.

Another new place we visited on this trip to NYC was Eataly, the massive ode to all things Italian and edible. I wanted to hate this place because of its size and commercialization. I tend to prefer small, locally owned restaurants and shops which are part of the community. But, I did not hate it. Instead it was a quite enjoyable experience. I loved browsing the many things available to buy - pastas, cheeses, chocolates, vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, and more. And the many places to eat - both the small counters and sit down restaurants - were fun and delicious. Lastly, the rooftop beer garden was an airy reprieve from hot, humid streets below. I hear that an Eataly might be opening in Washington, DC soon. My only questions is when?

In the meantime, I can always ride the bus to NYC to shop for Italian goodies.