Monthly Archives: May 2012
With only 14 hours left before I leave for my trip, I’m finishing up all my last minute errands and packing up my 60L backpack. Now that I’m pretty much done packing, I thought I’d share what exactly I’m bringing along with me. I packed everything in packing cubes, which I highly recommend! I am an organization freak so I love having separate cubes for each category.
- 4 t shirts
- 6 tank tops
- 1 cardigan
- 1 fleece
- 1 lightweight rain jacket
- 3 denim shorts
- 2 pants
- 2 maxi skirts
- 3 dresses (can be dressed up with jewelry)
- 1 sarong, to be used as a beach coverup and as a beach towel
- 5 bathing suits (Overkill? Probably)
- 4 pairs of shoes: 1 rubber flip flops, 1 pair of Converse sneakers, 1 pair of dressier sandals, and 1 pair of everyday super comfy sandals
- Bras and underwear
- 1 baseball cap
- 1 belt
- Soap, solid shampoo, regular conditioner
- Face wash
- Hairbrush and comb
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Makeup: tinted moisturizer, powder, blush, mascara
- Lots of Aquaphor for lip balm
- Tweezers and nail clippers
- SPF 50 Sunscreen
- DEET Bug Spray
- Advil, Aleve, Immodium, Benedryll, Melatonin
- Cortizone and Neosporin
- An awesome combination “Miracle Goop” for chapped lips and skin, minor cuts and burns, etc. made for me by my boyfriend’s sister
- All of my prescription meds
- Two converters
- Some jewelry
- Combination padlock and some smaller locks for my pack
- Pacsafe for keeping my valuables locked up when I’m out of the hostel
- Downloaded the digital version of Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring so I don’t have to lug the physical book around
- A flask (I don’t know why but I decided I needed to bring one)
And that’s about it. I know I’ll be able to buy things there that I decide that I need, so I’m not too stressed out about forgetting something. I’m just worried about how heavy all of this is! I overpacked, yet again.
Although my parents live in Portland, Oregon, I didn’t grow up here- they moved here when I was 21. While I’ve spent several school breaks and one “summer” here, I don’t consider myself a local and don’t really know anyone my age who lives here. So when my boyfriend decided to come stay with me for a few weeks before I leave for Asia, I jumped at the chance to do all the touristy things with someone my own age.
And one of the most touristy things you can do in Portland is take a brewery tour. Portland has the most operating breweries of any city in the world! That’s nearly 50 breweries, to be precise. And it ranks in second place for the most breweries per capita in the United States (screw you, Vermont.) So when in
Rome Portland, it’s brewery touring time!
We chose to take the Brewvana tour and were lucky enough to have the founder of the company, Ashley, as our tour guide for the day. We picked the Friday Insider tour, although there are a few other options and several types of tours. The Friday tour goes “behind the scenes” at four different breweries in addition to tastings at each place. As someone who doesn’t know much about making beer, it was fun to meet the brewmasters and learn more about the process.
For people like me, Ashley also goes over the basics of beer before going on any tours. She taught us some fundamentals like the ingredients of beer (water, yeast, grains, and hops) and what ABV, IBU, and OG each stood for (Alcohol By Volume, International Bitterness Unit, and Original
Gangsta Gravity.) There were only eight people on the tour, so we could ask Ashley all the dumb questions we wanted. And since all but one of us were from out of town, we also learned a little about Portland itself.
The mode of transportation from Point A to Point B is a short bus named Angel. It was fairly comfortable and included important posters like the Beeriodic Table and the rules (no puking.) There was also a fridge with water, helpful for rehydrating. Brewvana really excelled in the details: Ashley provided a pretzel necklace to cleanse your palate between beers (or just to snack on), as well as a Beer Journal and Brewvana pen, Brewvana temporary tattoos (I’m still tatted up as we speak), a Brew West magazine, and a Brewvana Pilsner Glass. There’s also pretty sweet t- shirts available for sale. Ashley also brought samples of hops and barley for us to see and smell (show and tell, brew style.)
Like I mentioned, we stopped at four different breweries. The first was Buckman Village Brewery, a botanical brewery owned by larger brewery Rogue Ales. Botanical beers are made with herbs and spices to give them a distinct flavor. We tried the ginger and chamomile beers, and they also make green tea and fruit cake beers. The verdict: weird, but good. The chamomile beer actually tasted just like chamomile tea.
The second brewery we toured is a much larger brewery with national distribution. I was so excited to stop at this one, Widmer Brother’s, as they make one of my favorite beers, the Drifter Pale Ale! Yum. Widmer’s was a world away from Buckman Village, as they produce 500 bottles a minute and 17,000 cases each day. Their most popular beer, the Hefeweizen, accounts for 60% of their total production. I enjoyed hearing about the history of Widmer’s and I especially enjoyed trying their beers. I loved every one I tasted here: Hefeweizen, Drifter Pale Ale, Drop Top Amber Ale, Shaddock IPA, and Nelson Imperial IPA.
Our third stop was Laurelwood Brewery, a typical Portland style brewery and much smaller than Widmer’s with only a 15 barrel brewing capacity. Laurelwood is the fifth largest brewpub in the country, and most of the beers they make are organic. We also ate lunch at Laurelwood and I appreciated the huge variety of lunch options on the tour (and the food was ready when we arrived!) I wasn’t crazy about any of the beers here but Zack’s favorite beer on the tour was Laurelwood’s Organic Pale Ale.
The final brewery of the day was Upright Brewery, housed in the lower level of a trendy cafe. The tasting room is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, and the limited hours combined with the modern decor definitely made it feel a little more exclusive than the larger family friendly pubs we saw earlier. Upright Brewery is a farmhouse style brewery, which is a style that began in France of lower alcohol pale ales. We didn’t do a tasting at Upright and instead just chose one beer to drink a full glass of. After listening to the descriptions, I chose Seven, the fruitiest and most alcoholic of the options. It was SO. GOOD. I’d like more now, please.
Brewvana was a fantastic experience I and wholeheartedly recommend that everyone who comes to Portland “hop” on the bus. However, there were a few things I think could be improved. First, lunch wasn’t served until 3pm- I was so hungry by then! I ate my entire pretzel necklace just because I needed some food. I was also surprised that I didn’t really get drunk at all, although that could be good or bad depending on what you’re expecting from the tour. Ashley did mention that you could buy beer at any of the breweries and drink it on the bus, so if you’re looking to get drunk, you could. The third thing is how expensive the tour is- for a 4 hour tour, it costs $75. Although that includes lunch and four tastings, it’s still somewhat expensive. Luckily, Zack and I received our Brewvana tour as graduation presents from Zack’s older sister. Thanks Michelle, it was awesome!
Our only planned stop during our roadtrip was the Redwoods National Park- but when I brought up Crater Lake as a possibility, Zack said he wanted to go too. Crater Lake is a lake formed in the top of a dormant volcano. After one particularly large explosion, the top of the volcano collapsed inward and the snowmelt and precipitation filled the crater with water. Hence the name, Crater Lake. Only a few extra hours out of the way? Shouldn’t be a problem, we thought. 781 miles in two days? Let’s just say we were a little cranky at the end of the trip.
I’m not quite sure that our side trip to Crater Lake was worth it. Yes, it was beautiful. But I’d have to recommend that anyone who wants to visit Crater Lake come in the summer. Although we were there in May, there was still a ton of snow on the ground and most of the roads around the lake were closed off. There was only really one main viewing point open at this time.
And unfortunately we came on one of the (many) cloudy days. There wasn’t the picture perfect reflection of the mountains in the lake like I had seen in all the photos that inspired me to go. Of course, I know not every attraction looks exactly like the postcard image. But I wanted to see a gorgeous reflection! I enjoyed it, but I feel like I need to come back again to get the full experience.
During the summer, you can camp at Crater Lake and kayak in the water. There’s several hiking trails and you can drive or walk around the entire lake if you please. But be warned- the park rangers told us that there’s usually snow on the ground even in June and July! Not quite the summer lake weather most are expecting.
We brought a picnic lunch from Fred Meyer (a local grocery chain), but there’s also a cafe overlooking the lake as well. I wore flip flops (California girl at heart) so I wasn’t quite prepared for the snow or any hiking.
As Crater Lake is between 4 to 5 hours driving time from Portland, it isn’t really a feasible day trip. However, if you’re doing a (longer) roadtrip from Portland to San Francisco or vice versa, it’s a beautiful drive off the main highway. Be sure to check the weather! And don’t wear flip flops if there’s snow on the ground, obviously.
Like I mentioned yesterday on my roundup of my road trip from San Francisco to Portland, I was so excited to stop at some beautiful places along the way. My number 1? The Redwoods National Forest. I figured the redwoods were kind of a “must see” for anyone who calls themselves a Northern Californian.
There are tons of different options if you want to stop in a redwood forest between SF and Portland. Most of them are accessed from the 101, which is why we chose to take the long route instead of taking the 5 the entire way. I also wanted to sneak in a last coastal drive before I left California for seven months. I chose the Redwoods National Park (over some other redwood forests) because it’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The redwood trees in the National Park are some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world(!). As you can tell, they were a little bigger than me. According the UNESCO website, some of the trees in this forest are actually recorded as the tallest living trees in the world. Although most of the redwoods are around 200 feet tall, a few of them are over 350 feet tall! The National Park is the largest forest of preserved ancient trees in the original habitat. The nature geek in me was so giddy.
We stopped along Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway to park at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center. There’s also a herd of wild elk that are often found in the meadow next to the Visitor Center, which made for an exciting bonus. From the parking lot, there are several trails through the forest, with one leading all the way to the coast (about 5 miles long.) We decided to wander around and probably only walked a total of 1 mile despite our total time in the forest adding up to an hour and a half. If we had enough time, I would have loved to do the beach access hike.
The redwoods are beautiful and the forest is so quiet. What a world away from the busy streets of San Francisco! It’s pretty humbling to walk through a forest of trees that have been around longer than any of my grandparents. The trees make for some great photo ops, too. As my boyfriend found, there’s also ample opportunity for tree and stump climbing.
I’ve been on quite a few roadtrips throughout my childhood- my family spent our vacation time driving around America instead of traveling outside the US. Although I often complained about these trips when I was young, I now look through the rosy tint of nostalgia and have a more romantic notion of the American roadtrip.
So when my boyfriend agreed to do the 10-hour drive from school in Berkeley, CA to my parent’s home in Portland, OR, I
forced convinced him to make it into a mini roadtrip and spend the night somewhere along the way. While my parents went the sensible route and took the I-5 the whole way up (normally takes around 10 hours and can be completed in one day), Zack and I went up the 101 along the Northern California coast. We were greeted with some wacky roadside attractions (including emus) and plenty of random gift shops. Zack was also unfortunately stuck with my less than stellar singing skills for two straight days.
One the many wonderfully tacky gift shops along the way.
I have the voice of an angel.
Zack reading about the wild elk.
The idea for a California Oregon roadtrip sprung from my research on my longer upcoming trip to Southeast Asia. While spending hours
studying for final exams indulging my wanderlust, I spent some time looking up UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Which sparked my interest- what were the internationally recognized UNESCO Sites in the US? The closest one to Berkeley is the Redwood National Forest, a protected forest of some of the oldest and largest Redwood trees in the world. I had to see them before I moved away from Northern California!
So the roadtrip was planned. We drove up the 101 from the Bay Area through several small funky towns and some beautiful coastal area, with a few stops along the way. We spent the night just across the Oregon border in Grant’s Pass, where we left for Crater Lake National Park the next morning. After a quick stop at Crater Lake, where many of the roads were still closed because of snow (in May!) we headed up to Portland for the final stretch of the trip. It was everything I could have hoped for: we drove the car through a Redwood tree, we stopped in several of the hokey gift shops, I got to step foot on a California beach for the last time until 2013, and the drive was stunningly beautiful.
By the numbers!
- Total miles driven: 781
- Days: 2
- Times we pulled over for a random attraction: 3
- Emus in a random field next to the gas station: 3
- Cranky people at the end of the drive: 2
- Meals eaten at Applebees: 1
- Elk crossing signs: Lost count after the first 7
- Actual wild elk herds seen: 1
- Total number of pictures taken: 275
- National parks: 2
- Gas refills: 2 (though we left with a full tank)
- Times we thought we might run out of gas and be stranded: 1
- Wildlife parks passed in Oregon: 4 (So random!!!) See here, here, here, and here.
I learned some important life lessons, like “listen to your boyfriend when he tells you to get gas since the next gas station isn’t for 23 miles,” and that Oregon has enough wildlife sanctuaries/parks/zoos for both Oregon and California combined. And while we somehow managed to cover 781 miles in two days, I can’t say I recommend it to any sane people. My number one tip: stop at Salt Creek Falls off the 58 between Bend and Eugene in Oregon. Or just make as many stops as you can during any roadtrip, as the random pull off breaks we took were often the best.
I’ve been to Napa Valley a total of four times in the past five months. I can’t help it! I love wine tasting and Napa is only an hour’s drive from Berkeley. Since I don’t think I’ll ever live in Northern California again, I wanted to capitalize on Berkeley’s proximity to Napa and go as often as possible when it was only a quick car ride away. Although I already covered my budget tips for Napa, I figured I’d also share my personal recommendations for Napa since I’ve been a few more times since then.
I’ll be honest up front: I really don’t like the huge, crowded, Disneyland-ish wineries. While many people do love the bigger wineries with cool features (V. Sattui has great picnic grounds and food, Castello di Amorosa is in a huge $40 million castle, and you can take a gondola ride to Sterling Vineyards) I just prefer beautiful tasting rooms, good wine, and a gorgeous setting. So take my recommendations with a grain of salt!
- If you looking to avoid the crowds, stay off of Highway 29 and stop in the wineries off Silverado Trail or side streets instead
- Go to the tasting rooms early in the morning. The pourers will be friendly and willing to spend more time talking to you and if you’re trying to avoid belligerent people, you’re in luck.
- Don’t try to squeeze in more than 3 or 4 wineries per day. You could do 5 in one day but you’ll be rushing from spot to spot. It’s better to go slower and leave some extra cushion time.
- If you can, go during the week or in the winter. During the off season, even “appointment only” wineries can take you 5 minutes later if you call for an appointment that day.
- Bring some snacks and water in the car with you.
- Designate a navigator and bring a map. Some of the side streets can be difficult to find and it helps to have a map along with your directions or smart phone.
- Frog’s Leap Cellars: This is one of the most beautiful wineries I’ve ever been to. There’s a few adorable winery cats and the tasting room reminds me of a charming Southern house. It opens up onto a grassy area and the tasting is seated, which is always nice after you’ve been standing at a tasting bar most of the day. I also highly recommend their tours, which are informative and include some interesting anecdotes of how the winery was founded.
- Silverado Vineyards: This is another gorgeous tasting room. There’s an outdoor patio with seating and a spectacular view of the valley. The building looks like an expensive Mediterranean villa without any of the snobbiness. The wine is great, too.
- Arger Martucci: Even though this winery is right off Highway 29, it has none of the negative qualities some of its neighbors have. This is not an upscale, fancy tasting room- Arger Martucci might have the worst tasting room yet the best tasting experience. It’s in a private home so the tasting feels extremely personal despite the fact that you don’t need an appointment. The tasting is cheap at $10, the pours are generous, and the wine is fantastic. This is one of my favorite places to taste wine! When you’re tired of all the other tasting rooms in Napa, come here for a laidback experience.
- Frank Family Vineyard: This tasting room is in a beautiful yellow house, with a nice courtyard and fountain outside. This was my mother’s favorite winery of the 8 we went to during my graduation trip. Our pourer was super friendly and gave us a few extra tastes when he learned I had just graduated. It’s a good mix between a classy setting while remaining the cozy vibe of some of the smaller wineries.
- Etude Winery: This is one of the more upscale wineries that I like to visit. Everyone who works here is so nice! It’s much closer to Sonoma Valley so they specialize in Pinot Noirs, which I love. The tasting room is pretty modern and the outside seating is really nice.
- Stony Hill Vineyard: This winery has two things most other Napa Valley wineries do not: absolutely no crowds and almost all white wines. They produce only one Cabernet, so when you’re bored of drinking red wines, come to Stony Hill. It’s far off the beaten track- when we were driving here we thought we were lost! It’s in the middle of a State Park so there’s almost no other wineries around and the road is one lane. I loved the relaxing atmosphere at Stony Hill, and the gorgeous view from the top of the hill doesn’t hurt either.
- Other recommendations: Domaine Carneros for sparkling wine in a beautiful setting, Artesa Winery for it’s amazing architecture, and Clos Du Val for the friendly employees and Bocce Ball court.
- Gott’s Roadside (formally Taylor’s Refresher): This is my absolute favorite place to grab food in Napa Valley. Gott’s has delicious gourmet burgers, salads, and wines in a casual picnic setting. Go to the location in St. Helena for the picnic tables in the grass. It’s perfect for lunch. There’s not much else I can say besides: Go to Gott’s!
- Farmstead: Right next to Gott’s in St. Helena, Farmstead is a fantastic place to get dinner. They grow most of their own produce and have a herd of cattle for their beef dishes as well. Everyone in my family loved Farmstead. My dad and sister even declared their meal the best ribs and the best meatballs they’ve ever had!
- La Condesa: Another great place in St. Helena. La Condesa has delicious Mexican food- try the fish tacos. It’s good for lunch or dinner and if you’re sick of wine, they have amazing margaritas. I also love how it’s decorated.
- Genova’s Delicatessen: Genova’s has a location in Oakland as well, and their sandwiches and deli items are unreal. Come to Genova’s in the morning to grab sandwiches, cheese, bread, and whatever other picnic food you want and then enjoy them later at a winery with picnic tables. Genova’s is so good.
Okay, so this post is nearing 1,000 words which means it’s time to sign off. Hope these recommendations are helpful and if you have any others please leave them in the comments!
If you’ve read my About Me page, you’ll know I love food! Not just eating it, but also preparing it. When I moved to Washington DC in 2010 for a summer for an internship, I lived on my own for the first time and was stuck in a kitchen with no idea how to cook anything more complicated than Kraft Mac n Cheese. I was pushed head first into the sometimes intimidating though extremely fun world of cooking. After moving back into my sorority house in the fall, I realized something strange- I missed going to the grocery store.
So into a cooking classroom I went. I did some online research and found great reviews for Kitchen on Fire, a cooking school in downtown Berkeley right next to the famous Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse. Good cooking skills can be transfered by association right? I signed up for their Intro to Cooking Basic Series, a series of twelve classes covering everything from what gluten does to your bread to how to confit garlic (and what to put said confit garlic into.)
After I completed the classes and enjoyed putting my newfound knife skills to work (much to the dismay of my roommate) I was lucky enough to have Santa bring me another gift certificate to Kitchen on Fire. I quickly scanned the calendar of classes and signed up for “Quick and Healthy Vegetarian Meals” with my favorite instructor, Chef Mike C. The menu looking amazing and I was excited about the promise of fast and easy meals- garlic confit is not your casual Wednesday night dinner. The different dishes we’d be making included “Asparagus & Leek Frittata with Baby Greens Salad, White Bean, Greens, & Rice Soup with Fresh Pesto, Creamy Three Cheese & Seasonal Mushroom Pasta, Seasonal Vegetable Coconut Curry served with Herbed Jasmine Rice.” And best of all, for dessert, was the “Phyllo Wrapped Spice Apples with Whiskey Caramel Sauce.” YUM!
I was not disappointed! The food was unreal and I enjoyed spending time with the instructors and some of the returning assistants, who I got to know during the twelve week series. Even better was the chance to meet a new instructor who grew up in Malaysia: he gave me his recommendations for the best street hawkers in Penang, the culinary capital in northern Malaysia. To say I am excited to experience the food in Penang is an understatement!
My favorite part of the classes at Kitchen on Fire is the emphasis on science- yes, science. Even though I hated high school chemistry, the cooking chemistry we learned at Kitchen on Fire was interesting and extremely helpful. So your balsamic vinaigrette didn’t turn out ok? Why? Chef Mike C. taught us about emulsifiers and why an egg white is a necessary ingredient in any vinegar and oil dressings. This information ensures you don’t make the same mistake again! It also helped me become a discerning recipe reader.
Cooking classes are a great way to gain insight into the culture and values of a place. Do they prefer organic food or whatever is cheaper? Is the meal focused on nutrition or pleasure? Are dinners consumed in a car or in the dining room with the best china? ”Quick and Healthy Vegetarian Meals” reveals some of Berkeley’s preferences: healthy and sustainable food are most popular. It seems Alice Waters did rub off on the rest of Berkeley’s cuisine! Food markets are another way to enjoy local food and understand more about a city’s eating rituals. Berkeley itself has four different farmer’s markets each week, year round, which have an amazing selection of produce and some delicious prepared food as well (including my favorite ice cream in Berkeley, which is available at a stand at two of the markets.)
I was extremely lucky to spend this past week with my family as they came from all over the US to attend my graduation from UC Berkeley. We don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like since we all live in different states, and I’ve especially missed getting to spend time with my nephew as he grows up. I enjoyed every second with him this week and he is so photogenic! I loved this image of him and a baby goat staring at each other.
Now that I’m less than two weeks away from boarding a plane to Hanoi, I’ve started stuffing my face full with all my favorite food from home and saying goodbye to some of my friends. It definitely doesn’t feel real that I’m leaving for six months so soon!
While packing up my apartment in Berkeley and celebrating my recent graduation, I’ve gotten a little nostalgic for my past four years here. Here’s a few things I know I’ll miss when I’m abroad in Asia:
- Family, friends, and my boyfriend
- The stunning Berkeley sunsets from my west facing apartment (one pictured above!)
- Receiving weekly (sometimes daily) text photos of my dog from my mother
- My large, comfortable, spacious queen bed
- Going grocery shopping and cooking my own meals
- Food (cheese, pizza, Mexican food, grilled cheese and tomato soup, mac n cheese, wine and cheese, cheese…)
- Ice and endless free soda refills (I just love Diet Coke soo much)
- Music festivals (I wish I could attend Lollapalooza now that my brother lives in Chicago!)
- Seeing my friends move into their new post graduate apartments (and attending all their’ housewarming parties!)
- Occasionally driving 5 blocks in my car when I’m too lazy to walk
- A consistent routine
- My favorite yoga studio!
- Watching True Blood this summer
Of course, there’s plenty of things I won’t miss about home, like cold weather and the constant stress of papers and exams. And there’s so many more things I’m looking forward to! But for the next ten days, you can find me at Chipotle, burrito bowl in hand.