This weekend, we went on a drive along Hwy 15 to a little place just north of Seeley’s Bay called Rock Dunder. We’ve been going on short drives every weekend lately, and with the beautiful weather we had, it was necessary that we spend some time outside. Part of the Rideau Waterway Land Trust, Rock Dunder is a wonderful place for a hike.
We’d already gotten a few pointers from those who had gone before us (i.e. the turn off is really easy to miss, so if you pass the Morton sign, you’ve gone too far), so we were pumped and ready to go. Upon first arriving at the site, it was pretty unassuming. We parked in the tiny lot (which was at full capacity with about 10 cars), made sure we had our sunscreen, and headed off.
We walked along the Cabin trail (green on the map) – a really easy stroll through some wood, towards the water. Arriving at Cabin 1, we encountered two nice ladies who doused themselves in Off! Unfortunately, we were not as prepared. More on that later.
This is where we begin the Summit Loop (orange on the map). Between Cabin 1 and Cabin 2, the terrain gets a little more hilly, but there are a number of lookouts where you can take a rest. This also comes with a number of beautiful views of the bay and the lucky individuals who happen to have cottages on the surrounding land.
The last leg up to the lookout was fairly strenuous, with lots of climbing and some pretty steep sections. We attempted to run up some of these parts, only to leave ourselves quite winded. As we got closer, the land levelled out, and when we happened upon the large sheets of rock, we knew we had made it.
The view was incredible, and we certainly didn’t mind sharing it with the dozen or so people that were also at the lookout.
There were people having picnics, others doing wall climbs, and still others just taking pictures or resting. It felt like we were on top of the world.
Though we had been instructed (prior to the day) to return the way we came, we decided to venture out and finish the rest of the loop. This is where things went south.
This stretch of the loop back to the parking lot was longer…and muddier…and full of mosquitoes. It alternated between wooded areas and open rock faces, and there were definitely many sections that we ran through to avoid the bites of some blood-sucking companions.
So, an hour and 5.2 km later, we were back where we started. Granted, we were definitely more tired, and our shoes looked much worse, but it was a good time. We even left them a donation.
So, that’s that for Rock Dunder. We rewarded ourselves with some ice cream, and resolved to come back again (with Off!).
So it seems every third post of ours is about visiting New York. We do indeed love New York a lot, and though we just got back, I can’t wait until our next trip! We’re doing things a little differently this time – posting topically rather than chronologically. Seeing as how Kelvin’s favourite thing to do on vacation is eat, we are dedicating this first post to some of the places at which we dined.
No picture from this eatery, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time at this steakhouse. Located in the Shops at Riverside, Morton’s provided a quality dining experience with exceptional service. Because it was late by the time we were seated (we went on a Saturday with no reservations), Kelvin and I shared a prime ribeye, which was slightly more well-done than the medium rare we had requested. We shared a number of appetizers and side dishes with our whole party, and especially enjoyed their mac and cheese. The potatoes au gratin, on the other hand, were not well-received. If you have a smaller party and just want some nibbles, they have first-come, first-served space at the bar for bites starting at 9 pm.
Tasty Dumpling 42 Mulberry St, New York, NY
After looking on a number of websites, blogs, and other such things, we came to the conclusion that the best dumplings in New York would either be at Tasty Dumpling or at Prosperity Dumplings (on Eldridge). We opted to try Tasty Dumpling on Monday for lunch, ordering copious amounts of chives and pork dumplings (I preferred these over the cabbage and pork dumplings).
The dumplings themselves were quite good, and great value at 5 for $1.25. However, having eaten a good number of dumplings in our lifetime, we weren’t sure whether these were truly worth the title of New York’s best dumplings. The wrapping was a little too thick and not quite crispy enough. The actual filling itself was very flavourful, though. We also ordered some noodles and the beef pancake. Not at all what we had expected – we will not be ordering these again. It started to get busy as we were finishing up, and I have a strong suspicion a number of the groups were also tourists.
Mille-feuille 552 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY
We stumbled upon this little bakery while in the NYU area. Though they are known for their namesake, the mille-feuille, I actually didn’t try any (not really a fan of pastries…). Kelvin had some and he said it was okay.
Now what I DO love is macarons, and that is something they had a great selection of. Thus, I got a pack of 8. These little guys are always so expensive (probably because they’re so hard to make), but they were entirely worth it. I’ll be honest – I’ve not been wowed by the macarons I’ve eaten lately, but these definitely renewed my faith. They were soft and spot on with their flavouring. The chocolate macaron was delicious, and the raspberry one was so true to taste. I ate a number of them and saved a few for later, and they were still good! In fact, my last macaron was the best of all. I don’t actually know what flavour it was (it was brown), but it was heavenly. I will definitely be coming back here next time we visit New York.
Cull and Pistol 75 9th Ave, New York, NY
We stumbled upon this little place in Chelsea market once before when we were in New York and we loved it so much we decided to come back! They have happy hour on weekdays from 4-6 pm and oysters at the bar are only $1! We had quite a number… Mostly every oyster we had was delicious. We normally like clean, sweeter oysters, but we tried one that had a buttery finish and that was very enjoyable. The hostess was so accommodating and helped us secure a spot there for dinner directly following. I got the bacon wrapped Arctic char (great flavour, a fish we will try to cook more of at home) and Kelvin had the Connecticut lobster roll (he prepares warm lobster rolls, as do I).
The Meatball Shop 170 Bedford Ave, New York, NY
Though it has other locations around New York, we tried The Meatball Shop in Brooklyn during our visit on Tuesday. Such a cute idea with decent food. Every day they have specials, including a homemade meatball of sorts. The day we went, it was a chicken pot pie meatball with carrots, potatoes and more!
Ippudo Westside 321 West 51st Street, New York, NY
Ippudo NY is Kelvin’s favourite ramen place. Though my heart still thinks the meal I had at Santouka in Vancouver is superior, I must agree that the ramen is tasty. We got a special appetizer to start (Samurai buns – hirata buns but with some sort of pulled beef/brisket I believe) which we actually didn’t enjoy as much as our regular ‘ol pork hirata buns. Then we ordered an Akamaru Modern for each of us. I even ordered Kae-dama (extra noodles). Those three sliders must not have been enough…
I also ordered a cranberry juice (why did I do that?…) and it was very diluted. Poor life choice on my part. But all in all, a wonderfully quick meal before our show (more on that in our post about what we did!)
Babbo Ristorante 110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY
For our last meal in New York, we decided to go Italian. Owned by Iron Chef Mario Batali, this restaurant had impeccable service and some exquisite food. We ordered a number of pastas to share for our primi course – gnocchi, black spaghetti, ravioli, agnolotti, and orecchiette. I personally enjoyed the ravioli the most with the orecchiette as a close second. I ordered the scallops as my main and they were plump and cooked to perfection. To finish off, I ordered the gelato (three scoops that I needed to share!), and was pleasantly surprised by the distinct taste of the olive oil gelato. Through and through, a delicious meal and I would not hesitate to come again!
Since the start of school, neither of us has really had a chance to post much, but with the onset of winter and brisk temperatures, I thought it would be nice to relive some sunnier memories. Here is a quick photo recap of the time we spent in Florida and the Caribbean this summer.
Hope you enjoyed that whirlwind tour of our trip this past August. For an infinitely better recap of our trip, check out this video that my sister made…
If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you will notice that we love New York. We tend to go once or twice a year, and a few weekends ago, we drove down with Kelvin’s parents for some shopping, exploration, and good food.
Day 1 is almost always the same. We leave bright and early (like 7 am early), stop in Binghampton, NY to fill up gas, then head to Woodbury Commons. I am usually the conservative one when it comes to shopping – the one who counts her American pennies. However, this time I hit the jackpot at J.Crew and found too many things that would significantly improve my wardrobe, including this jacket, this skirt, and these shorts. We continued our shopping at Garden State Plaza and the local Ikea (apparently they have things that we don’t have) before checking in late at night at our usual spot – the Marriott Glenpointe in Teaneck, NJ.
Day 2 was a whirlwind. My mother-in-law and I woke up super early to take the bus into the city (167T gets us there in 20 minutes). We rushed over to line up at Dominique Ansel for these infamous cronuts, and proceeded to wait for two hours in line with other hungry patrons. Okay, some people were lining up there so they could flip their cronuts for some crazy profit…but I didn’t think the extra $30 would be worth that amount of time. Anyways, Kelvin and his dad joined us in line around 9:15, and after a few scares of sold-out cronuts, we got our hands on a box.
The cronuts – a mix between croissants and donuts – were $5 a pop and you were allowed to buy 2. Kelvin and I shared a box of two and that was plenty for us. It was in fact delicious, and the texture was really interesting yet familiar, but I still can’t say whether it was worth the wait. I suppose it’s one of those things you must try once in your life and once you’ve had it, you’re good. The macarons were slightly disappointing. But perhaps this is because I have yet to find macarons that I really really like. Maybe I don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like? We also ordered the DKA (very good, and you can get it any time of day) and the little egg sandwich (also priced at $5 and quite yummy )
With our stomachs full and the city beckoning, our shopping for the day commenced. We went all over town, from Muji to Uniqlo to Longchamp and Kinokuniya. But the place that really jumped out for me was Suit Supply. This is where Kelvin went to get fitted for a suit for our wedding, and he liked it so much that he decided to go back. Now, I’ve never really understood the intricacies of a suit and the differences between cuts and what not, but I imagine this is shopping heaven for the well-dressed man. We entered through this nondescript doorway and were greeted by these men whose suits were so well-tailored it blew my mind. Needless to say, Kelvin did not come away empty-handed. That suit will likely be making an appearance at the next wedding we are to attend this summer.
Later that afternoon, we went for a stroll along High Line (so excited for their continued expansion!) and in Chelsea Market. We tried a new place for dinner – Cull and Pistol – and quite enjoyed ourselves. Kelvin and I recently discovered our love for oysters so were keen to try them again. We ordered the raw sampler, a lobster roll, and the fish tacos. The littleneck clams were not my favourite, and I found the oyster selection a bit too briny for my liking, but the shrimp was sweet and enormous. We didn’t get any crab claws because they were out :( We got extra oysters instead. The fish tacos were average, but the lobster roll was out of this world. There were huge chunks of lobster and the flavouring was just right. Overall we enjoyed our experience there. Plus, they gave us orange gelato at the end of the evening so we would leave with a sweet taste in our mouths. Two thumbs up!
We rounded off the evening with a trip to The Filling Station in Chelsea Market, where we bought some Cranberry Pear balsamic vinegar. It is the most delicious things ever and I use it all the time now. It is essentially vinaigrette and comes in a cute little bottle that’s the same size as the California Garlic Olive Oil we bought at Kingston Olive Oil Co.
Day 3 started off with service at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. My goodness what a refreshing service it was! Solo cello with piano = God’s reminder of the beauty of classical music. I was moved deeply by the worship as well as the sermon, and it was exactly what I needed. Though Psalm 23 is not an unfamiliar passage, I was reminded of our constant search for identity and how we so often are looking for it in the wrong places.
After church, we headed to Korea Town for lunch, then to City Hall to embark on our Brooklyn Bridge adventure. I’ve never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge before, so this was very exciting! Too bad construction was happening so a lot of the areas were boarded up. Regardless, we made it across, and found ourselves in the calmer, slower-paced borough of Brooklyn. We wandered over to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, had pizza at Grimaldi’s, and even stumbled upon a food fair. Next time we come to NYC, we definitely need to spend more time here.
After a few hours, we headed back to Manhattan to pick up some Shake Shack before bussing back to New Jersey…because you always need to eat Shake Shack when you’re in New York.
Day 4 was a big box store day. Costco. Walmart. Because apparently things are cheaper in the States…who knew? We also stopped in Syracuse at Destiny USA (we see billboards for it all the time here in Kingston) and it did not disappoint! Kelvin finally found the Vans that he had been searching all over New York for. Plus they have an indoor ropes course. And it only costs $7.99. I am going back there…just for the ropes course. Routine stop at Watertown following that for some Chipotle, and we were home before 9.
And there you have it…another successful adventure in the big city.
When you live in Kingston, the US border is a mere 40 minutes away, and NYC another 6 hours from there. The weekend after Sandy hit, we were scheduled to take a quick trip down to New Jersey and New York City. We didn’t think we’d make it, but thankfully we did. It’s amazing how quickly the city got back on its feet, and for those still reeling from the aftermath of the storm, you are in our thoughts.
Our very first stop was Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. I’d never been here before, but Kelvin’s family loves this place. We picked up a few things here before heading to Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, for some tax-free shopping. They recently opened a Uniqlo store here, and if you’ve read any of our other vacation posts, you will know that Kelvin absolutely loves Uniqlo. The store is growing on me too, plus they have introduced a children’s section. They have these new scarves created in partnership with designer Orla Kiely, and they are beautiful so I bought one :)
All throughout the mall, we kept seeing people with all of their powered devices – iPads, phones, laptops – plugged into the ground and walls. Some people were really hardcore and even brought powerbars. Because of these individuals, I now know that those little circular covers in mall floors lead to electricity.
We had dinner at the mall (Ruby Tuesdays…not great…) before heading to our usual hotel in Teaneck. A mix of hotel lobby construction plus people seeking power and wireless internet from the storm made for a rather hectic night, but we needed to get as much sleep as possible for our trip into the city the next day!
We woke up really early to catch the 167T into the city for our breakfast plans. Kelvin and I have a friend who is going to school at Cornell and she’s in the city for a year doing an internship. She recommended this whimsical little place called Alice’s Tea Cup, so we all went together. Their pumpkin caramel glazed scones were soooo good.
Kelvin’s parents weren’t meeting us until around 1, so we hopped on the subway to the Union Square area. Ippudo is in that area so we wanted to see if that might be an option for lunch, but alas it was still cleaning up after the hurricane and wasn’t re-opening until that Monday. We did, however, stumble upon all these wonderful little places selling used books. One in particular caught our attention, because of the sheer number of trolleys they had with sale books. We had discovered Strand…
What an amazing place Strand is. Floors of books at amazingly good prices – this store was definitely a place we could’ve spent the whole afternoon. I ended up taking home two books, though there were many that beckoned to me.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with eating, shopping, and more eating. We went to Shake Shack (always), Uniqlo (once again, but this time to the one on 5th), and the Apple flagship store (to take a look at the awesome new mini iPad, which Kelvin and I will hopefully both get one day), before picking up some Halal cart to take back to NJ with us for dinner.
That evening, we discovered we could watch American Netflix on the iPad. It is so good. We watched First Position, a great doc on young ballet dancers, before heading to bed. I might have dreamt about having American Netflix in Canada that night…
This was more of a day for relaxation. We ran some errands, hit some of the big box stores (Kelvin’s family really likes doing that for some reason), waved goodbye to all of the people in New Jersey waiting for hours to fill up their cars and gas cans, and headed back to Canada. We stopped on the way for some Chipotle in Watertown, NY, and made it back to Kingston right around dinnertime.
All in all, it was a successful trip. I came back with a new pair of boots, some books and clothes, and my NYC fix satisfied for the next little while.
Every year, in the middle of July, we go away for a conference for Kelvin’s work. More often than not, a trip for the 3-day conference will turn into a week-long (or more) vacation of the surrounding area. Last year, we kept it domestic, as the conference was in Vancouver. This year, however, corporate opted for a slightly wilder city – Las Vegas. Now, let it be known that Vegas is not my type of city. There is something about extreme dry heat, gluttony, and drunken, scantily clad people that just doesn’t strike my fancy. But, seeing as how we were on that side of the country anyways, we took this as an opportunity to visit a slightly cooler (in temperature…and otherwise) city – San Francisco. And since we were flying out from Syracuse, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to stopover in NYC on our return leg. Here are some things that we did.
Where to begin to share the things that we saw on this trip. Because Kelvin’s family had been to San Francisco pretty recently, I was the one who wanted to do all the touristy things. Kelvin and I got ourselves one CityPass each, and proceeded to visit many of the “must-see” destinations in San Francisco – Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park and Cal Academy, the Ferry Building, and Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39. Getting that CityPass was one of the smartest decisions, especially for our trip to Alcatraz, because all the tickets were sold out and the next available tour was for a date about a week and a half from that day we went. With our unlimited MUNI pass, we rode the streetcars, buses, and light rail everywhere.I have a National Park passport in which I collect cancellations or stamps for US national parks, and I filled a page or two with stamps on this trip. That made me happy.
We also took the Cal Train out to Mountain View, CA to visit Kelvin’s cousin who works at Google, and what FUN that was! They have delicious food, and the complex is really like a university campus. If only we had a skill set that they desired! The train ride itself was an experience – we sat in the bike car, and watched as all these people wandered up to the top deck hoping for a spot from where they could keep an eye on their valuable belongings.
In Vegas, we knew we wanted to watch a show, so on our first night there, we walked over to Bellagio to eat the buffet and watch “O” at the theatre. In true Cirque du Soleil fashion, the show was great, but we had no idea what the plot was really about. I was mesmerized by the swinging seesaw and diving act, and am still reeling from the fact that people willingly threw themselves into a tiny pool from such towering heights. The next day, we took a trip with sweetours out to Grand Canyon West, which was an interesting experience. We learned a lot about plants from our bus driver (and he quizzed us later too, though we all failed horibbly). The food there was also surprisingly good, though I don’t know if we can say the same about this “Skywalk” experience. The building wasn’t even finished yet, and they really shouldn’t have charged us as much as they did.
In NYC, we attempted to tone down our tourist behaviour. We paid a visit to Central Park and to the 9/11 Memorial, and we watched Lion King (which was conveniently located right across the street from our hotel). Other than that, it mostly consisted of eating and shopping, and it was wonderful.
Trips with Kelvin’s family always means that we will eat well. Some meals were more expensive than others, but the common vein across them all was the level of deliciousness. In San Francisco, we dined at a disproportionately large number of Asian-based establishments. In Vegas, most of our food was provided by the conference. And in New York, we mixed it up with some new and some familiar restaurants. Also, let it be known that I developed tonsillitis about a week into our trip, and it persisted until our second day in NYC. This greatly impeded my ability to eat, but alas, I made it in the end, thanks to a doctor at Duane Reade, and the beckoning of ramen noodles at Ippudo. Here are some of the places we visited:
Penang Garden (Chinatown, SF) Our first meal in San Fran – a go-to restaurant for Kelvin’s family with absolutely delicious mango sticky rice and deep fried banana ice cream for dessert
Mama’s on Washington Square (SF) We got there at 7:15 to wait in line for breakfast. The french toast and hot chocolate were delicious. And the chunks of dungeness crab that you got in your meal were absolutely huge
The Slanted Door (Embarcadero, SF) Asian fusion yumminess right in the Ferry Building where we ordered iced tea and forgot that they don’t sweeten it in the States
lers ros thai (Hayes, SF) An authentic Thai restaurant where we ordered way too much food, with a Tom Yum Goong that packed a serious punch of spice
Tartine Bakery (The Mission, SF) The line up was totally worth the croissants and croque monsieur
Pizzeria Delfina (The Mission, SF) Super thin-crust pizza that tasted like heaven, but that you need to eat before it gets cold! And they also have ridiculously good breadsticks, which they store in a drawer. It was fascinating
Chairman Bao (Food Truck, SF) Three words – Baked Spicy Chicken. I could have eaten that forever – it was that good
Kung Fu Tacos (Food Truck, SF) The food truck that made us run all over town trying to find it. Their tacos trumped their burritos, which weighed approximately 3 pounds
The Buffet (Vegas) Crazy long line up for a $30 meal. I am still undecided about whether I liked this place. The interior could have used an update
Shake Shack (8th Ave & 44th St, NYC) We ate this…twice…All I need is a Shackburger with fries. It also helped that this location was about 2 blocks from our hotel
Ippudo (4th Ave & 10th St, NYC) The go-to ramen place for Kelvin’s family. The first meal that I essentially inhaled once my tonsillitis started to disappear. I love ramen
Momofuku Noodle Bar (1st Ave & 10th St, NYC) We ordered the fried chicken – 2 whole chickens to be precise – and it was amazing. Especially the Korean flavoured one. I took some home with me and proceeded to eat them in the stations while waiting for our subway. And Milk Bar is just around the corner, to satisfy all of your cookie cravings
‘Wichcraft (SF and NYC) So clearly we love ‘wichcraft, because we ate it multiple times on the trip. These sandwiches are delicious – I always get the one with pear…
Kelvin and his mom are big shoppers, and they are serious when they do it. Whenever we are in the city, they always make sure to pay a visit (or more) to Uniqlo. They are all about quality over quantity, but it’s best when they can get both. I, on the other hand, tend to shop at my local H&M, hesitant to spend more than $25 on a pair of jeans. Living close to Union Square was amazing in San Fran, though we wish we lived even closer. I spent many hours in that area, perusing the XXI, Levi’s, and Macy’s stores.
I must say – I quite enjoyed the hotels that we stayed at on this trip. When we were little, both my family and Kelvin’s family stuck with the Best Westerns, Sleep Inns, and Super 8’s of America. Then, one summer, it was as if a light went off, and our parents respectively decided that they had had enough of motels, and that it was time to fast track into the world of SPG properties. Our hotel rooms now had safes, bathrobes, duvets, and ample space, and we never looked back. The plan is to do a TripAdvisor review for each of these hotels, but I will give you the Reader’s Digest version of them here.
In San Francisco, we stayed at the Palace Hotel for 5 nights. My parents came here a few months ago and absolutely loved it, but I will rate our stay as average. For a Luxury Collection hotel, it should have been cleaner, and it shouldn’t have taken us 20 minutes to check in. However, it more than made up for everything when it came to location. The BART and MUNI were right there, with Union Square a few blocks southwest, and the Ferry Building a few blocks northeast.
In Las Vegas, we stayed at the Cosmopolitan – a beautiful and new hotel with a pool that I could have spent weeks at. We had our share of fiascos at this hotel, and I am still confused as to why there was a big window into the shower, with a curtain that could not be operated by the person actually taking the shower, but I think I would come again. I’m glad we left just before the weekend started to get rowdy.
Last but not least, we stayed at the Marriott Marquis right in Times Square – and we had a Times Square view! Another stellar location, but the hallways are not for those afraid of heights. It’s a long way down to the lobby…
We went to Service
Our trip spanned two Sundays, so we were able to make it out to church once in San Francisco, and once in New York. Both were more “traditional” services, but oh how they were filled with the Spirit! We sang and made music, and listened intently to these dynamic speakers. Their weekly bulletins were small magazines, complete with lead sheets, quotes, responsive reading, and perforated connection cards. We visited CityChurch on Sutter Street in San Francisco, and Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, and I would gladly return to both. As we make the transition into a new church, it is always nice to visit other churches to see how they do things, and how they leave room for God’s presence and action. I particularly loved the way that CityChurch was so cognizant of their place in the city, and how they intentionally loved on those around them.
This was one of the most eventful trips I’ve ever been on. I got sick, and Kelvin’s parents got sick. We got locked out of our room, but then got to ride in an Escalade. We saw a wealth of both natural and man-made wonders, and we got a chance to just relax as well. Despite the hiccups, I had a lot of fun. It had been quite a few years since I last went to Vegas and San Francisco, so to be able to see them once again was very special. Oh, and a tip for those of you travelling to SF or NYC and are planning on taking transit – make sure you download their transit apps. These were hands down the most useful tools on the trip. I’m saving them on my phone under “Travel”, just in case we venture there again in the near future :)