I finally went on my first trip to New York this summer!! We had been wanting to go visit Dennis (one of Clay's best friends & college roommates/post-college housemates) ever since he moved there back in 2015. Somehow our visit turned into a big group trip where 10 of us managed to travel from the Bay area, Portland, and Boston to New York all on the same weekend. Many thanks to our good friend Lewis (#chentours) for planning everything & bringing everyone together! We basically ended up having a huge college reunion in NYC for 5 days straight and it was awesome.
Our trip included lots of sightseeing, eating, and of course, plenty of time to catch up and hang out with friends.
Here's a brief recap of our itinerary, which was half-planned & half-spontaneous:
-Thursday 8/16: Toby's Estate Coffee (cafe), Lunch @ House of Small Wonder (Japanese restaurant), Devocion (cafe), Weekends (cafe), ferry from Williamsburg to DUMBO to see the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridge, Dinner @ Roberta's (pizza & pasta), Bake Shop (vegan dessert), and Randolph Beer.
-Friday 8/17: Lunch @ Chelsea Market (indoor food market), The Lobster Place (oysters), Very Fresh Noodles (hand-pulled noodles), The High Line (an elevated railroad line turned into a public park), Cha Cha Matcha (cafe), Madison Square Park, Flat Iron Building, Eataly (indoor Italian-style marketplace), Dinner @ Pio Pio 8 (Peruvian restaurant), Time Square, Waitress Broadway musical @ Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Grace Street Cafe (dessert), and Maze (Korean bar).
-Saturday 8/18: Caprices by Sophie (French cafe), Lunch @ Smorgasburg (outdoor food market in Williamsburg where we tried Goa Taco, C Bao Asian Buns, & Jian Bing Company), East River State Park (waterfront with a great view of Manhattan), ferry from Williamsburg to Manhattan, Grand Central Station (famous train station), The Met (only got to go to the museum gift shop though), Central Park (Bethseda Terrace & Bow Bridge), Momofuku Milk Bar (dessert), Dinner @ TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie (Japanese restaurant), Chorus Karaoke, and Woorijip (Korean food to-go).
-Sunday 8/19: Brooklyn Ball Factory (modern Japanese cafe), Lunch @ Win Son (Asian fusion restaurant), 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Oculus (train station & Westfield shopping mall), East Village, Momofuku Milk Bar (again!), Dinner @ Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Spot Dessert Bar (Asian & American-style dessert).
-Monday 8/20: Breakfast to-go @ Ess-A-Bagel, Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, Washington Square Park, Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, and Breads Bakery.
Definitely got to see a good amount of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, & Manhattan on this NYC trip! Both Clay and I felt like we were able to see everything that we wanted to see (Central Park for me and 9/11 Memorial Museum for him). We left feeling very satisfied with both the time that we had as tourists, as well as the time we had to spend with our friends.
Clay and I had the opportunity to explore Sacramento while on a trip to attend DK & Lauren's wedding in nearby Clarksburg. We arrived in Sac right at noon and headed straight to Tower Cafe, where I got to try their famous custard-soaked French toast per Lauren's recommendation! Clay ordered the Eggs Tower, their version of eggs benedict, his usual brunch choice. Afterwards, we got to check out some cool downtown murals and pick up some flavorful coffee at Temple, Sacramento's local coffee roaster. Since it was a pretty warm day, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon staying cool at the trendy and modern Kimpton Sawyer Hotel until it was time to head over to the Old Sugar Mill for the wedding celebration. We were so happy to witness DK & Lauren seal the deal after 8+ years of dating! Their wedding was so sweet, beautiful, and full of thoughtful details that characterized the both of them (i.e., a farmers market wedding favor stand, a shaved ice food truck that catered dole whip popsicles, and a first dance to "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). After the wedding, we spent the night back at our hotel hanging out with Jeff & Kirstie, who we had booked the room with to share. The next morning, we had a lot of fun playing darts with them at Punch Bowl Social on the Kimpton's second floor, before we headed up to the third floor for a chill poolside hangout with the newlyweds! Our last stop in Sac before heading home was Gunther's, where the boys got ice cream cones and the girls got refreshing 50/50 fruit freezes.
Clay planned a weekend getaway for us to Safari West in Santa Rosa (which I never knew existed before). Our weekend consisted of a one-night stay in one of their giant African safari tents, as well as an in-room massage and an afternoon safari tour. I must admit, this glamping experience was quite pricy. Clay and I also had mixed feelings seeing some of the animals being kept in cages when we first arrived. However, we ended up really enjoying the safari tour, which helped us to change our minds about our initial reservations. Our 4-hour tour was extremely informative and allowed us to learn so much about each animal that we saw. We learned about how Safari West cares for its animals by practicing enrichment, which involves changing the animal's physical environment on a daily basis. We were able to see how the animals (whether it be monkey, rhino, or ostrich) really did have a good relationship with their caretakers. Some benefits the animals at Safari West get are: ample food and shelter, safety from predators, and breeding opportunities. Overall, it was neat to see how Safari West promotes wildlife conservation, research, and public education. It also gives those who love animals the opportunity to work closely with them. Pretty much all the employees we met there were genuinely excited and passionate about their work with the wildlife.
During our trip, we were also able to visit downtown Santa Rosa for a couple of meals, and were surprised by how hip the restaurants and coffee shops there were! Bird & the Bottle, where we went for brunch, served us a delicious Asian fusion dish. We also found out that Santa Rosa is the home of Charles Schulz! We saw several statues of different Peanuts characters scattered throughout downtown -- apparently, there are 70 statues in public view that one could spend an entire weekend looking for in Santa Rosa!
Thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, Clay and I managed to fly back to Seattle for a weekend in the middle of June to celebrate Jason's birthday! This year, Clay decided to gift Jason a set of fishing rods and take him on his first fishing trip to North Cascades National Park. The national park was so gorgeous during this time of the year with its snow-capped mountain ranges and turquoise-colored lakes formed by glacier melt. It offered such grand and majestic views of the North Cascades.
Our day trip started out with lunch at Hawks Nest Bar & Grill. We then checked out the Gorge Powerhouse, where we learned that North Cascades NP consisted of 3 lakes, 3 dams, and 3 powerhouses: Ross, Diablo, and Gorge. Together, these three powerhouses transform water pressure into electricity and are capable of producing about 40% of the total power supply generated by Seattle City Light, a public utility owned by the citizens of Seattle. So cool to learn that this national park generates so much electricity and power for the city of Seattle!
After stopping by a couple scenic views and overlooks, we spent the rest of the afternoon fishing at Diablo Lake, where we saw several campers and a fly fisherman. We stopped at a part of the lake with less people, which was really nice. I got a couple shots of Clay and Jason at our fishing spot (above). That afternoon, I got to learn from Clay how to cast a fishing line! Too bad I only reeled in a couple of sticks. Jason, however, was able to catch his first trout -- and we think he caught the same trout twice! Even though he was the only one that caught anything that day, it was truly an exciting moment for all three of us.
At the beginning of June, our dear friends from Seattle, Eric, Lovina, Billy, and Saili came to visit us! Our plan was to spend the weekend exploring California's wine country together. I had only been wine tasting in Napa once before with Clay's coworkers 5 years ago and neither of us had thought of going back. But after this weekend, I finally understood why Napa is such a popular attraction! I didn't know the area could be so fun before this trip took place.
Anyway, here is a recap of what happened. Billy booked the Sonoma Farmhouse for us to stay for two nights. The 6 of us had one video chat session to figure out how we wanted to spend our time. Everyone contributed an idea for an activity to do or a restaurant to book (good idea, Billy!). We arrived on a Friday night after picking up Eric & Lovina straight from SFO and basically had a day and a half to do everything before we had to leave on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday, we grabbed brunch at The Fremont Diner, where we enjoyed an American breakfast and their photo booth. Our first winery of the day was Domaine Carneros, which specialized in sparkling wine. Afterwards, we rushed over to Napa Valley Bike Tours, where we had reserved tandem bikes that would get us to our second winery, St. Supery, on St. Helena Highway in Rutherford. Off we went on our bikes in grueling 97 degree weather, hoping to make it to our next wine tasting on time! Little did we know that Eric & Lovina's tandem would soon suffer a broken bike chain that would call for a bike replacement halfway there. Luckily, we were able to wait in the shade and didn't have to wait too long. We were also very lucky that St. Supery was still willing to accommodate a bunch of late, sweaty, and out-of-breath bikers. Our tasting ended up being such a delightful experience that the Sus and the Yans decided to buy bottles to bring home, and Billy & Saili ended up becoming members! Last stop of the day was dinner at Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller's restaurant in Yountville. Our family-style dinner of American comfort food was very delicious and too satisfying. Clay had more than enough cheese to eat and Billy got so full from all the various carbs that he became the opposite of hangry. After dinner, we returned home to shower and nap so we could have energy for an evening of back-to-back games: A Fake Artist Goes to New York, Wizard, and In Kahoots. Always down to learn new games!
Sunday, we checked out of the farmhouse and spent the morning walking around Sonoma Plaza. Some of us grabbed coffee at Basque Boulangerie Cafe and some bought chocolates to bring home from Wine Country Chocolates. Everyone enjoyed sausage flights at Hare & Hatter Sausage Emporium (such a brilliant take on the charcuterie board). Of course, after all that, we still had room for our lunch at The Girl and the Fig. Even though my pancakes a la mode came out super late, I still enjoyed them very much (along with the milk & cookies that Eric & Lovina ordered to share). Last stop of the weekend was Gundlach Bundschu Winery, where Eric had booked a wine tasting & cave tour for us! Wow, we really did do a lot in a very short amount of time. All in all, it was a very memorable weekend with the best company. Looking forward to being reunited with everyone again soon.
Just capturing as I go.