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A four day itinerary in the Cotswolds, England.

The Cotswolds, or the “The Wolds” is a southwestern region of rolling hills and quaint English villages. It was designated an “area of outstanding natural beauty,” the British equivalent of National Parks in the U.S.

The rolling green hills are decorated with honey-colored limestone houses with stone shingled roofs. Each village seems quintessentially British with a local pub and tea shops downtown.

Many of the towns in the Cotswold sprung from the wool industry, with historical mansions built for the wool merchants and smaller homes for the workers. 

With the industrial revolution and the development of cotton this region saw a major economic decline and many people left the countryside for the city. Now it’s a favorite seasonal get-away for Londoners and tourists in the mood for manor house nostalgia.

The Cotswold’s attracts many walkers for the long hiking trails known as Cotswold’s Way, St. Kenelm’s Way and Monarch’s Way. Many of which pass through English farmhouses and property.

Getting in: We rented a car from Robinson Gross (Tredington Park, Tredington, Shipston-on-Stour CV36 4RN, United Kingdom) just outside of Moreton-on-Marsh.  If you plan ahead and give them ample notice, they offer reasonably priced-rides to the train station. We took the train from  Gatwick Airport (directly to the right when you exit arrivals) to Reading and transferred to a second train heading to Moreton-on Marsh. You can also take the train to Oxford and transfer from there. 

The Lion Inn, in Winchombe was one of the coziest locations!

Accommodations: We wanted to stay in a charming older inn, and we had a car and could stay in a town that wasn’t a transportation hub. We chose The Lion Inn, (37 North Street, Winchcombe, Cheltenham) which proved to be a good home base after a day of trekking and exploring nearby villages.

Day 1: Enjoy a meal at your Inn or local gastropub. After a few hours of navigating the train system or driving in from London, get settled into your lodging. We stayed at the Lions Inn in Winchcombe and enjoyed our first meal at their delightful gastropub. We enjoyed a nightcap in front of their roaring fire. To celebrate your arrival and initiate your adventure, I recommend getting dinner at your local Inn, or a local village favorite that is within walking distance. This way you can still get up early the next morning and start exploring.

Day 2: Hike, Explore Broadway Hike, Explore Hailes Abbey, Broadway and Chipping Campden:

I like to get some exercise in before each adventure. Start your morning off by hiking either Cleeve Hill or Broadway Tower. If you choose Broadway Tower don’t bother paying the 5 pounds to go the three flights up, you have an equally beautiful cascading view from the hilltop.  After getting your hike in, feel free to go about your day in your hiking clothing, the area is very sporty. Check out Hailes Abbey, Chipping Campden and Broadway. Hailes Abbey (Hailes, Cheltenham GL54 5PB, United Kingdom) embodies the reminiscent ruins of a 13th century abbey. The heritage site includes a free audio guide and an intact church showcasing medieval paintings.  It also offers a great place to picnic or take a leisurely stroll. Next up on the itinerary is Broadway. I loved Broadway, with its expansive center and many shops and tea parlours.

We had high tea and snacks at Tisanes Tea Room (Cotswold House, 21 The Green, Broadway WR12 7AA, United Kingdom), which was affordable and low key. Tisanes attracts tourists as well as locals, and we noticed a local knitting group meeting for tea and conversation while we were there.

We had high tea and snacks at Tisanes Tea Room (Cotswold House, 21 The Green, Broadway WR12 7AA, United Kingdom), which was affordable and low key. Two of the grand hotels: The Lygon Arms and The Horse and the Hound, offer great options for a more upscale high tea experience. Spend an hour or so strolling through the town’s various shops. Don’t forget to snap a photo in front of the iconic red telephone booth. Next stop on the village itinerary is Chipping Campden, which is a fifteen minute car ride. For those on foot, it is a five mile walk.

Don’t miss an opportunity to walk down Chipping Campden’s High Street and experience the old Market Square, which was a sheep marketplace in an earlier era.

You can also saunter down to Broad Campden and back up, which provides a quaint respite. The walk is decorated with some iconic thatched roof houses. Once back in Chipping Campden, I recommend getting dinner at The Huxley (High St., Chipping Campden, United Kingdom) in the middle of the village center. Check out if they have a live music event, and in good weather,eat outdoors and get a feel for the village and its people. If you are in the mood for a nightcap at the end of your day, I recommend a visit to Hollow Bottom Beer Garden (Guiting Power, Cheltenham GL54 5UX) for a refreshing local brew from among the many beers on tap.

Day 3: Sudeley Castle, Lower Slaughter, Borton-on-the-water, and Stow-on-the-Wold:

Start your morning by exploring Sudeley Castle (Website,10:00AM-4:00PM, ~17pounds). Get your fill of centuries worth of English history! Next head over to Lower Slaughter. En route to Lower Slaughter, drive through small and underwhelming Upper Slaughter, which is not worth the stop. Once parked in Lower Slaughter, walk around the town and enjoy the beautiful running mill and attached cafe. We had the luxury of arriving just as they were putting some scones into the oven! After walking around Lower Slaughter, follow the 1.5 miles path to the left of the river to walk to the neighboring town of Bourton-on-the-water.

Bourton-on-the-water is absolutely beautiful, but does cater more to tourism. The village is known as “the Venice of the Cotswolds”. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and window shopping in Bourton-on-the-water, like the name entails a river runs through it. I loved just walking over the various bridges downtown. Take the leisurely walk back to your car and end your day in Stow-on-Wold.

The charming village of Bourton-on-the-water with it’s idyllic river through the center of town.

In Stow on the Wold, walk around the center of town, which is more “bustling” than the others. The multipurpose St Edward’s Hall is a library, tourist office and museum. If it peaks your interest, check out the English Civil War artwork on the second floor. The building was built in 1878 from unclaimed funds at the local bank. Don’t miss the medieval St. Edward’s Church.

Stow-on-Wold is home to St. Edward’s Church, which back door seems to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien with the door to Moria.

End your day with dinner at Porch House (1 Digbeth St, Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham GL54 1BN, United Kingdom), publicizing itself as the oldest Inn in England. On their hearth, they have witches’ blessings engraved in the 1700s fireplace. Most of the area has fresh local produce and a seasonal menu. When I was there they had butternut squash risotto, it was amazing!

The Porch House, known as the oldest Inn in England.

Day 4: Daylesford, Woodstock and Blenheim Palace, and local favorite Falkland Arms:

Blenheim Palace

Start your morning off with brunch at Daylesford Organic Farm (Daylesford, Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0YG, United Kingdom) in Gloucestershire. In the United States we have John Deere farm equipment, in England they have JCB, started by Joseph Cyril Bamford in 1945. Anthony Bamford, succeeding his father as the current owner of JCB, was appointed a Lord in 2013. He is also a collector of antique Ferraris and other luxury cars. The Daylesford Organic Farm was started by his wife, Carole. This upscale farmstand is a must see, as it represents a positive outcome of a recent tourism movement in the Cotswolds: sleek, clean, and new. Focusing on organic farming and clothing, this farmstand is the definition of country chic. Spend some time walking around the farmhouse and shops.  Those who prefer to be pampered can get a massage at the spa.
 

 Spend the rest of the day at Blenheim Palace. It has a quirky place in history in that on November 30, 1874, Jennie Churchill was attending a party here when she began to go into labor and gave birth to Winston (what a surprise to the guests and the Churchills alike).

Blenheim Palace is the only English palace that is not in royal rule at this time; those “nonroyals” include Winston Churchill, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and Princess Diana before she married Prince Charles.

 In 1702, Queen Anne gave John Churchill the title of Duke of Marlborough and the Blenheim Palace after a successful victory over the French in the eponym, Battle of Blenheim.

I highly recommend the audio guide to enhance your Blenheim Palace visit. Grab a snack and a coffee from the cafe to sustain you through this expansive tour.

After spending the day at the luxurious Blenheim Palace and garden, enjoy a meal in the Village of Woodstock. I recommend the Black Prince (2 Manor Rd, Woodstock OX20 1XJ, United Kingdom), which has elevated pub food and a beautiful riverside dining area.

If you are looking for a long weekend out of Boston or New York, you may enjoy a weekend itinerary in Mexico City, Mexico; St. Augustine, Florida; or Barcelona, Spain.

5 Best Coffee shops in Barrio Logan, San Diego

I love spending an afternoon in the vibrant Barrio Logan neighborhood. Known for its food, activism, and artwork. I first discovered the neighborhood because of the beautiful murals depicting indigenous deities, famous Chicanos, and local activists. Known for grassroots activism and good food, this makes for a great afternoon excursion while in San Diego.

While the area is geographically expansive, the business district, featuring shops, restaurants and galleries is roughly one mile from start to end. The resilient community of Chicano Americans has been empowered through grassroots organizing for years. Many of the businesses are owned by local San Diegans and even more so from Barrio Logan natives. 

Here is a list of my favorite coffee shops in Barrio Logan and what each shop has to offer. Truly, you cannot go wrong with any of these! Enjoy a caffeine laden afternoon in Barrio Logan. 

Cafe Moto

Address: (2619 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113) 

Owners: Torrey and Kimberly Lee

Opened: 1990, but family has been roasting since 1960s

What sets it apart: best grab and go, solar powered, started for a love of motorcycles and coffee. 

Cafe Virtuoso 

Address: (1616 National Ave, San Diego, CA 92113) 

Owner: Laurie Britton

Opened: 2008

What sets it apart: organic coffee and tea. Best for the tea lover!

Chikita Cafe 

Address: (1875 Newton Ave, San Diego, CA 92113) 

Owner: Celina Hernandez

Opened: 2017

What sets it apart: End your day with a sweet and coffee from for those who like a little sweet to accompany their artisan coffee drinks! It’s in a garage with a hot pink door and sells trinkets from local designers.

Por Vida 

Address: (2146 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113) 

Owners: Carolina Santana and Milo Lorenzana

Opened: 2015

What sets it apart: best all around coffeehouse, featuring rotating artwork, frequent popup shops in the space.

Ryan Bros Coffee

Address: (1894 Main St, San Diego, CA 92113) 

Owners: Brothers Harry, Carmine & Tom Ryan

Opened: 1994; 2003 in Barrio Logan

What sets it apart: runner up for best all around coffeehouse, industrial size coffee house next to the arches as you enter Barrio Logan.

Honorable mention: Storymakers Coffeeroasters (2309 National Ave Suite B, San Diego, CA 92113) 

Ten Days in Puglia, Italy

Puglia, Italy is known for its terraced country gardens, whitewashed villages, fresh farm-to-table restaurants and seaside Adriatic towns. For those who say Italy looks like a boot, this is the “heel” region. Once a part of mankind’s first democracy as part of Magna Grecia (ancient Greece), the region is rich and deep in history. When my friend, Jen, from World On a Whim, recommended a ten day vacation to the Puglia region during my Spring break, I could not resist!

Suggested Itinerary

Getting there: We had flights from the US to Rome, and then took the train to Bari. We then rented a car and explored the Puglia region and included a side trip to Matera in Basilicata, which was named the 2019 Cultural Capital of Europe. Renting a car from Bari is the easiest way to get around this region of Italy. There are trains that service this area, but the timing and availability is somewhat limited. 

Day HighlightOvernight
1RomeBari
2MateraMatera
3MateraMatera
4AlberobelloAlberobello
5Martina FrancaAlberobello
6LocorotondoLecce
7LecceLecce
8LeccePolignano e Mar
9Polignano e Mar Rome
10RomeHome

Accommodations: This region has interesting hotel options including a cave in Matera, a Masseria in the countryside, and a Trulli in Alberobello. We stayed in a carefully renovated, beautiful cave hotel. I would recommend this unique experience. Please see this article for more information about the unique accommodations in this region. 

Day 1 of 10: 

“Get in, get a meal, and get out.” We heard this about Bari, a port, a college town and the capital of the Apulia (or Puglia in English) region of Italy. We were pleasantly surprised by Bari when we arrived and spent a half day exploring. The Adriatic waterfront area is beautiful, the weaving streets of the old city were jam-packed with historic appeal while still being manageable in a short amount of time. 

Arrive in Bari and get settled into your lodging. Bari has a sizeable train station for east-west travel and also an ample port, offering many ferry options on the Adriatic Sea.  Most tourists stop here as a point of transit onto other destinations, but it’s worthy of sime sight-seeing while you’re here . We spent a travel-weary night in Bari to get over some jetlag and to calibrate to the timezone.

The two areas of Bari to explore in a half-day are the Murat area, which is the modern shopping district, and Bari Vecchia, the old town which includes historical sights such as ancient churches, a castle and the old city walls. 

Start your day by strolling down Via Sparano da Bari, the main pedestrian shopping street. The locals shop along Via Sparano da Bari, and it offers many choices, including Zara, H&M, and Sephora as well as local options in case you need almost anything. Take a side-saunter down Via Nicolò Putignani to observe the architecture on Teatro Petruzzelli (Corso Cavour, 12).

One of my favorite parts of Bari is the converted 1928 art nouveau Palazzo Mincuzzi that is now a Benetton store.

Make your way into Bari Vecchia, the previously-walled city where the true highlight for me was exploring the maze-like streets of the old town. Walk along the former walls of the city, Via Venezia, which overlooks the Adriatic Sea.  Do not miss the 11th century Basilica San Nicolas (Largo Abate Elia, 13). You may want to visit the church of Saint Nicholas (on whom Santa Claus is based)  in the old city where the relics of the saint remain.  Santa Claus is based on Saint Nicholas, which makes this a pilgrimage destination for many Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The Bari Cathedral or Cathedral of San Sabino (Piazza dell’Odegitria) and Castello Normanno-Svevo (Via Pier l’Eremita, 25/b) originally built in 1132, are both worth a peek inside while touring. You may also want to explore the iconic pink Museo Teatro Margherita (Teatro Margherita, Piazza IV Novembre) which is situated on the waterfront.

 While we did not take a walking tour, there are many free (or on tip basis) walking tours of the city that may be worth your while to get an understanding of the history of the region. For those who are interested in art and have more time, the Pinacoteca Provinciale di Bari or Painting Gallery of Metropolitan City of Bari (Via Spalato, 19) provides a scenic respite from the hot sun.

Get some dinner at La Tana del Polpo (Strada Vallisa, 50), it has an iconic giant plastic octopus on the ceiling, reminiscent of Spiderman. This restaurant has attentive service, local wines and fabulous seafood. A great thing about this region is that agriculture is plentiful and you can enjoy fresh local produce in your meals.

Day 2 of 10:

Get up early to begin your trip towards Matera. “Tragically beautiful” Matera has gone from rags to riches over the past century.  Evacuated in the 1950’s for rampant poverty and disease, Matera was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1993, and in 2019 it was recognized as a European Cultural Capital. 

Start your morning in the new town at the no-frills Caffè Schiuma di Rocco Luigi Schiuma (Via T. Stigliani, 92). Spend some time walking around the Civic Center of the new town section of Matera. The contrast between the modern sections of Matera and the ancient Sassi section of the city is striking. 

No amount of scrolling through photos prepared me for the awe that I felt when I arrived at the top of the Sassi and was wonderstruck by the panoramic views of the ancient ravine falling far below. Definitely take some time to let it sink in. In our case, we were in a car and that moment went on too long as we were quickly interrupted with honking from a car behind us! Nothing like modern traffic to bring you back to the present. 

The Sassi is best explored on foot. Definitely wear comfortable shoes, or even better, hiking boots,  because you will be navigating up and down ancient narrow passageways and following the routes of centuries of pedestrians. Many historians feel that the old town is reminiscent of Old Jerusalam and, in fact, the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of Christ, was filmed here.   I would recommend starting at Casa Noha (Recinto Cavone, 9) for a foundation of the history of Matera. You can watch multimedia displays, with large video projections on the walls, as you move through various rooms which make the exhibit interactive. Spend a few hours walking around the shops and hotels of Sassi Barisano and the cave dwellings of Sassi Caveoso. Check out the Church of Saint Mary of Idris (Via Madonna dell’Idris). Make your way to the Cathedral of Saint Mary “della Bruna” and Saint Eustace in the Piazza Duomo. This cathedral is the highest point in Matera and is the mid-point between the two Sassis.

In the early evening, take a drive to see the sunset at Asceterio di Sant’Agnese (Contrada Murgia Timone, 75100) or Belvedere di Murgia Timone. We plugged this address into our GPS, but had to park a some distance away in a parking lot. Plan to arrive before sunset so that you have time to explore the isolated caves and the green area. 

Hermit monks fled persecution and inhabited the cavernous developments. Ancient novice frescoes can be seen on cave dwellings at the Rupestrian Church of San Vito Alla Murgia.

Your accommodation should be able to recommend some restaurants based on your preferences. We ate at Da Zero (Via Madonna delle Virtù, 13) and loved the pizza. I would recommend getting an evening glass of wine at Enoteca Dai Tosi (Via Bruno Buozzi, 12) in one of the cozy alcoves. To enter you take a steep set of stairs into a cavernous interior that was a former cistern for drinking water. 

Day 3 of 10:

Get a coffee and pastry at Caffè Vergnano 1882 (Via del Corso, 78) then ONLY if you are as big of a nerd as I am, I would recommend going to Museo di Palazzo Lanfranchi (Piazetta Pascoli 1). The Palazzo itself is intriguing architecturally speaking. Yet, I truly went just to see Carlos Levy’s moving large installation portraying the poverty in the 20th century that led to his book. 

The museum is located in Belvedere di Piazza Giovanni Pascoli (Piazzetta Pascoli) which offers a wonderful view of the Sassi from the new town and should not be missed. Again, spend your day walking around the Sassi. I went to the La Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario (Vico Solitario, 11), which I realize is the 3rd museum in two days but I truly wanted to see what it would actually feel like to live here back in the 20th century.

Get a cocktail at Area 8 (Via Casalnuovo, 15) this area, which encompasses Enoteca Dai Tosi, can be very lively at night with college students and it’s great for people watching. 

Day 4 of 10: 

The regions abundance of limestone, karst and calcareous sedimentary were used to create the mortarless houses. Why mortarless? As the 18th century population increased people created the commune of Alberobello, the local count didn’t want to pay taxes for a new development to the Spanish Viceroyal of Bourbon and therefore requested his citizens to create housing that was easy to dismantle. 

Alberobello (direct translation is “pretty tree”), the UNESCO world heritage site is known for their signature Trulli houses. A Trulli looks like a hobbit or troll house, but is a small hut-like building with conical ceiling in the Puglia region of Italy. Originally used as a storage house, the rural Puglia roads are dappled with trullis. Alberobello has the largest conglomeration of trullis. The city’s filled with Camera ladden tourists taking photos of trulli’s, majority of which have been converted to the tourism industry: gift shops, museums, and accomodations.

Personally I have a love/hate relationship with Alberobello, you need to go see it because it is so iconic, yet it is so touristy that you will be exhausted. All authenticity of this town has completely given over to tourism in order for the local economy to survive. This is the largest concentration of Trulli’s and it is truly unique to stay in one and walk around and see them. So my recommendation would be a two day one night stay and to manage your expectations. Expect camera clad tour buses rolling in mid-day. We chose to stay in Alberobello, and this allowed us to leave the town when it got crowded, but appreciate the unique architecture in the morning and evenings. 

The two areas of Alberobello to explore in this half day are the Rione Monti quarter (“Mountain” district), which is the most condensed trullis in the touristy and commercial district and the more local neighborhood, Rione Aia Piccola (roughly translated to “Small yard district), where some of the trullis are still residences.

Making your way into the Rione Monti quarter, the true highlight for me was walking the stone hilly streets of the trulli neighborhood. The Belvedere Santa Lucia (Via Contessa, 70011 Alberobello BA, Italy) provides the best panoramic views of the trullis. There is a fountain and a bench nearby, if you need a rest from weaving the streets. The Church of Saint Anthony of Padua (Piazza Antonio Lippolis Canonico, numero 16, 70011 Alberobello BA, Italy) and the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian (Piazza Antonio Curri, 1848-1916, 70011 Alberobello BA, Italy) are both worth a peek inside while exploring. 

Where to eat: All of the food in this area is phenomenal. Most restaurants are farm to table and serve  seasonal menus. Ristorante Trullo Garden (Via Piave, 35) had a great wine selection and local seasonal produce. Trattoria Terra Madre (Piazza Sacramento, 17) stuck out as our favorite, serving produce from the organic garden in the back. The region is known for orecchiette, which was part of most of the pre-fix menus. 

Day 5 of 10: 

To avoid the midday tourists in Alberobello, spend an afternoon wine tasting and enjoying the village of Martina Franca. Martina Franca is an ancient  town known for its fine food, home-grown wine, textiles, soccer and opera music. Green and blue shutters provide a contrast to white sandstone buildings that are tanned with age. This beautiful town provides a wonderful site for a leisurely day in the Puglian sun. 

Visit the I Pastini winery. Out in the rolling hills of the Valle d’Itria, I Pastini offers tours and wine tasting at reasonable prices and sells wine to take home or to be shipped. Take the tour and learn how the farming community has lived in Southern Italy for thousands of years, and how wine is made. This region is known for red-wine grapes called “Susumaniello,” which is one of the world’s rarest wine grapes. The vineyard uses the region’s iconic truli in its original capacity, as a farm shed. 

From the winery, grab lunch at Bar Adua. The family owned business has been around since 1936. If you have the chance, try capocollo, a kind of cured ham that is the pride of the town. Walk along the alleyways in the center of town and take in the beautifully crumbling Baroque buildings. In the ‘Centro Storico’, don’t miss the Palazzo Ducale, Piazza XX Settembre, Piazza Maria Immacolata, and Basilica di San Martino, a church built in the 18th century in the Late Baroque style. 

Enjoy an ice cream, coffee, or pastry (or all three!) at Cafe Tripoli, the oldest cafe in Martina Franca.  It is the most bustling, and is very popular with the locals. I visited during Easter week, and enjoyed a zeppole, fried dough Easter pastry that is filled with custard and topped with confections and jams. Get a seat outside to soak in the ambiance and watch the villagers. 

Return to Alberobello for dinner at one of their great restaurants. 

Day 6 of 10:

In the morning get up and pack up your car for your next destination: Lecce by way of Locorotondo!

The raised terraced gardens provide the support to the town of Locorotondo (“round place”), which seems to levitate above the flat countryside dappled with wild red and yellow flowers and trullis as you enter the area. Locorotondo, known nationally as one of the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (one of the most beautiful villages), is a charming town that provides a wonderful site for a leisurely stop en route to Lecce.

Via C. Battisti offers one of the most beautiful (and photographed) views in the village. Locorotondo is known for beautifully curated window boxes and terrace gardens.

Located in the Valle d’Itria (the Trulli Valley), Locorotondo is conspicuously charming, with winding roads of white washed houses decorated with bright-red pots of geraniums and wisteria cascading over stone walls.The green and blue shutters provide a contrast to the white marbles and tanned buildings.

Start your day with a coffee from Caffe della Villa in the center of ‘Centro Storico’ and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. See locals get their coffee while standing. 

Similar to most of the towns in Puglia, the real joy of Locorotondo is leisurely wandering the streets. As a hilltop village, many of the streets offer panoramic vistas of the Trulli speckled countryside. Two such views are seen at gardens of Villa Comunale Giuseppe Garibaldi and also ironically named “Lungomare” (a road next to the sea…) on the adjacent Via Nardelli. 

In the ‘Centro Storico’, don’t miss the chance to peek into three churches: Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio, Chiesa San Rocco and the Chiesa della Madonna della Greca. 

These old lady dolls are called “Quarandone” and represent penitence and suffering of lent. On Easter, parishioners blow up the dolls, represent the resurrection and spring. 

End your evening in Lecce. 

 Day 7 of 10:

Start your morning off exploring the university town known as the “Florence of the South” for its beautiful Baroque buildings. Lecce is known for the wine and olive oil industry.  The city includes many churches (cathedral and basilica), plazas, and even a Roman Amphitheater. While this offers so many gems, similar to all the quaint Pulgian towns, this is best explored aimlessly meandering the old cobblestone streets. 

We chose to take a day trip out to an old olive oil farm, Masseria Flaminio. Ariana, who manages the farm inherited from her father. Her great-grandfather bought the land from the church in the late 19th century. During WWII American Soldiers occupied the main house and used the secondary house as a prison for German Soldiers. 

Day 8 of 10:

Start your morning off with a coffee in one of the many Piazzas in Lecce, before packing your belongings to head back up to Polignano a Mar. 

Italy’s Polignano a Mar, is one coastal town in the largest region in Italy,  Apulia (or Puglia in English) known for its picturesque mountain top villages and rolling countryside. The iconic beach town is popular with locals and tourists alike but doesn’t get overly touristy which makes it a fun leisurely beach day. The white pebble beach framed by the natural limestone walls of the Lama Monachile Beach (just to confuse you it’s also called Cala Porte.) For those who may enjoy Sitges, Spain or Hydra, Greece this has a distinctively similar feel while enjoying its own Italian flair. 

The dramatic towering cliffs contrast the clear turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea and are perfect for any shutter-happy tourist.

The three areas in Polignano e Mar that are worth checking out are the town center, with many beach shops and restaurants; the iconic Lama Monachile Beach; and the vistas from the cliffside roads.

Make your way to the Lama Monachile Beach. The pebble beach can be hard on some people’s feet, but the water and the view are well worth it. While we did not have time to do this during our schedule, there is a boat tour which shows guests around the caves that is highly recommended! Tours can be secured at the tourist office (Via Martiri di Dogali, 2). This is also very close to il Mago Del Gelato (Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 22), which has great ice cream and coffee.

I tried the Polpo fritto Panini, which did not disappoint! Especially as someone who loves seaside New England food!

The restaurant La Pescaria (Piazza Aldo Moro, 6/8), located in the open Piazza Aldo Moro, is a true social scene. That being said, expect to wait to be seated. They have a reasonably priced menu with delicious local seafood, local wines and many people watching. Not to mention that the airy beach decor is great to sit around. This region is large in agriculture and you can eat fresh local produce in all your meals.

After spending some time at the beach or getting a boat tour, I recommend exploring the small town. 

Both Caffè Dei Serafini (Via S. Benedetto, 49) and La Cueva Cafè (Via S. Benedetto, 49) offer ample outdoor space to enjoy a drink while you can watch people. For those who are interested in art and have more time, the Museum of Contemporary Art Pino Pascali (Via Parco del Lauro, 119) provides a scenic respite from the hot sun.

Day 9 of 10

From Polignano a Mar make your way back up to Bari to return your car and either take a flight home or take a train back to Rome. If there is downtime consider a section of Rome such as the Art Nouveau neighborhood called “Quartiere Coppedè.”

Biking the East Coast Greenway

What is the East Coast Greenway?

Over 2 months I biked the entire eastern seaboard on the East Coast Greenway (ECG) from the Canadian Border of Maine to Key West Florida. The route connects 15 states, ~450 cities, and ~3,000 miles! The terrain is paved bike paths, back roads, and some unpaved path sections. The ECG is a non-profit organization whose mission is safe and accessible multi-user greenway linking cities and towns from Maine to Florida. While the route is only ⅓ complete, the organization continues to develop infrastructure for protected paths.

To say this was an adventure would be an understatement. I met people from all sorts of walks of life, and got to know my own country better. Many summers I travel outside the USA to Europe and South America. After 2020, I felt that I needed to better understand my fellow Americans, there is far more that unites us than divides us. As a solo female traveler I found that people went out of their way to make sure I was doing okay and safe. On multiple occasions complete strangers would stop me and ask for my number to make sure I got to my destination okay…and they would follow up to confirm. Honestly, I started calling my trip the “Princess Parade” because people were so sweet.

Suggested Itinerary

For me, I considered my “job” this summer to be to bike from one town/city to the next. So I would bike from roughly 8:00AM to 5:00 or 6:00 PM. I would always stop for a long lunch 😉 A few days I had longer days but for the most part biked about 40-65 miles a day. This allows time to see all of the small towns and seaside villages that you want to check out along the way.

As an educator, I have the two summer months (July and August) to travel but if I could pick an ideal time of year to bike the ECG, I would leave at the end of September (when cranberries and blueberries are in harvest and the foliage begins to change in Maine.)

Day:Start:End:Distance (Miles)
Day 1Calais, MaineMachias, ME45
Day 2Machias, MEEllsworth, ME57
Day 3Ellsworth, MECamden, ME55
Day 4Camden, MENew Castle, ME58
Day 5New Castle, MEPortland, ME*52
Day 6Portland MEPortsmouth NH57
Day 7Portsmouth, NHMarblehead, MA74
Day 8Marblehead, MABoston, MA*20
Day 9Boston, MAProvincetown, MAFerry
Day 10Provincetown, MAChatham, MA38
Day 11Chatham, MABourne, MA40
Day 12Bourne, MAProvidence, RI*53
Day 13Providence, RIPutnam, CT33
Day 14Putnam, CTHartford, CT58
Day 15Hartford, CTNew Haven, CT42
Day 16New Haven, CTStamford, CT45
Day 17Stamford, CTNYC*42
Day 18New York, NYPrinceton57
Day 19PrincetonPhiladelphia44
Day 20PhiladelphiaNew Castle, DE36
Day 21New Castle, DEBaltimore, MD69
Day 22Baltimore, MDAnnapolis, MD30
Day 23Annapolis, MDAnacostia-DC*45
Day 24DCAlexandria, VA11
Day 25Alexandria, VAFredericksburg, VA66
Day 26Fredericksburg, VARichmond, VA60
Day 27Richmond, VAWilliamsburg, VA54
Day 28WilliamsburgChesapeake, VA59
Day 29Chesapeake, VAPoint Harbor, NC71
Day 30Point Harbor, NCRodanthe, NC*43
Day 31Rodanthe, NCOkracoke, NC58
Day 32Okracoke, NCBeaufort, NC58
Day 33Beaufort, NCSneads Ferry, NC55
Day 34Sneads Ferry, NCWilmington, NC*48
Day 35Wilmington, NCNorth Myrtle Beach, SC77
Day 36North Myrtle Beach, SCPawley Beach, SC40
Day 37Pawley Beach, SCMcClennanville, SC40
Day 38McClennanville, SCCharleston, SC*55
Day 39Charleston, SCBeautfort, SC72
Day 40Beaufort, SCSavannah, GA42
Day 41SavannahDarien, GA67
Day 42Darien, GABrunswick, GA20
Day 43Brunswick, GAFernanda Beach, FL66
Day 44Fernanda BeachSt. Augustine, FL*62
Day 45St Augustine, FLDaytona beach54
Day 46Daytona beachTitusville, FL52
Day 47Titusville, FLMelbourne, FL43
Day 48Melbourne, FLVero Beach, FL39
Day 49Vero Beach, FLJupiter, FL55
Day 50Jupiter, FLFort Lauderdale, FL65
Day 51Fort LauderdaleMiami Beach, FL*30
Day 52Miami, FLKey Largo, FL70
Day 53Key Largo, FLMarathon, FL48
Day 54Marathon, FLKey West, FL50
*Indicates suggested rest day
Use your own discretion on activity level, people you may want to see and cities you may want to explore to choose your rest day. I have seen most of the Northeast larger cities (Portland, New York City, Boston, etc), so when I chose a rest day it was more based on cities I had not explored yet (and unfortuantely…weather!)

I would try to rest every 5-7 days. I tried to center my rest days around a city I had friends in, or city I had never seen and wanted to spend more time exploring. Having been raised in the Boston area and spent my 20’s in NYC, there were not many towns or cities north of DC that I hadn’t been to. Towards the end of your trip, you could probably push it to a rest day every ten days 🙂 but up front you definitely need that down time.

Getting there:

I biked the route from North to South. There is no “easy” way to get to Calais, Maine (the third LEAST populated town in Maine.) Since it is so removed, I had to do my research backwards. There is one bus in and out of Calais everyday, West Bus. I am from the Boston area, so I spent a night with my family then took a greyhound bus north from Boston’s South Station to Bangor, ME. From Bangor, I transferred to the small regional bus which supports the “Downeast” section of Maine (which is actually north east…) I have a “nice bike” for a normal bike adventurer but not nice compared to the spandex clad bike enthusiast, so I was not as concerned as others may be with transporting their bike. I just threw the bike under the bus in the baggage compartment. This felt like the easiest way to get up there without inconveniencing my family (who had selflessly offered to drive the 5 hours.)

Getting home:

I also took my bike on a bus from Key West to Miami. Spent another day in Miami, and then took AMTRAK all the way back up. I took Amtrak as a way to decompress from the trip and see the sights I had just biked through. If that’s not your thing, you can get a bike box and ship it. I love taking trains, so this was like a second adventure for me. Those travelling from further distances would probably want to get a bike shipping company or look into a bike box to take on the plane with them.

How well marked is the route?

The route varied in how well marked it was. I ended up using a combination of downloading GPS, google maps, and just winging it. The Greenway is not complete, so I ended up biking on a few highways. I wore an orange vest for the entire trip (took it off to look cuter for photos, haha) but it really helped with visibility. FYI: Gravel is nice but difficult when you have panniers. The Downeast Sunrise trail was beautiful but had biting bugs during the summer, so I would recommend going on the street if you are biking in the summer months

There are a couple times that I am given two options on the route. How do I pick the best route?

This can be personal preference or based on where you have friends and things you want to see.

In Maine, you have the option to go Coastal or inland through Bangor/ Augusta. I picked coastal and was not disappointed!

In Boston you have the choise between Worcester or Cape Cod. As a Boston native, DEFINITELY go down to Cape Cod.

Another split is in North Carolina: the route either takes you inland through Durham/Raleigh, NC or coastal through Greenville, NC. I chose to bike through the Outer Banks instead of the Greenway, following another biker, Chris’s recommendation.

Accomodations

I did warmshowers, friends/family, and hotels. Sadly, I had (and still have) never pitched a tent, so I decided that it would be pushing myself too far out of my comfort zone to camp AND bike such a big distance. Last summer there were a lot of storms, so camping would have been a little difficult. I personally am an extrovert, so I loved staying with people from WarmShowers.

Warmshowers.org “provides the technology for reciprocal hospitality for cyclists and hosts.” Similar to Airbnb, most of the hosts provide a brief bio around why they host, who they are, and a bit about their accomodation. The accomodations range from land you can camp on to a bedroom with dinner and breakfast provided. I stayed with a lot of Warmshower hosts in the south, and it truly was the best part of my trip. I was able to meet locals and hear their stories. It also felt like a sense of security that I had a contact person in a lot of the cities.

3 books to read before going on a roadtrip or hike

Since COVID-19, we have been (safely) going on long adventurous roadtrips and hikes.

Here are a few books to get you excited about a ROADTRIP:

  1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

2. The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara

3. Blue Highways: A Journey into America

Three books to read before a long trek or hike:

  1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

2. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

3. I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling

5 Lowcountry Coastal Towns to Visit

“Low country”, refers to a distinctive geographic area, culture, and cuisine that is unique to the South Carolina Coastal region, but sometimes extends to Sea Islands and coastal regions of Georgia and Northern Florida. Known for its shrimp boats, intricate estuaries, sweet tea and sweeping verandas. The region is originally known for rice, indigo and cotton fields, as depicted in the blue indigo state flag with the Palmetto tree and crescent. Most of the region became rich through the slave trade and as a result roughly 40% African-Americans can trace their heritage back to ports around Charleston. Many blacks in the area consider themselves Gullah (known as Geechee in Georgia), both a culture and an English-based Creole language spoken by the people formerly enslaved from West African. A historical highlight for me was the Penn Center on St. Helena’s Island outside of Beaufort, SC.

The region is known for its beautiful Antebellum architecture. What is Antebellum? Ante is the Latin word for “before” and bellum is “war”, and in this case it’s pre-Civil War, much of which was fought along these Low Country cities.

South Carolina Coastal Towns

My list includes mostly idyllic towns with the southern charm that South Carolina is known for. Spanish-moss draped oak trees are in abundance along the shores, providing refuge for animals and humans alike. 

  1. Beaufort, SC and the Sea Islands

Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina and frequently on the list of best/quaintest small cities in the US. Situated on the curve of the Beaufort River,and on the Port Royal Island. Due to the location, you can see ethereal sunsets AND sunrises. The historic district, plush with large inviting front porches on antebellum mansions, dates back to 1711 when the British chartered the town. Many of the homes were built with wealth from the cotton, indigo or rice industry. This is an absolute must see for southern charm. 

The lighthouse on Hunter Island State Park.

Start your morning off in St. Helena’s island with a coffee at Lowcountry Cider Co. (507 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920), lighthouse at sunrise, walking through Hunter Island State Park ( $8 entry fee), which has pristine and uninterrupted shores of the Atlantic and ten miles of hiking trails. Then Penn Center (16 Penn Center Cir E, St Helena Island, SC 29920), Ruins of Chapel of Ease Ruins (St Helena Island, SC 29920), and Gullah Grub (877 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920) for lunch.

Head back to the adorable and history laden downtown Beaufort. I love walking around the town, and Janet’s Walking History Tours offers a great historical background for anyone interested in learning more while they walk. I enjoyed a little window shopping at NeverMore Books and the many quaint stores on Bay Street. I personally love a sunset drink with a view to unwind from the day. I recommend waterfront sunset views from either Lady’s Island Dockside or Fishcamp on 11th street. After, consider dinner at Old Bull Tavern

  1. Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island

I adore Shem Creek. I recommend getting a coffee from Vintage Coffee (219 Simmons St, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464-4347) or Brown Fox Coffee (307 Simmons St, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464). From there you can either rent kayaks or paddle boards from Coastal Expeditions on Shem Creek (514 Mill St, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464) or walk around the boardwalk. Make sure to get reservations beforehand. The Mount Pleasant Historic District gives many vistas of the Charleston Harbor and historic Antebellum homes. I adore the walk or run down Pitt Street through the Historic District to the Pitt Street Bridge from Shem Creek. After all this working out, head. For those who have worked up an appetite, Page’s Okra Grill (302 Coleman Blvd) and Post Inn (101 Pitt St) are both local favorites for brunch. 

After all your walking, head south to Sullivan’s Island to enjoy some much needed beach time.Some friends recommended parking at Beach 25. They have a beautiful long boardwalk to get to the sandy beaches. For those who may need a beverage, The COOP (2019 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482) offers fun frosé and delicious sandwiches. The Obstinate Daughter (2063 Middle St) and Home Team BBQ (2209 Middle St) offer great food. Those looking for a little more upscale, and amazing fresh fish can head back up to NICO Oysters and Seafood (201 Coleman Blvd) which is closer to Shem Creek. 

  1. Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head, SC was the only area that I had heard of before actually venturing to the South. Located 40 minutes north of Savannah and 2 hours south of Charleston, SC. Hilton Head is a beach and golfing paradise for locals and travelers alike. I would call this the Cape Cod of the South. The original area was just the location of a few plantations, and as such does not have a geographic historic center like many of the other towns on this list. Often catering to family vacations, at first I did not like this destination. Developed and charged a price to drive into certain sections of the island. Once I switched my means of transportation from a car to a bike, I was in paradise. I loved all the outdoor activities that you can do on Hilton Head Island. Yet, the whole island has been built up more than the other locations on this list. It feels like they have nearly endless miles of beach, which are all worth exploring.

I started my time at Hilton Head Social Bakery (Harbourside Ln Building 1) for a delicious harborside breakfast. It is worth it to take a brief walk around the area, which is called Shelter Cove.Then I recommend renting a bike to get around the island. Hilton Head has over 100 miles of public bike paths. Harbour Town is iconic with the candy cane inspired lighthouse, and worth it to park the bike and walk around. Many of the compact sand beaches are great for morning bike rides, but can become crowded and should be avoided (on two wheels) in the afternoon. Similar to the other lowcountry locations there are a few wildlife locations: Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge and Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Delicious dinner can be had all over the island, but some highlights include Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte (8 New Orleans Rd), known for their lunchtime fried oysters (normally runs out!). Sage Room (75 Pope Ave), ELA’s On the Water (1 Shelter Cove), Bistro 17 (17 Harbourside Ln D) and lowkey Fishcamp on Broad Creek (11 Simmons Rd).

  1. Georgetown, SC and Pawley Beach

Known as “Little Charleston”, Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina. This is a known quaint gem of the newly named “Hammock Coast”, which refers to the South Carolina Coastal region between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. Situated on the Winyah Bay, similar to other Low Country towns, this has much nature to offer with estuaries, salt marshes, and miles of beaches. I highly recommend renting a kayak in Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center (1 Yawkey Way S) and relaxing at Huntington State Beach. For those interested in history, the area has both Hopsewee Plantation (494 Hopsewee Rd) or Hampton Plantations (1950 Rutledge Rd, McClellanville, SC) in nearby fisherman’s village of McClellanville. Hopsewee Plantation also has a restaurant that offers lunch options. If you want to offset your price of admissions to these Plantations consider a donation to the NAACP. 

Another quaint seaside town, with small and local businesses along the waterfront. Paley Beach is still untouched by the crowd and tourism of nearby beach destinations. 

Georgetown’s waterfront walk is a beautiful activity. The town center offers a few good restaurants, mostly all are casual and locally owned. 

  1. Bluffton, SC and Daufuskie Island

Start your day at the quaint and peaceful town of Bluffton, which is located on serene May River. For those who need a morning cup of joe, like myself, I recommend Corner Perk (1297 May River Rd). There is a water taxi from Bluffton to Daufuskie Island, which is worth the extra cash to get a private tour through the intricate river ways. 

Daufuskie Island is distinctively underdeveloped as compared to the other locations. This island gets you back in touch with the natural beauty of the region. The serene setting has drawn many artists to the island, and as a remote has a couple galleries.  a school house turned coffeehouse aptly named School Grounds Coffee (201 School Rd) which is run by two former social workers from North Carolina who relocated to the island a few years ago. You can get some great food at Lucy Bell’s (111 Benjies Point) run by partners in business and life, James and Brad. During the summer months it can get some tourists, and the Daufuskie Crab Co (256 Cooper River Landing) always stands to have a laid back beach bar vibe. Go for a drink, the food still leaves room for improvement. 

All of the ~400 residents seem to know each other. The cooperative farm was purchased on a ten year loan for $1, and the Daufuskie Island Helicopter landing was also loaned for $1 for 100 years. I happened to forget to order a Golf Cart, and ended up getting a tour by the local Fire Chief, quite a treat! 

When you return to Bluffton, I recommend dinner at upscale, FARM Bluffton (1301 May River Rd), which uses all locally focused seasonal food.

Ways to celebrate Black History Month without leaving NYC

African-Americans have been living and contributing to the development of New York City since 1626. While early inhabitants were forced here through the Dutch West Indies trade. A large number of African-Americans moved up north during the great migration of the 19th century for economic opportunity and better treatment. A large number of Black New Yorkers are of Carribean descent bringing great food and culture. Without further adieu here is a brief article about weekend excursions to learn more about the history of Black communities which contribute so meaningfully to our diverse culture in New York City.

Brooklyn based sculpture, Simone Leigh’s “Brick House” on the High Line.

When growing up the only BIPOC depicted in the history books was either when talking about slavery or segregation. As an adult and educator, I like to remind my students that the first known human was from Africa. So ALL history started in Africa. I also try to emphasize positive contributions that are often not celebrated or known.

A few of these neighborhoods I have listed churches. I was able to listen to a guest speaker for the World Monuments Fund after the inauguration of the Alabama Civil Rights Fund. The speaker explained that there were a lot of churches listed as sites because when the government was not giving adequate funding to black communities as white communities, the church communities filled in the gaps and served many social welfare functions. They served as centers of the community. Most of the churches I list have historical significance, the majority just have dope music 🎵 and would be worth a visit if that is something you are interested in.

Please note: most of these restaurants are doing takeout because of COVID restrictions. New York City is set to open up dining (at 25% capacity) starting February 14th. Support these black-owned businesses.

Without further adieu please find the three neighborhoods to check out in order to celebrate Black History Month. These sites and restaurants are lumped by neighborhoods, so that you can “make a day of it”.

Harlem:

Known for its richly celebrated musical history. Many African-American’s moved to the neighborhood during the great migration of the 20th Century. While I have listed this once, it could easily be done as multiple packed day excursions. Home to the New York Amsterdam News, the oldest Black newspaper in the country. Take a walk by Langston Hughes House (20 East 127th Street) it used to be part of the National Park Service but recently closed. Make sure to walk by, while the poet travelled extensively he always had this place to come back to.

Harlem Sites of cultural/historical significance:

Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W 138th St) known for their great music. This was the place of James Baldwin’s step father’s funeral, which led to his writing of Notes of a Native Son. 

The infamous neoclassic, Apollo Theater (253 W 125th St), in which you can get a tour or in times of non-COVID, go for a concert. 

Schomburg Center for Black Culture and History (515 Malcolm X Blvd) closed due to COVID, but worth a trip in times of non-COVID. It is a research branch of the New York Public Library and encompasses research and historical objects of people of African Descent.

Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market (52 W 116th St) bazaar named after Malcolm X’s grandson who was murdered in Mexico City. The market offers various African crafts, clothes and accessories. Most items are hand made from the vendors, mostly recently immigrants from all over Africa. 

Harlem Restaurants:

Red Rooster (310 Malcolm X Blvd), Sylvias’s (328 Malcolm X Blvd,) soul food cuisine, Lolo’s Seafood Shack (303 W 116th St) co-owned by a Guyanese immigrant and East Harlem raised, 

Jazz Clubs

Harlem is known for its world famous jazz clubs. You could not stop in the area without at least tipping your hat to Cotton Club (656 West 125th Street) or Minton’s Playhouse (206 W 118th St). 

Crown Heights:

The neighborhood that made national news during the three-day racially charged Crown Heights Riot in 1991 is undergoing gentrification.  Historically, Crown Heights has been the home to a large population of Jewish residents, and the headquarters of the Lubavitch movement is located on Eastern Parkway.  Crown Heights also has a large population of African Americans and people from the West Indies, and it hosts the annual Labor Day Carnival celebrating Caribbean culture. 

Crown Heights hosts the annual Labor Day Carnival celebrating Caribbean culture. I would recommend going during the day, because the evening can often get rowdy. Above: a fiery female dressed in the traditional Carribean Day clothing.

The area is forever evolving and is becoming one of the hippest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. With gentrification, Crown Heights has seen much change over the last decade, however, Crown Heights still has great spots that showcase its roots as a community of African- and Carribean-American cultures.

Crown Heights Sites of cultural/historical significance:

Berean Baptist Church (1635 Bergen St), a former station on the “underground railroad” was incorporated on August 11, 1850, when the influence of the Abolitionists movement prompted frequent meetings of mixed racial groups who were committed to social change. Later as a station on the “underground railroad,” In 1894 the church splintered into two separate congregations. The black congregation erected the building now known as The Old Berean Church, which was the first church built from the foundation up by an African American congregation in New York City. 

Slavery was abolished in NY in 1827 but not nationally until 1865. Weeksville, named after James Weeks, an early landowner, became a free black community with its own school, newspaper, and a doctor. At the time the literacy rate in Weeksville was higher than the national average.

Check out the Hunterfly Road Historic District in Weeksville Heritage Center (158 Buffalo Ave). Weeksville was one of the largest free black communities. Slavery was abolished in NYC in 1827 but not nationally until 1865, so this enclave became a safe haven for freed men and runaway slaves. It is one of the few historically preserved areas for the African-American community from that time period. 

Bronx-born artist, Fred Wilson, shades the infamous effigies of Nefertiti at the Brooklyn Museum. This brings to queston the racial identy of ancient Egyptains. Brooklyn Museum has a large collection of Egyptian, African and African-American Art.

Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Pkwy) is known for having one of the largest collections of African Art in America. 

Restaurants:

Crown Heights has much to offer on the food scene. 

Check out the no-frills, The Island’s (671 Washington Ave), for some delicious Jerk Chicken (and a nod to the Caribbean community that gentrification is displacing).

The black and female-owned restaurant, Cheryl’s Global Soul Food (236 Underhill Ave), will not disappoint for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They often have live music in the evenings. 

The trendy dominican restaurant, Puerto Viejo (838 Dean St), is worth a try!

Flatbush:

Still a stronghold for black Caribbean culture. Flatbush has a large number of  Haitian and Jamaica immigrants. Known for the ornate Victorian houses, busy commercial district and the 18th century Dutch Reformed Church. 

Flatbush Sites of cultural/historical significance:

Kings Theater, The 1929 lavish Loew’s movie theater went defunct from 1977-2010, and reopened after a $93 million dollar “face lift” in 2015 to its old grandeur. I have attended a book talk by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

Restaurants:

Both trendy and upscale, Carribean Social (847 Flatbush Ave), and vegan, Aunts et Uncle (1407 Nostrand Ave) are worth a try in this neighborhood. Those open to venture the 40 minute walk into East Flatbush should definitely taste the food at black female-owner, Suede (5610 Clarendon Rd).

A few other suggestions:

Brooklyn Tabernacle (17 Smith St), a megachurch with a Grammy Award winning Choir. The 250-voice choir even sang at Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration! The 1918 edifice started as a vaudeville Metropolitan Theater. Converted in 1978 into Loew’s movie theater which was defunct from 1996- 2000, and reopened in its current use (after extensive renovations) in 2002 as the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. The euphonious Sunday services are at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Expect the service to go at least an hour and a half.


Plymouth Church (57 Orange St, Brooklyn, NY 11201) known as the “Underground Railroad Depot” in the 1800’s. While many African-Americans sought their freedom in the north, this church became a rest stop before moving on to Canada. The church also held fundraisers in which congregants would contribute to buy an enslaved person’s freedom, and in some cases extra money to help them get started. Abraham Lincoln worshiped here when in town!

Two days in Alberobello, Italy

Alberobello (direct translation is “pretty tree”), the UNESCO world heritage site is known for their signature Trulli houses. A Trulli looks like a hobbit or troll house, but is a small hut-like building with conical ceiling in the Puglia region of Italy. Originally used as a storage house, the rural Puglia roads are dappled with trullis. Alberobello has the largest conglomeration of trullis. The city’s filled with Camera ladden tourists taking photos of trulli’s, majority of which have been converted to the tourism industry: gift shops, museums, and accomodations.

Personally I have a love/hate relationship with Alberobello, you need to go see it because it is so iconic, yet it is so touristy that you will be exhausted. All authenticity of this town has completely given over to tourism in order for the local economy to survive. This is the largest concentration of Trulli’s and it is truly unique to stay in one and walk around and see them. So my recommendation would be a two day one night stay and to manage your expectations. Expect camera clad tour buses rolling in mid-day. If you have the flexibility, I would recommend coming early in the morning or later in the evening. We chose to stay in Alberobello, and this allowed us to leave the town when it got crowded, but appreciate the unique architecture in the morning and evenings. 

The regions abundance of limestone, karst and calcareous sedimentary were used to create the mortarless houses. Why mortarless? As the 18th century population increased people created the commune of Alberobello, the local count didn’t want to pay taxes for a new development to the Spanish Viceroyal of Bourbon and therefore requested his citizens to create housing that was easy to dismantle. 

The two areas of Alberobello to explore in this half day are the Rione Monti quarter (“Mountain” district), which is the most condensed trullis in the touristy and commercial district and the more local neighborhood, Rione Aia Piccola (roughly translated to “Small yard district), where some of the trullis are still residences.

Accommodations: I definitely recommend staying in a trulli for the experience, either staying in the “new” part of the city or outside in the countryside. While we really enjoyed walking around and seeing the trulli’s you could probably spend a full day here and be done. 

Getting there: we elected to rent a car. But you are able to get a train from Bari, Lecce or Matina Franca using Ferrovie Sud Est (FSE). The Omio website has all the times listed. 

Making your way into the Rione Monti quarter, the true highlight for me was walking the stone hilly streets of the trulli neighborhood. Do not miss the Belvedere Santa Lucia (Via Contessa, 70011 Alberobello BA, Italy), which provides the best panoramic views of the trullis. There is a fountain and a bench nearby, if you need a rest from weaving the streets. The Church of Saint Anthony of Padua (Piazza Antonio Lippolis Canonico, numero 16, 70011 Alberobello BA, Italy) and the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian (Piazza Antonio Curri, 1848-1916, 70011 Alberobello BA, Italy) are both work a peek inside while exploring. 

Where to eat: All of the food in this area is phenomenal. Most restaurants serve farm to table courses, featuring local and seasonal foods. Ristorante Trullo Garden (Via Piave, 35)had great wine selection and local produce. Trattoria Terra Madre (Piazza Sacramento, 17) stuck out as our favorite, they serve produce from home grown from the organic garden in the back.

Alberobello is an easy homebase for day excursions to Martina Franca and Locorotondo. I also recommend attaching this trip with a longer trip including breathtakingly beautiful Matera or relaxed beachside Polignano e Mar

A female-owned day in Barrio Logan, San Diego!

I was first drawn to Barrio Logan by photos (and I will admit they were instagram photos) of beautiful murals depicting indigenous deities, famous Chicanos, and local activists. I spent an afternoon in Barrio Logan and was surprised to see how many Female Owned businesses made up the business portion of the community. Known for grassroots activism and good food, this makes for a great three hours excursion.

While the area is geographically expansive, a large part of the area is either family homes or industrial warehouses. The business district featuring shops, restaurants and galleries are roughly one mile from start to end. The resilient community of Chicano Americans, has been empowered through grassroots organizing for years. Barrio Logan is home to over 30 women owned businesses and I want to celebrate them. Please note: there are a few businesses that are female owned but not Chicana owned, and this article is only featuring the Chicana ladies!

When to go: Since COVID has hit the small business, local businesses started “Walk the Block” every Saturday from 12-6:00PM. Festival includes cute dimpled kids selling horchata similar to I, a gringa from suburbia, used to sell lemonade. Expect to see low rider cards, fun music and artistically designed jean jackets. Mask wearing and social distancing are mandatory. 

Por Vida Collective

Start your afternoon off at Por Vida Collective coffee shop (2146 Logan Ave), which opened in 2015 by owners Carolina Santana and Milo Lorenzana. On Thursday’s they host a food drive for those in need in the community. Their cups feature local artists with imagery of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Roses, tattoo style artwork. While the main space is a coffee shop they host book talks, readings and other creative events. 

Chicano Park

With your cup of coffee head to Chicano Park and take in all the murals. There are over 70 murals in this park. The area has been home to Mexican-Americans since the 1910’s and many Mexicans fled during the Revolution of 1910. In the 1950’s the city rezoned the area to be industrial. You can see the remnants of that with warehouses, supply stores, and some by the dockside warehouse even feature barbed wire fences. The city again took land to create a highway and the on ramp to the Coronado Bridge, in reparations for the 5,000 lost homes, the city had promised to create a park for the locals. When locals saw they were planning to bulldoze the area to make way for a parking lot for the Highway Patrol, they occupied the park for 12 days until it was approved as a park! One of the early occupiers was third generation Barrio Logan resident Josephine Talamantez. She was 18 at the time, and went on to found (along with others) the Chicano Park Steering Committee, along with pushing it to National Registry in 2013 and National Historical Landmark in 2016. She is featured in some of the newer murals.

Female Owned Specialty Shops: Sew Loka, Copal y Tierra, Hola Swim

After Chicano Park, enjoy a santer down Logan Avenue. The Walk the Block runs between Chicano park and 26th, which is roughly half a mile. Shop some of the female owned stores such as Sew Loka (2113 Logan Ave), Copal y Tierra (2076 Logan Ave), Hola Swim (2159 Logan Ave) which features “day to night” bathing suits and was started by two lifelong local female friends. Sew Loka was started in 2013 by a Chicana “mompreneur” and fashion designer, Claudia Biezunski-Rordiguez, who creates one of a kind pieces of work. I love being able to see her workspace in the back of the brightly colored shop. Copal y Tierra, has cute art and jewelry along with candles and sage, and recently hosted a poetry night!

Las Cuatro Milpas

Grab tacos from Las Cuatro Milpas (1857 Logan Ave). There is a reason this restaurant has been around for 75 years. Owned by three sisters: Sofia, Dora and Margarita; who’s grandparents, Petra and Natividad Estudillo started the restaurant in 1933. Expect well worth it line at this well established joint. 

Mujeres Brew House

Walk the couple of blocks to Mujeres Brew House (1986 Julian Ave,), it shares its block with a bubblegum pink Baptist Church, and a converted bread factory that now serves as the Bread and Salt art gallery. Mujeres Brew House was started by two Chicana women who expressed their desire to break down barriers in the craft beers industry to support women and specifically BIPOC women into the beer scene! 

Chikita Cafe

End your day with a sweet and coffee from Chikita Cafe (1875 Newton Ave) for those who like a little sweet to accompany their artisan coffee drinks!

I gave up trying to give my tamagotchi alive…never mind my own small business. Cheers to all these Bad A$$ Babes!

A Day in Annapolis, Maryland

View of the Capital Building from some of the quaint stores.

Annapolis, the Capital of Maryland

Annapolis, America’s Sailing Capital, is known for its rich Maritime history. Its name is almost synonymous with the famous Naval Academy on site. The Capital of Maryland, is laid between the Chesapeake Bay and Severn River. While the city still remains the State Capital of Maryland, you feel like you are going back to Colonial times especially when compared to hubs such as Baltimore and the District of Columbia, both of which are under an hour drive. The historic district, which includes the State Capital, Naval Academy and St. John’s College is less than a square mile and offers many quaint shops, restaurants and pubs. This makes for an easy day trip or a leisurely weekend destination. A friend and I did a PAWsitive weekend getaway with Buddy in Anna-pup-lis.

When to go: They have boat shows, both power and sail, in the Fall and Spring. Normally the second week in October and the first week in May. Based on your interests, either attend to see the mecca of preppy or avoid this weekend for the crowds. Similar to Washington DC at the end of March the Cherry Blossoms begin to bloom and offer a beautiful backdrop to the city.

Getting there: for those coming from Baltimore, there is a beautiful bike trail, the Baltimore-Annapolis which is part of the larger Greenway Bike path. From Washington DC you can take the metro and switch at New Carrollton Metro station.

Buddy, wearing his preppiest attire for Sailing season in Annapolis!

Style: While you are welcome to wear anything in any location. If anywhere was a place to bust out your favorite nantucket reds, seafoam blues, and Lily Pulitzer pinks. Please check out my friend’s pup, Buddy, all ready for his weekend away!

Buddy even had his own bed!

Accommodation: We stayed at The Graduate (126 West St), a hotel chain in most college towns. They have a charming nautical themed decor, and are even dog friendly!

Start your morning off with a coffee from Bitty and Beau’s coffee (124 Dock St, Annapolis, MD 21401), a delightful coffee shop run by employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For those who are driving in the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market (2472 Solomons Island Rd, Annapolis, MD 21401) is an Amish market with grreat fresh baked goods. 

Spend a few hours walking around the shops in Downtown Annapolis. Those interested should try to get a look at the State Capital. It is the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, and where the continental congress met from November 1783 to August 1784, during which George Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the continental army.  If interested, take a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy. 

Outdoor seating and love music in the Market Space!

Due to COVID, tons of space downtown has been converted into pedestrian only walkways with lots of tents for outdoor seating (which means all the more places you can bring a dog!) There is live music playing all afternoon in the Market Space and many sailors in their bright whites to remind you that you are at home to the Naval Academy.

For those who enjoy some beach time, either head out to Sandy Point State Park or rent a kayak to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay. For those with a dog, Quiet Waters Park (600 Quiet Waters Park Rd), has a fenced dog park. It’s $5 to park but worth it to let your pup run free for a bit!

Great Frogs Winery (3218 Harness Creek Rd) which does first friday date night they have pizza, wine and music! They allow dogs but just ask that you call ahead so they can get to you appropriate seating.

Cheers to a leisurely, dog friendly weekend in Annapolis!

A weekend getaway in San Antonio, Texas

Once a year (not in 2020) my girlfriends and I try to get together and meet somewhere for a long weekend in the United States. Between California (where they live) and New York we have done Chicago and we were looking for another “middle group”. We were debating between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. We ended up choosing San Antonio because we thought life would bring us to Austin in the future (bachelorette parties, friends moving there, etc). I won’t sugar coat it, while San Antonio was interesting to see, for an out of state visitor I think it would be better suited to be tacked on as an excursion from another trip, rather than a stand alone trip itself. 

The stand out part of San Antonio was how warm and inviting the people are. In other border cities there is often segregation between those of Mexican-American descent and those of European-American descent, this was one of the most congenial diversity that I have seen. All the locals were welcoming out of towners and quick to share their love for the history of their Texas Mexican Spanish ancestry.  

Accomodations: We stayed at an Airbnb in the Monte Vista section of San Antonio. It is always nice to stay in an area that locals live in. It is less touristy than the main downtown. We had the opportunity to explore Hotel Emma in Pearl Brewery, which looks fabulous if your budget can afford it. 

Friday:

Arrive and get settled into your accommodations. Grab some dinner at La Fonda on Main (2415 N Main Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212), a Tex-Mex restaurant with a quaint old school Mexican ambience. The Paramour (102 9th St #400, San Antonio, TX 78215) also offers great rooftop drinks for those who will make it into town before sunset.

Saturday:

Start your morning off at Commonwealth Coffee in Hemisfair Park. Hemisfair Park is the location of the 1968 World’s Fair. Talk a stroll through Yanaguana Gardens (which reminds me of a subdued version of Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain).

“Yanaguana” means “refreshing water” by the indigenous Payaya people who inhabited the land before the Spanish came in 1718.

I recommend working your way to Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio Market Square, there is roughly one mile between Commonwealth Coffee and Mi Tierra Cafe. During this walk make your way through La Villita HIstoric Arts Village and the Riverwalk, passing by the Cathedral, City Hall, and Governor’s House.  

First stop after Yanaguana Gardens is to window shop the artesenary in La Villita Historic Arts Village. The area originally served as a Barracks for the Alamo, but now mostly supplements as a quaint shopping area, offering stores with local art, handmade jewelry, and souvenirs.

Continue on to the RiverWalk, sometimes referred to as “the American Venice”. 

The Riverwalk referred to as “American’s Venice”, reminds me a bit of Disney meets river, and it should because of the engineer, C.V. Wood who was contracted by the City of San Antonio to help with the riverwalk designs was also the engineer for Disney! Since then the riverwalk has seen much expansion, and some of my personal favorites of the walk are getting out of the retail area and a little more natural waterways in the neighboring communities. 

Make your way through the Riverwalk to San Fernando Cathedral also called the Cathedral of Our Lady of Candelaria and Guadalupe. The exterior is beautiful and often has multicolored lights displayed on it for different holidays and festivities. Behind the Cathedral is San Antonio City Hall followed by the Spanish Governor’s Palace.

Finally arrive at the San Antonio Market Square. In 1780 the King of Spain gave it to the settlers, now it offers festivals and numerous Mexican crafts and clothing stores. Get some breakfast at Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia (218 Produce Row, San Antonio, TX 78207), a Tex-Mex Bakery. 

After the Tex-Mex Bakery, head over to the Alamo (300 Alamo Plaza; San Antonio,Texas). The 1744 Alamo Mission, which later was the site of a devastating battle loss of the Texans fighting for independence from Mexico. Davy Crockett famously died here and became the name of the eponymous 1950’s miniseries. 

After the Alamo, head back to the riverwalk for a stop at Schilo’s (424 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205), a famous German deli with hearty sandwiches. 

You can choose to go home and refresh or continue exploring the city at this point. 

Evening: 

The Tower of the Americas in HemisFair Park is great for sunset, normally it costs $11 to go up, but is free if you get a drink or dessert at Chart House (739 E César E. Chávez Blvd, San Antonio, TX 78205). 

Alternative option: The Botanical Gardens often offer $60 Wine Down Saturday events, from 6:00PM-10:00PM.

We enjoyed live music and grub from the casual, Sam’s Burger Joint (330 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215). 

Sunday:

Start your morning with some breakfast tacos from La Gloria’s (100 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215). The outdoor patio offers great views of the river and quaint ambiance. Walk along the river to San Antonio Museum of Art which is free on Sunday from 10:00am-12:00pm and they provide Docent Led Gallery Talks from 11:00 -12:00 pm. 

After the museum, head over to Pearl Brewery, a converted 19th century brewery compound which now has shopping, food halls, and dining. On weekend mornings there is a farmers market.  On premise is the Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery which is located in the Hotel Emma (136 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215), which offers upscale refurbished architecture and good food and drink.

Burn off your lunch with a long bike ride through King Williams Historic District and the San Antonio Missions. Start your bike ride at Blue Star Bikeshop (1414 S Alamo St). It is an 8 miles bike ride down to the last Mission Espada.  and then rent B-Bike (Bike rental) all the way up the Mission Reach Trail. Blue Star Brewery is on the trail and a great place to stop and get refreshments. It is worth the extra ten minutes to add a loop of the King Williams Historic District.The neighborhood was formerly an enclave for affluent german immigrants. Take your time to gawk at the grandior of the homes and mansions!

Head back to your accommodations and get ready to fly home. Cheers to a leisurely weekend in San Antonio.