travel

Spring 2013 Race: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

nj marathon

Of all the weekend trips I took last year, one of my favorites was theВ Saint Michaels Running Festival, in Maryland. This was my first time making a mini-vacation out of a road race, but afterwards, I totally understood why people do. The running part was fun enough—I was proud of myself for running my first 10K in eight years, and thrilled to watch Mal and Peter cross the finish line after their first half marathons. And it was refreshing to celebrate all that in a new setting. Saint Michaels is a stately little town on the Chesapeake, and,В instead of booking hotel rooms, my family rentedВ an airy lake houseВ that served as our home base for the weekend. We chillaxed there after the race, and celebrated that evening with a dinner of crabs and beer.

So this spring, as we were slogging through the Long Slog, Mal and Peter found a road race for us to enter: The Long Branch Half MarathonВ at the Jersey Shore, on the first weekend in May. Well, Peter is running the half marathon. Mal and I are running the half marathon relay.

I haven’t run a relay before, so I’m super-excited to see how it goes. Plus, the fact that I’ll be on a team with my favorite person in the entire world makes it even more exciting!

I’ve also found that the 10K is the perfect distance for me. As lazy as it sounds, I don’t have to train a lot (just one or two runs a week), so I don’t have to give up any ballet classes for the gym. Because in all honesty, I like running, but I don’t love it. It’s refreshing to do once in a while, as long as it feels like a novelty. (Especially during the Long Slog, when I’m looking for anything to pass the time until summer!) A 10K is a long enough distance to be challenging, but not so lengthy that the training stops being fun and starts feeling like a chore.

I’m also looking forward to the race’s location. Parts of the course are along the beach—I’m hoping for a bright, sunny and not-too-hot May day!

PS – I’m updating my running playlist and could use some good suggestions! What songs always get you going when you work out?

(Photo via the New Jersey Marathon Facebook page)

DIY Globe Pillows

I’m not a crafty person. My sewing skills are limited to stitching ribbons onto my pointe shoes—and even then, I’ve had to undo and resew every pair. But I love these DIY globe pillows, from saltlabs, so much that the idea of sewing them together seems really fun. (You know I’m a sucker for globes and maps!В ) I can see myself curling up with them on my sofa and thinking about where I want to go next!

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diy globe pillows

Salt labs also has a number of other DIY pillow kits—I especially like theВ Brazil, Australia and summer constellations. Which one is your fave?

(Images via saltlabs’ Etsy shop)

Firefall at Yosemite National Park

firefall

My visits to national parks have been few and far between—my first trip to the Grand Canyon was just a few months ago!—so it was no surprise that I’d never heard of “firefall,” at Yosemite National Park, before today.

For about one week each February, the sunset over Horsetail Fall creates an amazing illusion: It makes it seem like the water is on fire. And each year, hundreds of photogs trek to the park for a chance to capture this “firefall.” Some of the images out there are astounding—it really looks like red-hot lava, and not mere water, is flowing over the cliff!

Have you ever witnessed firefall in person? Or seen anything like it? (Yet another reason to add Yosemite to my list of must-visit places!)

(Photo byВ Jim Wilson via The New York Times)

 

Happy V-Day (from the West Coast)!

I’d have to say that this is one of my best V-Days ever—and it has everything to do with being out of NYC and away from the cold. I’m in L.A. for a few (crazy-packed!) days for work and the weather here is just gorgeous. It really doesn’t take much more than warm weather and sunshine to make me happy!

Hope you’ve had a warm, wonderful holiday, however you’re celebrating!

palm trees

los angeles

(How funny is the photo below? It’s faux New York at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was so amused when I saw that!)

faux NYC

Holland’s Tulip Fields

This morning, while I was shivering on my way to work, I counted how many months of cold we have left. I was feeling a little blue when I realized that warm weather is still a ways off, but my day brightened after I stumbled uponВ Normann Szkop‘s photos of Holland’s tulip fields, via Weather.com. (Which, coincidentally, is predicting lots of snow for theВ weekend. Yay. You know how much I love being cooped up in my apartment!)

If you’re also in need of a cheery dose of spring, take a look at Szkop’s gorgeous photos below and on his Flickr page. I can’t even imagine how brilliant those colors must look in person!

tulip field

tulip field

tulip field

(Photos viaВ Normann Szkop’s Flickr set)

Spirit Airlines’ Baggage Fees: Yet Another Reason to Avoid Flying with Them

spirit airlines

No, thanks.

While I generally avoid rants—and negative posts, in general—I feel like I have to say something about my recent experience on Spirit Air.

I’m all for budget carriers—they’re great for giving travelers more options and keeping fares competitive. But for some reason, on Spirit, more than on any other budget carrier, you really feel like you’re flying with a bare bones operation:В They cram so many seats into each plane, that there’s virtually no legroom. They don’t offer free drinks or snacks. Flights are notoriously late. And they always overbook.

All that makes for a not-too-comfy experience. But if you’re in a pinch and they’re the cheapest carrier, flying with them is doable. That’s what I convinced myself when I was searching for a last-minute, cheap flight to Miami. Spirit’s round-trip fare, of about $375, was cheaper than anything else I was finding, and was just below the maximum I was willing to spend ($400). So I selected my flights, letting my excitement about going away override my misgivings about flying Spirit.

That’s when things got dicey. I was directed to a screen I had to read multiple times: It asked me how many carry-on bags I wanted to pay for. Yes, that’s correct. CARRY-ON BAGS. And it’s no small fee. If you’re not a member of their $9 Fare Club, a single carry-on costs $35 each way. $70 in total. Which would have made my cheap flight not so inexpensive.

I was shocked; nothing on their site mentioned that a carry-on would cost so much—or that I’d have to pay for one, at all. I thought I was mistaken. It was late and I’d been at my computer for hours. I went ahead and paid for my flight without the extra $70 for a carry-on. Or dropping another $20 to select my seats.

The next day, I still couldn’t believe it, so I did some research. And found that, yes, Spirit does charge for carry-ons—calling it an “Optional Fee”—and their policy is even harsher than I thought. If you don’t pay the fee online and later decide to pay at check-in, then it jumps to $50. Even worse: If you’re boarding and they deem your bag larger than a personal item (the only thing you can bring, sans fee), they’ll charge you $100.

I was so annoyed, that I opted not to pay the fee. I packed my weekend bag with three sun dresses, a bathing suit, two pairs of sandals and a few toiletries. At the airport, I put my purse inside, as well, so they couldn’t say that was my personal item and that I’d have to pay $100 for the weekend bag. Luckily, I didn’t have to. But I saw many people pulled off the boarding line and charged $100 for the bags they tried to carry on.

My beef with carry-on fee? 1) It’s not optional for most people in most situations. I managed to avoid it this time, because I was going to a warm destination for just a few days and didn’t need much clothing—and, as a 5’0″ woman, my summer clothing is tiny. But that’s not feasible for most people. 2) It’s not a small fee, and therefore should be mentioned when you’re browsing for flights. My flight, without the carry-on fee, was $375. If I had to pay $70 for a carry-on, my fare would have been nearly 20% more. That’s a lot!

Were you aware of Spirit’s policy? What would you have done?

Trip Envy!: Guatemala

Lake Atitlan
After my 25th birthday trip to Costa Rica, Mal and I decided that each year, we’d visit another Central American country until we’d seen them all. For a few years, we did that, following up CR with Nicaragua, then Panama. (We also dipped down to Bolivia, on another occasion.)

Then, last summer, I broke our pact. I booked my solo trip to Guatemala, even thoughВ it killed me to do so.В But I was desperate to take a Spanish-learning trip and fixated on going to PLQ—despite the fact that a long vacation was out of the question for Mal, who’d just started a new job. I went and had an amazing time, though wished she was there, too!

So I was thrilled when Mal and Peter decided to take their own trip to Guatemala. They’re going to Xela, as well, but also spending a few days at Lago de Atitlan, Central America’s deepest lake. I really wanted to spend time there, but only saw in passing. (And snapped the photo above.) I’m looking forward to hearing all about their time in the country (look for an upcoming guest post)—and curious about how it compares to mine.

…and then we can figure out which Central American country we’ll hit next! (I’m thinking El Salvador…)

Buen viaje, Mal and Peter!! вќ¤