travel

Stiltsville

I wouldn’t mind spending a few days out in Stiltsville. The seven houses perched upon pilings are located about a mile offshore Cape Florida, in the mud flats of Biscayne Bay.

Stilt House in Biscayne National Park.

Back in the 1930s, “Crawfish Eddie Walker” built the first house to sell bait, beer and chowder. Others soon followed—and opened up as exclusive clubs and hideaways.

Bay_Chateau

Over the years, the shacks acquiredВ notorious fameВ for the supposed debauchery that went on in them. In 1949, theВ Quarterdeck ClubВ was raided for illegal gambling, though no evidence was found. In the 1960s, theВ Bikini ClubВ offered free drinks (without having a liquor license, of course) to women dressed in the two-piece suits.

Leshaw_House

At that time,В Stiltsville had 27 houses—the most, ever. But over the years, hurricanes, fires and weather destroyed the structures.

A_Frame

Today, theВ National Parks ServiceВ owns the remaining seven buildings. (None of which existed since Stiltsville’s founding.) And no one lives there; their future usage is being debated. Some ideas are community centers, artist residences, research facilities, satellite NPS offices. In the meantime, people are granted access to the houses, on occasion—I actually learned of Stiltsville fromВ West Elm, who shot their catalog there!

…and if they ever decide to open them up as vacation rentals, you know I’ll be down there soon after!

(Photos by Brian F. Call via Stiltsville Trust, Inc.)

Sleep in a Tipi (Fall Trip?)

For me, camping is fraught with major pluses and minuses. On one hand, I love being far from the city, surrounded by nature. It’s amazing to look up and see a sky full of stars and hear nothing but the wind. And the change in air quality is unmistakable—is just feels crisper and cleaner.

But on the downside, there are usually bugs. And scary animal noises. (Sorry, I didn’t grow up around coyote calls!) And questionable bathroom situations. And, being a city girl, I’ll admit that rural areas, in general, make me uneasy. At least in a city, people can hear if you scream, and come to your rescue if you need help. (Even if it’s something as minor as getting locked in your bathroom…not that I have firsthand experience…) For years, my go-to, irrational camping fear was that some crazy person who escaped a mental hospital would somehow stumble upon the very place where I happened to be—and wreck havoc with no one around.

Despite all this, the pros outweigh the cons, and I’m always game for an adventure. And I’ve become fixated on what I hope will be my next pseudo-camping trip: sleeping in a tipi.

tipi

I stumbled upon this while reading NY Mag‘s round-up of uncommon vacation rentals. This tipi is set on 31 acres of land, near Littleton, NH. It’s big—approximately 22 feet wide and 24 feet tall—and sleeps six. And there’s a fire pit in the middle!

Best of all, as the owners puts it:

This isВ notВ a tipi campground where you have other parties all around you either intruding on your peace and quiet or forcing you to stay quiet yourselves. This is a single tipi in a private wooded setting of 31 acres allowing you to get connected to nature, enjoy the serene setting, and have fun.

Sounds pretty prefect to me.

(Photo via NY Mag)

Subway Maps You Can Wear on Your Wrist

This is genius.

When Tiffany Burnette was researching women who travel solo, for her master’s project, sheВ stumbled upon one voyager’s gripe: Having to pull out a map to navigate the NYC subway—thus clearly branding herself a tourist. Inspired, Tiffany came up with a simple and stylish solution: subway maps embossed on cuff bracelets. While wearing them, female travelers can navigate a transit system with a discreet glance at the wrist.

So far, her company, designhype, has cuffs for NYC

nyc metro cuff

London

london metro cuff

Paris

paris metro cuff

…as well as Milan, Berlin, Chicago and Brooklyn.

As a woman who’s often traveled solo, I can attest to how many times I could have used these! One safety measure I always take when traveling alone is to look like I know where I’m going. And nothing blows your cover more than when you have to study a subway map, whip out a guidebook or consult your smartphone—if you’re in a place where you even get service. These cuffs could have helped me out in several cities.

Plus, I love how the bracelets are very understated, so you wouldn’t be flashing around expensive-looking jewelry. I actually just want the NYC one to wear every day!

Here’s to hoping city map cuffs will be designhype’s next project!

(Photos via designhype; found via Scoutmob)

P.S. — I had an amazing time onВ EleutheraВ and I’m looking forward to posting about it, in a few days!

Off to Eleuthera!

glass window bridge

I’m not gonna lie—I’ve been counting down for a couple weeks!

This whole year, thus far, has been pretty insane. As you might have guessed from my earlier entries, I’ve desperately been trying to survive the Long Slog. To do so, my masterВ plan mostly consisted of performing in the spring dance showcase and running the half marathon relay. Those two events (and the weeks rehearsing/training for them!) were fun and exciting. But when I signed up for them, I’d conveniently forgotten that I was still getting adjusted to my new gig (which I’m loving, by the way)—and working on a huge project that launched right after the ballet show and before the race.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a few days of relaxing and recharging—especially with summer plans on deck and more work projects revving up. A few days of lounging in the sun, in a gorgeous place, is what I need, right now. (Seriously, how stunning is the photo above? That’s Eleuthera’s Glass Window Bridge, with the deep, blue Atlantic to the right and the soothing Caribbean to the left. Can’t wait to get there!)

(Photo via Pinterest)

Weekend Trip: Long Branch, NJ

Two weekends ago, when Mal, Peter and I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon and Relay, we stayed one night in the beach town. Between picking up our race packets, going to bed and waking up super-early (at 9:30 p.m. and 4 a.m., respectively!), we didn’t have a ton of time to explore. But what I did see convinced me that Long Branch is a great, quick weekend destination from NYC. It’s less than an hour and a half away, by car, and New Jersey Transit runs there, as well. While it was too cold to go to the beach, the sand and surf looked very clean and pretty. And though part of the boardwalk remains under construction, post-Sandy, a good stretch of it is still standing. (Which is all the most reason to visit the town and help in its recovery!)

Some highlights from our quick trip:

The Bungalow

My parents, who came to cheer us on, booked our hotel for the weekend—and I’m glad they did. They spoiled us andВ selected the stylish, boutiqueВ Bungalow Hotel, located a block from the beach.

bungalow hotel lobby

We couldn’t have asked for a better place to relax before the race. Mal, Peter and I shared a Hang Loose/Junior SuiteВ which, at 575 square feet, was nearly bigger than my apartment. I slept on the (surprisingly comfy) sofa bed and especially loved the gas fireplace. We cranked it up, and it gave our room a nice, cozy vibe.

junior suite

The suite also had a kitchen nook that proved to be a superb extra. At 4:30 a.m. on race morning, we gathered there to fuel up on cereal, bananas and Greek yogurt.

junior suite 2

junior suite bathroom

My parents were in a Lil’ Pipeline/1 Bedroom Suite across the hall. Their accommodation was even larger, with two bathrooms and a more spacious sitting area. After we finished the race, we all went back to there to inhale doughnuts and celebrate our finish times.

living area

The Turning Point

turning point

Pier Village is a newish (opened in 2005) shopping/dining/living complex on the Long Branch boardwalk. It definitely has a commercial feel and is a sign of how the area has made itself more attractive to tourism. But I won’t deny how nice it is to have so many eating options right by the beach. (As opposed to boardwalk stretches in other shore towns where you’d be hard pressed to find anything other than fast food.)

The Turning Point is a New Jersey chainlet that specializes in breakfast and has an outpost in Pier Village. It clearly has a Long Branch following! After checking in to the Bungalow, we headed there for a bite and were told there was an hour wait inside theВ restaurant. Luckily, we were able to be seated right away, outside. Even though I would have liked to have been a tad warmer, I was glad to be out of the city, breathing beach air.

The service was excellent, as was my Popeye Skillet. The hearty dish contained spinach, eggs and cheese—and some of the best breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had.

Ciao Ristorante

ciao ristorante
You can’t tackle a race without having pasta the night before, right? We ate our pre-run dinner at Ciao Ristorante, a small, family-run Italian place with a strict reservation policy. (We saw them turn away several parties who hadn’t called in advance.) The atmosphere was homey—it seemed like all the regulars knew the servers and the chef.

Everything we ordered was delicious. The buffalo mozzarella and tomato appetizer was very fresh, and my scampi came with huge, perfectly cooked shrimp. I did have a bit of food envy when I tasted my mom’s pollo bruschetta, though. The chicken had nice, crispy breading and the tomato salad was bright and tasty. I also couldn’t resist getting the banana bread pudding for dessert. (Also fantastic, by the way.) I figured I’d run off the calories!

McLoone’s Pier House

mcloone's

After showering and celebrating, post-race, Mal, Peter and I headed back to the boardwalk to cheer on the marathoners as they approached the finish line. (We can do that for hours—it’s so much fun to encourage people as they’re completing such a physical feat!) It was nice and warm in the sun, and after a while, I only wanted one more thing: a beer in my hand. So we strolled to the outdoor section of McLoone’s Pier House, which wasВ perfectlyВ situated with the beach on one side and the runners on the other.

If only it was 20 degrees warmer—then it would have been perfect. The ocean breeze was chilly, but I was still psyched to have a beer and quesadilla by the beach. It was the perfect way to top off this year’s running weekend—and it left me excited for all the fun that lies ahead, this summer!

(Photos via the Bungalow Hotel Facebook page, The Turning Point Long Branch, Open Table and the Pier Village Facebook page)

Race Recap: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

half marathon

Back from our spring running weekend of 2013—and I’d definitely say it was a success! Mal, Peter and I had an awesome time racing down the Jersey Shore, early Sunday morning.

Peter ran theВ Long Branch Half MarathonВ and Mal and I teamed up for theВ Half Marathon Relay; both events went simultaneously along one course, which wound throughВ Oceanport, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. (The headlining event, the New Jersey Marathon, started about an hour later and went along the same route—just with 13.1 extra miles tacked on midway!)

This was my first relay, which made for an exciting but slightly nerve-racking experience, due to all the logistics. Here’s how it worked: Mal and I decided that she’d run the first leg (6.9 miles) and I’d run the second (6.2 miles). Early on Sunday morning (5:15 a.m.!), Mal, Peter and I went to the stating point at Monmouth Park. When it got close to race time, Mal and Peter headed to their corrals atВ starting line. Meanwhile, other second leg runners and I took a shuttle bus to the transition point, several miles away.

Once there, a volunteer explained the runner hand-off. A row of metal barriers divided the street down the middle. The half marathoners would be on the far side of the barriers. The first leg relayers would come down the section next to the sidewalk where we were gathered.В A volunteer farther down the course would radio in the last three digits of the approaching relay runner’s bib number. Then, the volunteer near us would call out that number and that runner would get on deck in preparation for his/her partner’s arrival. Once the two met, runner #1 would hand over the time chip belt, and runner #2 would be off!

While I waited for Mal, I tried to stay warm (it was freezing!), stretch and talk to my parents, who’d met me there. And not be too nervous. But it was also very exciting. All of us second leggers cheered as the super-fast half marathoners and relay runners came through the course. Soon after the stream of runners grew from a trickle to a pack, we caught Peter going by, looking as fresh-faced and smiley as this guy.

I knew Mal would be there shortly, so I took off my sweats—and all of a sudden, my mom shouted that she saw Mal! A few other relayers were arriving at the same time, so our number didn’t get called. Feeling frazzled, I ran over to Mal and fumbled to grab the belt from her and shove my headphones in my ears. The belt cinch snapped off as I tried to put it on, but I took off running while knotting it around my waist.

I felt pretty horrible for the entire run. I was freezing from standing outside for a good part of the morning, and it was a shock to run while so cold. Also, I’m not used to working out in the morning. And I’d been up since 4 a.m. Not my normal wake-up time.

But I tried to maintain a consistent clip because I didn’t want to drag us down. Mal and I had set a goal to finish in 1:55—and she’d completed her leg at that pace. I wasn’t going to be the reason we didn’t achieve our time! Luckily, I was among runners who were sticking to what felt like my goal pace, so I held steady with them.

I ran on, as the course meandered through various residential streets. Each time I completed a mile and saw a time clock, I vowed to try to reach the next one in 8-9 minutes. Finally, I was on the last mile, along the beach. Just seeing the ocean energized me, though it was sad to note where Sandy had destroyed part of the boardwalk.

As I approached the finish line, I did not feel great, like I did last year. I felt like I was going to die. (This year, my mom later told me, I definitely did not look like I was taking a walk in the park!) But after crossing the finish line, getting our medals, and finding Mal, I almost teared up with joy—I came in at 1:56:58, and knew that our chip time would put us around our goal.

Our official time was 1:54:08—and we placed 9th out of 95 all-female relay teams! We were thrilled with our results! And Peter finished in a crazy-fast time—1:45:48.

We celebrated with doughnuts back at our hotel, then went out to cheer on the marathoners who were finishing their (much longer) race on the boardwalk. I was completely zonked for the rest of the day but it was so worth it! It’s funny; I’ve run a half marathon and a faster 10K before, but this was probably the most gratifying race I’ve completed. I think it was the team aspect of it—not just working toward my own goal, but Mal’s as well.

We’re already looking for another relay to do this year. Anyone up for Ragnar?!

(The photo above is the only one I took at the race! I even ran with my phone because I was planning to take pics while waiting for my turn to run, but I didn’t snap a single one. I suppose sometimes you just have to live in the moment!)

Off to Run!

nj marathon

I’m off to the Jersey Shore and couldn’t be more excited! Tomorrow is the New Jersey Marathon, half-marathon and half-marathon relay, which goes through Ocean Port, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. Mal and I will be running the relay and Peter will be running the full half.

This is my first relay, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes. I’m also curious to see what my time will be. I haven’t trained enough to have a solid idea of my pace; I figured it would be around 9:15/mile, which is what it was last year, but in my last two runs with Mal, we’ve been averaging about :45/mile faster. Running together has made us push each other, but we won’t be together during the actual race! I’m wondering whether I can get to that pace on my own. (Last year, I definitely didn’t push myself hard enough. After I crossed the finish line, my mom said I looked like I was strolling through the park—and I felt that way, too! I should have emptied the tank more.)

The organizers of the NJ Marathon have impressed me very much, so far. They’ve built in many great extras to make the race more socially conscious: They’ve given out virtual goody bags (an email with freebies and special offers) to cut down on waste, and they’re holding used sneakers and canned food drives at the pre-run expo. They’ve also created special “United We Run” shirts to support Boston, with a portion of the proceeds going to The One Fund, which benefits the bombing victims.

All this is coming from an area that’s still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

Here’s to a wonderful weekend!

(Photo via the New Jersey Marathon’s Facebook page)