Tag Archives: travel

Back Down South: Part One

Hi there!  Jason and I are half way through another mammoth trip, and I figure it is about time for an update.  Our first stop on the southern stretch of I-95 was Charleston, home to the world’s best best friend/sister (that is fun construction, huh?) Heather, and her husband Jeremy.  They took us out to dinner at Fleet Landing on the waterfront.  We spent the evening, under a blue moon, watching dolphins play and ships sail in, indulging in fantastic seafood and a fabulously Frenchie crème brûlée!

Fleet Landing Restaurant, Charleston, SC
photo property of Fleet Landing

The next morning we were on the road again, Georgia bound.  Jason had an opening day date with a dove field, and I got to really play with our nephew for the first time (every visit before now he was too little to really rough and tumble with).  It is often hard for me to immediately loosen up  when we go home, but this trip, with my amazing sis-in-law’s equally amazing baby to ease the way, and the promise of the ocean in the offing, I was able to overcome much of the prissy Miss who so often carries the day.  And so we relaxed ourselves into the love and craziness that is family: hunting (Jason), playing, talking and, of course, eating.  We spent three days soaking up parents, siblings, nephew, aunts, uncles and cousins before continuing south to soak up sun!

morning at the farm
photo property of Crystal Baird Pope

riding the tractor; BXP at the wheel
photo property of Crystal Baird Pope

Come Tuesday morning, not bright, but very early, our bags were packed and we were ready for Florida.  Hello, vacation!  To start the trip off right, and avoid getting to the hotel hours before check-in, we built in a side trip:  Savannah!  Savannah is one of our favorite southern cities; it is where we went for our honeymoon, and where we return constantly for honey. . .Savannah Bee honey, that is.

Savannah Bee at Broughton St., Savannah, GA

sweet nectar!!!!

We browsed the Broughton St. store, then headed down to the River St. location to pick up my five pound jug of Tupelo perfection.  I know, I know, I have a problem!  We had lunch overlooking the Savannah River, picked up some ridiculously good teas at The Tea Room (vanilla jasmine green, creme brulee, and black currant), perused some shops and eventually got the heck out of dodge (of course making a Sonic stop before we really got rolling).

Jason had a love affair with this tree. This is the only photo out of five in which I am in focus as well as the tree.

Then it was us for little old Amelia Island, more specifically Fernandina Beach.  All that travel we’ve been doing lately has paid off in hotel points, giving us five free nights at the Hampton Inn in the old town!!  We spent the first two full days going to the beach in the mornings, returning to loaf about the historic area in the afternoons.  It was wonderful, especially the beach!  Dazzling white-hot beaches call to me.  Most of my friends in D.C. and my family in Milledgeville, accustomed to my ever-present pallor and insistent use of sunscreen, would be surprised by that notion.  Nevertheless, tis true.  I glory in the heavy, humid, languid lushness of it all.  And after months of sickness and flipping summer, to winter and back again, even Jason was longing for some searing sunshine and time to play with his metal detector (that’s right, we have nerd love, and are proud of it!).

marina behind hotel

basking in the morning rays

this is my love nerd

Coming soon:  St. Augustine, more Amelia Island, and Virginia Beach.  Stay tuned!

Down Under the Weather

Westlake, Yarralumla

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,  Robert Burns

In other words, things don’t always go as planned.  I mentioned in this post that Jason and I would be returning to Canberra, Australia for the month of June.  We were really excited about the opportunity and it built up in our minds into a fairly important, potentially life-altering trip.  During our January sojourn health, happiness and suitability lined up so wonderfully that we were even considering a move to Canberra or a similar climate!  Can you see the expectations mounting?

The flights over went as beautifully as 26 hours of travel could go (Dramamine, where have you been all my life?!).  Setting down finally in Canberra, we disembarked into what seemed a remarkably mild winter .  Came the first surprise:  we were taken to an apartment we were sharing with two other guys!  Yep. . .I’ve never had a roommate, other than my husband; I didn’t live in dorms at college, and I had no full time siblings growing up.  I was feeling some trepidation about not knowing the rules of living with other people and how sharing space works (also fears of being loathed by Jason’s co-workers by month’s end).  Luckily, I’m pretty sure it was the easiest introduction to roomies that anyone ever had;   the guys were great and we bonded over rugby and the flu.

That’s right, surprise number two:  all of us got the flu; in fact, it seemed like all of Canberra had the flu.  Jason and I were able to hang on steadily through the first week and a half feeling a bit tired and run down, but completely able to function.   We took in the Canberra University vs. Wales game at the Olympic training grounds, visited our favorite restaurants (hi, Tom!),found some new favorites (Brodburger– best burger in Canberra), and spent as much time as possible up in the hills.

Canberra University vs. Wales

bottom of the hill

half way up the hill

top of the hill. . .lovely

Rain forced me inside several times this trip, allowing me to taking in an amazing exhibition of Antarctic photography , a stunning touring exhibition of von Guerard landscapes, and a really interesting series of paintings about the life and career of Ned Kelly at the NGA.

Sidney NOLAN, Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan. Image property of NGA

Finally, we both landed like a ton of bricks, oozing, hacking,wheezing and sneezing our second weekend away.  My insistence that fresh air would be good for us, and exercise boost our immune systems earned me a secondary upper respiratory infection.  After a successful trial run with the Australian health care system, antibiotics, and a few days of lying in bed with soup and P.G. Wodehouse, I convinced myself that I was well enough to spend my last full day up in the hills I love, watching kangaroos nap, kookaburras laugh, and myriad parrots, parakeets and cockatoos paint the sky with their dazzling plumage.

Wodehouse. . .I know, I have a problem

Gandalf Trail, Red Hill

Macedonian Orthodox Church St. Kliment of Ohrid

kookaburra on approach to Mt. Mugga Mugga

kangaroo on Red Hill

I’m glad that I got out that last day, even though I subsequently added a sinus infection to the list of woes.  Being sick when we could have been well, cold when we could have been warm, and watching the sun go down at 4pm, knowing it was shining on well into the evening at home was making us both a bit dour while we were trapped in the apartment.  Getting back up into the hills, being bathed in sunshine allowed for a return to balance and an important lesson.  Since moving to the D.C. area I have been both continually ill and ill at ease.  I’ve always wondered if I really dislike the area, or if it is merely a circumstantial prejudice.  Knowing how much I loved Canberra in January, and seeing how close I had come to thinking it a miserable hole while sick, I’m inclined to try harder to see the sunny side of D.C.  So, no, we are not moving to Canberra, the trip was a total bust for testing respiratory health in different climates and we were absolutely ready to come home.  We would love to go back, eventually, and I miss the gum trees and birds every time I go outside, but for now we are quite content to ‘bide a wee here in D.C.

frost at Fyshwick


This, That and The Other

Good morning!  For a change it is an absolutely radiant, though windy, day here in the D.C. area.  I want to start off apologizing for the long radio silences this spring.  To be honest, cooking has simply not been my number one priority.  Innovative cooking and recipe testing have given way to tried and true recipes that take little time  and preparation as I’ve been busy painting these,

hand painted stripes on bathroom wall. . .10.5 ft. tall bathroom wall!

making this,

my new shirt ( I have mad love for navy blue gingham)!

tagging along on work trips, visiting family and . . .preparing for Australia part 2!  That’s right, on May 30 we will once again be heading down under for a month of work (for J), play and exploration.  We are hoping to expand beyond the bounds of Canberra this time; any suggestions on must see places in the Sydney/Canberra region (remember, it will be winter while we are there)?

All of that said, I hope to have some good food to share with you soon.  For the time being, I encourage those of you in the Northern Hemisphere to take advantage of the amazing fruits and veg that are flowing into stores and farmers markets:  succulent strawberries, mind-blowingly sweet melon, refreshingly tart rhubarb.  My challenge to myself every spring/summer is to try a seasonal food that I currently think I do not enjoy and see what happens.  Our taste buds and perceptions of flavors are constantly changing; that formerly belittled berry may be your mouth’s new best friend!(On the opposite end of the spectrum you may still hate it and have the fun of lots of spitting and pulling faces.)

For anyone who is not yet entirely sick of hearing about our first trip to Australia, here is a video my husband put together from the hundreds of clips he took in January (he went recorder crazy)!

Canberra: Part Two

We are back home in Virginia now, longing for the sunshine we left behind and battling crazy jet-lag (that would be why I’m writing this post at 1 am and some bits of it might not be entirely coherent).  The last two weeks in Canberra were wonderful!  I had my first summer birthday, spent walking through courts of kangaroos, forests filled with gum and eucalyptus trees playing “I spy” for koalas, and desperately fleeing flies at Tidbinbilla Nature Park.

Up close and personal at Tidbinbilla

Male, female and joey resting out of the sun

It was amazing to wander among the kangaroos in their natural environment!

Flock of cockatoos in Tidbinbilla Nature Park

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Jason at Tidbinbilla (surrounded by kangaroos. . .even though you cannot see them in this picture)

Koala: was released unsuccessfully into the wild by a zoo, he now lives in this snazzy hut in a gum forest with other, wild koalas

Summer birthday!

Also in those two weeks I, sometimes we, hiked gorgeous hills, observed the celebration of Australia Day, spent days lounging in the sun at an art deco swimming pool/bath house, and ate lots and lots more lovely food.

Art Deco Era Manuka Swimming Pool

One of many mosaics at the Manuka Swimming Pool lawn

In the kiddie pool

The necessity of staying in one relatively small place for work, rather than hopping all over Australia as tourists, allowed us to really learn Canberra, to have “places”, to get off the beaten path and to explore at our leisure all the city has to offer.  After spending most of the year being jostled about in the D.C. area, I most often opted to spend my days exploring outdoors, hiking the hills and nature reserves that surround and meander through the city, walking loops around the lake, or just walking through the neighborhoods.  Jason and I did explore some of Canberra’s wonderful museums and memorials, and spent our evenings strolling under the gum trees to dinners at our favorite restaurants and cafes, sometimes with friends, sometimes just us two.  Almost all of the food we had was really good:  fresh, fresh ingredients, cooked when you ordered it and kitchens always willing to accommodate food allergies if the menu didn’t already list allergy safe options (which 75% of the restaurants in Manuka and Kingston did).

Jason's BBQ Kangaroo burger. . .I know, it seems so wrong, but Australians swear they are cows that bounce (awful quality from video still)

Flat-white at Urban Pantry (another video still. . .Jason really liked videos on this trip!)

In those last two weeks we realized that nearly every cafe offered freshly squeezed juices and three kinds of hot chocolate. . .three. Also, milk is not a beverage typically ordered by adults, and Jason doesn’t need a translator in Australia (I guess Southern makes sense in the Inner South)!  It was summer, the sun was shining, we were together:  it was amazing.

Things to look forward to (inspired by our stay in Canberra):

Gluten-Free Banana Nut Bread (banana nut bread is EVERYWHERE in Canberra)

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pistachios and Pecorino Romano (tons of risotto and squashes in Canberra as well, and combinations of the two)

Canberra: Part One

The most immediately and continually amazing thing about Canberra is the exotically perfumed air. Overwhelming all else is the eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees in many varieties are everywhere; there is one outside our bedroom window, a living incense. Close upon that are the agapanthus, jasmine, cedar, vast shrubs of rosemary, oleander, bougainvillea, and trees in the park that smell like cocoa butter on warm days. Add to that all the more typical summer smells of freshly mown grass, lavender hot in the sun, and the cool breeze off the lake and you are gloriously immersed in the heady bouquet of the Inner South A.C.T.


A near competitor with the flora of Canberra is undeniably the fauna, specifically the birds. The are LOUD and varied. There are flocks of yellow crested cockatoos that sound like first cousins to flesh-rending Velociraptors, black and white speckled magpies that sound like dial-up internet connections, birds that always sound like they just heard a bad joke and ducks that mew like cats! There are black swans, tropical parrots, rosellas and doves that look exactly like our nephew, with the cutest little mohawks!

Yellow-Crested or Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos in Telopea Park

Black Swans in the Basin

The next thing you notice is that, to be the Australian Capital Territory, it is remarkably uncrowded, slow-paced. Locals 35 and under (and a few over) say it is the most boring, class conscious, unfriendly city around; 35 and over tend to say it is Australia’s best kept secret. I’m divided; our side of the lake, Parliament side, is lovely, full of parks, tree lined streets and easily walkable “villages”, museums, gardens,nature reserves, and memorials galore. The waterfront on the opposite shore is very nice as well. Then, there is The City and City Center: I found that area to be completely and inexplicably repellant, “big city” without any charm, mystery or quaintness to make it palatable.

Parliamentary Waterfront

Captain Cook Memorial at Acton Park waterfront

Captain Cook Memorial

National Carillon

National Gallery of Australia

N.G.A. Sculpture Garden

Suspended above N.G.A.

Speaking of palatable, now for the good stuff: the food. The food here has been terrific (and terrifically expensive!), with plenty of gluten-free options and honest to goodness European quality coffees and hot chocolates. The eggs have naval orange golden yolks (have you ever noticed that yolk colors vary region to region, and country to country?), there are more types of mangoes at the local market than I knew existed, and there always seems to be a friendly and knowledgable person around to tell you what things like wagyu, rocket, capsicum, and dukkah are.

The two areas whose gustatory offerings we have explored most thoroughly are Manuka (pronounced Monica) and Kingston. Manuka is trendy and bustling, with lots of cafes, and good people watching opportunities. My Cafe has been a mainstay of our trip, with good options no matter the time of day, but an especial favorite for finishing off the night with hot chocolate for Jason. Charmers does an excellent breakfast with perfectly cooked over easy eggs, the craziest, biggest, best bacon you ever saw (though if you like yours crispy, you should be sure to ask), and super friendly service. Public seems the place to see and be seen after work (if you can raise your eyes from the paella and flourless chocolate torte with berry compote) and Wasabi does beautiful sashimi. Kingston is a bit quieter, homier, with some seriously good food, if not as many evening options (many places in Canberra, at least the Inner South, seem to do half day service. Kingston seems especially full of cafes that only do breakfast and early lunch service). There is an italian restaurant in Kingston, L’unico, that does a gluten-free pasta you would never guess wasn’t the real thing. At the Kingston Grind you can get great coffees and some of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ideallic also does an outstanding coffee (and nice latte art) and good, affordable sandwiches, with gluten-free options available.

We still have a week and a half left here in the summer-land before heading back into D.C. winter so hopefully many more adventures and pictures to come.