Sunday, June 30, 2013

Weekends: Heat Wave

What a wild weekend! A heat wave combined with Pride celebrations amplified by the DOMA decision made it a very festive affair in San Francisco.  Rob and I started out with the final opera in our summer series: The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.  I admit to finding myself somewhat "scandalized" by the opera; as much as from the provocative plot as from the chorus wearing jeans and hoodies on stage:

Saturday morning I got up early and prepared for a work event all day in Woodside. Officially made it through a whole week of maintaining my fancy new hairstyle!

I made it to Palo Alto about 45 minutes ahead of schedule for the start of the event, so I grabbed a counter seat at the adorably vintage Palo Alto Creamery for breakfast. 

The work event included a guided hike around the grounds of Djerassi Resident Artists Program - a massive ranch that hosts artists of all sorts throughout the year. This landscape painted on the stump of a fallen redwood was one favorite from the many, many pieces. Beautiful and so hot out.

The event concluded with an elegant "farm to table" luncheon using produce grown in the valley.

I finished networking with fancy business people and booked it back to San Francisco to spend the rest of the afternoon with Rob.  We braved the very-drunk Pride crowds to go to the market. Big dinner of fresh tomato bruschetta and roast chicken.

Another early start on Sunday. Rob and I picked up Nicole at 7:30 am on our way up to Fairfax for a mountain bike race in the hills.  Rob joined the riders while Nicole and I hosted the second aid station on the route near Sir Francis Drake Drive.  I forgot my camera, but it was lovely and shady in the redwoods along Lagunitas Creek.  The ride concluded at Gestalt Haus, a fun bicycle bar in Fairfax. It was so, so hot in there with all the riders - but very festive.

We stopped at In-N-Out for milkshakes on the way back to the city in the afternoon. Dropped Nicole off at her apartment. Rob and I took a long afternoon nap once we got home.  I made a cold bruschetta pasta salad for dinner and we watched the second stage of Tour de France wind around Corsica.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekends: Summer Storm

I started last weekend with the second in our summer opera series. Amy came with me to see Cosi fan Tutte since Rob was out sick. This production of Mozart's "romantic comedy" was charmingly staged in Monte Carlo in 1915:

On Saturday, I went to the hair salon and chopped almost 8 inches off! The cut was inspired by a fashion spread in UK's Tatler Magazine. I'm still learning to do all the styling myself, but I love it so far!

Nicole and I went for a hike in the afternoon. Then Margaret came over and we picked hundreds of yellow plums from the yard.

We made plum crisp, plum brandy and a blackberry plum sorbet (and there are still so many plums left).

Sunday was a lazy day of reading the paper, doing laundry and cleaning house while the city was fogged in with a storm from Japan.  In the evening, Rob and I met Nicole downtown to see Monsters University.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Travel: Cringletie House

I've saved the best for last!  My favorite part of the trip was our stay at Cringletie House in Peebles. We took the bus from Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders. Oops, missed our stop (didn't realize the hotel would have its own) and walked back along the farms. Isn't the red metal bridge pretty!

The house is an old country estate built in 1861, set on pretty grounds and surrounded by farms. 

Our room was in one the round turrets and was very well appointed. The wood shutters come in handy when it's still light out at midnight.

Our stay included two formal breakfasts and a lovely big dinner. We started in the bar with drinks and small appetizers. Then a waiter brought us upstairs to the dining room where we had several courses including haggis, crab salad, lamb, black cod and chocolate mousse. Our waiters included an adorable 13 year old boy was in charge of the bread basket and had perfect service manners.

Dinner was followed with even more desserts and coffee in the library. I was in heaven!

We loved hiking for miles around the valley. We saw foxes, pheasant, grouse and rabbit on our walks and had to hide out from occasional rain showers under the trees.

It's so fun to find your way through the livestock gates and spy on sheep.
I would love to go back to Cringletie House!  This officially wraps up our UK trip. It was only nine days - but we managed to see so much. You can check out all our trip photos online here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Travel: Mountain Biking in Scotland

Apologies for the break in posting, it's been a tough couple weeks! Let's get back to the UK vacation recaps. The highlight of our trip was time spent on the Scottish Borders, south of Edinburgh.  We loved the green valleys around the River Tweed.  One day, we took the bus over to Innerleithen - this tiny town has made a name for itself in the mountain biking community. Rob and I rented two bikes from a nice shop and hit the trails:

It was a steep climb to the top, through mossy forests and meadows. At the summit we pedaled across the moor, covered in authentic heather. That's the River Tweed shining in the distance:

The descent was fast! I was cold and hungry, so chose to ignore the fact that I'm not much of cyclist while bombing down the hill.  On the final descent, rocky drops it got really technical.

We followed our ride with a visit to Traquair House for lunch and beer from their onsite brewery!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Travel: Cambridge

Rob and I took a day off from London to explore Cambridge. My mother loves the town from studying abroad and three generations in my family have cherished the book Period Piece, about the Darwin family living there.  We set off from King's Cross station:

Cambridge was packed with weekend tourists and students busy with exams week. It meant most of the major sites and colleges were closed to visitors - shoot!

We had lunch at Byron Hamburgers, where Rob discovered an amazing Scottish beer called Dead Pony Club. After lunch, we rented a boat to punt on the river.

It wasn't easy to navigate with that long pole, but Rob got the hang of it.

We got a close look at many of the colleges and overheard a lot of history from the punt tour guides. The sun even poked through the clouds a few times:
After boating, we walked over to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology - the tiny two story gallery has one packed display cabinet per country. You walk around the world, case-by-case, exploring artifacts from Norway to Mexico. There's even a full totem pole displayed in the hall:

It's easy to see the charm of this old academic town!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Travel: Edinburgh

Next up: Edinburgh! Rob and I took a day train from London to Scotland on the second day of our vacation. We stayed at a much more modest hotel - the Premier Inn - but that was centrally located, clean and with very friendly staff.  Our room was on the top floor and had an amazing view of the gardens and castle:

Thanks to being so far north, I think these photos were taken at about 11:30pm.

With no guide book or plans, we winged it again. Walking around Carlton Hill the night we before, we spotted people hiking on a mountain to the south. Holyrood Park is the former hunting grounds for the royal palace (where the queen still stays when in Scotland). A steep hike that gives you an amazing view of the city. The wind at the top of Arthur's Seat is severe!

We discovered a tiny formal garden called "Dunbar's Close Garden" on the walk back to our hotel:

I don't know what the "Mushroom Trust" is, but I like their style:

We ate well at a couple spots in Edinburgh: Blackfriars offered gourmet pub cuisine in a modern spot right off the Royal Mile.  We met up with a school friend of my sister's who has been living in the city one evening. An authentic Scottish meal complete with oysters and haggis followed by a fun pub night at the Hanging Bat:

We also tried some of the famous Scottish Irn Bru soda. Flavored like bubble gum and bright orange, it still beats out Coke as the favorite national drink:

Museums are largely free in the UK, so we made the most of them! We visited the adorably small National Gallery but my favorite in Edinburgh was the massive Victorian National Museum:

It has a new roof garden with a great view of the city:

On our last day in Edinburgh, we explored the fancy Edwardian neighborhoods on the "new" side of the city and stayed out with pints on Rose Street waiting for our midnight sleeper train back to London:

Monday, June 03, 2013

Travel: London

What a great trip!  Rob and I are just back from a nine day vacation in the UK. Thanks to the horrible exchange rate we spent way too much money, but we had a grand time doing it!  To make the recap easier, I'm going to break it down to the different areas where stayed.  To start: London.

We were in London for the first night and the last two nights of our trip. I wanted to stay somewhere very centrally located, and an apartment with Citadines Prestige on Northumberlund Avenue worked out perfectly.  We were just one block from the Thames River to the south and one block from the National Gallery to the North. It was expensive, but nothing compared to the five-figure per night rates at some of the top London hotels. Our modern room included a small kitchen and view of a nice curved street.

Thanks to our central location, we saw a lot of the key sights our first afternoon. We walked along the river to see the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace:

My favorite stop that first day was definitely Fortnum & Mason. This department store opened in 1707 and continues to provide everything from Himalayan salt-aged beef to rabbit baby booties across six floors. Their iconic picnic baskets (hampers) are the real stars of the show.

That night, Rob and I had dinner of  gourmet street food from the Real Food Festival set up beneath the Eye of London. This macaroni and cheese was incredible:

Later in the trip, we spent a full day in London exploring various neighborhoods with the help of a day-pass for  the underground. We went to Kensington Palace (I wouldn't recommend it for the price, pretty strange art installations) and walked up to Notting Hill.

Stopped for lunch at a nice looking cafe called Granger & Co. that was packed with posh socialites and the actor Jeremy Piven.

Walked all the way up Portabello market and bought an antique train signal lamp.  Decided this little gray house in Holland Park would suit us just fine:
Also zoomed out to see the Tower Bridge and to Marylebone to have fish and chips for dinner at The Golden Hind (good, but not great).

Our best meal in London was our last meal in London. Rob and I walked from our hotel past the opera house to Dishoom, a Bombay-style indian restaurant. There was a wait to get in but we were seated quickly. Awesome service, affordable prices (by London standards) and a chicken tikka that will set a new, impossibly-high bar for the dish for me:

As with this entire trip, we explored London with zero planning and no tour book. It was a fun way to stumble upon different landmarks and not get caught up on a to-do list. Next up: Edinburgh, Cambridge and a Scottish country estate near the River Tweed