weekend trips

A Weekend in Indianapolis

I spent last weekend in Indianapolis.

Random, right?!

Well, not so much considering that my good friend Lindsay grew up there, and recently moved back.

During a recent phone chat, she threw out the idea of me spending a weekend there.

I hadn’t seen her in years. (Since that time I visited her in Chicago.) I’d never been to Indianapolis before. And I vaguely remembered the NY Times featuring it as one of their top 2014 destinations, thanks to a network of new bike trails. Plus, I could count all my visits to the midwest on one hand.

Within a day, I’d booked a flight to Indy.

I had a great time catching up with Lindsay, staying in her gorgeous apartment and grilling with her family. She also gave me a sweet tour of the city, highlighting all the cute places and up-and-coming areas.

On the evening of my arrival, we had dinner at Plow & Anchor, a restaurant the focuses on seafood and seasonal produce. (I loved the mackerel crudo with pickled strawberries.)

Afterwards, we walked down Massachusetts Avenue, a main drag with restaurants and shops. A mural of Kurt Vonnegurt, an Indianapolis native, overlooked the street.

Kurt Vonnegut | nycexpeditionist.com

Lots of people were out, dining al fresco and enjoying the hot weather, which was nice to see. I did a double take when several beer bikes went by—I didn’t know those existed outside of London. Lindsay attested that they’re super-popular in Indy. Who knew?!

We spent the next day walking around Broad Ripple, a part of town that was once known for its bar scene, but is evolving. The Monon Trail, a path that’s part of Indy’s new hiking/biking network, runs through it, and we strolled along.

Monon Trail, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

I loved stumbling along this cute hotel

Hotel Broad Ripple, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

…and an old railway car alongside the path.

Monon Trail, Indianapolis | nycexpeditionist.com

We walked among the sculpture garden at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

My favorite piece: this whimsical house!

Indianapolis Art Center | nycexpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at Public Greens, an awesome cafeteria-style eatery.

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

They actually grow their own produce along the trail.

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

Public Greens | nycexpeditionist.com

The following day, we drove through Fountain Square, an up-and-coming ‘hood—but because it was a Sunday morning, most places were closed. (Except for Milktooth, currently one of the hottest restaurants in town, which was overflowing with brunchers.)

We also strolled along the Canal Walk, another leafy trail alongside a manmade canal. Unfortunately, the gondolas weren’t out at that time!

Indy is definitely a city in the midst of change. Everywhere we went, we saw tons of fancy new condos going up. Though who will be living there remains to be seen. The city felt pretty quiet for most of the weekend, and Lindsay hadn’t heard of any new incentives to draw more residents to the city.

But who knows? Maybe all the new greenspaces, trails and growing food and drink scene will lure more people to the city. I’m definitely glad I got to see it now. And I’m curious about what it’ll look like in a few years.

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 and selected the stylish, boutique 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 Suite 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 the 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 was perfectly 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 the Long Branch Half Marathon and Mal and I teamed up for the Half Marathon Relay; both events went simultaneously along one course, which wound through 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 at 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. 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)

A Weekend in Boston: Old and New Favorites

Two weekends ago, I spent a whirlwind few days in Boston. Every trip up, I feel like I never have enough time there. Nevertheless, I managed to catch up with a few friends and check out my dad’s booth at the New England Flower Show. I also went to a few places that were new to me, as well as some old favorites from when I lived there. The highlights:

Area 4

Area 4_coffeehouse

Area 4 pizzas
Kind of crazy to say, but I wish we had more places like this in NYC. For whatever reason, NYC has a lack of good cafes/restaurants/communal spaces to do work, in my opinion—and I say that as a blogger and former freelance writer! That’s why I was wishing I could somehow transport Area 4 from Cambridge to Manhattan. This bakery/coffeehouse/bar is located in tech-centric Kendall Square and looks the part. It’s bright, glassy and airy and has a sweet front area for laptoppers—I could see myself happily pecking away at my keyboard for hours there. It also has a back area for sit-down diners. We went for a late lunch and split a few of their delicious wood-fired pizzas. (I was especially excited about topping off our Carbonara pie with an extra egg—my fave pizza topping!)

Legal Sea Foods Harborside

Legal_Harborside_From_Water_Landing_Page_Hero

Legal_Harborside_Floor_1_Dining_Room1

Sure, it’s cliche to go to Legals. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! I’ve ended up at various Legals during the years I lived in Boston, and the ones after, and enjoyed every experience. In fact, I look forward to eating there, each trip! This time around, we had dinner at Legal Harborside, which is right on the South Boston waterfront (conveniently close to the flower show). The restaurant has a great view of the city skyline, which, I’m sure, is even nicer in summer, when you can eat outside. And my lobster was pretty awesome.

Boston Ballet

boston ballet school

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the ”All Kylián” program I’d hoped to see. I did manage to take a class at the Boston Ballet School, though. Back when I lived in Boston, I attended a few classes there. At the time, I thought the studios were the prettiest I’d ever seen, but the classes intimidated me! Even the advanced beginning level was daunting. But on trips back, over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed taking the open classes. I still find the studios gorgeous—they’re sunny and spacious and it’s a luxury to be in the space. The instructor, Arthur Leeth, is good—I especially like his lengthy adagios. And now that I’m no longer scared of the classes, it’s fun to just go there and dance. (Which helps offset all the eating I do in Boston!)

Brookline Booksmith

brookline booksmith

brookline booksmith

I spent my first few post-college years in Brookline for one main reason: I wanted to be close to the big Trader Joe’s in Coolidge Corner. Since I could barely afford to eat, that was the only place where I could get a week’s worth of groceries for $25. (For ALL meals—with my entry level newspaper salary, my budget didn’t allow me to eat out or order in!) Luckily, the neighborhood also had a few good restaurants, bars and shops.

During this trip, I met up with my all-time favorite dance buddy, Jackie, who still lives in the ‘hood. We had a nice brunch at Hops N Scotch, one of many places that had opened up since I’d lived there. (The breakfast biscuit sandwich was exactly what I was craving!) Before and after, I went to the Brookline Booksmith, right around the corner. I’d forgotten how much I loved that place. And how great it is to have an awesome book store nearby. The Booksmith has it all going on. It draws fabulous authors for talks and signings; displays new and recommended books in a way that encourages browsing for hours; has a rainbow-ordered wall of Moleskines (!!!); offers amazingly curated tables of gifts, art supplies, housewares, bags, jewelry, etc. that you never knew you wanted but now do; buys and sells used books in their basement. It’s just one other place I wanted to pick up and transport to NYC.

What are some of your favorite Boston places?

(Images via Area 4’s Facebook page, Legal Sea Foods, Boston Ballet School’s Facebook page and the Brookline Booksmith’s Facebook page)

Off to Boston!

boston back bay

Even though it’s colder in Boston than it is in NYC, I’m excited to be heading there for the weekend. It’s nice to get away, this time of year, no matter where!

My father has a bonsai booth at the New England Flower Show, so Mal, Peter and I will be stopping by to see him, as well as catching up with friends. This is also the final few days of Boston Ballet’s  “All Kylián” program which, as its name states, features three works by Jiří Kylián. I’d love to see it—especially since Ailey’s performance of Kylián’s “Petit Mort”  wowed me in December—but am not sure I’ll be able make the Saturday show. I am planning to take class at Boston Ballet, though—a good way to offset some of the eating I’m planning to do!

The image above is an illustration of the Back Bay, by artist Anna See. I love how she captured the historic buildings in one of Boston’s prettiest neighborhoods—where I was lucky enough to dorm, for a few years, as a BU student. Of course, once I had to rent my own apartment, the Back Bay was way out of my price range!

Happy Friday! How are you spending the weekend?

(Image via Anna See’s Etsy shop)

Spring 2013 Race: Long Branch Half Marathon Relay

nj marathon

Of all the weekend trips I took last year, one of my favorites was the 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, instead of booking hotel rooms, my family rented an airy lake house 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 Marathon 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)