Williams Reunion 2017

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View from Pine Cobble

I loved my time at Williams.  It was a really special time in my life- an intense cerebral-minded place filled with really smart, interesting people (but let’s be real, there was also a lot of partying).  Although I feel I’d be even more appreciative of it now than I was in my late teens/early twenties (see previous parenthetical), I know I am incredibly lucky to have such a formative experience there.  I also realize that there are many avenues to getting a great education and I am glad that I had such great parents who always encouraged me to do my best and not quit, even when I wanted to (I’m looking at you, organic chemistry!!!).

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Overlooking Greylock Quad

Why these warm feelings?  I just came back from my 15th Reunion!  I had missed my 10th when I was on the USNS Mercy so it was important to me to make this one.  I missed the Berkshires and really wanted to go back.  June is usually lovely and I was excited to go and re-meet people I had gone to school with so long ago.  I realize that there are many more reunions to come (hopefully) and that one day, I’ll roll my eyes at my 2017 self thinking that 15 years is a long time but really, a lot of living and life events have happened during that time!

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I had planned my trip back based on the college’s website which said reunion was 8-11 June.  Well, my class really had things on 9-10 so arriving early on the 8th meant that Morgan Hall was pretty empty.  I felt like a first-year wondering who my friends were going to be that night!

Backtracking a little, I landed in Albany and picked up my rental car where I recognized a woman I had been in school with.  We spoke briefly and then went off our separate ways.  I took a meandering route through Vermont and ended up on Rte. 2.  I drove out to Shelburne Falls and went to the Glacier Potholes and Bridge of Flowers.  It’s picturesque and a place I would visit the Summer of ’01 when I worked in a Williams lab.  The glacier potholes were so much fun to swim in.  “Were?” you ask.  Yes, unfortunately.  The town has cordoned off the potholes as they decided it was too much of a liability.  Apparently, it’s a miracle I survived my youth.

I also stopped in at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, a frequent stop on roadtrips across Rte 2.  I ate lunch at Rollin Dough, a portable wood oven pizza place outside of the coffee shop.  I had a delicious 1/2 pizza, tomato and burrata.  Deelicious!  If you are passing by, I highly recommend this roadside stand!

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Behind the scenes of beautiful Instagram shots!

I headed back to Williamstown and checked in for reunion weekend, which included lodging in Morgan Hall for $80.  Excellent!  I met up with a few acquaintances and we went out for tapas and drinks at Hops & Vines.   It’s weird to type “acquaintances” because I feel they are now friends but at the time, they were people I certainly remembered but had never interacted with at length.  We talked about our current lives and certain highlights of Williams.  A few of them had been at the Williams at Oxford program, which sounded fantastic.  I did not study abroad due to a double major + pre-med work that I wanted to complete in four years.  I definitely had to be goal-oriented because it was a choice to take classes I wasn’t necessarily interested in but needed to complete pre-med requirements.  As a result, I didn’t take Art History 101 (*single tear*) or study abroad.  I’m glad I made the choice I did but it was fun to hear about other Williams experience, especially seen with 15 years perspective.

We also had great political discussions that I really enjoyed.  While you might imagine that there’s a certain political leaning among most Williams graduates, I found people’s viewpoints to be very nuanced and well-considered.

On Friday, I headed to MASS MoCA with two friends.  The collection is incredible.  James Turrell has a temporary exhibit with interesting manipulations of light.  Our trio’s favorite exhibit was Spencer Fitch’s “Cosmic Latte.”

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A bigger photo of Cosmic Latte

Friday afternoon saw the arrival of some of my close friends, whom I had last seen during our November trip.  Two women from our November trip couldn’t make it and Gisele is still over in Europe.  Our class had a casual dinner that night and it was really delightful to talk to so many people.  I really had the best time and it was a late night, ending at the Purple Pub.

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A note on the Purple Pub and other buildings in the area.  In no way did I feel that Williams was austere when I went there but the current swankiness of the buildings and facilities (minus the dorm beds) is unbelievable.  The architecture is world-class and the new Sawyer-Stenson quad is exquisite.  I can’t believe that the class size (~525) is still the same- it’s such seemingly overabundance of riches.

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Alumni parade!

Saturday was a Williamstown day.  We ran, went out for coffee, marched in the alumni parade where we closed down Rte 2 (not much different than the 10 minutes between classes during the academic year), went to the all-campus lunch, hiked Stone Hill, ate ice cream and got ready for the Saturday night dinner and party.  Our party went late and we ended up getting crashed by current students, the class of ’07 and the class of ’82.  So clearly, it was a great party.  I ended the night again at the Purple Pub, this time with several people from the Class of ’82.

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Sunday was the day of departures.  Marissa and I hiked up Pine Cobble, which had fantastic views.  Then we went back into town and said goodbye to each other and to Hillary and Jason.  After my friends left, I went to the snack bar for a bit before leaving the dorm room around 11:30.  I went to the Clark Art Institute with its fantastic collection.  Then I got a Lickety Split ice cream (so good!) and a Papa Charlie’s sandwich and hit the road.  I got home late but it was worth it to maximize my Berkshires weekend.  I’d like to get back in between reunions but if I can’t, I am really looking forward to the 20th!

PS: Where was SMS?  Home.  He didn’t have enough vacation time, plus it wasn’t his reunion so interest wasn’t super-high.  As it turned out,  a lot of people came sans spouse unless the spouse was a fellow Williams grad.  Since it had been so long, I felt like I was meeting people for the first time so introductions could have been hard.  Someday, though, I will definitely take SMS to this amazing place!

NYC Fall weekend!

Outside of Diner

This past weekend, I took a quick trip up to NYC to see several of my college friends.  It was amazing!  I feel so lucky to have these women in my life.  It’s even more impressive in that we’re not necessarily the best in keeping in constant contact but I think we revive our email strings juuuust frequently enough that we’ve managed to keep in touch over the years.  I wish I was part of the NYC-area contingent so I could see people even more but hey, I’ll take what I can get!

Flying into LGA

So, the weekend didn’t start out super-auspiciously since I got stuck in an unexpected delay on the highway.  I mean, yes, it was rush hour but traffic was stopped for 20 minutes.  Not ideal.  I ran to the gate and saw the door closing just as I approached.  Boo!  But, the missed flight was easily rebooked and it meant I could meet up with my amazing friend at LaGuardia and head into the city with her.

A chicken in the apartment!

Unfortunately, Marissa’s roller-bag was forced gate-checked and utterly, completely lost by Delta. Boo!  We waited for awhile at LGA with growing baggage despondency which was totally offset by our delight in catching up with each other.  We headed into the city to meet up with the rest of the group.  We went to a bar briefly before heading back to the house where we drank wine, ate Dorritos and talked until 2 a.m(!).

 

The next day, my eyes flew open at 7:20 (boo!) and I stayed quiet-as-a-church mouse until everyone else got up around 9:30.  We got ready and headed out to brunch at Diner, a great restaurant under the Williamsburg bridge.  We had drinks while we waited and then had a nice brunch outside on a gorgeous Fall day.

Chloe’s Sweets

 

Afterwards, we headed into Manhattan where we took the Big Onion Satan’s Seat Prohibition Tour.  It was fun to have an guided walk through the Bowery and West Village.  The tour guide only talked at specific stops rather than the whole time so while I prefer continuous guiding, it was still a worthwhile tour.  Again, the weather was incredible.  It was so nice to be outside and in such good company.

How does a selfie stick wor-*click*

We went shopping for a bit so Marissa could get some clothes.  Then we headed back to the apartment to get ready for our night out.  We stopped by Hillary’s sister’s apartment, which was beautiful.  Her sister and parents were there.  It was so nice to see them!  After socializing for almost an hour (and we could have kept going!), we went around the corner to Lilia.  We had an incredible meal of shared dishes to include roasted cauliflower, roasted trumpet mushrooms, mafaldini, ricotta gnocchi, butternut squash ravioli, scallops and lamb.  The lamb was incredible and, really, all the dishes were winners in my book.

Very important a.m. pit stop

We went back to the apartment and spent some more time talking before going to bed at 1:30.  The next day, I slept in until 8:30 thanks to two late nights and daylight savings time!  Marissa left on the early side to catch her flight back.  As for the rest of us, we packed up our bags and headed down to cheer at the NYC marathon.  We were in the Hasidic section of Brooklyn, so our cheers were heard since it was otherwise quiet. Later, when we walked in deeper to hipster Williamsburg, there were a lot more spectators out.

Run, run, run!
Cheering and working up an appetite!

From our spot, we saw the men’s leader pack and the motorcade in front of them, which included Meb Keflezighi.  Watching other people run made us decidedly hungry so we went out to brunch/lunch in the city where we could watch some football.  We ate at Duke’s where the food was fine and hung out for a bit more until we started saying our goodbyes.  Hillary, Laddie and I headed to the Upper East Side, where Hil and I met Laddie’s daughter whom I’m fairly certain is a living doll. She’s so cute!

Norfolk Buddy!

 

Norfolk Buddy #2!

I went out to Central Park to cheer a Norfolk friend running in the marathon.  She looked great!  I held onto her dog while her boyfriend took pictures and said hello.  Then I headed back to Laddie’s, said goodbye and went on a long walk through NYC.  It was another gorgeous day.  I walked through the park with the constant stream of marathoners to my right and then I headed downtown past Rockefeller Center.  I got to Karen’s house just about the time I needed to head out to the airport.  I was thinking of an Uber but since it was $130(!!!!), I took public transportation.  $8 for the win!

I headed on my flight, already missing my friends but so happy to have had such a great weekend!  I can’t wait for the next one!

Switzerland, Day 2: Luzern and Melchsee-Frutt

I’ve seen uglier places…The beautiful Melchee-Frutt!

After a slightly interrupted night’s sleep thanks to my friend Mr. Jet Lag, SMS and I were ready for a fun day.  Gisele had planned for us to go on a hike to see the bearded vultures, an endangered species that recently had a pair released in the wild.  Gisele and her family had seen the release a few months prior so she was excited to see how they were doing.  

Wildflowers don’t care where they grow…which Dolly Parton song?  Anyone?
Breakfast was a delicious feast of croissants and jam.  I had been eating super “clean” before the vacation so it was a switch to be eating so much grain but it wasn’t hard.  In fact, it was delicious!
Hiking!
We headed out to Melchsee-Frutt, a four-seasons resort kind of place.  We took the train to the gondola station and then rode up the mountain.  It was an absolutely gorgeous place and we hiked for about 1.5 hours to get to the vultures.  Now, we did have kids with us and it was a fairly leisurely pace so keep that in mind before you think we are super slow.  We were hiking in peak wildflower season so all of the fields were filled with flowers, which was a theme of the entire vacation.
Fire pit.
The highlight of the hike for me was lunch!  Hear me out.  In Switzerland, they have little huts with fire pits that are stacked with firepits.  You start a fire and then grill the sausage you’ve brought along on your hike.  It is amazing!  It’s also very neighborly since at lunchtime, you tend to take over your predecessor’s fire and then someone takes over yours.  It was awesome!  I love the concept.  It would never happen in California, land of the wildfire but maybe on the East Coast…
Do you see the bearded vulture sitting on the little rock?
Yum!
We got to where the vultures were and yes!  They are doing very well!  We saw both of them flying and roosting so that was very cool.  We hung out for a bit, watched the kids climb a rocky hill face after SMS decided to be a good example.  The kids did great but we were a little worried when we saw a guy climb up holding two kids.  I said something in English (inadvertently!  I was just so shocked someone was doing something so stupid!) and his wife looked up and yelled at him.  International diplomat over here!
Playing at the Visitor’s Center!
After hanging out, we stopped in a cafe, had a drink and then caught a little train back to the gondola.  Now, when I say train, it is actually several cars linked together and driven on car wheels but the exterior looks like a train.  It’s very touristy and we saw similar transports in other cities.
Yay, no more walking!
We headed back to Gisele’s and had a delicious dinner of pork chops, potatoes and salad.  I felt so Swiss, I almost started speaking Swiss German!

Switzerland, Day 1: Arrival

Matterhorn- don’t worry!  The travelogues will get to it!
In early July, SMS and I went on an amazing 17 day trip to Switzerland.  I had almost a month off between jobs and we decided to take advantage of it and plan an epic vacation.  Because of the 4th of July holiday, SMS only missed 9 days of work during that time so it worked out well for him too!
When we were deciding on the trip, we ran through the places on our informal wish list.  We had talked about visiting Ticino, Switzerland together since we had both visited separately many years ago.  We both thought it was so beautiful and so fun, we really wanted to go back.  As I researched more about Switzerland, I found more and more places I wanted to visit.  So, in the end, we spent 17 days in Switzerland alone and the funny thing?  We still didn’t see everything that crossed our radar during our trip planning!
[Just a FYI, the other places we wanted to go were not super conducive to a July vacation.  Other options we considered were Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but since July is the middle of Winter for all three, we decided to forgo those places.  There are, of course, other places we want to visit but I really wanted to take advantage of the extended time we had to mitigate the energy sapping effects of a long-haul flight.
So.  July 1.  We took an overnight direct flight on Swiss Air.  It was code-shared with United, where I have a lot of miles but I booked through Swiss Air in order to pick our seats.  The airplane economy seating was in a 2-4-2 configuration so I picked two of the two-seaters.  Although it was a little more expensive, it was worth it.  Some day, I hope that it’ll be “worth it” to fly business or first class but since that would have doubled the vacation budget, I deferred.
The flight was fine and we landed in Zurich around 1630.  We got through customs quickly and hopped on the train from the airport to the main Zurich station.  We had purchased a 15-day Swiss pass which we had printed at home so train travel was very easy.  We didn’t have to fuss with ticket vending machines and we always found seats in the second class sections.  I didn’t even make seat reservations, which was great for flexibility.  We didn’t take any tourist trains during the trip because they tend to sacrifice speed for scenery.  I felt we saw everything through the “normal” trains and although the train rides were cool experiences themselves, I definitely didn’t feel the need to add more train time to our trip.

 

Mt. Pilatus from the apartment balcony- amazing!
Anyway.  After we arrived at the Zurich HB, we transferred to a train bound for Luzern, home of my college friend Gisele and her family.  We arrived around 1900 and Gisele graciously picked us up at the train station.  We drove to her apartment, which had an incredible view of Mt. Pilatus.  They had other friends visiting so we all hung out together and enjoyed a delicious meal of “fancy toast:” thick slices of amazing bread with lots of toppings to include mashed avocado, caprese, butter and chèvre with caramelized onions.  It was SO good!
It may look simple but dinner was amazing!
SMS and I hung in pretty well and then we went to bed.  It was so nice to spend our first nice in the company of friends!

San Francisco Saturday

Saturday was light on pictures, so have some cats
from Neko Atsume!

This past weekend was absolutely beautiful weather-wise. SMS and I decided to spend most of it in San Francisco. The main reason was for a Williams alumni event emphasizing the continuing relevance of a liberal arts education in various disciplines. The San Francisco event focused on Science and Technology but there are other events in different cities focusing on health, finance, etc.

We headed up Saturdgamba our best and I think we stand a fairly good chance of achieving a BQ!
ay morning after I went for a run with the local running club. It was the weekly Saturday run, a 3.5 mile loop that ends at Starbucks. I ran with 3 guys and we ran two of the miles at a 7:30 pace!  I felt pretty awesome!  I’m looking forward to the marathon. I feel really ready training-wise so as long as I feel good on race day, it should be a pretty good day. J and I want to qualify for the Boston marathon. Unfortunately, we’re right on the border pace-wise so there’s no time to spare which is a little nerve-wracking since there are things like water stations, bathroom breaks and the fact that runners often run a little more than 26.2 miles due to not being able to “follow the line” exactly due to banking of the road.  But we will

Anyway, enough running talk.  We went to Japantown and ate at Kushitsuru.  It was fine.  On the menu it said it was the best restaurant in Japantown.  SMS pointed that out.  Later in the meal, I said that I was so happy we were eating at the best restaurant in Japantown.  SMS was drinking tea at the time and laughed, which almost caused it to come out his nose.  I didn’t even mean to be funny!

After lunch, SMS headed to the Kabuki spa.  They have a traditional Japanese onsen, but it’s single sex on alternating days so only he would be able to enjoy the baths.  I went to the Korean make-up shops, where I looked at all the character masks and marveled at the incredible mark-ups on the snail goo products compared to the prices in Seoul.

SMS was done more quickly than I expected.  A person can only hang out in hot baths for so long!  We headed to the Financial District and checked into our hotel.  We stayed at Club Quarters, which was very nice.  It was clean, functional and fairly inexpensive.  I booked the trip through Priceline as a hidden 4-star hotel.  Although the hotel is nice, I wouldn’t quite call it 4-star.  When I was looking on their FAQ checking regarding parking, there was also a question about the 4-star rating and where it came from.  It was hilarious because the answer was basically, “Not from any outside agency but we think our amenities compare favorably to four star hotels.”  Self-rating doesn’t seem like the most objective way, but it does show a high level of confidence, I suppose!

We headed over to the Williams event and had a really nice time.  The event was really well-done.  The lectures were excellent and we spoke to some interesting people.  I saw some people from my class and overall, it was a really good afternoon.  There was a cocktail reception afterwards that seemed to go on for awhile so SMS and I left, thinking that I had misread that there would be dinner. Oops, there was dinner.  I feel a little badly leaving when I had been in the head count but really, I thought it was winding down.

Leo’s Atrium

One positive for not believing what I read (hey, the critical liberal arts mind strikes again!) is that we had an awesome dinner at Leo’s Oyster Bar.  Oh my goodness, it was delicious.  We had two California oysters each and then were treated to a pair of St Simone by a really eager maitre d’.  He was very enthusiastic about oysters and the restaurant.  We had a really nice time talking to him.  He also delivered the wrong order to our table which we didn’t realize until we had a bite.  We had been waiting on uni toasts and when we were delivered a lump of something surrounded by toast, we thought it was our order.  It was actually the salmon tartare.  The waitress said not to worry about it and to enjoy it so really, even though we went out to eat, we continued our evening’s trend of getting free food!

We also enjoyed (and paid for) the lobster roll.  It was really delicious and the bun was absolute perfection- toasted, golden and with a near-perfect ratio of bread to lobster.  I think the perfect ratio would be hard because can there ever be too much lobster?

We also really liked where we sat. We were on the side of the bar, in the atrium.  The atrium has a very vintage decor feel with high ceilings.  It was nice to sit in an area with the best of both worlds- the energy of the bar and the uniqueness of a creatively decorated space.  Our area was called the “Low Bar,” which felt slightly like a kid’s table since the seats were smaller and lower than normal bar seating.  It was lovely and unique.  If you want a table, reservations appear to be a must but we were very happy to get in and our seating was perfect.

How do you back-in a dragon?  Very carefully!

Afterwards, we headed out and saw the tail-end of the Chinese New Year’s parade.  The highlight was seeing a human-carried dragon puppet get backed into the lobby of a building.  The dragon was super long and navigating the head with the tall horns was a bit challenging.  But they did it!  Then they set off the remainder of their noisemaker fireworks which was really loud.  I feel very grateful to live in a country that is safe enough that when people hear explosions and loud sounds, they look for the fireworks instead of worrying about bombs.

Then we headed back to our four-star abode.  It was a really nice day and we were excited to see a little more of San Francisco the next day.

East Coast Weekend!

This past weekend, SMS and I headed to the East Coast for Marissa and Blake’s wedding!  
First, we arrived on Friday at LGA and picked up our rental car.  We headed to my uncle’s house, about 25 minutes from West Point.  We spent the night with Rick, Jen, Tahoe and Vegas (the dogs).  It was really nice to see them and hang out a little longer than we were able to at the wedding.  
The next day, I was stressed because I had forgotten my uniform shirt.  Dumb, dumb, dumb!  When will I learn to double check that EVERYTHING is there?  Since my other shirt was on its merry way to Japan, we left Rick’s, picked up Karen in Garrison and went to the PX.  Fortunately, we got there with plenty of time.  We dropped our stuff off at my med school friends’ house then headed out to the wedding.  
The West Point chapel is BEAUTIFUL!  It was a really nice ceremony and the first kiss was awesome!  Then, I was in the sword arch, which was my first one ever.  I was really honored and excited to be a part of it!  
That afternoon, we went out to lunch and then I took a nap.  We got ready for the reception and the three of us headed out to the West Point club.  We had a great time and it was a beautiful setting.  All my college friends except Laddie were there.  I was really grateful to have the chance to see everyone before leaving for Japan.
The three house guests!  Thanks Brian and Deb!
Toast by the Best Man!
Photobooth fun!

The next day, we went to a brunch at the Thayer Hotel and said our goodbyes.  Then we went out to lunch with Brian and Deb to a cute French place in Cold Spring, Brasserie Le Bouchon.  SMS and I had delicious salads and French onion soup.  Brian had yummy mussels and Deb had half a chicken.  All of the food was awesome and we finished off with popsicles from next-door.

SMS and I left and headed off to Little Silver.  We went out to Navesink CC for dinner and everyone had delicious fish dishes.  Maria and Brady were there too which was totally awesome!  I was so happy to see both of them.  After dinner SMS and I dropped Brady off in the city so she could catch the bus to Boston.  We went to the High Line Park, which was super-cool.  We also went to Serendipity for dessert.  I’m so glad we had a mini-outing in the city rather than just go to the hotel.  
Building on the High Line
Tower along the High Line
Who is this gorgeous man!?!?

The next morning, we were off to LaGuardia.  We had to switch our flights around due to a delayed first flight but we got back in time for SMS’ class, preceded by a Chick-fil-a stop, since I had said there was one at every airport we were at and I kept dashing the hopes of SMS since I was always wrong!