Adventures in New York: Breakneck Ridge

I’ve been afflicted with various ailments for the better part of two weeks, it’s been a blast. The day I got sick, though, I had a lovely day checking out wedding venues in the Hudson Valley.

The trip from New York City up the Hudson isn’t a breezy one (about 90 minutes each way to the area we were looking at), but it’s always a beautiful one. I can never get enough of that river! As I’ve been out of college longer and longer, the feelings I get about how much I miss it become less about the the social gatherings and more about the environment. Breathing fresh air, seeing some stars at night. Sure, it’s not the middle of nowhere and there is still a fair amount of light pollution, but it’s better than Brooklyn.

Anyway.

We got off the train at Breakneck Ridge, and the tricky part about Breakneck Ridge is that trains only stop there going in the northbound direction until later in the afternoon. That meant that if we wanted to get to the next place we were looking at, we’d have to hoof it to the next closest train station. After walking up a steep ridge, we were able to mosey through the woods much more leisurely. Looking back, I still shudder to think that I was considering wearing a dress in order to put my best look forward for potential wedding coordinators/venue owners. Thank goodness I wore pants.

Breakneck Ridge is beautiful. The hike itself is steep and apparently a very good workout (friends and D have done it before, I haven’t yet), so I was thankful there was a “bunny hill” version to get us to the next train station. It was still so nice, though, to be out in nature and climbing rocks and actually hearing birds chirp. That probably sounds juvenile, I know, but I can’t help it. I just need a nature fix every once in awhile.

So yeah, some pictures, almost two weeks late. I blame the fever, and then the shakes, and then the coughing.

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Brook Trail – the easy-peasy one for people not interested in breaking their neck on Breakneck Ridge.

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Fallen trees.

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We walked by “The Ruins”…what they are ruins of, I don’t know.

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More ruins.

 

Adventures in New York: U.S. Open Qualifiers

After complaining about how I don’t get out and do things anymore, I decided to do something about it. So the Friday before last, D and I decided to head to Queens after work and check out the U.S. Open. The first few days of the tournament are qualifying matches to prepare for the actual bracketed competition, so it is free to the public. I’d heard friends talking about it the last few years, and as a bonus, Queens is way easier to get to from my job than from my apartment, so it was a no-brainer to head there on Friday night.

By the time we stopped for falafel, got to Queens, and went through security (and D had to check his backpack full of bagels they’d been giving away at his office), we got to the outer courts just in time for the last few matches. We were able to grab seats on the bleachers behind one end of the court, with a beautiful view of the the setting sun.

It was a really entertaining match. Both players (Diego Sebastian Schwartzman and Albano Olivetti) were pretty evenly matched, requiring tiebreakers at the end of the second and third sets. They were a little double-fault happy, but overall, a good game to watch. The crowd was really into it (and fairly quiet!), and the weather cooperated.

The U.S. Open has a little “tennis village” set up in the area for spectators to walk through, with plenty of food, drinks, and official gear. Most of the places had closed by the time we got there (again, we just barely made it!), but it looked like a great way to spend an afternoon if you can play hooky for a day.

So, check that one off the bucket list!

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Walking on the boardwalk, unused 7 trains in the foreground.

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Olivetti serves!

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Happy campers.

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Schwartzman sizing up the guy he ended up losing to.

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Sun goes down, the lights come on.

 

Family Trips and Feelings

This past weekend D and I took a quick getaway with my dad’s side of the family. My grandmother’s birthday was last week, and in lieu of gifts she wanted everyone to spend some time together*. While many people may cringe at the thought of spending the weekend with 20 of their aunts, uncles and cousins, I relished it. I’m so grateful to have them all in my life, and for the fact that we’re all so close. Of course, since everyone present has a least a little bit of Italian heritage (exempting D and my mother), it got loud and boisterous and there was lots of speaking-with-hands and noodging each other just because we can**.

Nature, because it only counts if you put it on Instagram.

Nature, because it only counts if you put it on Instagram.

We stayed at a resort in Pennsylvania, and it was a tremendously relaxing weekend. Electronics (even iPhones) stayed mostly out of sight while we played volleyball, kickball and Scrabble, and spent most of our time outside. We grabbed the dining tables from all four of our suite-style rooms to put them all together mess-hall style and passed around plates of penne ala vodka and cold cuts. We reminisced about the “good old days” and about the schemes my late grandfather got everyone involved in. And at the end of the weekend, my sister drove us home while the rest of the families stayed until Tuesday. It was hard leaving them all knowing that the next day I would be back at work while they were kayaking and swimming in the lake.

When you don't ask people to take pictures for your blog, you end up gakking pictures from your sister. And they're blurry.

When you don’t ask people to take pictures for your blog, you end up grabbing the only photo you’re in from your sisters camera. And it’s blurry.

I woke up Monday morning incredibly sore and realized that even though I frequent the gym, I’m nowhere near in well enough shape to be playing sports for an entire weekend. I’m one of the oldest grandchildren, and chasing after 10- and 13-year olds that take gym class daily was more taxing than I realized! Walking up and down the stairs is still a little bit difficult. But I’d gladly do it all again this weekend, because if you are lucky enough to have a great family that is close enough to visit regularly, you do it.

*It was still her birthday though, so we all chipped in for a Kindle Fire and unlimited “tech support” in the form of always being available to answer her questions about how to use it.

**I didn’t realize how many Jewish/Yiddish words I grew up using until I was around people that don’t use them. Using words like noodge, schlepp and oy vey were just part of my lexicon growing up in an area with so many Jewish families. And I love it. Why say “carried” when you can say “schlepped”?

 

A Weekend in Montreal – Part 2: Mmm, Beer

In addition to getting engaged on my trip to Montreal, D and I had plans to hit up a few microbreweries. We both love craft beer (we’re spoiled living in Brooklyn where it’s almost as readily available as water), and I found a few places to check out that I was looking forward to.

If you don’t like beer, you probably won’t care about this post. There, I said it. I’m just going to talk about how awesome beer is. I have a special place in my heart for beer posts since my second post overall on this blog was about beer and somehow ended up Freshly Pressed.

Vices et Versa. We went to Little Italy on Friday night, and unfortunately it was raining the entire time. After walking around a bit and checking out the iconic outside staircases, we made our way over to the bar. It looked homey, and I looked like a wet dog (somehow no one else did! How does that happen?!), and after looking at the chalkboard of beer offerings, we realized two things:

  1. They didn’t make their own beers, which was okay because
  2. They had an amazing selection. Seriously. There were more than 30 beers to choose from, and they all sounded wonderful.
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Looking at that beer list gets me happy all over again.

I ended up going for an IPA (that’s my usual go-to, I suppose, unless there is a coffee porter on the menu). The Yakima IPA is brewed by Le Castor right in Quebec, and it was excellent. It was nice and light for a humid summer evening, but had enough of a bitter taste to make it a sipper.

Benelux Brewpub. Later on Friday, we headed to Benelux. It was just a few blocks away from our hotel, and while I’d read that it was a bit college-y (being near McGill and all), I was hopeful that during the summer break, it would be less so. Bingo. Even though we got there around 10PM on Friday, we were able to grab a table and the waitress came over right away.

Sidenote: Not used to waitresses at bars. I know that’s weird, but usually we just find a table, go up and order a drink, and then sit back down. It was kind of nice not having to elbow in and grab a bartender’s attention.

At Benelux, I got their Benelux saison, brewed on site. Being a saison, It was a one-shot brew, so I’m not sure if even now it is there anymore. I think that’s okay. Of the beers we had over the weekend, this one was probably my least favorite. Not that it was bad, it was okay, but nothing special. The pub itself was nice though: lots of tables and communal seating, great service, and a lovely place to people-watch. They have a sizable outdoor space, but it was a little bit chilly so the inside was just fine.

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I was going to use this photo to send to friends being like, “Surprise!”, but then my hand was so much bigger than everything else and I felt awkward. Just look at the color of that beer! And 20oz of it!

Dieu du Ciel!  On Saturday (after I watched D eat a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s and he watched me eat a black bean/plantain arepa from Arepera du Plateau) we headed to DdC in the “trendy” Plateau Mont-Royal area.

Sidenote: I’m not sure if it’s actually considered trendy to locals, the tour books just say that. Don’t hold it against me.

I was a little distracted from the developments of earlier in the day to take any tasting notes, but I did try two beers: the Elixir Celeste (a Pilsner) and the Resurrection porter. Is there any way to petition that Brooklyn start serving 20oz “pints” also? Because that was pretty swell. DdC was phenomenal, both of my beers were well-rounded and fresh. I had a few sips of the beers that D got and they were great as well. If I could choose one of the three bars to transplant to New York, this would be it.

We ended up getting a more modest 12oz glass of our 2nd beer. My porter looks like iced coffee and tasted even better.

We ended up getting a more modest 12oz glass of our 2nd beer. My porter looks like iced coffee and tasted even better.

They were busy, but I have to commend the bartender on being super attentive to those sitting at the bar as well as filling orders at the same time. Watching the constant fill/level/serve motion was sort of mesmerizing.

Overall, I’m glad we did a little research ahead of time and picked out some great microbreweries. Montreal was pretty freaking awesome, and their beer was equally great. Go, try some.

P.S. Yes, we did go to other places, we tried poutine and climbed the clock tower at Old Port. But no one wants to read three separate posts about a three-day vacation.

P.P.S. Sorry for the blurriness of the photos. I hate looking like a tourist, so I snapped these without a flash and tried to keep as steady a hand as possible. Even blurry the beer looks good though, right?

A Weekend in Montreal – Part 1

This is the time of year I take vacation: some of my vacation days expire next month, so for the last few years I’ve tried taking a weekend away, followed by a staycation. Last year was Washington DC, this year I decided on Montreal.

I picked out a few microbreweries (that’s another post for another time!) and on Saturday D and I went to the Montreal Musee de Beaux Arts before walking up to the summit of Mont Royal. We made our way to the summit, which turned out to be nothing but a cell phone tower!

Lame.

D found us another path to head back to street-level, and we stopped at a different viewing point on the way to Belvédère Camillien-Houde. It was worth the short detour: when I turned around, he asked for my hand and put a ring on it.

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We waited for other tourists to show up so they could take a photo. They said “the lighting isn’t good here,” and my answer was, “it’s okay, I’ll just fix it up in Photoshop!”.

So, that was a pretty good day. Besides that, we toured Old Port and Old Montreal on Sunday, ate some poutine, got some maple gelato, and drank many delicious beers. All in all, a pretty good weekend.