Archive for the ‘ Traveling ’ Category

Braving Brooklyn

  The first time I set foot in Brooklyn was just this past spring when I did the Five Borough Bike Tour. I’d always heard great things about the NYC borough with its cultural treasures, cute shops and eclectic collection of peoples. Though my visit was brief, it left me wanting to go back to see what the fuss of Brooklyn was all about.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I decided to kick off the three day weekend with a visit to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum of Art participates in the Target sponsored “First Saturdays” where entry is free after 5pm and features a cash bar, music, and other special events. I’d been to a free Saturday event before at the MoMA and it’s wonderful. A community of people coming together to celebrate the arts and mingle with each other.

We decided to plan our day around the museum visit and headed into town early to walk around the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Fortunately, we had a perfect, sunny day to tour the gardens. We meandered through the Japanese Tea Gardens, past rosebushes and ornate fountains with other visitors of like mind. I snapped a bunch of great photos and got to see a huge sculpture made of living roots and vines that reminded me of something out of Star Wars.

After the gardens we ate lunch at a tasty vegan restaurant with a great ambiance called Dao Palate. Our meals were creative without being pretentious and I had the best ginger ale (made with real ginger) I’ve ever tasted. From there we journeyed north to hit up the Brooklyn Brewery to continue our quest to visit as many breweries around the globe that we can. As one of the first microbreweries in the states it became one of the forerunners in a growing trend of breweries around the country and remains as such today. We waded among the hipsters to snag a pint glass and jump on the last tour of the day. While the tour was one of the more interesting with stories of robberies and mafia and eccentric logo designers it was held in a cramped room packed to the gills with people who don’t appreciate personal space. Yikes!

By the time we crossed the brewery off our checklist and wandered around a bit (stumbling upon a hipster hive and barely escaping with our uncool lives), it was past five so we made our way back toward Prospect Heights and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Apparently first Saturdays are THE event and while we enjoyed our museum tour, we spent most of our time sitting outside on a low wall eating frozen yogurt and people watching. As the sun set, illuminating the sky in a brilliance of color and the lights of Brooklyn twinkled on, we both basked in the beauty of our lovely day in Brooklyn.

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Brew Fun

I love visiting new and different breweries. It’s fun to see the behind-the-scenes process of how beers are made and distributed. Each brewery has their own unique methodology and recipe, many of which are decades old and passed down through the generations. There’s just something about the blend of history and science and creativity that makes each brewery special.

To top off my interest in visiting breweries is that I collect pint glasses. I’ve gotten some as swag at a couple races which has been incredibly cool as well as from around the world. Each glass is emblazoned with a logo that reminds of where I’ve been and the memories I’ve gathered.

As soon as my girlfriend and I drove into Boston this past Saturday, we headed to the historic Sam Adam’s Brewery. Tours were free – the best kind – and informative. We learned all about the process and the history and were able to see the facility where many of the beers originate. Including their utopia ales which are sold in a small golden cask and are 25% alcohol!!! (A lot of beers, even microbrews, are only around 5% alcohol.) After the tour we were led into the tasting room where we were given complimentary 4 oz glasses emblazoned with the Sam Adam’s logo and were provided with samples of different beers. The guide was friendly and relaxed, the beer tasty, and the brew tour interesting. I made sure to purchase the unique Sam Adam’s pint glass (see pic below) which was designed to enhance the flavor of their well-known Boston Lager. (Side note: Like wine or cocktail glasses, several beers and breweries have their own unique glass for similar reasons – one of the better known ones being Stella Artois.)

Another great brewery memory and pint glass to add to my collection. 🙂

(Please remember to drink responsibly and always have a designated driver.)

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Boston = Runner’s Mecca?

My girlfriend and I headed to the beautiful city of Boston for a wedding this weekend. Driving through the city to our hotel in Cambridge I noticed something odd. Everywhere we looked people were running. A lot of people. Big people. Small people. People in full running gear. People in T-shirts and soccer shorts. Old. Young. It didn’t seem to matter – everyone in Boston seemed to be running!

After pointing out the umpteenth person running through the streets, across the bridges, along the river, my girlfriend, “Okay, Sam. I see them. There are a lot of runners…” So maybe she didn’t share my awe and wonder at such an exciting spectacle, but that didn’t dull my enthusiasm.

At the hotel I noticed a map in the pile of welcome materials for guests. I pulled it out and looked at it. A gasp of delight escaped my lips. “Look at this! Look at this!” I ran over to my girlfriend and waved the paper in her face. She smiled patiently as I hurried to explain my new found treasure. “It’s a jogging map!” I breathed in reverence. I’d never seen a jogging map provided for hotel guests before. So cool.

What better way to get to know a city and mingle with the locals than to jog along the same paths they traverse every day? Feeling like a giddy kid I laced up my sneakers and went out on a running exploration of Boston.

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My Summer Top Ten List

  There are so many great things about the summer, here are the top ten things I’m looking forward to (although it was hard to choose only ten!):

1. Reading (so stereotypical I know…)! At the beach, at the pool, on the porch, I have a whole pile of fluffy paperbacks waiting for me to tear through.

2. Road trip to Boston. Good friends of ours are getting married in Beantown so my girlfriend and I are packing our bags in a few weeks, hopping in the car, and enjoying a long weekend away from home. I haven’t been to Boston since I was little, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the sights and playing the tourist.

3. Day trip to Brooklyn. I’ve never gotten to experience all that Brooklyn has to offer. From everything I’ve heard it’s filled with art and green spaces and museums and fabulous places to eat. I want to see Prospect Park (they have a disc golf field there!), the Botanical Gardens, and the Brooklyn Art Museum. A perfect day. 🙂

4. Summer TV. Summer is the new Fall for TV series. My nerd SyFy shows like Haven, Warehouse 13, and Eureka begin in July. My favorite dramas The Closer and Rizzoli and Isles fill the absence of my usual favorite dramas like Bones and Grey’s Anatomy. Can’t wait!

5. Summer Blockbusters. As a fan of all things superhero, I’m looking forward to the HUGE line up of great movies that’s coming out this summer like Green Lantern, Captain America and X-Men First Class. Oh yeah!!

6. The beach. I totally heart the beach, although my Jersey shore experience is nothing like the TV show (thank goodness!). I love laying in the sand, reading under a beach umbrella and swimming in the surf.

7. Playing outside. As an avid fan of all things outdoors I love it when the days are long and sunny giving me plenty of time to enjoy my favorite activities.

8. Ice-cream. I love ice-cream but rarely eat it unless it’s 90 degrees or hotter outside. There’s a great homemade ice-cream shop by my house and I’m already dreaming of sitting on a bench and eating that double-scoop.

9. Catching a game. The local minor league baseball team, the Somerset Patriots, is about ten minutes from my home. Tickets are less than $10 and there’s a ton of fun games, food and fanfare to be had. A great way to sit in the sun without breaking the bank!

10. Write, write, write. What better time to work on my writing then the summer?? Grab my laptop and a cool glass of strawberry lemonade and head out to the porch where I can type for hours without feeling that I’m missing out on the gorgeous summer weather.

I’m so excited for the summer. What are you looking forward to this summer?

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Why I Love Road Trips

New York Times Travel Expo (with Rick Steves!)

This weekend was a lot of fun. I went to NYC to visit the Javit’s Center and check out the Travel Expo they were hosting there. I love, love, love to travel and although at first I was skeptical when my girlfriend mentioned the expo, I’m really glad we went! While it did have many people trying to sell you their travel packages, they were rude or pushy about it (which was why I wasn’t too excited about going in the first place) so I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had. We picked up stacks of travel brochures with glossy photos and fun ideas that I will then use to find actual deals on these destinations. I’m a big advocate of doing research and finding the biggest bang for your buck in order to plan the best possible vacation.

The best part of the experience (I can see my girlfriend reading this and rolling her eyes) was getting to meet Rick Steves. Let me say that again – RICK STEVES! Not only is he, in my opinion, the premiere travel guru of Europe, but he is witty and friendly and totally exceeded my pedestal expectations. If you don’t know who Rick Steves is, he writes travel books, hosts a travel show and takes tour groups around Europe. I always take his books with me whenever I visit Europe and they have provided me with a wealth of valuable information. He knows the ins and outs of many countries and cities like where to sleep (he’s never steered me wrong), where to eat, and how to find insider secrets (such as free sights or how to avoid long tourist lines for famous museums).

I was beyond excited when I actually got to meet him at his book signing. I’m pretty sure I turned twelve shades of red but somehow managed to carry on a somewhat (I hope) intelligent conversation with him. I’m such a nerd…sigh.

Here’s a picture of Rick Steves with Arthur Frommer and Frommer’s daughter.

Soon his team will be launching a new updated app that will feature podcasts of Rick Steves’ talks on various sights around Europe. Now, instead of paying $50 for an audio tour at your favorite museum, you can plug in your headphones and listen to his free version. Super cool. Also, he’s offering to pay the passport fees for any “virgin” traveler who signs up for one of his tours. Also super cool. Hmmm…I really should be getting a cut with all this free advertising… 🙂

So, in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I highly recommend checking out his website and his books before you travel to Europe. It will make a huge difference in your travel experience!

New Year’s Resolutions: Part 3

For the final part of my New Year’s Resolution series, we look at moving forward. Nothing kills reaching a goal more than stagnancy does. Keeping your energy and your excitement fresh is integral to success.

What are some ways you can move forward and prevent your goals from becoming mundane? While there aren’t always easy solutions, here are some ideas:

1. Find like-minded people. There are a lot of great groups out there where one can find support, inspiration and accountability. I recommend or Yahoo Groups or a quick search online or in local newspapers for groups near you.

2. Research your goal. In this information age, there are a ton of resources for people to use to research many different topics. Libraries aren’t just about musty books anymore and have many online and electronic resources as well. Some other great research tools include, the internet, DVDs, community college courses, and seminars.

3. Talk to an expert. While this option may cost you money, it almost a complete certainty that there is someone out there who is more knowledgeable and better trained on whatever category your goals may fall under. Counselors, doctors, authors, personal trainers, yogis, and nutrionalists are some of the many people who make it their work to be an expert so they can give advice to those who need it.

4. Go out of your comfort zone. It’s hard to learn something new if all you’re doing are repeating the same tasks day after day. Find a way to push your boundaries in positive, healthy ways. Talk to a stranger, travel, pick up a book you wouldn’t normally read, dance in public, take a new class, plan a date with your partner, join a sports team, volunteer.

I hope these blogs have helped you move toward reaching your goals. Please feel free to email me at runnersami [at] hotmail [dot] com if you have any further questions or comments!

Happy New Year and Bonne Chance!



My Epic Journey

It’s finally here! My epic journey begins tomorrow morning at 5:30am! Inspired by my grandma Louise to embark on a quest to reach all 50 states, I am – if all goes according to plan – finishing my goal by this Saturday. Woohoo! 🙂

I turn 31 on July 10 and wanted to accomplish my quest while I was still 30. I’ve been knocking off the states for years now starting with my family trips to Vermont when I was just a wee babe. I’ve flown, rafted, biked, cruised, climbed, hiked, run, skydived, heliocoptered, and driven by cab, bus, car, train while visiting these great states of America.

And it all culminates into this final journey.

Tomorrow morning (after a mandatory stop at Starbucks) I’ll be driving to the first of my final two – Kentucky. It clocks in on AAA TripTik (a great road trip planning site and iphone app) at 9 hours and 52 minutes. I’m figured with gas and potty breaks it’ll be around 11 hours – ie. The Longest I’ve Ever Driven By Myself. Sweet.

Fear not though, because Day 2 I drive to Nashville to pick up my mom (the aforementioned grandma’s eldest daughter) to finish the last two days of my journey with me. We then head to Memphis for the evening, then it’s Day 3. We zip over the border between the great states of Tennessee and Arkansas and TADA! I’ve hit all 50 states! After I make my mom take epic photos of me smiling on the side of the road in who-knows-what-town, Arkansas, so I am able to pass on these cherished memories to my grandchildren in the hopes that they will one day emulate me, thus continuing the tradition, we head on our merry way to Roanoke.

The cool thing is that when I mentioned my plans to my mom, she said, Oh, your grandma went to school right around there. WHAT??!! What better way to end my epic journey and homage to one of the most influential women in my life than by visiting the school she attended for college. Double sweet. It’s my goal to learn more about my grandma through doing this or at the very least walk in her footsteps. (My mom told me that she was one of the few women who attended school during that time – WWII – and her family saved up their war vouchers – I think that’s what they were called –  just so they would have enough gas to drive her down to school in the fall. It makes me that much more appreciative of being able to jump in my car at a moment’s notice and drive anywhere let alone an EPIC ROAD TRIP.)  I am very, very pumped about this as it marks the perfect ending to a perfect trip.

I believe that everyone should have at least one EPIC JOURNEY in their lifetime. Something that you can plan for and feel alive doing it. Something you can look back on without regret. A  journey that you’ve always dreamed of and weren’t afraid to finish.

What’s your EPIC JOURNEY?

European Vacation

Sorry about the blog hiatus, I was running around Europe with my girlfriend and didn’t have internet access most of the time. It was absolutely amazing! We visited Switzerland, France and Spain. France was by favorite by far with cobblestone streets, fabulous boutiques and mouth-watering boulangeries (bakeries) and patesseries on every corner.

That’s me in front of the Cote d’Azur in Nice, France.

My favorite part of the experience was the bike tour that we took around the French Riveria. It was through Cyclomundo, a bike touring company that provides a variety of tour packages as well as the option of creating your own tour in various countries in Europe – most being in France. You are outfitted with a hybrid bike (very comfortable), water bottles, sidebags that hook onto the side of the rack on the back of your bike, and a binder of maps and directions. Each bike is outfitted with a kind of board that clips onto the front of your bike into which the maps and directions are placed so you can read while you ride. The trickiest part was figuring out the directions as we didn’t have any sort of odometer and the directions were in kilometers to boot. We only got lost a few times and even then it wasn’t difficult to find our way back to the route we were supposed to be on.

It was a beautiful three-day trek from Avignon to St. Remy to Arles back to Avignon. We biked past fields of poppies and vineyards and olive groves. One day was spent traversing the Alpinnes, the chain of mountains that stretches through the south of France. Our last day was spent battling fierce headwinds that would stop our bikes if we stopped pedaling for even a moment! One of the most difficult physical challenges I’ve ever done but it felt amazing to accomplish such a task.

It was wonderful to take such a great vacation, but it’s great to be back home. 🙂