Well, 2014 is now for the history books. Lots happened in this crazy world of ours and, likely, lots in each of our worlds. My year started planning my big trips for the year: Iceland and doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the latter with Trekking for Kids, a charity I am involved with and with whom I do a yearly trek somewhere around the world to improve the lives of orphaned children). But the year brought me a few unexpected destinations and a return to some favorites.
Lake Placid – winter wonderland
But my first trip of the year was to wonderful Lake Placid, New York best known for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
There, I explored local food and beverages at great places like the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, the bar at the Whiteface Lodge, and at Lisa G’s (with its delicious chicken wings!). I also got to skate on the Miracle on Ice skating Herb Brooks arena (after over a decade of not ice skating!), and got to do a luge run in the indoor training facility for the U.S. Olympic team!
New York City
Business took me to NYC but only for an overnight visit. I managed to squeeze in seeing my cousins A and Z and enjoyed a great meal with them. One great outcome of this trip was this neat photo from my business partners’ office.
I might add that the photos/videos from my airplane window seat upon takeoff from La Guardia were pretty neat thanks to the blanket of snow on the ground. I shared some of them here but here is one example of the great opportunity I had on this flight.
I worked in DC for two years right in the heart of the city. I so enjoyed being in the center of power, arguably, of the world watching people, exploring the various museums and monuments (surprise find: the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery right by the White House, which I got to visit!), enjoying great cocktails (especially at Le Bar in the Sofitel) and savoring all the great food around town (like at Granville Moore’s or Café Mozart).
I got to return on a winter weekend in 2014 as I just love the town and I got to attend the travel show held yearly in town. I got to visit my former workplace and say hi to my former colleagues as well which was a nice touch. I finally got to do a slow “walkaround” of Lafayette Square, a place I often went to to eat my lunch during workdays but that I never paid close attention to. And then I got to hang out with a couple of friends and fellow trekkers from Trekking for Kids - icing on the proverbial cake!
Finally, I love when taking off from Reagan National airport affords me a neat view!
I had not heard about Traverse City ever until a couple of months before I went. How could it be that this world traveler who had also seen a good bit of the States had never heard of this place?? I was pleasantly surprised at all there was to see and do around Traverse City. From good food, great local beer, plenty of nature and outdoors, and excellent drives. On top of it all, I actually ran into Cuban pork (one of my favorite dishes) at a local winery in the Leelanau Peninsula while exploring the area’s wine with the Sip & Savor festival – an event I greatly enjoyed.
But my favorite part of the whole trip was driving around the peninsulas, taking in the vistas and checking out the architecture of the area. I did not get to see the dunes that are not far from Traverse City but that, my friends, will be for a future visit.
My trip to Iceland was special. It is a place I have always wanted to explore but I got to do it with dear friends and their two kids. In addition, one of them had second (or was it third??) cousins there and she connected with them. They hosted us for a great evening of food and wine and, more importantly, warmth and great company!
I enjoyed seeing the diverse landscapes of the island. There are not enough posts I could write about it to convey how majestic it is and I am not yet done writing about it (I did write about the South Shore, Reykjavik and its main church, the site of its first parliament, and the Blue Lagoon). But here are a couple of the sights I enjoyed. In the meantime, stay tuned for more posts about Iceland!
As some of you may know from prior posts, I moved to Puerto Rico when I was 2 years old until I finished high school when I came back to the mainland U.S. This year I went back to P.R. for a high school reunion. Given many commitments, I had to keep it to a 2.5-day weekend visit centered on the reunion activities and my classmates. Of course, and it goes without saying (or typing), that EVERYONE looks the same. (You never know who is reading these things… best to be careful and say that. LOL).
We stayed at a resort in Rio Grande which was OK but did not compare to other resorts in terms of service, cleanliness, or quality of food and beaches. But, what made the weekend perfect was sharing with so many wonderful people – I truly was happy to see them and try to catch up.
I did enjoy two things about this trip besides the reunion: sunset at the resort and the landing in San Juan which was like a trip down memory lane seeing all the places I knew (on my side of the plane), so much so on the latter that I dedicated a post to share the views from the landing! Check it out here.
Santa Barbara, California
There are so many places you hear about constantly and sometimes you just never think anything of them. Santa Barbara is a name I have heard so much yet never made it a point of going there. That is, until my friends Chris and Wendy invited me to join them on a trip to Cali. I only could take a long weekend not the whole week of their trip but I decided to go with them and explore Santa Barbara with them. I am so glad I did, even if the trip was so short. The trip started with lunch at The Hat in Simi Valley where I enjoyed a delicious hot pastrami sandwich and an obscenely (and deliciously) large bag of onion rings!
The food, the wine and the company were excellent. But the sights of Santa Barbara were indeed worth the effort: the Presidio, the Old Mission, and -of course- the beach! This is a place I would love to get back to just to relax!
Spain: Madrid, León, Santiago and the Camino
Oh, Spain! Where to begin. León, where the trip began? Any of the number of towns along the Camino de Santiago, where we walked and experienced a millennial pilgrimage? Santiago de Compostela, where the pilgrimage ends and near where my great-grandfather was born? Or, Madrid, the grand dame of Spain?
Unfortunately, my visit to Morocco was short as I was headed to Spain to do the Camino de Santiago. I got to experience a little bit of Marrakesh but the bulk of the visit was spent in Essaouira, a town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco – quite an unexpected vibe to a Moroccan city for me (I knew little about Morocco before this visit!). It is a little weird that I am writing about Morocco in the year in review before I have even finished writing about my visit there last summer!
As is usually my reaction to Arab countries, I loved the architecture. The red of Marrakesh was a stark contrast to the white and some blue of Essaouira. And just the same, Marrakesh was intense whereas Essaouira was relaxed – another sharp contrast. I felt like I could live in Essaouira quite easily though Marrakesh would require a significant adjustment. What a neat experience to see these big differences within Morocco!
The Florida Gulf Coast near Tampa
I visit Tampa where I have a good bit of family a few times a year. Usually, this means hanging out together or doing things nearby. But I rarely go beyond the area of Tampa where they all live. Christmas 2014 was the time, given the length of my visit, to go beyond. We did a couple of day trips to “sample” places like Naples (about 2.5 hrs away from north Tampa), Lido Key, Longboat Key, and Anna Maria Island. The latter seemed like a great community to live in but otherwise, not that charming. St. Armand at Lido Key did strike me as a neat place to go and walk around and sit back and relax. We checked out the park at the southern tip of the key and walk to the beach. Later we drove the length of Longboat Key (pretty long indeed!) but we “broke it up” by stopping at The Lazy Lobster for an outdoor lunch centered on, guess what, lobster!
But 2014 was also a year of exploring not only far off places but also places near my own hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.