Jamestown, with and without an “E”

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SMS and I spent the Thanksgiving weekend in the Tidewater area of Virginia.  Since we were in such a historic part of the country, we decided to check out the former site of Jamestown, the first permenent English colony in the U.S.  SMS had been there when he was in junior high and remembered the glass blowing demonstration.  I had never been and really didn’t know that much about it which led to the following encounter-

Upon following Google Maps to Jamestown, we pulled into a large parking lot for a museum.  We walked inside, used the bathrooms, and then I went up to the ticket counter.  I was pretty sure we weren’t at the Jamestown site but I wanted to know where to go and since it was already 3 p.m, I wanted to make sure we didn’t go to the wrong place.

Me: “Excuse me, but is this where I buy tickets to Jamestown?”

Ticket lady: “[Loud Audible Sigh]  It’s been a long weekend.  Jamestown DOESN’T EXIST!!! IT HASN’T BEEN HERE SINCE 1624!!!!”

Me (slightly taken aback): “Um, I’m sorry.  But I thought there was a historic site to see?”

Ticket lady: “Look, this is Jamestowne with an ‘e.’  We’re a living history museum.  The archeologic site of Jamestown (which doesn’t exist) is down the road.”

Me: “So, do I need to buy a ticket here?”

Ticket Lady: “No.”

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Can’t rain on my ranger parade!

Sheesh.  What a weirdo!  While I was talking to her, she had pulled out a laminated placard showing the difference between Jamestowne with an ‘e’ and Jamestown.  Jamestown is run by the National Park Service, which is great since SMS and I have an annual pass.  That meant we could get in for free, which was perfect since we didn’t have a lot of time.

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First, we went to the glassblowing shop which had on-going demonstrations and was really warm from the incredibly hot oven in the center.  This was delightful since it was so cold!  We drove down to the Jamestown site proper, showed our pass, and walked to the artifact museum.  Then, we walked around the fort which hadn’t even been excavated when SMS last visited.  After looking at the fort that didn’t exist, we walked around the Newtown area, which we slightly regretted since it was so cold.  But, hey, we were there so we had to see the sights!

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We hopped in the car and had dinner at La Tienda, a Spanish tapas restaurant.  It was delicious!  I wished we had bigger appetites and/or a larger group because there were several dishes I wanted to try.  But, while we were there, the berenjenas con miel and judiones fritos were particular highlights!

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Other events from Thanksgiving weekend: I made a delicious but homely looking sweet potato pie.  It suffered in comparison next to my friend’s Cheesecake Factory worthy dessert.  Ah well.

Also, at a local restaurant, SMS had a fruit salad, Southern style: iceberg lettuce, canned fruit in syrup, and shredded cheddar cheese.  We were both slightly confused.  The restaurant is called The Grey Goose.  The doorstop goose out front was missing its head.  Apparently, this has been an ongoing saga where the head keeps getting knocked off despite trying to glue it back on.  The owner has now given up, per a shamelessly eavesdropped conversation on my part.

 

Day trip to Outer Banks, NC

SMS and I decided to take a day trip to the Outer Banks earlier this month.  It was the Saturday after Labor Day so even though we were charged peak tolls, it seemed that we were into the “shoulder season” with far fewer tourists.  We had an amazing time!

We drove along the 158E and once we crossed the bridge to the Outer Banks, we took a right to head down towards Kill Devil Hill and Kitty Hawk.  Our first stop was for lunch at Pigman’s BBQ for some East Carolina-style pulled pork and ribs.  I really like the tangy, vinegar-based sauce.  We were pretty hungry and the food hit the spot!  We ate outside in the shade.  The restaurant also does picnics-to-go, which would be a nice way to have a gourmet beach feast.

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SMS as a plane. Next to him is the launch rail. In the background are the flight distance markers.

After Pigman, we headed to the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hill.  Kill Devil Hill was the dune (now grass-covered hill) that they used to launch their gliders.  Slightly north of the hill is the site of the first four flights.  There is a launch rail that was used to help guide the plane to take-off that is still present.  Four boulders are placed marking the landing site of each of the first flights, which got progressively longer.  I didn’t realize how short the first flight was!  We walked along the path to the 4th flight boulder, which was the longest distance by far.  It was really neat.  In addition, there’s a cool juxtaposition of a modern airstrip right next to the monument so right next to the historic field is a modern airport with Cesnas flying in.

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We decided to head South and try to find a beach.  I saw a marker for Coquina Beach at the Wright Memorial so we headed there.  What a find!  It’s down Highway 12 about 20 minutes from Kitty Hawk.  It’s part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore so it’s completely undeveloped.  But at Coquina Beach, there is a large parking lot with plenty of spots when we were there.  Best of all, there’s a spotlessly clean bathroom, changing room and outdoor shower area which makes it SO much nicer when it comes time to leave.  Rather than sitting in damp suits with sticky sand, we were able to wash off and change.  I really liked it and can definitely see myself going back.

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After a few hours at the beach, we got back in the car and headed home.  We stopped at the Weeping Radish, a microbrewery in Grandy opened by an immigrant from Bavaria in the 1980s.  They follow the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516 and both the beer and food are German-inspired.  The beer, all from the microbrewery, was really good.  I was surprised because sometimes super-small places can be uneven in quality but every beer was pretty great, although there were some I favored over others just based on personal taste.   Unfortunately, we weren’t hungry due to the size of our lunch but I bet the food there is pretty awesome. We watch the last set of the Serena-Naomi US Open, which was pretty intense.

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Feeding a goat!

Also, I got to feed a goat!  There were two goats outside and I went over to admire their cuteness.  A woman leaving the brewery told us that they liked branches from the tree and that I should feed them one.  So, I took a little twig and fed one of the goats.  Super cute!

Then it was time to head back.  It was a great day with lots of cool stops- a perfect day trip!  For future Outer Banks trips, I would like to go back to Coquina Beach, check out Duck, and travel to Ocracoke for an overnight (or several) based on my cousins’ recommendations.

Central Coast California- Party and Wine Tasting

The weekend after an East Coast family trip, SMS and I made our way from Silicon Valley to the Central Coast.  First stop?  Great-Uncle Al’s 90th birthday party in Arroyo Grande!

Before we went to the party, we stopped at our favorite taco place in nearby Pismo Beach, Papi’s Grill.  We ordered a few tacos and they were delicious.  The potato taco is always a hit and a few of the meat ones were also very tasty.  Then we checked into the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel and went to the beach for a bit.

Uncle Al is SMS’ grandfather’s younger brother.  The brothers are both very active and live life to the fullest.  Although there was no formal toast, Uncle Al got up at one point to tell us “terrible news:” “I just went to DMV and they renewed my license…for five more years!”  It was very funny.  Although as I type it, it sounds worrisome- I promise, it was light-hearted!

It was fun to see family members, including SMS’ aunt and uncle whom we don’t see as often.  We had tri-tip for dinner, which was pretty delicious.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched the sunset.  It was a pretty great day.

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World Cup viewing

The next day, SMS and I went to a local bar to watch the World Cup final.  I am an unabashed follower of sports when it comes to championship games.  The road to the championship?  Not so much but when it’s time for the finals, I’m usually there.  It was a good game and both teams played with gusto. I was rooting for Croatia as the underdog but France winning was also ok.

After the game, we checked out of the hotel and headed for Paso Robles.  We had decided to take a couple days off and go wine-tasting with SMS’ parents.  Since we were early for check-in, we headed out to do what we do best- drink wine!  Our first stop was at Eos winery, where Rip had a complimentary tasting due to reciprocity from another wine club he belongs to.  Our pourer was really nice but the wines were…ok.  We enjoyed talking to her and she gave us a tip that was AWESOME (more later) so it wasn’t a bust but we definitely didn’t buy any of the wines.

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Heart Hill, Niner Winery

Rip wanted to try Niner winery so off we went for a tasting and possibly lunch.  There, by total chance, we ran into his sister and brother-in-law.  We enjoyed a tasting and decided to eat lunch at the on-site restaurant.  It was really good and the outdoor seating even better.  It was a really nice lunch setting and it was very enjoyable.

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Lunch table at Niner

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Although we had gotten the message that our hotel rooms were ready, we decided to keep going with wine tastings (yay!).  Since Justin is an old favorite and a little out of the way from the places we were planning on for the next day, we headed there.  We split wine tastings there and I bought a few bottles.  We ambitiously thought we’d drink them while we ate S’mores later at the Hotel Cheval but that ended up not happening.  So SMS and I still have them.  Darn.

We headed back to town to check in and then go to dinner.  We went to Thomas Hill Organics, which has excellent food and a beautiful indoor/outdoor covered patio.  Afterwards, we went to Hotel Cheval’s famed evening S’mores which ended up driving me crazy.  Let me say, SMS thinks I shouldn’t write about this because it does make me look slightly insane.  He is probably right but I press on, regardless.

So, first, you cannot make your own S’more.  There is a s’more concierge/waiter who takes your S’more order and then makes them for you.   He is taking orders from many people who would like s’mores and yet, he can only make two at a time.  Not the best system in the world but this is not the part where I lost my mind.  What was driving me crazy was his insane level of inefficiency and resulting level of stress.  It’s like the scene in August: Osage County when Abigail Breslin’s character states she doesn’t eat meat because she’s ingesting an animal’s fear.  Well, I was eating a person’s stress while eating a s’more, which is antithetical to the s’more experience.  Also, why could he not move his s’more ingredient wagon next to the fireplace where he was actually making the s’mores rather than running back and forth.  Wwhhhhhhyyyy?!?!? Argh, just let me make my own s’more!  Except I couldn’t.  And the whole experience made me weirdly grouchy because I am crazy.  The end.

So, if you’re still with me rather than reporting my fragile mental status to concerned authorities, we had another day of wine tasting the next day!  After a delicious breakfast, which featured a buffet and, thankfully, not a breakfast s’more waiter, we headed out to Villa San Juliette, which had been recommended the previous day at Eos.

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Villa San Juliette
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Happy couple at Villa San Juliette

It was amazing!  The wines were really good- I ended up becoming a member!  Also, the tasting was $10 and a lot of wines were served.  SMS ordered a pizza because his hunger levels were reaching imminent crisis levels and it looked delicious.  We spoke to the chef for a bit and he really knew his stuff.  I sort of wanted to eat there because everything he described sounded amazing, but we had already made plans for Daou which is another great experience.  But before I move on to Daou, if you are in Paso Robles, I give Villa San Juliette my highest recommendation!

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Daou lunch crowd!
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Daou vineyards

Rip has been a member of Daou for a long time and loves their wines.  It also sits on top of the largest hill around for miles so the view is spectacular.  There is an outside sitting area that is covered so, although it is quite hot, it’s comfortable in the shade as there’s often a gentle breeze as well.  We had a great tasting there and lunch.

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Our lunch was rather late so we decided to head back into town for happy hour rather than try and squeeze in another winery.  We got some so-so ice cream but later, went out for a really nice dinner at La Cosecha.  I ordered the seafood stew that was delicious but I wasn’t quite hungry enough for.  Still, I ate all the good stuff and tried not to waste any food!  Afterwards, SMS and I headed to an outdoor spa at River Oaks Hot Spring & Spa.  He made the reservation and it was really a good idea!  Afterwards, we still had room for a s’more so we hung out by the fire again.  This time, I was more chill.  Not uncoincidentally, there was a different s’more guy.

The next day, it was time to go.  We ate breakfast and then packed up the car.  It was a great mini-vacation and a fun way to celebrate family.

4th of July and West Orange, NJ

SMS and I visited family over the extended 4th of July weekend.  For the 4th itself, we went to the Shook family annual party.  It was a little more mellow this year compared to others (no swinging fireballs!), but it was a lot of fun.  The company was great and we had an awesome view of multiple firework shows.  I also got to run around the beach with my nephew Luca, which was a lot of fun.  He’s a spirited kid!  He also moves quite fast so no pictures from me although Mark caught him in action.

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Super cute!

That weekend, we headed up to New Jersey to see my grandfather and Dusty.  It was a quick trip since we arrived on Saturday and left Sunday.  We went out to a local restaurant since SMS and I hadn’t thought to bring nice clothes for a dinner at Navesink.  Doh!  Never fear, the local restaurant was really good and it was nice to hang out with Grandpa, Dusty, and my aunt Maria.

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Edison’s West Orange Factory

The next day, we went to the Thomas Edison National Historic Part in West Orange, NJ.  It’s at the site of his larger, industrial sized laboratory and factory.  We saw his chemical lab, production line, office with his huge roll-top desk, and the Black Maria.  The Black Maria is a tarpaper-covered video making studio on a lazy Susan to maximize light.  I’ve linked to a PBS short that talks about the Black Maria.  The current studio is actually a replica since the original burned down.  It was really neat to see someone’s idea constructed, from paper concept to large physical structure.  The scope of industrial engineering is something I’m in awe of- it’s hard for me to think on that scale.  But it is absolutely amazing to behold.

We stopped for lunch at MishMish cafe where we both ordered the Israeli brunch, which consisted of two fried eggs, halloumi, labne, sour pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, and pita.  I asked for sliced veggies instead, which also paired nicely.  It was really delicious.

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Is it wrong to think of my TESLA at Edison’s house?  The battery charger!

Afterwards, we quickly stopped at the Glenmont Estate, labelled “Glenmont Garage” on Google.  It’s the estate Edison gave to his second wife (he was a widower) as a wedding gift.  Niiiiiiccceeeee!  We didn’t have a lot of time but we peaked into an open window in the garage.  There, I saw Edison’s DC electric car charger- from  1904!  He charged neighbor’s cars and Alma Edison actually drove a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47.  We walked behind the house and saw the gravesite of Thomas and Alma Edison before leaving for the airport.  Hmmm, typing that seems a little morbid pre-flight, but we didn’t have time to go inside!

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Back of the house

Busy (NYC) Weekend

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On Friday, I got a few hours of sleep and then woke up to start the journey home.  I grabbed my takeaway breakfast from the fridge and walked to the station.  The journey home was pretty uneventful although connecting through Brussels was a little nerve-wracking since there was a HUGE line for non-EU citizens leaving the Schengen zone.  I also had to run back to the United counter to get a sticker saying I had been through security.  This seemed ridiculous because of course I went through security, there was no other way to be at the gate.  Anyway, it was a pretty tight connection because of all that but I made it and got home, just in time for Chief’s Dinner.

After a nice dinner with colleagues and some funny roast skits (on video), I went home and slept pretty soundly.  The next morning, I got up to…take a plane to NYC.  I know.  Totally crazy but a friend of mine was having a baby shower hosted by friends with an amazing apartment.  So, off I went!

I landed in Newark and took the train into Penn Station.  I had made an appointment at the Apple Store near World Trade Center so after a delicious lunch at Sliced.  It was delicious and pretty healthy, too.  I had an open-faced toast and the counterman was really nice.

Then I walked down to the World Trade Center area.  I walked through the memorial, which was pretty somber.  It is clear that in the NYC area, 9/11 is an event that affects people daily.  I feel that elsewhere in the US, while people treat the date with solemnity, the direct impact is felt less often by the overall population on a day-to-day basis.

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The Oculus mohawk
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Inside Oculus

Next, I walked into Oculus, a futuristic-looking multi-use space that is impressive on the outside and the interior even more so.  I walked through Eatly and then went to the Apple store where they took my laptop away to send it in.  Although the girl tried to insinuate that I must have done something by showing my photos of a few spots of micro-rust from water damage, it ultimately turned out that the logic board had failed.  I didn’t have to pay anymore than the (expensive) base rate and my computer was returned with memory intact (my last backup had been a month ago!).

After that, it was time to party!  Michael and Scott organized a great party with awesome drinks and delicious food.  We went up to their deck and socialized while admiring the spectacular views.

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The star of the party! (On the left.  Sheesh.  I’m not that self-centered!)
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Brooklyn Bridge from M and S’s apartment
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It’s all fun and games until there are unintended consequences.  Fortunately, none here!

Then the party headed downstairs where we ate and drank some more.  We played pin-the-sperm-on-the-uterus after getting fairly liquored up (varied from person to person), which was a lot of fun.  One of the (gay) guys was right on target (cheater) and very proud of himself.  Most everyone else did rather poorly but there were no hurt feelings or broken household items.

The party was still going but I had to leave to meet up with my AirBnB host.  I know I wasn’t thrilled about my Gothenburg experience but NYC is expensive!  I met up and it was a cool loft, although several units had eviction/condemned notices up for overcrowding violations.  So, a little shady but my stay was fine.

Then I met up with Hillary and Karen for Ethiopian food.  It was so fun to hang out with them and after dinner, we headed over to Hillary’s to hang out and drink some wine.  They were a little mad at me for staying at an AirBnB but both of them were so busy with family and job obligations that I didn’t want to stress them out.  But they said if I ever came again, no AirBnB!  Stay with one of them!

The next day, Karen and I met up for brunch.  Afterwards, I walked for a bit and then met two of my aunts for a second brunch.  One of my aunts and I had planned to go to the Met but my grandfather really hoped to see me.  Well, the Met can wait!  Also, it was Father’s Day so it was nice to spend the day with family.  We had a really nice dinner at Navesink.  I took an Uber to Newark.  There was very little traffic and I made my flight without a hitch.

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Aunties!!

It was a wonderful weekend.