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Monthly Archives: February 2011

A friend who lives in London had a twelve hour layover in Dallas this weekend on her way home from Chile.  Julie is a travel professional (check out her fabulous blog) and has been all over the world, but this was her first visit to Texas.  (Technically, it was her second.  She had a similar layover situation on her way to Chile and used public transportation- yes, it is possible to do here!- to get from DFW to the Uptown area of Dallas.)  I absolutely love living in Dallas, so I was excited to share some of the fun things the city has to offer.

Public transportation options are limited on Sundays because the Trinity Railway Express, the train that connects the airport to Dallas or Fort Worth, doesn’t run so I made the quick trip to DFW to pick her up.  My immediate concern was eating, so we joined some friends for brunch at State and Allen Lounge in Uptown.

The weather is finally nice enough to sit outside without a jacket, so we ate in the open air and enjoyed our view of the action on the street.  Everyone and their dog (literally) was out and about.  Dallas is one of my favorite places to people watch and Uptown is a prime location for it (if you live here or have visited, you know what I mean).  I’m a big fan of State and Allen for their half price pizzas on Mondays, but this was my first time to brunch there and it was scrumdiddlyumptious.  I recommend the chiliquiles- delicious!  Once brunch was done we (my boyfriend and a friend joined me) had about three hours to show Julie the highlights of our fair city.

We started with Dallas’ most famous historic (and tragic) landmark, the grassy knoll, the site of JFK’s assassination in 1963.  Although we didn’t have time to check it out, The Sixth Floor Museum is adjacent to the grassy knoll.  Located in the building formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository, the museum is the site of Lee Harvey Oswald’s post when he fired the shot that killed the former president.

The Grassy Knoll

Next, we cruised down Main Street to visit Neiman Marcus’ flagship store, which unfortunately is closed on Sundays.  During the seven years I’ve lived here, I’ve spent hours in the North Park Mall location, but realized that I’ve never been to the flagship.  It’s now on my Dallas bucket list, along with trying one of their famous chocolate chip cookies!

Window at flagship Neiman Marcus. Love the reflection of the truck in the window. So Texan!

We covered eating, history, and shopping (sort of) so the last item on our agenda was culture.  The Nasher Sculpture Center in the arts district was a perfect fit.  It’s not as big as its neighbors, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Crow Collection of Asian Art, so it’s easy to do if your time is limited and has a fabulous sculpture garden, perfect for days when the weather is nice.

Michael Craig-Martin's Garden Fork, 2008

After perusing the art and having a latte in the café, it was time to take Julie back to DFW for her flight to London.  I had so much fun catching up with her and revisiting some infamous landmarks that are outside of my “bubble”.  What do you show visitors in your city or town?

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After my worcation in Seattle (which was more work than cation), my boyfriend and I took the Amtrak Cascade to Vancouver for a full-on weekend vaca.  I’ve only had one other experience on Amtrak (you can read about it here) so train travel is relatively new to me.  This was my first time to cross our northern border, but my boyfriend had visited Vancouver before, so it was nice that he was somewhat familiar with the city.

We boarded the train in one of the economy cars and soon regretted it.  Leg room was tighter than we’d expected and our row was situated between windows, so we had to lean forward or back to get a view of the passing scenery.  The deal breaker for us was the group of loud story-telling passengers, each determined to one-up the other with a more clever anecdote (the majority having to do with chugging Red Bulls and running from Canada Boarder Service Agents).  My boyfriend and I quickly moved to a vacant business class car and paid the conductor twelve bucks each for the upgrade.  We settled in to bigger, comfy leather seats and enjoyed the increase in legroom and the quiet and privacy of the car.  To top it off, we had a perfect view of the coastal landscape.

Business class. Photo from http://www.amtrakcascades.com

My main reco for Amtrak is BYOF- bring your own food!  I attempted the breakfast sandwich and found it unfit for consumption.  Served piping hot in a factory-sealed plastic bag, the bagel was simultaneously mushy and chewy and the sausage and egg tasted like they were made from recycled basketball shoes.  I quickly tossed it and traded up for the broccoli cheddar quiche, which was at least edible.  Next time I’m packing gorp.

Photo from seattletransitblog.com

Four hours later we arrived in downtown Vancouver in the pouring rain.  We hopped on a bus outside the train station and headed to The Executive Hotel at Vintage Park.  This is where I first experienced the stereotypical Canadian kindness.  In our rush, my boyfriend and I forgot to get loonies and only had US dollars on hand.  The bus driver told us to get on regardless and not to worry about paying.  He made small talk with us and the local passengers and even gave us a few recommendations on the area in which we were staying!

The Canadian Karma carried over to our check-in experience at The Executive.  The concierge was an absolute sweetheart.  He gave us a tour, more recommendations for the area, and was so nice we agreed to upgrade to a suite- we just couldn’t say no to him!  It was absolutely worth it.  The room was huge, had an amazing view of downtown, and a Jacuzzi!

We spent the afternoon getting settled in, and trolling around the neighborhood under the protection of an umbrella.  Around 5pm we headed out for dinner.  We weren’t trying to catch an early bird special; we were shooting for a table at Vij’s, Vancouver’s hot spot for Indian (my favorite ethnic food).  I’d seen Giada De Laurentiis eat there on the Food Network and was determined to try it (she makes everything look so good).  Vij’s doesn’t take reservations and their doors open at 5:30pm, so we had to go early, whether we were hungry or not!

My patient boyfriend. The face says it all.

My boyfriend wasn’t thrilled about the idea of standing in line in the rain, but once we got in and were seated we knew it was worth it.  Vij’s is relatively small, so we were lucky to make the first seating.  Their staff is both inviting and efficient.  We didn’t feel rushed, but noticed that the tables turned quickly.  As soon as we were seated, we were given hot chi tea and brought a few rounds of hors d’oeuvres.  For a starter we got the Punjabi heart attack, a spoonful of spicy cashews accompanied by a quinoa salad.  For mains, we ordered lamb popsicles, spinach and daal.  The spices were perfectly balanced and layered so that each bite left us craving more.  By the end of our meal we were stuffed.

Lamb Popsicles

After dinner we walked around the neighborhood but soon retreated to the hotel to get a break from the drizzle.  The next morning we got up early and went for a run to Granville Island, a very cute art and entertainment district.  We had breakfast sandwiches from the Granville Market, a foodie destination.  If I had enough room in my suitcase, I would have brought home flavored salts, polished wood cutting boards, truffle oil, and many other goodies!  I restrained myself to just window shopping (it wasn’t easy!).  Full from breakfast, we opted to take a water taxi from the peninsula across the bay instead of running back.  These small boats are constantly running across the bay; it’s faster than jogging and much cheaper than a cab.

My boyfriend has a friend who lives in town, and he was nice enough to take us to Whistler for the afternoon.  We didn’t hit the slopes, but we enjoyed the scenic drive up to the mountain.  The ocean was on our left and beautiful mountains with glacier-fed waterfalls on our right.  Gorgeous.  When we got to Whistler, it was snowing and very cold.  The runs were packed with skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of the fresh powder.  The ski town is your typical set up with rental shops, cafes, pubs, and chalets surrounding a central square.

We had lunch at Earl’s, a more upscale than your typical lunch spot on a mountain.  I had clam chowder with a Caesar salad and a bloody Mary.  It was the perfect comfort food meal for a snowy day.  After our meal we walked through the square for a second, but were not properly dressed for the conditions.  It was time to head back to the city.  On the way back to our hotel, we drove through Stanley Park.  All I could think of was the cartoon movie, Fern Gully, as we drove through the misty, mossy forest.  I would love to spend time in the park (when it’s not raining).

Photo from Michael Kalus on Flickr

We didn’t get ambitious for dinner that night, knowing we had a long travel day ahead of us.  After five days of amazing restaurants, we found ourselves tooling around downtown Vancouver on a Saturday night, reservation-less, and starving!  That’s when we happened upon a tapas place called La Bodega.  We were seated immediately, which should have been a red flag.  We yawned through a boring cheese plate, bland artichoke hearts, dry Spanish meatballs, and a greasy tortilla.  The best part of dinner was the check, but we got what we paid for!

Photo from CRCA on TripAdvisor

After our disappointing tapas experience, we called it a night. I was ready to return to Texas and get back on my taco diet!  The next morning we checked out of The Executive at 5:45am and caught a 6:00am QuickCoach to take us to SEATAC airport.  The bus was comfortable, we got in and out of Customs quickly (although I was sad they didn’t stamp my passport!), and we arrived at the airport thirty minutes early (9:00am) so were able to take an earlier flight home.  Two connections and two time zones later, we finally arrived home at 8:00pm.   The Pacific Northwest was fabulous, and I hope to return when it’s sunny and warm and take advantage of the outdoor activities!  Plus, I wouldn’t mind another visit to Vij’s!

Greetings from a winter wonderland! I’m currently sitting in an airport waiting to see if my flight, which has been delayed multiple times, will be canceled. Who knew we’d wake up to six inches of snow in North Texas?

If all goes well, I’ll be in Phoenix soon where the high is sixty degrees. Keeping my fingers crossed!  Hope everyone is staying safe and warm today!

Last week work took me to Seattle so to make the most out of my time I added on a day of vacation [(work + vacation) x travel = worcation].  I’d been looking forward to this trip because it involved a lot of firsts:

  1. It was my first time to visit the Pacific Northwest (prior to this I hadn’t ventured north of San Fran).
  2. It was my first time to meet with our corporate accounts on my own (I’ve always shadowed a manager).
  3. My boyfriend was able to take off work and it’s the first time we’ve taken a trip alone together.

We arrived in Seattle late Tuesday night and took a cab to our hotel downtown.  The Warwick is in a prime spot.  It’s an easy walk to great shopping and dining and Pike Place Market.  The hotel’s building is old and the interior isn’t as pristine as it appears on the Warwick’s website.  Fortunately, management is renovating all of the rooms from the top down.  My boyfriend and I snagged one of the newly upgraded Executive rooms on the 15th floor.  As soon as we got off the elevator we were hit with the smell of new carpet in the hall (almost as good as new car smell).  One side of the room was outfitted with a long desk (great for work), another corner had a small seating area, and the majority of the space was taken up by a comfy king size bed.  The best part of the room was the view of the Space Needle from the balcony.

It's not this blurry in real life...

On Wednesday I had sales calls scheduled all over town but instead of renting a car, I opted to take public transportation.  I’m a typical Texan so I never use public transportation at home.  Riding a bus is a novelty, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to maneuver through a new city on its bus system.  (Lame, I know!)  My experience with Seattle’s was great!  Buses arrived on time, drivers and riders were friendly and helpful, it was remarkably cheaper than renting a car and paying for parking, and it allowed me to coast around town feeling like a local!

When my work was done, I met my boyfriend back at the hotel.  I have to brag about him- he had a bottle of champagne, a single red rose, and chocolate waiting for me to “celebrate” my first day of solo sales calls!  We popped the cork over the balcony and had some bubbly while we took in the scenic view of the Space Needle and the city streets below (play video to hear my horrible Robin Leach impression).

On our way to dinner, we cruised through Pike Place Market.  Maybe we were in the wrong part, but I didn’t see any fish throwing (could it be an urban legend?), although the seafood looked divine.  The market is nicely situated on the water with a beautiful view of the bay.  By the time we perused the food stalls, I was starving for some fruits de mer.

For dinner we stumbled upon The Brooklyn.  It’s in a beautiful old building (it’s on Seattle’s historic registry), just up the road from the market.  The Brooklyn is your classic seafood, steakhouse, and oyster bar.  We were lucky to get a table without a reservation.  Service was excellent and we took all of our waiter’s recos.  We started with oysters, vodka and beer flights, followed by creamy clam chowder, and finally grilled scallops served on chopped beef smothered in a rich Hollandaise-like sauce.  Best surf-and-turf ever.  Period.

I had another meeting on Thursday and some work to do back at the hotel.  When I finally wrapped up, I was ready to begin the “cation” part of the worcation.

That night we dined at The Purple Café and Wine Bar.  The restaurant is intriguing; it’s two stories tall and glass from floor to ceiling.  The decor is “Gothic”- dark stained concrete floors, heavy black iron touches, and dim lighting offset by oil-burning light fixtures throughout.  The focal point of the dining area is the wine bar.  It’s a two-story cylinder wrapped in a wood and wrought-iron spiral staircase, a glorified wine rack.

We started with a cheese plate and Argentinean wine flight followed by a savory carrot, apple, and fennel bisque.  For our mains I had an artisan pepperoni pizza, which I don’t recommend (too greasy).  My boyfriend had the lamb burger, and I ate as much of it as he let me!  The ground lamb was mixed with fresh herbs, grilled medium rare, and topped with a thick slice of feta and caramelized peppers and onions.  I hardly eat meat, but this burger won me over.

Photo from seeattle.wordpress.com

After dinner we went for a nightcap at The Crocodile, a bar famous for the bands that have played on its stage.  The Croc proudly provided a venue for bands like Nirvana, REM, Cheap Trick, and Pearl Jam and embodies Seattle’s “sound.”  It’s a gritty, off-the-beaten-path dive.  As I sipped my vodka tonic at the bar, I could only imagine the crazy rock star antics that have undoubtedly gone on inside those walls.  Legendary.

On Friday morning we checked out of The Warwick and caught a free bus (yes, they’re free in certain spots at specific times of day- score!) to the King Street station.  We boarded the Amtrak Cascade to begin part two of our worcation in Canada!  We had a fabulous time exploring Seattle, so I won’t complain if/when work sends me there again.  I may need to schedule some follow-up meetings  with my Washington accounts in the near future!