Monthly Archives: March 2012

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Being without internet on vacation is tough! But, hubby and I are back from Wilmington, NC where we spent a week visiting hubby’s dad. The weather was amazingly gorgeous and warm and the food was outstanding (so much better than what we found in The Netherlands). We kept ourselves busy playing tourist and eating out, ending the week with a perfect morning on the beach. Stay tuned as I post all we did in NC, this week!

I first visited NC in November of 1998, a few months after Bob and I got married. We stayed at his parents’ beach house on Carolina Beach and it was just lovely. Since then I’ve been back several times, but this was the first time we visited the aquarium since they renovated it. My first visit to this aquarium back in 1998 ended up being free because I was still a member of AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), having just left a job as Associate Curator of Education. The Fort Fisher Aquarium was quaint and I enjoyed it.

Since the renovation, though, it’s become quite fantastic with great educational signage, fabulous exhibits, and informative docents ready to share information. My favorite exhibit was the sea horses. I do love them!

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Categories: North Carolina | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Wilmington, North Carolina

Visiting my father-in-law who has no (gasp) WiFi! Stopped by Panera for a quick fix. I promise more detailed posts and more photos very soon. In the meantime, enjoy some of the sights I’ve taken in so far this week:

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Categories: North Carolina | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

A Sunny Afternoon in Amsterdam

Of all the places Bob and I have traveled over the last 14+ years, one of my favorite trips is Amsterdam, our second year of marriage. We saw everything in 3 days. Our feet ached but our hearts were happy. We only had an afternoon in Amsterdam today and we were happy just to walk around with the crowds and sit at a cafe and people watch. Still love the vibe of this city!

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Love the Dutch – they are so friendly, so helpful, so kind (we had to ask how to pay/ride the tram in the city).

On our way home! Thanks for joining us!

Categories: Amsterdam | Tags: | 2 Comments

Sweet Treats!

Ah, I think it’s time for a little disclaimer, because as my sweet father-in-law once pointed out, we do seem to do a lot of eating when we travel. I admit it, it’s one of our great joys. But, we also love to explore – visit museums and historical sites, check out the wildlife, get lost on public transportation, shop (okay, more me than Bob), etc.  This trip is a business trip for Bob and he has very little free time. I decided to take advantage of this time and focus on my writing. So, if you’re wondering why there are no photos of anything but food and shops, well, now you know. 😉

During a lunch break, Bob and I walked to the near-by shopping area and sat at an outdoor cafe right next to a fireplace for lunch. The place was called Aprés de Skihut and had a cartoon drawing of a skier and a lodge on a mountain side. The food was decent, but Bob was surprised when his Italiano sandwich turned out to be nothing more than two thick slices of wheat bread slathered with pesto and sprinkled with sliced green olives, cubes of mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes. For those of you who know Bob well, you know he is a true carnivore and no meat basically equals “not a real meal.” I shared my tuna salad with him so he didn’t walk away famished, at least.

The treat was this, served to us with the bill:

What’s this? I don’t know except it was topped with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate crystals. I lapped at the whipped cream until Bob handed me a tiny spoon I hadn’t noticed (because, hello! whipped cream! chocolate sugar crystals!). I swallowed the liquid and it gently burned its way down my throat. Hmmm. I think it was maybe brandy? Just a taste.

My happiest discovery came during the hotel breakfast buffet. To be honest, it was Bob who found this box and handed it to me as I was about to butter my warmed croissant.

See the photo? It’s chocolate flakes on bread! Chocolate ON Bread! What a fantastic idea! I peeled open my croissant and poured the chocolate flakes into the center. Voila! Chocolate croissant!

I wonder if I can find a grocery store nearby that sells a very large box of this product????

Categories: Good Eats, Rotterdam | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Delicious Dinner – Surprise!

This is part 2 about our evening of wandering around Rotterdam, looking for dinner. See part 1 here.

So, Bob and I, after learning that our original dining destination was closed, headed back over the bridge in hopes of finding a restaurant worth trying out. We knew we hadn’t passed any restaurants we had any great desire to try on our way over the bridge. So, we risked turning down a street that looked promising. It turned out that yes, the street was lined with shops and cafes. We were hopeful.  When we walked past Hotel Bazar, we saw the Mediterranean menu posted in window. Tempting. There was also a cute little restaurant across the street, but it was empty. We peeked into the window of the large Hotel Bazar and it was positively bustling with waiters carrying full trays and tables full of customers. Always a great sign! So we wandered in. First thing we asked? “Do you have a menu in English?” They did! Hooray!

The inside was fabulously decorated with lots of colorful lamps, the atmosphere was casual. Our waitress spoke English (of course) – everywhere we travel, we find we can use our English without any trouble. I’m envious of all these people in other countries who are so easily bi- and multi- lingual.

We put in our order for dinner. The smells wafting around the restaurant were enough to make us drool (nearly). We peeked over at our neighbors’ tables and everything looked delicious. We were downright famished by the time our meals (promptly) arrived.

I ordered a marinated, grilled chicken kabob, served with rice and potatoes. The chicken was amazingly delicious with the perfect amount of seasoning. That pepper looks a little intimidating but it wasn’t spicy at all. The sauce was barbeque and I didn’t bother using it for the chicken (it masked the flavor), but did dip my potatoes in it. Dare I admit here that I ate everything? (Except I did leave most of the potatoes, not because they weren’t good, but I got full.)

Bob ordered the marinated veal ribs when the server admitted that it was her favorite dish. It was a tad spicy (but not overly so), juicy, tender, and very good! Bob enjoyed it very much! (He did keep sneaking bites of my rice, though!)

The best part was dessert. I ordered baklava, a dessert I enjoy very much. I expected a small triangle of the treat of filo dough filled with pistachio nuts and honey, but instead this was placed before me:

Bob’s first question to me was, “What is that furry stuff on top?” It did indeed look rather…furry. I took a small pinch and as soon as I touched it, I knew what it was. Cotton candy! Sweet! And it melted on my tongue. We joked a little, by petting it, but soon it was all gone, along with the four rectangles of baklava underneath. I’d never seen it served this way, have any of you? It was fun and amazingly good!

Our evening was a success! I do love when we make these fun discoveries of good meals without any research or plan. (Something I learned to do from Bob.)

-posted by Debbi

Categories: Good Eats, Rotterdam | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Walking Across The Swan or Another Florence Mis-Adventure

The Swan is the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam – about a half a mile long with a tall pylon fastened by 32 stays,  all in white (thus the nickname “the swan”).

On Monday evening, after reading reviews of several restaurants, we chose to eat at the Rotterdam Cafe, by the Rotterdam Terminal. The hotel desk clerk told us it was a safe but long walk. We prefer walking to taking the subway because this way we can enjoy the sights of the city.

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The air was crisp but not uncomfortably cold as we trekked from our hotel, along the Rotte river. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and still one of the busiest in the world. We enjoyed seeing stores and cranes and bikes and people. Cars here always stop for pedestrians crossing (I can’t get used to it),  but you have to keep watch for the bicyclists, who do not stop. There is a McDonalds on every corner. Sigh. And the sidewalks are splattered with discarded chewing gum. The Dutch must like to chew gum! We saw a bookstore (I’ll have to head back later to check out the inside), and a window full of lights and carved skulls by the artist Danny de Cactus.

Thirty minutes later, we found ourselves standing outside the very closed up Rotterdam Cafe. We wondered how old that New York Times review of restaurants in Rotterdam was. And why we hadn’t looked it up before walking there. Oh yes, because that’s what we do – spontaneously head somewhere in a foreign country without doing massive (or even a little) research. 😉

So we turned around and started heading back, determined to do that other thing we do well – finding a good restaurant by wandering.

(To be continued…)

– posted by Debbi

Categories: Rotterdam | 4 Comments

Scenes From Our Hotel Room

Arrived in Rotterdam after two flights (saw Guy Fieri on the leg from SFO to ORD) and a train ride, yesterday. First full day here, very jet-lagged. Hoping to get to my novel revision (hey, maybe I’ll discover I write brilliantly while jet-lagged).

From the window of our 10th floor room, we have a view of an important-looking building. Will have to find out what it is. Also, the sounds of raucous shouting and honking horns brought me to the window to see a line of cars – in the convertible at the head of the line were the bride and groom, followed by what I assume was friends and family, hanging out their car windows, waving flags, honking, and cheering. What fun!

The last photo is what hangs on the wall in our room. I feel like it is speaking directly to me – inspiring me to be creative and write. I promise more photos soon!

— Posted by Debbi (of course)

Categories: Rotterdam | 4 Comments

Sunday Drive

The weather was fantastic this past weekend here in Northern California. Bob and I, and our dog Trixie, decided to take advantage of it and go for a long drive up the coast.

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We took off from our home in the Peninsula and drove north on the 101. We drove into San Francisco, and as always, I admired the fabulous architecture of my birth city and detested the traffic. 😉 I never ever get tired of the glorious sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. Truly awesome!

From there we drove past Sausalito and onto Highway 1. What amazes me about living here is that we have cities, mountains, oceans and beaches, the bay and intertidal zones – all within an hour or so drive. I love living here!  The windy highway up and over the mountain pass made me slightly queasy so we stopped in downtown (really just a short street of shops and restaurants) Stinson Beach for a rest break. Trixie (our rat terrier) was allowed to have breakfast with us on the patio of a cute cafe where she made friends with a yellow lab at the next table.

Back on the road, we hit the coast and were awed by the amazing sight of ocean and sand and rocky cliffs. Having no plan other than to enjoy the scenery, we continued driving. Soon we found ourselves in the Point Reyes National Seashore and followed the signs to South Beach (dogs on leash allowed).  Fabulous! We stood there watching and listening to the pounding surf. The signs warned visitors not to wade or swim due to great white sharks, shifting sands, and strong undertows. No worries. I had no desire to dip my feet in that awesome surf.

It was time to turn around and head home. We admired many birds along the way (egrets, turkey vultures, red tail hawks, and tons of ducks) and even when we hit a little traffic over the mountain, we didn’t mind (too much).  We were greeted by a glorious San Francisco skyline as we headed back over the bridge back home to the Peninsula. Truly a wonderful and fabulous day!

Categories: hometown tourist | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

The Grazing Goat

Friday night, Niki and her husband, Konan, and Bob and I dined at The Grazing Goat.

Niki and me in The Grazing Goat

It is a combination restaurant and hotel. How lovely is that? It probably would have been much better than the Hilton Metropole we stayed at (shoddy furniture, shoddy service, intermittent WiFi, a saggy mattress, overpriced food and drinks, thin walls, and overheated room)! But we ended up staying there because that is where the conference Bob was attending was being held. Bob and I usually stay at boutique hotels or a Hyatt when we’re traveling. The Hilton lost an opportunity to woo us to stay there again, for sure.

The interior of the restaurant (located upstairs above the bar) was cozy. This photo was snapped about 20 minutes before the restaurant was packed. The noise level, despite the crowded room, was low, which made it easy to have a dinner conversation. Service was superb and attentive!

It was hard to pick from the myriad of delicious items on the menu.

We started off with a dozen oysters on the half shell. These Carlingford Rock oysters were splendid – briny and rich. They reminded me of my very favorite oysters, the Sydney Rock oyster.

I chose the half free range Suffolk chicken after being assured that these chickens were small and that “half” wouldn’t be too much to eat. It came with creamy mashed potatoes, jus (gravy) and the most amazing bacon and sage stuffing “patties” I’ve ever had! (I could have eaten 10 more of those!) The chicken was flavorful and moist. Delicious!

Bob had the special – the pork belly with mashed potatoes. I wish I could tell you what they tasted like, but by the time I lifted my head from my incredible meal, Bob was all done! Hrumph! From his cleaned plate, I knew that he loved his meal.

I was very (pleasantly) full from my dinner so I got the pineapple salad with passion fruit sauce and a scoop of mango sorbet for my dessert. It was light and a great way to end the meal. Bob and Niki shared a cheese plate and Konan had a yummy looking chocolate brownie.

The only bad thing about the meal was that it was the last time we were to see Niki and Konan for this trip! We have plans to get together again, sometime in the future! (We’ve invited them to come visit us here in Northern California!)

Categories: Good Eats, London | 4 Comments

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