Author: Heather

I love travel, ballet, cats and my hometown of NYC.

Airport Codes, Decoded

This is too cool: Airportcod.es,В a site dedicated to the backstories of airports’ three-letter abbreviations.

Airport Codes

I’ve always loved searching for flights and discovering my final destination’s airport code. Some are self-explanatory: LHR, MIA.

Others have made me think, whaaaaaaaaa??—likeВ MSY for New Orleans, EZE for Buenos Aires. (Click the images below, if you’re curious!)

MSY

EZE

I’m glad that I now have an easy place to go to demystify them. Airportcod.es currently hasВ 369 airports from 91 countries, and the sites’ designers/developers, Lynn Fisher and Nick Crohn are adding more each day.

A Future Ballet Dancer

This Humans of New York photo—and accompanying caption—made me smile:

Humans of New York

“I want to be a ballerina.”
“What’s the best part about being a ballerina?”
“Dancing.”
“What’s the hardest part about being a ballerina?”
“Dancing in front of people.”

I’d have to agree with her! Few things in life rival the joy I get from ballet. But working on a piece until it’s audience-ready takes lots of time and effort—both mental and physical, as you work out every tiny detail. And then you have to deal with the inevitable nerves that come once you’re onstage. It’s fun and rewarding, but really freaking hard!

Happy Friday!

(Photo via Humans of New York)

Spring Running Weekend, Booked! Maine Coast Half Marathon Relay

lobster buoys

Apologies for the radio silence!

The past few months have been pretty crazy. I’ve had some good things going on—work has been busy, and I’ve been doing lots of ballet, including my first pointe variation performance! But I’ve also been dealing with some not-so-fun personal life stuff, as well.

I think it’s telling that we’re now deep into the long slog (my least favorite time of year), and I haven’t even put up my annual post about getting through it!

In all seriousness, though, over the past few weeks, I decided I’ve been in need of some carrot-planting: planning some fun things to look forward to, to ride out the remainder of this long slog/rough patch.

The very first carrot planted: signingВ up for a spring road race.

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant. I really haven’t gone running since my last race, the Long Branch Half Marathon Relay, two years ago (!!). And that was such a special race. My pace was a personal best, and Mal and I hit the goal we set for ourselves. And we finished ninth out of all the female teams! Accomplishing that, with my sister, was seriously one of the best moments of my life.

But I realized that that’s not a reason to never run again! I’ve felt like Evan and I have needed to shake up our routine. Plus, I wanted a carrot that would take me right into spring. And, of course, I wanted an excuse to get away.

The Maine Coast Marathon’s Bosom Buddy Relay seemed like the perfect fit. It’s in early May, which will mean ideal running weather–not too hot, not too cold. Since it’s another relay, I can prep for the raceВ without disrupting my ballet schedule—and Evan and I can train as a team. Part of the run is by the beach—and you know how much I love the beach. Shipyard Brewery Co. is one of the sponsors—and it’s in Maine! Hello?! Beer and lobster to celebrate afterwards!

So we’ve started training, a bit. Some runs at the gym, an outdoor run this weekend, now that NYC isn’t covered in ice. (Evan had the brilliant idea to run from my place to Sylvia’s, 4.5 miles away in Harlem. Nothing like the promise of mac and cheese to get you motivated!)

Seven weeks to go!

(Image via Pinterest)

Stunning National Park Photos

I stumbled across this Tumblr the other day, and I’m admittedly a bit obsessedВ with it. Run by the U.S. Department of the Interior, “America’s Great Outdoors” is just what it claims to be—gorgeous photos (and.gif"http://www.nps.gov/hale/index.htm">Haleakala National Park…

Haleakala National Park

Yosemite‘s El Capitan…

El CapitanJoshua Tree National ParkВ (I’ve been wanting to do a Palm Springs/Joshua Tree trip for a few years now)…

Joshua TreeВ …Alaska’sВ Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

…and the Grand Canyon—love how it looks when filled with clouds! (When I was there, it was breathtaking, but boy, I would have liked to have seen that!)

Grand Canyon

Conjures up some stateside wanderlust, huh?

(Images via America’s Great Outdoors)

A Long Weekend in New Orleans

I try to take an end-of-year trip each time I find myself with a few unused vacation days in November or December.

In 2013,В I put my last two days towards a trip to London. At the end of 2014, Evan and I spent a long weekend in New Orleans, right before the holidays.

I had high hopes for a Christmassy trip, with warm, humid weather in the low 70s. Unfortunately, it was chilly, rainy and cloudy for our entire trip.

Still, we had a great time—it’s hard not to, in NOLA! The city is unlike anywhere else: gorgeous architecture, a European vibe, great music and lots and lots of amazing food!

Evan and I flew in on Thursday night. We checked into our B and B, the Green House Inn, on Magazine Street…

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

…and settled into our room.

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

We were starving, but since it was after 10 p.m., most restaurants were closed. So we headed right to Bourbon Street. Our first stop was Killer Poboys, a little shop run out of the divey Erin Rose Bar. We both inhaled shrimp poboys (which were prepared banh mi style, with shredded carrots, cilantro and Sriracha aioli) and Abitas.

Killer Poboys, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Afterwards, we poured the rest of my beer into a to-go cup, and walked down Bourbon Street. (Another reason I love NOLA—it’s kind of nice to walk down the street with your drink!) We ducked into a few bars, and Evan got one of those infamous hand grenade drinks.

Of course, we couldn’t leave the French Quarter without getting beignets. We topped off our night with a few, plus cafe au laits, at Cafe Du Monde.

Cafe DuMonde, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Beignets | nycexpeditionist.com The next morning was chilly and gloomy. We walked down Magazine Street to Mother’s, a NOLA institution that opened in 1938. The restaurant is super-casual, and known for its ham.

Mothers, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

You walk in, grab a menu, and wait on line to give your order at the counter. Afterwards, you take your number, find a table and wait for someone to bring you your food.

We were lucky—since it was a rainy weekday, there was only a short line. But on weekends, itВ can span all the way out the door and down the block.

Evan and I shared a crawfish etouffee omelet, a biscuit and a side of Mother’s famous ham. That omelet was one of the best things we ate on the trip. The etouffee was rich and went perfectly with the eggs.

By the time we finished eating, a steady, chilly rain was falling.

Mothers, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Wandering through the neighborhoods to check out the architecture wasn’t an option. So we decided to ride the streetcar through the Garden District and scope out the grand homes adorned for Christmas.

Unfortunately, I walked us past the streetcar stop a few times. I hadn’t realized that not all stops are obvious—like at Saint Charles and Poydras, if there’s no streetcar coming, regular cars drive right in that lane! After we found the stop, we waited nearly a half hour for a streetcar to arrive. By the time it did, we were soaked.

Still, we tried to take in as much as we could, through the wet, foggy windows.

Garden district home, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

We rode the car to the end of the Saint Charles line, and back. At that point, we were hungry for lunch. We opted for Peche, the latest restaurant from renowned NOLA chef Donald Link. True to its name, it specialized in seafood.

It was the perfect meal for a soaked, chilled couple. Everything we ate was fabulous and fresh—Gulf oysters, gumbo, catfish and greens in chili broth, shrimp over pasta in an Asian-style bolognese.

Oysters at Peche, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com And chocolate banana cream pie! I would go back to NOLA just for a slice of that.

Afterwards, we walked back to the Green House Inn. We were tired and cold from being in the rain all day. Luckily, the inn had a (clothing-optional!) pool and hot tub in the backyard, surrounded by plants.

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Green House Inn, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

That night, we weren’t too hungry because we’d been eating all day. But we felt we couldn’t miss out on a NOLA dinner. We cabbed it to Jacques Imo’s. I loved the place, from the moment we walked in. The main dining room felt like you were at a friend’s house. Strings of Christmas lights hung from the walls and the table cloths had funky patterns. The overall vibe was warm and cozy.

I wish I could go back and re-eat everything we had that night—when I wasn’t drained and slightly stuffed. Because it was all outstanding. We started with a piece of cornbread, followed by their house salad—a bed of baby spinach with one fried oyster on top. I have to say, it was the best fried oyster I’ve ever eaten.

For our entrees, I had shrimp etouffee—which was completely different from the etouffee we had that morning. It was lighter in a tomato-based sauce. Evan had stuffed catfish. Somehow, we finished everything.

Jacques Imo's, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

The next day, we left the city to go swamp kayaking. The rain had stopped, though it was still cloudy and chilly. We booked a trip through New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours, and drove 40 minutes to Pearl River.

Driving to Pearl River | nycexpeditionist.com We met our kayaking group at a rest stop off the highway. Talk about swamp country! The rest stop looked exactly how you’d imagine one in the Louisiana boonies. Our group leader, who had grown up right on that swamp, helped load us into kayaks. Evan and I shared one, he in the back, me in the front.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Since it was December, the swamp was mostly bare and grey. It had a quiet beauty, though.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

We paddled among cypresses and tupelos.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Occasionally, we came across abandoned boats and river shacks.

Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Swamp kayaking, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Unfortunately, we didn’t see any alligators.

Except in sausage form.

After kayaking back to the rest stop, our guide told us that the gas station there actually serves great alligator sausages. We had to try one—and she was right! It was delicious.

Later that evening,В we went to Bacchanal, a place two of my co-workers had visited on separate trips and raved about. It’s located on a corner in the Bywater, an area I find romantic and mysterious. I was hoping to walk around and check out the architecture, but that didn’t happen this trip. Still, I was glad we spent the evening there. Because Bacchanal is truly a special place. It’s a wine and cheese shop in the front, where you can sample wines and buy a glass. You can also pick out cheeses that they’ll plate for you. You then enjoy both, plus other food from their kitchen, and live music, in the backyard. Cheese plate at Bacchanal, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com On the night we were there, a band was playing NOLA-style Christmas music. (And you know how much I love Christmas.) A drummer, tuba player and violinist played jazzy, melancholy takes on the classics.

Bacchanal, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com Evan and I lingered for a while, just enjoying the sounds, food and overall atmosphere. I’d been wanting to experience a bit of Christmas in New Orleans, and I found it at Bacchanal.

We left when the band was winding down, but headed right to Cafe Du Monde. We couldn’t leave NOLA without another round of beignets.В 

Cafe Du Monde, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Cafe Du Monde, NOLA | nycexpeditionist.com

Favorite Destination of 2014: San Sebastian, Spain

Of all the places I visited this year, one was my clear favorite: San Sebastian, Spain.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

It was one of those rare cities where I felt I could actually live.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

My family and I spent a few days there, on the tail end of our Spain trip.

I was so glad it worked out that way. San Sebastian definitely closed our vacation on a high note.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian is one of those rare beach towns that feels cosmopolitan.

It has historic buildings, great shops and restaurants, and a river running through it. (It reminded me a bit of Boston and Cambridge.)

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Gorgeous beaches flanked by hills make up its coastline.В And the city has an active vibe that I loved: I saw so many surfers, bikers and runners.

Zurriola Beach, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian also has some of the most unique, inventive and delicious food I’ve come across during my travels. The city is Spain’s unofficial pintxos capitol—small bites served in bars, alongside txakoli, an effervescent Basque wine.

Atari Gastroteka, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

But more about pintxos in a few.

Hotel Okako, a small boutique, was our home base.

Hotel Okako, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

The rooms were tiny, but clean, comfortable and artfully decorated. (That’s my single, below.)

Hotel Okako, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

It was in an ideal location, just minutes from Zurriola beach and Parte Vieja, the old town.

On our first day, one of Okako’s employees recommended Bodega Donostiarra, a restaurant just a few blocks away.

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We had a delicious lunch that included prawns and rice…

Prawns and rice, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and seafood skewers.

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

It was a fantastic first meal in San Seb. And so good that we actually went back two days later for more tortilla…

Tortilla, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…blood sausage…

Blood sausage, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and veal ribs.

Veal ribs, Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bodega Donostiarra, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

On our second morning in town, my mom, E and I walked along San Sebastian’s beaches…

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…to the funicular at the edge of town.

Funicular, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Funicular, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We rode it to the top of the hill…

Funicular, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and arrived at a bird’s eye view of the city.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

There was also a children’s amusement park that was closed.

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Too bad. I kind ofВ wanted a trip through the Casa del Terror. (Muah ha ha ha.)

Amusement Park, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We made sure to have a few hours of beach time, each day.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

One afternoon was warm and sunny—we all took advantage of it, and enjoyed long, post-lunch naps.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

But since it was early October, not every day wasВ bikini weather. Two afternoons were chillier.

San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

That still worked for me—I didn’t mind bundling up to nap.

Because I needed to rest up for going pintxo bar hopping each night!

It’s hard to capture the essence and allure of pintxos in words. I didn’t really get what was so great until we actually experienced them in San SebastiГЎn.

But I can best describe the scene like this: Imagine a number of bars in one area of town. (In San Seb, they’re mainly in Parte Vieja.) When you walk into each bar, you’re faced with some of the prettiest, most delicious-looking platters of finger food that you’ve ever seen. You can order short glasses of txakoli or beer, and tell the bartender which pieces you want from the platters. Plus, you’ll order one of their hot specialties, which is also about the size of an amuse bouche.

When you’re done eating, you’ll throw your napkins on the floor, then pay your tab. (The amount of crumpled napkins is a good indication of how good the food is.)

Then, you’ll continue from bar to bar, sampling food from each.

We did this all three nights we were in town.

Our favorite pintxo bars included:

Zeruko, a stylish, modern bar with updated takes on pintxos—each plate was soВ pretty and elegant!

Bar Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We tried several pintxos: octopus, blood sausage topped with egg, marinated mushrooms topped with egg.

Bar Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Zeruko, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Borda Barri looked like a dive bar, but had a surprisingly sophisticated menu:В veal cheeks, duck breast, mushroom risotto, sweetbread ravioli.

Borda Berri, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Borda Berri, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Not surprisingly, it was crowded every time we went there. (And it was on our hit list, all three nights.)

Borda Berri, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

At Bar Ganbera, the platters of fresh mushrooms beckoned.

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We tried them grilled…

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…along with grilled prawns.

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

We were clearly happy with our selections.

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Ganbera, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Nestor is known for two things: tortilla and steak. To get a slice of the tortilla, you have to arrive early and put your name on a list. Same with the steak. You have to be there close to when they start serving, to get a seat at the bar or a table outside. We managed the latter.

Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

From our table, we could order txakolis through the window. (Note the pour: Basque bartenders always serveВ the drink a couple feet above the glass.)

Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

WeВ enjoyed each of Nestor’s specialities as they arrived. First the tortilla, which was as delicious as it was hyped up to be.

Tortilla, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

The the tomato salad—fresh and delicious with lot of olive oil and flaky salt…

Tomato salad, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…followed by charred peppers…

Peppers, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

…and then the famous steak, also perfectly cooked and simply seasoned with more of that flaky salt.

Steak, Bar Nestor, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Atari Gastroteka, a hopping bar with an innovative menu, had one of my favorite pintxos: a slow cooked egg in a pea puree.

Atari Gastroteka, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Atari Gastroteka, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Atari was in a prime location, right across from the gorgeous Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus.

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Outside of Parte Vieja, we had amazing pintxos at Bar Bergara.

Bar Bergara, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

I couldn’t get enough of their tortilla or risotto.

Bar Bergara, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Bar Bergara, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Pintxo-crawling was some of the most fun I had with my family: Deciding which bars to try, picking out pintxos, savoring the flavor combinations in a setting that’s unlike anything in the States.

Peter, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

M&H, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Pintxo-hopping, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

Pintxo-hopping, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

(We talked about what the scene would be like if someone transported San Sebastian’s pintxo bars to NYC: crowded. Unbearably crowded and expensive.)

I feel incredibly lucky to have shared that experience, in such an awesome city, with some of my very favorite people. My family doesn’t often take big vacations together, so I’m thrilled that our Spain trip turned out to be so wonderful.

Fam, San Sebastian, Spain | nycexpeditionist.com

I’m looking forward to more memorable journeys in 2015. Here’s to many travels in the new year!

And wishing Mal, my sister, my very best friend and other half, a happy birthday—it’s her big 3-0 today!

Nutcracker Memories

When it comes to Nutcracker, I feel like dancers, critics and dancegoers fall into one of two camps: You either love or loathe it.

I fall into the first category. I’m a sucker for most things holiday-related: twinkly lights draped all over the city, old-school Christmas carols playing at home, a pine tree in the corner of my living room—even freakin’ gingerbread lattes!

Given that, it’s probably no surprise that I love the Nutcracker, too. I’ll admit that I usually wish I could fast-forward through the party scene and skip to “Snow” and the pas de deux. And the embarrassingly outdated, stereotypical Land of Sweets characters make me cringe. But over the years, the Nutcracker has remained one of my most enduring holiday traditions. Over the past 31 years, no matter where I’ve been, or what was happening in my life, I’ve always been able to count on the familiarity and nostalgia of the Nutcracker, every Christmas season.

Like many kids, one of my earliest ballet memories was seeing City Ballet’s Nutcracker. I remember being amazed watching the tree grow, and seeing the Mouse King with his manyВ heads.

In years following, my mom also took me to New York Theatre Ballet‘s one-hour production for kids, and the Harlem Nutcracker.

As a college student, a group of friends and I saw Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker. A couple years later, while working at the Boston Herald and doing some dance writing, I had the opportunity to review Jose Mateo‘s Nutcracker. That same season, I watched Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker again—and thought their “Snow” choreography was the best I’d ever seen. (One reason I’d love to revisit that production.)

Boston Ballet's Nutcracker

When I moved back to NYC in fall 2006, one of my “welcome home”.gif"abt's nutcracker" href="http://www.abt.org/performances/nutcracker.asp" target="_blank">ABT’s Nutcracker on two different years—and really enjoyed Ratmansky’s fresh take on the ballet. (Like how Clara and her Nutcracker prince mirror Sugarplum and her cavalier, as they dance together in the snowy end of Act 1.)

ABT's Nutcracker

And with my own return to ballet, I’ve had the chance to perform “Snow” and “Flowers” during the last two Novembers. (We did both pieces in soft shoes, though I’d still love to dance them en pointe…)

waltz of the flowers

Last December, when I was in London, my parents surprised my best friend and me with tickets to see the Royal Ballet‘s Nutcracker. That evening at the Opera House was a big highlight of my quick trip.

royal opera house

Tonight, Evan and I are seeing City Ballet’s production. As a New Yorker, I’m a bit biased—Balanchine’s version has always remained my favorite.

NYCB Nutcracker

I was also surprised to learn that Evan has his own Nutcracker memories, about the same production. When he was a kid, his mom used to take him suit shopping, then to Houlihan’s for lunch, and then to City Ballet’s Nutcracker.

I’m excited to keep my—our—tradition going.

…now if only someone would please update the Land of Sweets! 😉