travel

Off to DC!

dc rowhouses

Happy Friday!

For once, I don’t have any beach plans. Instead, I’m heading to DC for a super-quick trip. Evan hasВ a training course in Virginia next week, so we figured we’d head down there together, over the weekend, and spend some time in the capital.

It’s a super-last minute trip. For weeks, we were waffling between DCВ and one of the Jersey beach towns. We finally decided (this morning!) to go with the DC because we only have a weekend and wanted to minimize the driving.

Plus, it’ll only be my second time in DC, ever. So I’d love any restaurant/shopping/neighborhood recommendations you may have.

Until next week, a fewВ interesting links from around the web:

Gorgeous photos of Barcelona.

NYC takeoutВ orders, and who delivered them.

This photo, alone, makes me want to go to Rio.

Awesome Airstreams.

NYC’s best cold noodles. I can’t recommend Xi’an’s liangpi noodles enough!

Beach warning flags.

Have a good one!

(Image via Washington Life)

A Week on Long Beach Island

In early June, a group of friends and I rented a house on Long Beach Island.

True to its name, Long Beach Island is a lengthy, skinny barrier island off the coast of mainland New Jersey. The ocean is on one side, the bay on the other.

LBI, as it’s lovingly referred to, is a favorite summer escape for those of us who grew up in or around NYC. It’s just two hours, by car, from the city. When I was a kid, I lived for our annual vacation there: long days at the beach, riding my favorite carousel horse at the little amusement park, eating pancakes at Uncle Will’s, a breakfast place. I was excited to return to the island as an adult.

OurВ rentalВ was in Surf City, a block from the bay, three from the beach.

vacation rental

It had five nice bedrooms…

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…plus an outdoor hot tub, grill, beach cruisers, kayaks and tiki bar!

tiki bar

Many previous renters raved about the tiki bar in their reviews.В To be honest, I was wondering what the big deal was. But once we settled in, the appeal was clear. The tiki bar was the perfect place to hang out, any time of day…

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…especially when cool beers or frozen drinks were involved.

pina colada

Since it was early June, it was still off-season. Many shops and restaurants were closed, or only open Friday through Sunday.

I didn’t mind, though. Because that meant the beaches were dead.

walkway to beach

When you’re accustomed to packed NYC beaches, it’s a luxury to have a stretch of sand allВ to yourself.

setting up on the beach

Some days were a bit cool and cloudy for sunbathing. That’s when everyone broke out the paddleball and frisbee.

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I didn’t partake in the games, in case you were wondering—I have zero hand-eye coordination!

I was jealous of the people who owned beachfront homes. How nice it must be to hear the sound of waves from your bedroom.

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One day…

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LBI is 18-miles long. One cloudy day, Evan and I drove to the southern tip. A year and a half ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the island hard. Surf City, the neighborhood where we stayed, looked like it escaped pretty unscathed. But we drove byВ areas that were still rebuilding. Any house that was under construction, whether a new or existing structure, was being built several feet into the air, on pilings.

Holgate, a community on the south end, was still recovering. We passed many homes that looked abandoned on their pilings, with the beach washed out and their wiring dangling below.

Evan and IВ drove until Long Beach Boulevard ended, then got out and walked onto the beach.

southern part of lbi

We couldn’t go to the very tip of the island, due to rare nesting birds. So Evan hunted for seashells.

On the way back to the house, we stopped for clam chowder. (The soup is so popular on LBI that the island hosts an annual Chowderfest!) I thought this looked like a ton of soup, but we gobbled it up, bread bowl and all, in minutes.

clam chowder in bread bowl

Our group mostly cooked at home. Each couple took a night and prepared a meal for everyone else. I’m lucky to have friends who are good cooks! Every dinner was so delicious that I didn’t snap a picture of a single one. Sometimes being in the moment with good eats and good friends trumps documenting every second.

Of the restaurants we did try, Mud City Crab House was, by far, my favorite.

mud city crab house

The seafood joint isВ actually located off the island, in Manahawkin, but was so awesome that we ate there twice. Their snow crab legs were amazing—and reasonably priced.

snow crab

I was also thrilled that they served blue crabs—my absolute summer favorite! I ordered those for dinner when we returned on another night.

We had to check out of our house on Saturday morning. Before we left the island, we stopped byВ Uncle Will’s, my favorite breakfast spot from when I was a kid.

uncle will's

The place was just as cute as I remembered, with pig-themed paintings on the wall. The ceramic Uncle Wills still held court over the restaurant, and were seated at tables where little kids were dining.

uncle wills

No joke—I was tempted to ask for Will to sit at my table! Just like when I was a kid.

The pancakes were also great.

uncle wills pancakes

Since we got back, my familyВ andВ I have been talking about saving up and pooling our funds to buyВ a beach house, in a few years. That’s the thing about NYC. It’s great to be able to find anything you need, any hour of the day. But the fast pace and crowds also make you crave more of this, especially in the summer:

lbi beach

Amazing Aerial Beach Photos

On any given day, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on a beach.

That’s why Gray Malin‘s A La Plage photo series makes me so happy.В Malin shot each photo while cruising over beaches in doorless helicopters.

The result: Incredible aerial photos of happy people in gorgeous, sunny settings. LikeВ Australia’s Manly Beach

Manly Beach, by Gray Malin

to Brazil

Brazil's Blue Beach, by Gray Malin

…to St. Tropez

St. Tropez Tahiti Club, by Gray Malin

…and even Coney Island!

Coney Island, by Gray Malin

Just stunning.

I’ll be keeping up with Malin’s photos—and his cool blog—long after summer ends.

(Images by Gray Malin; found via weather.com)

Ocean Grove’s Tent City

I spent both days on the beach, this weekend. Even though the weather was a little cooler and the beach a tad more crowded than I’d prefer, it’s always wonderful to leave the city and spend some time in the sand and surf.

My new goal in life is to buy a beach house within train or easy driving distance to NYC. I don’t have anything fancy in mind. Just an airy place where I can go to escape NYC on the weekends.

Last week, I stumbled upon a very interesting community that mostly fits that description.

Ocean Grove is a NJ beach town about an hour away from NYC. It has Victorian architecture, a boardwalk, a small downtown area—and “Tent City.”

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a community of people who reside in canvas tents during the summer.

Colorful awnings and flowers decorate tent houses in Ocean Grove

Tent City evolved from a campground, where people stayed while attending religious meetings, in the 1800s.В At one time, there were as many as 600 tents.

Today, 114 remain, with some modern touches, like wooden back rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.

Inside an Ocean Grove tent

The tents don’t offer much privacy—they’re close together and residents can hear what’s going on in the ones around them. There’s no BBQing allowed, and Ocean Grove is a dry town. And, true to its origins, Tent City is still a religious community.

Each tent goesВ for $4,000 to $7,000 a season. Yet, the wait list is rumored to be decades long.

The interior of the Le Duc family's Ocean Grove tent

I can certainly see the appeal. I would happily move into a beachy tent for the summer…though preferably in a non-denominational tent community that allowed BBQing and booze!

(Images via the State of NJ, NJ.comВ and NJ Monthly)

A National Parks Checklist Map

When I was growing up, national parks weren’t really on my radar. I come from a very-NYC family—i.e. not outdoorsy—and our summer vacations usually involved relaxing on an east coast beach, rather than hiking trails.

And as I got older, I preferred to spend my vacation days exploring new countries rather than stateside attractions.

But over the past few years, I’ve found myself wanting to visit more national parks. I’m astounded by the diverse landscapes that exist in this country—everything from beaches to volcanoes, mountains to deserts. I’ve started to make up for lost time by visiting some, like the Grand Canyon, Acadia, Volcanoes National Park.

I’d like to see many more. Which is why I’m loving this National Parks Checklist Map by ElloThere, an awesome, Brooklyn-based, husband-and-wife design team.

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The map shows all the national parks, which are denoted by numbered green trees.

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It comes with numbered gold tree stickers—so after you visit one, you can mark it off.

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A cool whimsical extra: The map also comes with a little explorer’s patch!

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I feel like I may need to plan a national park trip soon…

(Images via Ello There)

NYC Artist Gives Late Father His Dream Trip

I found this so moving:

Jinna Yang is an NYC-based artist who was raised by her father. He was a PGA-certified pro golfer, but was never able to tour because he wasВ taking care of his family. Instead, he owned a dry cleaning business in Virginia, and dreamed of traveling the world.

Unfortunately, he never had the chance to do so. He passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 52.

After more than a year of grieving her father, Yang decided to give her father what he always wanted: the opportunity to travel. She set off on a month-long trip through Europe, with a six-foot tall cutout of her dad. Along the way, she posed for photos with him at famous landmarks:

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Upon returning, Yang’s photos have gotten a lot of buzz. But better yet, her trip helped her and her family in the healing process. In a follow-up note on her blog, she writes:

My entire family was so moved from the support we’ve received through the community, and the photographs of me and my dad together around the world made them so happy. It was such an amazing feeling to see my grandmother, mother, brother, cousins and aunts/uncles so excited to see the photographs. It brought me and my family a form of peace, and that was the purpose of this project.

Beyond these photos, Yang’s blog is pretty awesome—so be sure it check it out!

(Images via Grease and Glamour; thanks to Evan for showing this to me)

A Genius Way to Learn Spanish (It Involves Cats!)

Over the years, I’ve used many methods to boost my Spanish proficiency. I took group lessons and attended Meet-ups, here in NYC. I spent two weeks getting one-on-one tutoring at a language school in Guatemala. I went through an entire Spanish podcast series while riding the subway.В (A sporadic task that took years to complete.)

Now that it’s summer, I’m feeling the need to brush up on my Spanish again. I’m considering another Latin America trip for the fall, and I’ve barely used Spanish since my trip to Argentina.

This time, in addition to using podcasts, I’ll also try to watch Spanish TV shows—I’m a sucker for reality competitions, so I’m thinking Telemundo’s Top Chef Estrellas or La Voz Kids.

I’ve also downloaded an app that I’m admittedly addicted to. (Dog-lovers may want to stop reading now.)

It’s called “Cat Spanish.” And it’s exactly how it sounds. Photos of cats—often, really funny ones—illustrate Spanish phrases.

hablo espanol

The pictures are so ridiculous that it makes me want to keep going to the app to see what it’ll serve up next.

no me gusta

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What has helped you learn another language? Please let me know—I can use all the ayuda I can get when it comes to espanol!

(PS – I had a fantastic week at the beach. I pretty much completely unplugged—which explains my lack of posts—but I’m looking forward to sharing some pics from my trip soon!)