Author: Heather

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

Boatel

I have a bad track record with boats. I actually love being on the water and usually find myself on a boat at least once a vacation. But (you guessed it) I’m also prone to seasickness. I’ve had an episode (or near episode) in almost every country I’ve visited. And it’s not just limited to sailing. I even got seasick while snorkeling in Nicaragua–which I didn’t think was possible!

Despite that, I’m still tempted to visit the Boatel. Now in its second summer, the Boatel is a floating art and sound installation in Far Rockaway. A group of artists souped up 16 boats, each with a playful theme:

a boat that sings, a patchwork treehouse, a Victorian-era naturalist’s laboratory, a hillbilly kama sutra honeymoon suite.

And, true to its name, you can spend a night in the vessel of your choice–rates start at just $55. (Not bad for an NYC hotel, isolated as it is!) You just bring your swimsuit, food and booze and spend an evening swimming, grilling and watching planes take off and land at JFK before hunkering down for a cozy night in your boat.

That sounds like a perfect summer evening, to me. For the experience alone, I think I might be able to deal with the seasickness!

Would you stay at the Boatel?

(Photos via the Boatel)

1940s New York

I’m a big fan of all things NYC, both new and old. And since I’m also a spreadsheet-enamored, data-appreciative geek,В I’m really loving Welcome to 1940s New York, a new, interactive map that CUNY’s Center for Urban ResearchВ launched this week.

AsВ Gothamist describes it, the map is:

a slick mash-up of 1940s Census data, web maps and a rare 1943 book calledВ NYC Market AnalysisВ found byВ then-graduate student Steven Romalewski in 1997В and painstakingly scanned and placed onto a map of the city…Using newspaper and census data (including info from the Times, the Daily News, The Daily Miror, and the New York Journal American) the site gives you a peek into the “City of a Hundred Cities,” with each neighborhood getting a clickable description with photographs, block-by-block rental breakdowns and population statistics.

Of course, I went straight to my ‘hood, Washington Heights. The pop-up window showed me a few photos of different blocks from 1943. (The corner of Cabrini Boulevard and 181st Street doesn’t look too different!) It also has a color-coded key to apartment prices from that year. AndВ since all of us New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate, that’s pretty awesome.

Rent in my apartment building ranged from $75 to 99 a month. And since I live in a studio, I can safely assume that my rent would have been $75. It’s scary how much more I pay for the same space less than 100 years later!

P.S. More old-school photos of NYC.

(Image via Gothamist)

End-of-Summer Trip, Booked: Guatemala

I’m so excited. This weekend, I booked my end-of-summer trip: I’m going to study Spanish in Guatemala! I’ll spend one week in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second-largest city, living with a family and taking classes at Proyecto LingГјГ­stico Quetzalteco de EspaГ±ol. Then, I’ll be up in the mountains for another week, at their second campus, the aptly named La Escuela de la Montana, on what used to be a coffee plantation. (I would love to spend a month or longer there, but I do have a full-time job–I was lucky enough to get two consecutive weeks off!)

I’ve wanted to take a Spanish immersion trip for years. In fact, one of Mal’s friends recommended to me the school I’ll be attending…two years ago. I’ve studied Spanish a little on my own and with a tutor (i.e., my friend Glenn), and taken a few lessons on trips to Central and South America. But my proficiency–or lack of–is still abysmal. I can only semi-understand people if they speak extremely slowly. And then I can barely respond–and when I do, it’s in the present or future tenses. I actually think it’s pretty sad that I’m almost 30 years old and can only hold a conversation in one language.

Two summers ago, Mal went on a month-long trip to Bolivia to work in children’s hospitals and learn medical Spanish. Her proficiency was way better when she returned. I’m not expecting to become proficient or even conversant after my two weeks in Guatemala. But I would like to come back with a better grasp on the language–and then continue to build upon that at home and on future vacations.

This will also be my first solo trip in years–my last one was Hong Kong, six years ago. Due to Mal changing jobs and moving back to NYC, she’s unable to take vacation time off. (We’re postponing Slovenia and Croatia, our original end-of-summer trip, for next year.) And most of my other friends had booked their vacations ages ago. (Confession: I did consider crashing a friend’s three-week trip to Ecuador.) I was initially a tad nervous about traveling on my own again, but mostly I’m just very excited. Over the past few months, I’ve been shaking things up. I’ve started working on several personal projects and supplementing my already-enjoyable daily routine of ballet and hobbying with activities that I’m rediscovering–like running that 10K and just running, in general, andВ taking myself out to dinner afterwardsВ (thereby eating up all the calories I worked off). Embarking a solo trip seems like the next logical step.

I am sad that Mal won’t be coming with me, though–and I’m trying not to feel too bad about that. A few years ago, we decided to visit all of Central America together. So far, we’ve taken week-long trips to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It’s going to be strange going to Guatemala alone, but I likely won’t have enough time to do much traveling. So I’m hoping we can return together and really explore the country.

…and by that time, hopefully I won’t have to rely on her to do all the talking for us!

Have you taken an immersion trip? Or traveled in Guatemala? I’d love to hear your experiences!

(Image via Wikipedia)

Wanderlust Links

No traveling for me, this weekend. I’ll be here in NYC celebrating a best friend’s birthday (happy 3-0, Duh!) and hanging with Mal and Peter who are coming up to house hunt.

I’ll also be spending some time on a few travel projects. Some are work-related, but I’m most excited about a trip I’m planning for the end of summer. I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust and I’m hoping my plan will come into fruition. But until then, I’ll tide myself over with these inspiring travel links from around the web:

A Dutch city with no roads, just canals

whitehaven beachAmazing places for a swim (I’ve been to the one above!)

Quirky, arty hotels

Communal biking–and beer drinking!

The lowest point in North America

Paradise lost atВ Lake AtitlГЎn

Dance inspired by different cities around the world

How are you spending your weekend?

Dogfish Head Brewpub

Four years ago, I read a greatВ New YorkerВ piece about Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head. At the time, I was new to the world of craft beers and had only tried Dogfish Head brews on a couple occasions. But immediately after finishing the article, I wanted to head straight to theВ Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I was wowed at Calagione’s imagination for dreaming up different types of beers flavored with tea, juniper berries and all kinds of spices. And I was even more impressed at the lengths he went to create them: sourcing rare wood in Paraguay to build aging barrels, crafting a beer similar to what the Egyptians brewed back in 730 BCE and so on.

I never made it to the brewpub until Mal and Peter moved to Maryland. Dogfish Head is about 40 minutes away from their place and it’s become one of our go-to spots. Not surprisingly, they have lots of wonderfully quirky, experimental brews on tap. The food is good, too–Dogfish Head sources veggies and meat from nearby farms. Plus, beer is a key ingredient in many dishes.

The place is usually packed year-round, all times of day, even though it’s huge–two floors and an outdoor patio. But luckily, it wasn’t insane on Memorial Day afternoon. (I suppose everyone was still at the beach.) We scored a shady spot outside.

mal and peter

heather

Even though I was getting on a bus afterward, the beer menu still tempted me into ordering a drink. (How could I not?) I would have loved a flight, but opted for the Lil’ Tart, a light (only 3.4% ABV!), sparkling cherry wheat beer. Peter, who was not making a 5-hour trip back to NYC, ordered the Red & White (10% ABV), a Belgian-style witbier fermented with pinot noir juice.

dogfish head menu

And since we were coming from a very taxing day of lounging on the beach, we ordered food, as well.

dogfish head

В We shared a pizza (made with unfermented ale, of course) topped withВ prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula and balsamic reduction; a turkey burger and a BLTA (made with house cured bacon).

dogfish head food

It was the perfect way to top off the holiday weekend. I’m looking forward to returning–and getting a flight next time!

dogfish head flight

On Dining Out Solo

A few weeks ago, Grub Street ran a great post on the benefits of eating alone at restaurants. Krista Simmons, the writer, broke down the stereotype that solo diners are “sad, lonely people with no friends” and gave a number of reasons why eating alone is actually kind of awesome. Chief among them: You can really focus on the food and make friends with the restaurant staff–which could lead to VIP service. As Will Guidara, general manager and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and NoMad, confirms:

I don’t think there’s anything more flattering than someone sitting and having dinner in the dining room alone…With a single diner, we really get the opportunity to interact with curious eaters. You know they’re really there for the food.

I found Grub Street’s post very timely because I recently decided to dine solo more often. For all of my adult life, I’ve never had a problem doing things on my own: taking dance classes, traveling, going to concerts. I attribute my comfort in doing so to the traveling I did in college and my early 20s. Whether I was going solo to an all-day music festival in Sydney or seeking out amazing dim sum in Hong Kong, I quickly learned that not having someone to join you isn’t a reason to forgo an experience. You really can have a good time on your own terms.

I do a lot of activities alone in NYC, but I realized I’m way more apt to dine solo when I’m in any other city than my own.В I never hesitate to get a table for one when traveling. But that thought rarely crosses my mind in day-to-day life. I should be just as motivated to take advantage of great food in my hometown (which happens to be one of the world’s premier culinary destinations), as much as I do when I’m in a place where my time is fleeting.

Another motivating factor:В I live way uptown in Washington Heights, but recently joined a gym in NoHo. I work out there just once a week (on a non-ballet day, of course) and love having an excuse to be in the area–there are so many restaurants and new ones open all the time. I feel like I should take advantage of the eating opportunities, whether or not a friend can meet for a late dinner.

So a few weeks ago, when I didn’t have post-gym plans, I took myself out to dinner. I was craving a good cocktail and pork buns (I know, my four miles on the treadmill undone right there). So I went to Booker and Dax, the David Chang/Dave Arnold cocktail bar. I got a seat at the bar and chatted with the bartender and the guy next to me, who was also by himself. My “Son of a Peach” tequila drink and pork buns were phenomenal (as anyone who’s been to Momofuku knows). And I happily tucked into them, savoring the flavors and not missing a dinner companion one bit.

Do you ever dine out alone? What’s been your experience?

Love: Regina Spektor’s “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats”

I was so excited to learn thatВ Regina SpektorВ has a new album out today. I’ve been a fan for ages, and it’s been three years since her last release.

“What We Saw from the Cheap Seats” has all the signatures of a Regina Spektor album: a mix of upbeat songs and somber ballads featuring Regina’s gorgeous piano playing, quirky sound effects, dramatic lilts, insightful observations about love, and honest, aching vocals.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas),” which is also the first single. I’d heard an earlier, stripped down version, but I’m enjoying the new, souped up arrangement even more. I love Regina’s colorful descriptions of NYC characters, like the bums around Bowery; aging, old money ladies from the UES; and kids from the Bronx playing outside.

And even though there are references to sledding and the Ghost of Christmas Past, the song sounds so jaunty and joyful that it makes me want to don a summer dress, let my hair down and go skipping along the street. Take a listen here:

(Photo via Regina Spektor’s Facebook page)