Tijuana

I had zero interest in heading across the border from here until I received this email, “I’d like to go to Mexico to get migraine meds. Would you have any interest in driving to Tijuana with me on Saturday?” Sounds like an adventure, I thought, and it was.

The “Best” Eats

Who doesn’t love going out to eat? While one of many reasons we stay at Airbnbs is having the ability to cook and keep fresh food handy, a big highlight of traveling is exploring local restaurants. Once in a while, we’ll stumble across a great find but random picks can often disappoint.

With so many choices, how do you find the good places? From the best coffee to the best bakeries to the best ethnic restaurants, recommendations from locals are our go-to source. I also keep a running list garnered from various travel articles, plus suggestions from friends. Local newspaper and magazine websites are pretty dependable and I like Eater.com. TripAdvisor is handy abroad but back in the States, I’m not a fan.

Yelp? Although our niece Emily works for them, I rarely, if ever, follow their suggestions. Until today.

Our friend MJ forwarded an article about Yelp’s Top-Rated Restaurant for 2020, located right here in San Diego. Michelin-star rated? No. Fancy white table cloths? No. Classically trained chef? No. With a perfect 5-star rating over 500 reviews, Yelp’s #1 restaurant for 2020 is . . . a food truck. Selling shawarma. And who doesn’t love shawarma? We headed to San Diego’s South Park neighborhood to check out Shawarma Guys.

Set up in the parking lot of his buddy’s liquor store, the owner, a former cell phone salesman, serves up to 900 plates a day with the help of his family. The service is friendly. The prices are cheap.

And the food? Frank and I ordered a chicken and a beef shawarma plate. Portions were large and accompanied by tasty sides of rice, hummus, pita and tabbouleh (bonus for me: no cucumbers!). Meat was tender and flavorful. We switched a couple times, having a hard time choosing a favorite. We did agree on one thing though, as far as shawarma goes, it was one of the best. We’ll be back.

As a footnote, we stopped at Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro, also in South Park. Travel + Leisure magazine named theirs “America’s Best Hot Chocolate.” I had the dark chocolate Masala Chai. I’d have to say, it was pretty, pretty good.

Happy 2020 from San Diego!

Frank and I begin this new year and the new decade in sunny San Diego. After six months in a cozy(?) 250-sq. foot apartment and dreading the impending Wisconsin deep freeze, it was high time to “get outta Dodge.”

Our California apartment is comfortable and spacious, located in the heart of San Diego. Within walking distance is most of what we need. For anything farther, there’s a trolley stop right behind our building. It’s so liberating not to need a car. We joined a club so Frank is back swimming and in his happy place. Both of us are looking forward to a couple months of relaxation, rejuvenation, exploration and visitors(!).

If you’re reading this and have any San Diego area recommendations, please send us a message!

“My home is not a place, it is people”

As 2019 ends and a decade closes its doors, now seems like a good time to ponder those words from Lois McMaster Bujold.

I’ve grown accustom to reciting my own quote, “Home is wherever our suitcases are.” Is that true? It’s been six years since Frank and I sold our home and hit the road. We’ve visited and lived (albeit temporarily) in some fantastic places, places where we could happily settle and feel “at home.” We’ve met some truly wonderful people, eaten well and had some incredible experiences.

But we always come home to Wisconsin. Even here, we stay in different places. The place, we’ve discovered, is irrelevant. For us, being home means being surrounded by our people. This last stretch had its challenges but time spent with family and friends made it more than worthwhile.

Frank and I love and look forward to continuing our adventures. I can’t say we won’t have a house someplace else at some point, but good, bad or freezing cold, Wisconsin will always be home.

Thanksgiving in NYC

Frank and I loved spending Thanksgiving in New York City. Seeing Andy and his new place, having Nick and Kim join us from LA, good food, lots of laughs, a little sightseeing and the burgeoning Christmas decorations made for a truly memorable week!

Andy’s apartment is right next to the Stock Exchange in the Financial District of Manhattan. (Yes, he has a real Christmas tree!)

His neighborhood is a great mix of new and old. The 9/11 Memorial and Calatrava’s Oculus transit center are nearby. I had just seen “Hamilton” back in Milwaukee so it was especially interesting to see our nation’s first capitol, the tavern where Hamilton had dinner the night before the duel and the church where he is buried.

A Thanksgiving away from home was a new experience. We conveniently rented a two-bedroom in Andy’s building. The kitchen was fairly well-equipped but didn’t have everything you’d need to cook a full holiday meal. I froze and brought some cookies and breads from home. I knew I could manage a few side dishes and hors d’oeuvres, but a turkey? Enter Citarella’s. Turkey, check. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy — check! I found the “best” New York cheesecake (May Ze Dahr) and a good place for dinner rolls (Amy’s). Pre-holiday pickups gave me a chance to explore different areas of the city!

The best part of Thanksgiving was the company! Andy invited a few of his new friends — Dara, Neal and Frankie — to join us.
(Hey, I know that guy!)

With Thanksgiving behind us, the city was so cheery and put us in the Christmas spirit!

It was fun watching the tree come together in front of the Stock Exchange next to Andy’s building.

All too quickly, it was time to say goodbye. We are so thankful for a wonderful week and can’t wait ’til next time!

Thanksgiving in NYC: Macy’s Parade

Perhaps it’s because I was born on Thanksgiving. I love everything about the holiday — family,  food and the Macy’s Day Parade! I’m glued to the spectacle every year while preparing the turkey and our family’s traditional holiday spingi (Italian donuts). The bands. The floats. The Rockettes. Santa. And, of course, the balloons! The parade sets the tone for a joy-filled day and the start of the holiday festivities.

Andy moved to NYC in July and now splits his time between here and Milwaukee. Our first visit to see his place is over Thanksgiving — presenting me an opportunity (coincidently?!!) to personally experience the pinnacle of all parades!

Everyone I know that’s been to the parade, told me I had to go see the balloon inflation the night before. Frank and Andy said they’d join me. That is, until we were rerouted several times and several blocks into a street packed like sardines with a slow-moving mass of humanity. The guys headed back downtown and I swam along. I rounded the corner; still no balloons. Once bags and backpacks were checked, the crowd loosened up and soon, around the corner, was the first glimpse of the balloons.

People were well-mannered and friendly. Excitement was all around!

My favorite, a new balloon designed by Yayoi Kusama

Would we see these balloons in flight tomorrow? The possibility of extreme winds had been reported in the days leading up to the big event. City rules require balloons to be grounded if sustained winds exceed 23 mph or gusts exceed 34 mph. The balloons have been grounded only once (in 1971) for weather-related reasons. Would that happen in 2019? A decision would not be made until right before the parade starts . . .

Parade Day

I met a lovely couple on the train platform. Although their home is in NYC, it was Pedro and Anna’s first time at the parade. We exited the train and found an amazing spot in Columbus Circle!

For some reason, we had a funny feeling this was too good to be true. We kept wondering how the parade could go around the circle, despite reassurances from a few of NYC’s finest. We asked around some more and found our hunches were right. We’d have to move.

We wandered up and down the now crowded streets and finally talked our way into Central Park where we found an even better, elevated, SEATED spot on a grassy hill! Frank had been texting me balloon updates. We were thrilled when city officials opted to have the balloons fly, albeit lower to the ground.

Showtime!

Go Dodgers!!!

So what’s a girl to do when her husband puts the kibosh on a party for his 75th birthday? How about a trip to see his beloved Dodgers play the Yankees in sunny LA?!!

While Frank is a huge Milwaukee Brewer fan . . .

. . . his heart will always be with the Dodgers. “My dad liked the Yankees but they were always winning. I preferred the Bums (the Dodgers’ nickname) even back when they were in Brooklyn. Roy Campanella. Don Newcombe. Then the Dodgers moved to LA. Sandy Koufax was my hero and pitcher Don Drysdale, too.”

Despite the hideous “Players’ Weekend” uniforms in lieu of their iconic jerseys and the use of nicknames instead of player names, nothing could take away from the historic rivalry. And yes, it was 86 degrees (felt like 100+!) but it IS sunny California. Did you know the Dodgers haven’t had a rainout game in nineteen years?!!!

Frank’s team pulled out a win for his special day — it couldn’t have been a better day for our favorite “Dodger Dog!”