Since I started taking these NYC getaways, I’ve realized that one of my favorite parts about exploring a new area is visiting the often overlooked (by everyday tourists, at least) towns nearby. So on our recent trip to LA, I wanted to make sure to include a trip to one of the nearby desert towns. I thought about Palm Springs, but after seeing several posts about Ojai on my Instagram feed (yes, that’s really how I make travel decisions!), that sealed the deal. Ojai it was!
Ojai is a tiny town of about 8000 people, located in a valley about an hour and a half drive northwest of Los Angeles. It’s a sleepy little town, with a small main street area, an emphasis on locally made goods, cute restaurants, health food, and healthy (hippie?) living.
When the first inklings of spring arrive after an unbearable winter, New York City is a madhouse. You know it’s happening because all the crazies come out–in the best and worst way possible. The streets are suddenly alive (although it’s possible I feel like that because I’ve finally rejoined the streets after months of hibernation). Whatever it is, I feel like I’ve never seen so many people wandering around. (I swear New Yorkers will stand on random street corners looking up at the sun, eagerly trying to soak it in.)
You also learn, quickly, that any thought you have is unoriginal. In a city of 8 million or so, with a (lot of, but) limited selection of outdoor hangouts, you can expect to see your neighbor, and your neighbor’s mother, and every tourist imaginable at every location that feels like a great idea. Like, that brunch spot near the park. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Yea, someone else thought of that.
So how do you enjoy the warm weather without being overwhelmed, as a tourist or native? Read on… (and share your own tips, if you dare).
When: December (pre-Christmas through New Year’s Eve)
With: Family (parents, brother, brother’s girlfriend and husband)
How long: 7 days
(this is the 4th & final post in a series, make sure to check out post 1, post 2, & post 3)
It probably won’t come as a surprise to most of you that my favorite way to explore a city is often through… shopping. That can sound bad, I know. I don’t mean heading to the outlets or the mall, or even the 5th avenue equivalent, and spending away an afternoon. I like going to the weekend flea markets and strolling through quaint neighborhoods to check out the local shops. It’s a way to check out the locals, understand some of the city’s history and, oftentimes, get a better idea of the youth culture. I never truly feel like I’ve discovered a city until I find the neighborhood that speaks to me–which just happens to generally mean the one with the cutest front doors, vintage shops, local boutiques filled with jewelry and clothing made by local designers, etc… (I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise why I’m so obsessed with Etsy, then.)
By the third day in Lisbon, we’d just about recovered from jetlag and decided to do some of the more quintessential touring activities (to the delight of my dad)! First, we took one of the trams to Belém, which is the most historical neighborhood of Lisbon, a bit removed from the city center.
The first stop was the Jeronimos Monastery. This is a World Heritage monument and the resting place for Portugal’s explorer, Vasco da Gama. The cloisters, following the trend, were unfortunately closed, but apparently worth the visit.
We broke for lunch after that, at a nearby cafe. In the sun, it was warm enough to take off our coats and enjoy rosé at a table outside. We were so, so lucky with that weather!
The days following Christmas in Lisbon were warm and sunny, relative to New York, anyway. The highs called for around mid-50s, but on some days, in the sunshine, you could take off your jacket and sit at an outside cafe table for lunch. We couldn’t ask for better tourist weather!
I think I get my travel genes from my mom. One of the many days that I was either fantasizing about traveling and/or about writing on this blog, my mom told me that she feels most free when she has a full tank of gas. “Like I can pick up and go anywhere!” Since I live in New York, I can’t really share that sentiment, but I totally got where she was coming from. The idea of being able to explore this big world we live in is exciting and totally overwhelming. Whenever I’m exploring a new location, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something on each street I don’t choose to turn down (not to mention, the outskirts of town, and the things I hear about when I’ve just returned!). But anyway, that’s a tangent.
What I was trying to get to was, much like the way I randomly choose a city I absolutely need to visit, my mom does the same. Luckily, she often invites the rest of us to tag along. This year, she decided she wanted to spend Christmas in Portugal. Lisbon, to be exact.
Sometime between the end of summer and the winter holidays comes a lull that calls for staying home, nesting, and prepping for a new school year (even if actual school years are long gone). I try to stave off my need to escape by planning new restaurants to go to and revisiting old neighborhoods. Last month, we took advantage of one of the last nice days to check out the fall foliage in Central Park.
Eat: bring a picnic to eat on the grounds (the cafe food was pretty good but not a must)
Sometimes the urge to get outta town can’t immediately be filled with a train ride or a plane flight, so I have a collection of “local escapes” to choose from on those days. Most of them came from reading TimeOut NY and tabbing the corners to remember… lo and behold, 9 years after moving to NYC, I haven’t done the best job at hitting all the spots. I decided this weekend to finally check one off the list.
Autumn has always been my favorite season (as long as I’ve lived somewhere where there is an autumn). I love when the leaves change color and the temperature starts to drop. I like cozy sweaters and cute flats and not being too cold, while not being hot, either. There always feels like a lot of promise at the start of fall–I’m wondering what the next months will bring, thinking about the holidays and then the start of a new year.
to. die. for. gnocchi
September is also the month Miles and I began dating oh-so-many years ago, and the month we got married. We usually take an end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall trip to celebrate our anniversary, while taking advantage of off-peak pricing. For our honeymoon last year, we started in Tuscany… and when the weather started changing this year, that was all I could think about.