Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Paseo USA! Summer adventure.

The idea for this trip began with a simple conversation among friends and then took off from there.  Within a few weeks Mauricio (the beau) had applied for and received his Visa and our trip was booked.  The idea was to fly to Florida make a brief detour to visit with some friends and then drive up the East Coast to see as much as we could in two weeks.  The following is a glimpse at our trip, as requested by several friends and family with who we visited during our trip.  (Sorry for the delay...this should have been posted 3 months ago!)

Day 1 and 2.  The House of Mickey Mouse (aka Florida).
We flew to Orlando, FL late afternoon and arrived around 9:30pm.  Was nervous for Mauricio when we got to customs but all went smoothly.  We rented a car and the fun began!  (I LOVE driving and don't really get to Bogotá)  We drove down to Boca Raton where we had friends staying with family for a wedding.  We arrived early in the morning and hit the hay.  The next day was breakfast outside (pancakes with maple syrup!) and then a trip to Whole Foods.  This is one of my favorite places and I thought a good way to introduce Mauricio to the delicious foods that we have in the U.S.  We spent maybe 2 hours wandering the aisles and stocking up on snacks for the car: cherries, trail mix, and carrots and hummus among other things.  We also sample gelato and other treats.  We spent the afternoon walking the beach and the met up with our friends.

Day 3 and 4. Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC.
Next stop was Aiken, SC to visit with my Uncle John and Aunt Lisa and see the cousins as well.  The plan was to leave verrry early, stop in Savannah for late lunch and then be to John and Lisa's by 7pm...this was not quite how things turned out.  The trip to Savannah was loooong and when we got there a quick stop just was not possible - the city is gorgeous.  There was a lot of walking and picture taking before deciding on a so-so restaurant (a mistake that would not be made the rest of the trip - we enjoy food too much).  Also, I forgot about daylight savings - the days don't get longer or shorter in Colombia because we are so close to the equator.  Therefore, the sun was telling us it was only about 4:30pm when we returned to our car but our clock told us 7:30pm - YIKES!!!!  Headed to Aiken quickly but missed out on some family time (which just means we'll have to plan another visit soon).

The following day was slept in a bit then enjoyed a hearty breakfast made by Lisa.  Around 10am we headed to Charleston, SC - the city is about 2 1/2 hours from them but I love it and thought Mauricio would enjoy the architecture, history and food.  He did.  We ate and walked around, took pictures, ate and walked around some more and then headed back to Aiken exhausted but enjoyed the additional time catching up with John and Lisa that evening.

Day 5, 6 and 7.  Washington, DC.
Another long day of driving - but we kicked it off with muffins and coffee with Lisa and Owen (my cousin) which gave us the fuel we needed to get us through the morning.  The ride was beautiful but I was pooped.  Thankfully Mauricio drive a large part of the way - and being the terrible girlfriend that I am, I passed out.  Still the rolling hills and farmland was something quite different for Mauricio, so I think he enjoyed it.  We arrived at Peggy and Jack's house (another aunt and uncle) to an warm welcome (sign included) by Peggy, Jack, Jason, Michelle and Shadow (my favorite dog ever!).  We had steaks from the BBQ and sangria - a true summer meal - and tried to engage in English/Spanish/sign language conversation.

In the morning, we headed into the capitol of the US of A.  The weather was great - hot but sunny and not too terrible for walking.  We parked in Virginia and took the metro - definitely the way to go!  We walked and walked and walked...and walked some more.  We started in Foggy Bottom, heading to the Lincoln Memorial, visiting the Jefferson and the passed the Washington Monument.  I thought I was going to pass out this point but was revived by an old favorite - a cream soda (definitely cannot be found in Bogotá).  Mauricio treated himself to an ice cream (this guy loooves himself some dessert!).  We took pictures in front of the White House and the headed to Founding Farmers for lunch.  This is without a doubt my favorite restaurant in DC.  All the food is local, organic, and interesting (and the cocktails as well - God knows I love a fancy, unique cocktail!).  If you are in DC - go! - although, you might need to make a reservation so plan ahead.  For the evening, we took the metro to U-Street.  Mauricio loved the neighborhood.  Duh.  We spent the evening watching a performance at Busboys & Poets enjoyed over a glass of wine and dessert (#2 or 3 of the day for Mauricio).  We stayed up to chat a bit with Peggy and Jack (and to play with Shadow) but were wiped out from the packed day.

Final day in DC began with breakfast at the Corner Bakery with Peggy Jack.  This time we drove into the city so that Mauricio could see more of the city.  Not sure this was the way to go - but it was rainy so we weren't sure that being caught on foot without transportation was the best idea.  Oh well.   After a drive (and a stop at Teaism for my favorite Chai Shake), we headed back to the mall to visit the Air & Space museum, finding parking was a nightmare and the cost was even more outrageous but we eventually made our way to the museum.  I think at this point Mauricio was officially overwhelmed - that place has sooo much to see and read and hear and it's all in English.  Remembering my arrival to Colombia, I can definitely sympathize.  We had lunch at the cafeteria in the American Indian Museum.  The food was great but the selection was overwhelming - I think it took us 45 minutes just to decide on what to order!  For the evening, we returned to Virginia and had wings at Buffalo Wild Wings with Peggy, Jack, Scott and Michelle.  Mauricio and Scott really bonded - was worried Mauricio might leave with Scott instead of me! - neither could really say a whole lot to the other - but they used signs and band names and guitar brands to understand each other.  We all had a great time with lots of laughs.

Day 8 and 9.  CT.  NYC.
It was hard to leave Peggy and Jack (and Scott and Michelle!) but the next day we were off for Mauricio to meet the parents and Bubba.  An easy trip up to Stamford, CT where we dropped off the car and met up with the fam.   They picked us up at the rental car locale and then we headed over to Colony Grill for some amazing pizza and beer.  Had never heard of hot oil pizza before this trip - but I am a HUGE fan.  In the afternoon, we had a bit of time to relax and settle in.  In the evening, we met up with my parents and the house of one of their friends for a birthday party being hosted by an Elvis-impersonator - I can only imagine what Mauricio was thinking about Americans and how they have a good time.  So funny!!!  We enjoyed the music and danced a bit and then headed home to rest.

Up and at 'em the following day, we took the train into New York City.  Mauricio loved it and took photos nonstop (thank goodness because they make this post together, no?).  We arrived in perfect timing for the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, a cruise that goes around the city, past the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park and under some of the bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, and explains the history and the sites along the way.  Also, in the summer, this is an excellent way to beat the heat - the breeze is killer.  The rest of the day we spent walking.  We started on the east side, walked to Broadway, then headed to the MoMA where we perused the store but decided not to use up hours in the museum (we'll save it for another time).  Next we searched for lunch and lucked out with a cutesy restaurant called Match, a French brasserie.  After re-energizing we headed to Central Park for a bit and then eventually made our way back to Grand Central and eventually Stratford.  At this point details are fuzzy... I think we chatted with mom and dad for a bit and then called it a night.

Day 10.  CT.
The original idea here was to give ourselves a day to relax a bit...but in true Kate fashion, relaxation was a bit too hard to come by.  With mom and dad, we drove up to the outlets.  We were there for hours and Mauricio was just getting into the groove, when it was time to have lunch (mealtime aggression is a very serious offense in our family) and then relax a bit on the beach with my Aunt Cathy and cousins Keegan and Kacy.  The day was very hot and the water was very cold.  Great combo.  That night mom and dad prepared oysters and steamers and burgers and we were joined by Andy and Kathy (the godparents) for this glorious meal.  We got to bed pretty early in order to get ready for our next big adventure:  Boston.

Day 11.  Boston.
Bright and earlier we left for Boston.   Went over into Cambridge to show Mauricio where I lived and studied - I just think the Harvard campus is so beautiful! - and the headed into Boston to pick up Bubba at his place.  The first item on the list was lunch.  We grab salads and wraps (something light) because we knew dinner was going to be...intense.  After lunch we took a duck tour (duck lips included - they cost extra, but how much fun can a duck tour be if you can't quack during it?).  I'd never gone on one of these tours and I definitely recommend it if you're looking to get a nice overview of a city in one day.  We saw a LOT and it was fun to get out on the water - the conductor even let Mauricio drive the boat for a bit and gave him a sticker for his excellent work.  Next we headed over to Quincy Market for a bit of shopping (and site seeing) and then ended in the night in the North End for dinner.  We decided to eat at Giacomo's, a well-known Italian restaurant.  This meant waiting in line for over an hour - but it was Bubba's last month or so in Boston - so it was a must.  And worth the wait!!  The food was so Italian - HUGE proportions, delicious red sauce, bread, all accompanied by red wine.  Nice.  My meal was almost comical.  I ordered spaghetti with lobster and shellfish - it was a half a lobster piled with pasta, it was easily 8 inches high!  Out. Of. Control....of course, I ate ever last bit.  And then thought I'd never eat another thing...until we passed the pastry shop with cannolis!  There's always room for dessert.  Mauricio agrees.

Day 12, 13 and 14.  Upstate NY.  Bob Dylan.
For the end of the trip, I was looking for a change of pace.  A visit with the grandparents in Upstate New York, where the only thing to do is enjoy the outdoors, drink coffee/wine and relax.  The trip TO Unadilla was not so relaxing, but it was so great of my parents to joining us for our adventures and doing the driving because we (or maybe it was just me) were exhausted.  The plan was to check out Woodstock, NY, eat lunch there and then pass by Kaaterskill Falls on the way to the house.  We did it all but it was clear that the Naycot pace is very different than the Mauricio pace.  I think he was confused.  Why we would go to a beautiful waterfall, if we only had 5 minutes to enjoy it?  He was ready to hike the entire trail and stay for hours.  Mom had other plans.  Mom won.  Which of course was fine because then we were in Unadilla.

Again, when I get here my whole body relaxes.  Life slows down.  The first night mom and dad made dinner, we drank wine, and then we picked blueberries to complement the strawberry shortcake the Gram had ready for us.  This was my last visit with Grandpa and it sounds like we arrived just in time.  He was still pretty lucid at this point and was even gettin' on the tractor still (not that this was necessarily a good idea!).

The next day we slept in, then went for a hike in the woods behind the house.  It was hot but we could not be stopped.  We returned to the house for some water and then headed back out to walk the block (4 miles), take photos and enjoy the moment and the great company.  We headed into Sidney for dinner the second night (it's kind of a tradition now when I visit Grandma).  We had dessert (after picking more blueberries) back at house and enjoyed the evening.  I really just didn't want our visit to end.

We had to head back to Stratford early the next day because we had big plans.  1) A trip to Target.  I think we spent 3 hours there made a nice dent in our bank accounts.  2) A Bob Dylan concert.  Mauricio is a huge fan of Bob Dylan so I knew this trip was meant to be when, after we had already picked the dates for the trip, I found out that he was going to be performing in Bridgeport of all places while we were in CT.  Hooray!  My parents bought me 4 tickets as part of my 30th birthday present, so we invited two other friends of mine to join us.  Good times.

Day 14.  NYC.
For our final day in the country, we headed back to NYC for one more hurrah.   Our flight was leaving out of JFK the following day and we still had so much to see in do in the city that never sleeps.  So once again we hopped the train, this time with all our luggage, dropped our stuff off at our swanky hotel in Soho and then headed back out into the concrete jungle that is NYC.   My besties, Pears and Haley also made it to the city to hang out for the day.  We spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon shopping (Mauricio bought two Stetson hats at a second-hand shop) and then stopped for Mexican with Pears for lunch.  In the afternoon, we met up with Haley, ate frozen yogurt, visited another friend Kristin at Kiehl's (where she works) and she hooked us up with a load of freebies.  (Gotta love free beauty products).  We all got together, along with two of Pears' friends, for dinner and drinks before calling it a night.  Great food, great cocktails, great company, great city, great trip.
Day 15.  Until next time.
We had to head to the airport a little before midday but slept in as long as we could ('til about 10).  We checked out, left our bags with the concierge, and had one more great meal at a cute little cafe where I could order granola with almond milk (sigh...places like this are few and far between in Bogotá...maybe I could open one....could I do that? I have no idea how complicated it would be to run a café.  Hmmm...maybe something for the bucket list.  I hate endings, so leaving for the airport was tough.  Still,  I'm pretty sure that this is just the beginning of the adventures for Kate and Mauricio...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Squeezed in a trip home this fall.  Amazing.

A great friend of my from high school was getting married and I really wanted to be there but flights are expensive and I didn't think my school was going to be too gung-ho about me missing work for a party.  Then grandpa starting going - quickly.  I was quite sure he wasn't going to hold out for one more of my visits in December, so I made the decision to book a flight that would allow me to visit with the grandparents and attend April's wedding.

Well, as in Grandpa fashion, he decided to do things his own way.  He passed away before I could say my final goodbyes but provided me with some great time with Grandma.  I arrived to her house a few days after the funeral which meant her stress levels were down and there weren't a million people visiting.  It was a great visit.  We went out to dinner, spent a morning drinking coffee and chatting on the back porch, and the weather could not have been better - cool, autumn air and trees with beautiful foliage.  I managed to run once with my parents - a run that prevented me from being able to walk normally for the following 3 days, those hills are no joke.

April's wedding was a great way to end my trip.  She was gorgeous (no surprise there) and seemed so happy.  It was great to catch up with old friends (old, as in friends from high school - we are not OLD in terms of our age...yet).

Beautiful bride.

Chance to catch up with old friends.

I should also mention I had a great visit with my "little" brother.  I got to relax and enjoy the views from his sweet apartment and recover from my red eye flight.  Then we went out to dinner (Northern Spy Co.  - highly recommended) and enjoyed a delicious, autumn meal and he paid! (I was outraged but then got over it...quickly..hehehe)  We ended the night drinking and watching football with his buddies.  These moments are few and far between, making them even more spectacular when they do happen.

The whole visit was a spur-of-the-minute idea, but I'm so glad I made it happen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The toughest part about living abroad - Part 2

This has been a tough year.  I've lost my grandma, two uncles, and now my grandfather.  This time, however, when I got news that my grandfather's health was going quickly, I made plans to go home.  This year I am in a better place financially.  That was one of my new year's resolutions - build up enough financial security that when things happen back home, I can make family the priority that it should be.  Sadly, I will not have another conversation with my grandpa, but I will be able to spend time with my family - my mom, grandma, and maybe aunts and uncles and share memories and tales of life with grandpa.  Here are a few that I've shared with close friends here over the past couple of days.

  • Tractor rides.  I remember being towed around in the trailer attached to Grandpa's tractor.  It seems he was always, in his final months, driving around in that thing.  It may seem silly...but sometime memories are like that.
  • Singing.  I know my mom and her siblings have even more memories than I do but I remember listening to Grandpa sing.  I remember one Thanksgiving where we were all sitting around the dinner table and he just began belting out a Kris Kristofferson song about getting high (say what?!) - my dad chimed in and I just laughed shocked and entertained by the lyrics that my grandfather was singing and then even more so when I learned that it was a real song that my father also knew!  I remember Grandpa singing  along to all his favorite country classics on records, than on tapes...not sure we ever made it to CDs.  I remember my mom and aunts singing along as well.  I remembering thinking they sounded beautiful but that music was kind of boring...but now one of my favorites to sing to is the Best of Patsy Cline...
  • Swearing.  For many this probably was not one of Grandpa's best qualities.  As my mom would say, he had the "mouth of a trucker/sailor".  But as a kid, and I'm sure my brother would agree, it was just the best listening to him swear.  He definitely helped me to develop my vocabulary - and some of the expressions he came up with - wowweeee!  Amazing.  I think I control my anger a bit better than he ever did but he definitely taught me that there's something to getting things off your chest - just letting the world know how you feel.  Sometimes it's the best way...I just try to use the f-word a little less when I do it. ;-)
  • Squeaky Clean.  It's funny how the memory works.  It doesn't seem possible that I could remember some of these things....anyhow, I remember take baths at my grandparents' house in Bedford, putting on my pajamas, and then heading back to the living room.  My grandpa would always ask me if I was "squeaky clean".  I still use this expression, and always think of him.  
So looking forward to heading home and swapping memories and stories with family.  Missing everyone so much right now but feeling so grateful for being in a place that allows me to head home when I feel the need.  It makes the pain of losing someone, of losing grandpa, a little more bearable.