For as long as I can remember I have wanted to see the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C. I am thrilled that this year, I did.
It was even more beautiful than I expected. I felt as though I were walking through clouds of pink, yellow, and white blossoms. This weekend was the first warm and sunny one in DC and it was clearly the height of the festival. In addition to the cherry blossoms, we enjoyed brightly blooming forsythia as well as fluffy almond and elegant magnolia trees.
In case you didn’t know, the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year celebrates the gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States from Japan in 1912. The gift commemorates the friendship between the two nations.
Thanks to my wonderful friend Desi for hosting this great adventure!
He says yes.
It’s just another sunny, extremely windy day at Breezy Point. You can’t walk ten steps without nearly getting blown over.
But it’s worth it to run through the waves in February with the Financial District looming on the horizon. An ever-present, yet distant memory as you tumble wind-blown across the sand and ice.
From January 2014.
I am building up a fortress of small happinesses, constructing a palace of particular pleasures that apply only to me.
I am being thoroughly, luxuriously selfish, and utterly relishing in it. I am sleeping late, dreaming large, lingering in loungewear, dressing down to go out, dating none, entrancing many, exploring new worlds, buying plants.
I am laying a foundation of memories, a pillowy buffer that pushes the past further from my mind. I am me! I am finally, actually, truly me! I make plans and keep them. I’m early. I go home when I’m sleepy. I read a novel and no one interrupts me. I meet likeminded people. I plan adventures.
I am collecting cavernous moments.
I wander alone and alive, in awe at the plain majesty of this city, of this world.
I don’t think I truly saw New York until I saw it from the seat of my bicycle. Suspended between air, tires, and pavement, I occupy the transcendant space between man and machine. Now that I have a bike, New York has become a giant playground. Forget crowded subways, dark tunnels, cramped, stuffy platforms. Say hello to the wind in your face, the river at your side, the sunniness of the streets, and seeing skyscrapers from every angle.
This is the first of several suggested biking itineraries I’ll be posting on When Nutmeg Met Basil. All you need is a bike, a helmet, a backpack, a bike lock, and a free day. If you are lucky enough to have a biking buddy like I do, then make sure to bring them along.
If you love photography, your bike can take you to the best photo spots in the city. I’ve noted these in the itinerary below.
Itinerary One: East River Jaunt
Start in Astoria, Queens and pedal west toward Vernon Boulevard and the East River. Stop off at Socrates Sculpture Park, where you can explore EAF2014, the annual Emerging Artists Fellowship exhibition, which was installed in early September.You may want to play on the sculptures. Lots of photos to be taken here.
Continue down Vernon past the Queensboro bridge until you reach the LIC Flea & Food. Lock your bike at the rear entrance to the fair and sample local snacks from Khao Man Gai NY or the King of Falafel — or enjoy the simple pleasure of frolicking with the pumpkins. Do take a moment to master the bean toss – it will give you a sense of accomplishment that will prove useful on the rest of your ride.
Grab your bike and proceed to Gantry Park. Photo opportunities abound as you ride or walk down the waterfront into Hunter’s Point Park South, which opened for the first time last fall. Kahn’s new Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island stands in between you and Manhattan’s East River skyline. You’ll pass plenty of places to sit and take in the view. If you’d like, you can stop at all of them.
Note: Bathroom break available in the trailer to the side of the park. You’ll reach it about halfway through the walkway.
If you’re feeling sleepy, pause for a coffee at LIC Landing by COFFEED, the outdoor café at the end of the park. Linger on a wooden deck chair. New York is your playground. There’s no rush!
As you exit the riverwalk, follow signs for the bike route over the Pulaski bridge. Welcome to Brooklyn! More waterfront cycling awaits you in this bike-friendly borough. Make a right on DuPont and a left on Franklin. Continue south on Franklin until you reach Bushwick Inlet Park, where I recommend stopping to dance in the sprinklers, enjoy the view, or use the public restrooms.
A few blocks ahead lies the legendary Smorgasburg… brave the Stumptown-fueled crowds fighting for a ramen burger if you dare!
Continue on to Kent Avenue and sail past cars, pedestrians, trees, buildings, and dogs. You’ll leave the waterfront and chart a direct course for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which offers a welcome respite from traffic and marks your half-way spot.
Once you arrive, search for bike parking on the sidewalk in front of the Washington Avenue entrance. Enter and proceed directly to the Rose Garden. You’ll want to check out the the Shakespeare garden (several rows of plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays), if you’re an English major slash plant nerd like me. Take a walk through the Japanese garden, as well, and pass through the lilypad plaza in front of the conservatory.
You’re on your way to the vast expanse of open green where you can collapse, with an ice cream bar from the café if you feel you deserve it. Take as long as you need to lie back in the grass contemplating the trees and reveling in the peace of this rare urban oasis.
Back on your bike! You’re off to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge bike path. Careful — pedestrians crossing the bridge often fail to observe rules and tend to wander into the bike lane. Even the bikers can be difficult to accomodate. I was riding behind a grandfather who crawled across the bridge while constantly shouting instructions at the two grandkids in front of him. “Slow down! You’re right up on her!”
Over the bridge and through the park and across lower Manhattan, you’ll find yourself at the ferry, where $3.50 buys yourself and your bike passage on a three minute voyage to downtown Jersey City. This is convenient if you have friends that live there, as I do. If so, I highly recommend tacos and margaritas at Taqueria Downtown followed by ice cream at Milk + Sugar. If not, you may want to skip the ferry and stop for dinner instead at the nearby Shake Shack. Either way, make sure to refuel. You’ve earned it!
La Masseria, New York City – Chef Demonstration with Vito Aversa of Da Tuccino, Polignano a Mare, Puglia
On a recent Wednesday night, theater-district favorite La Masseria was crowded, as usual. As part of Puglia Food & Wine Restaurant Week, which ran this year from October 6-12, 2014 in New York City, owner Pino Coladonato invited us to a demonstration with visiting chef Vito Aversa.
Aversa is chef and owner of Da Tuccino restaurant in beautiful Polignano a Mare, Puglia. The restaurant was founded by his grandfather and has been in the family for three generations.
Chef Vito prepared paccheri con scampi e ricci di mare, a traditional Pugliese pasta dish with shrimp and sea urchins. Take a look at how he did it.
All photos in this post (C) Adrián Aguado
The store’s proprietor, Judy, a cheerful woman in a purple shirt, greets us from the back when we walk in. She brings me the softest dresses and skirts to try while Chalene sorts through an array of colorful knotted caps.
Judy and her husband Michael, the store’s co-owner, are currently competing to win a $150,000 small business grant from Chase. They need 50 more votes in the next 24 hours. I can assure you they most certainly deserve them! Click here to vote: https://www.missionmainstreetgrants.com/business/detail/32921
I bought a magically flattering skirt that Judy sewed herself from bamboo fabric. I usually can’t control myself around polka dots, but this skirt is perfect. Judy makes all of the clothes in the shop herself and sells them at lower prices than her competitors. “These clothes are good for the Earth,” she says. “I want this to be affordable for people.”
A fun side note for me is that Judy and her husband moved to Portland from Astoria, Oregon — my own neighborhood’s sister city on the West Coast! Occasionally when I look up vendors close to home in Astoria, Queens, Google sends me to Oregon instead. Astoria, Oregon is about 90 miles from Portland, and Judy says that it’s gorgeous there. She compares it to Norway and tells us that men used to be kidnapped in bars and taken to sea, where they were forced to become sailors.
Judy and Michael ran their business in Astoria for several years after starting it in Eugene, where they sold their clothes at an outdoor market. They decided to relocate to Portland because most of their customers lived in the city. They opened the shop in February 2014 and couldn’t be happier. “I love Portland!” Judy says.
I’m looking forward to visiting Judy again on my next trip out west. Next time, I’ll stop in BEFORE brunch at nearby Tin Shed — and I might even buy one of those stretchy dresses that allows for no physical imperfections.
Portland Hemp Works
1524 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
Note: Published from my phone due to the time sensitive nature of the contest and the fact that I’m still out and about exploring Portland right now. Please forgive any formatting errors.