Less than 24 hours in Unesco World Heritage Site – Historic District of Old Québec

Like an avid traveler and professional wanderluster, visiting Unesco world heritage sites is always a gem. They almost never fail to disappoint.  Québec City is about 7 hours north of Boston and yet in the past 12 years that I called this city my home, I have never ventured up to my Canadian neighbors in Quebec City. Sure Montreal had more than enough shares of my appearance, I even ran the marathon there, but never dared to venture further to the French Canadian east. Luckily, I rectified this mistake one weekend!

On an impulse last second decision, we decided to give up our last night in Montreal in hopes of something new versus the tried and true.  With a few clicks of what seemed like a bright idea, Hotwire got us a modestly priced hotel in an area that looks like it was close enough to things for our day of adventure.

The 2.5 hour drive from Montreal to Québec City isn’t the most exciting. For the most part its flat, country road and as far as i can tell, not much in between. Needless to say that when you arrive at 10PM on a Sunday night, the city looked desolate. As we roamed from one place  to another place on Rue Saint Joseph, we got the same answer. Kitchen is closed… Luckily, there was one  place known for it’s late night food and decent enough drinks. Le Bureau de Poste was like a gastropub lodge that turned into a dive bar offering pretty much anything you  can imagine for food for the low price of 4.95CAD.

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Our bellies quieted down and sleep came way to easily. Monday morning we got up relatively  early and went through to tourist duty.

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Quebec City served as the fortress capital of New France. Much of it’s old city wall and military history seems to be preserved in great shape, earning it a place on the highly coveted UNESCO listing.  These days, it serves more as the administrative capital than anything else for Province Quebec.

But first things first. You can’t be exploring on  an empty stomach. You just can’t because  I said so. Whether  you’re in Paris, or just French Canada, the first order of business was to find a croissant, because hard as we try, American’s just can’t seem to make great croissants that don’t taste like they were made a month ago and frozen.

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We stumbled into Paiillard where the urge to order everything off the menu and the Gelato was a bit of a struggle to surpass. I think end up walking out with a few more things than I should have, because they didn’t survive too well sitting in a 90 degree car all day. Ooops.

And now it was time for the sights… While I briefly looked at a few things to do and see, I strongly believe that the best type of sightseeing is to just get lost!

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The old city walls were renovated into this really cool park trail. Not much shade, but gives you a nice 360 view of most things around you, leaving to no question as to why this was a military capital.

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Through out the whole city, there were all types of cannons around.

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The cliff over looks the Saint Laurent River and Laurentian Mountains and by midday, a corner of it was filled with entertainers trying to earn their pennies.

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We continued wandering around and walked into the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a nice Cathedral, but not anything special on it’s own.

We wandered into Quartier Petit-Champlain with it’s galleries and cute shops

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I’m a huge fan of hilly cities. I love going up and down the rollers to uncover new views. Quebec City also had quite the collection of these building murals. I read somewhere that there’s a good amount around town. Check out Murale  Creation for more!

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the court yard area of Place Royale was a little empty for how peaceful it was. Maybe on a cooler evening day, this place get’s more packed.

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You can pay $2CAD to take this railway rides up, or you can use your good old legs and do some stairs.

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Rue du Petit-Champlain is the ultimate people watching spot.

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We cozied up to Le Lapin Saute  for some lunch, sangria and people watching.

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Tony and I shared this two way duck salad (smoked duck and duck confit)  . I was still feeling a little too full from eating every pastry in the morning, but I wanted to still try everything more.

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Further down the street there is is no shortage of sculpture art to make you contemplate.

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And this mural that I thought was pretty cool combined with the church.

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We made our way down the castle city steps (we took the long road down versus the steps we found to more quickly get us back up). Marche Du Vieux Port is a little bit bigger than it looks, but definitely not too happening on a Monday. Although they had some cute jewelry vendors, some limited produce, plenty of options for olive oils and jams  and such.

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We came back from the market in a mad rush to get back to the car. somewhere between here, and there, we did find something called 300 steps to Escalier Casse. Like a said before, free workout mixed into sightseeing!
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Le Chateau Frontenac is one of the famous sights in Quebec, but it’s now a Fairmont hotel. So while I’m sure the accommodations are more than lovely, they were not available to the view of the public.

Quebec City (5)It would have been nice to have another half day to explore a little further. There was still plenty more that we could have seen, but for trip, 3/4ths of a day will have to be enough.

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And yes, i did return for some gelato for the road.

Dining, Scuba, Drinking, Napping in Montego Bay, Jamaica

If you know me or my blog, you know I love to travel. And my traveling usually consists of a backpack, hostels, Airbnb, and a wing it DIY style approach. I have never done a prebooked and planned vacation and I have never been on a cruise and before this month I have never been on a resort. My reasons for prefering to plan my own travel and not use resorts are wide in range and will have to stay for another post. However, through a employer discount, I had a chance to experience an luxury resort and I thought, why not. You only live once right.

The resort Tony and I stayed at is called Secrets, St. James and is actually part of another resort called Wild Orchid. Basically they share all facilities and I think the only main difference might be the room decor.

I don’t have anything to compare it to, but the resort was beautiful and the service was amazing. It’s an inclusive so you will never go hungry or thirsty. Every morning you are greeted with a mimosa should you want one. The staff are well trained and very friendly. And the best part? It’s adults only so I don’t have to wake up to the screams of other people’s children. =) I love babies, and I’m sure I’ll appreciate the screams more when I have my own, but until then, I’m good on avoiding screaming kids.

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Tony and I stayed at the resort for four nights. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and left Monday morning. Since check in was at 3pm and check out at noon, our flight times worked out really well. Montego Bay airport; however, is nothing to write home about. The customs line was a nightmare and took about 2 hours to get through the airport. Once we made it outside the airport, we started the cab haggle, but sadly you’re bargaining power is limited when you’re going to a luxury resort. We finally worked it down from $40 to $25 for our 15 minute cab ride. I guess it’s either to bargain when you’re going to a hostel ;).

Upon checking into the resort, we were greeted with Champagne and a cold wet towel. We got the keys to our room and our view was of the pool and ocean.

Montego Bay Jamaica

The rooms were pretty spacious and divided into a suite style. Their was a bathroom area with a shower and a Jacuzzi with two sink areas. A bedroom area with a king size bed and a little lounge area with a couch, a coffee table, a desk and an entrance to a balcony where this photo was taken. A little more cookie cutter than a small bed and breakfast, but comfortable and relaxing.

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After checking in a few more glasses of sparkling wine, it was time to check out the beach. The weather and water was amazing! And our first night’s sunset was probably the best. It was rainy season in Jamaica but that day we saw no precipitation as the clouds did roll in.

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The next day we woke up early and started with some beach reading and libations.

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And pretty much devoted all of Friday to exploring the food and drink options.

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On Saturday, our choice of activity was a little kayaking and snorkeling. For the most part, there wasn’t that much fish close to shore so we decided to go Scuba on Sunday.

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At breakfast we made some new friends

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But a lot of times we just spend doing nothing, admiring the views, and walking back and forth on the 400 meter path they have going around the resort. I saw a couple of people running, but I gave into my laziness and hatred of humid weather running. Drinking margaritas counts as a workout right?

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For four days, we didn’t leave the resort. We spent those days just relaxing, reading, swimming, eating and enjoying the sights.

Scuba Diving in Jamaica 

As much as it saddens me to say, I do not recommend scuba diving in Jamaica or at least with Secrets Montego Bay Resorts. Tony and I are both open water diver certified but we still like to go with a local dive master since they know the area better and are more experienced divers. We did two dives no too far off the shore of the resort going about 40-60 meters deep. Because of the huge over fishing problem Jamaica has, there were little fish to see. Instead we saw a large amount of fishing traps both active and broken. The corral life was also more disappointing as was the attitude of our dive master. PADI teaches us to not disrupt anything when you’re diving because it can be incredibly damaging to the corral and sea life. Our dive master however was very negligent with his fins and it made me really uncomfortable watching the small amount of destruction. We did see some beautiful fish and corral but it definitely did not compare to what we saw in Cozumel, Mexico. So if you’re on the fence about scuba diving in Montego Bay, I would just skip it.

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And I know my friends on the west coast already know this, but beach sunsets never get old!

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The last two nights we watched some pretty bad ass storms roll in with amazing lightening show that we watched from our balcony and ocean before I decided maybe I shouldn’t get hit by lightening just yet.

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On our departing morning we tried stand up paddle boarding… Tony was a natural… I was… well at least I didn’t fall. I decided I was much better at snorkeling for shells instead.

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Pros of staying in an all inclusive

  • No planning required – Yup, pretty much everything you need is provided for your
  • No worries about water – means you can shower, brush your teeth, drink, eat salads and pretty much pretend you’re in the good ole USA. Things you can’t really do if you’re traveling outside of the resort.
  • Safety and service – pretty much guaranteed within the resort

Cons of staying in an all inclusive

  • You lose your bargaining power – Most countries, particularly when you travel to more developing countries, haggling and bargaining is just part of the way of life. Unfortunately, its hard to bargain when everyone knows the resort you’re staying in, the prices they charge and the fact that you have no other options.
  • Everything from a resort is more expensive – Part of it because you lose your bargaining power and part of it because your options of activities are more limited since you’re more disconnected from the downtown area
  • You don’t really experience the culture – Being in a resort… well the country you’re in sort of becomes immaterial since everything you need is provided and most of the food even with the dining options is pretty much Americanized
  • You don’t get don’t get to meet interesting people – our resort was pretty low key with mostly honey mooners and older folk relaxing. There isn’t much activity to interact.
  • You lose the sense of adventure – Everything is planned, and relaxing… so you have no crazy stories to share… since that would not be very relaxing

Overall – Traveling to a resort during rainy season

Overall, Tony and I had a great and relaxing stay. For a change we didn’t leave the resort and just relaxes. It was a different type of vacation than our norm but sometimes you need one of these. We tried to do one activity a day before going back to being beach bums. We kayaked, snorkeled,  scuba and even tried stand up paddle boarding for a small bit. The rest of the trip, was spent eating which I’ll save the photos for another post. Would I do another 4 day all inclusive stay? Probably not, but I would consider adding two of these days at the end of an adventure trip.

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NYC Sunset Running Tour – Self guided

Every time I travel I start with great intentions. I pack my running clothes and say I’m going to run far and wide every day. Then reality hits in and I either sleep in, or get busy sightseeing with my whomever I’m traveling with. Well this time is was different. I was on a work trip to NY recently and I decided to set my evening apart and go for a run.

This run turned into amazing 15 solo miles of sightseeing, farleks, photos and everything in between where I ended the night in an average 8:40 pace. Not to mention that I ran 20 miles the day before while visiting my parents. If nothing else, it served to remind me although I’m a little behind on my training, I will survive my two back to back marathons coming up.

But this is more just of a post to share some photos from my run. An update on running will come later, or just ask me and I am always excited to talk run shop.

NYC Run 2‘First no run is complete without a sight of the naked cowboy.

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or cats… i saw these boys all over mailboxes, lightposts etc as my made my way west.

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As I got on the hudson river park, I was instantly greeted with fellow runners, and walkers. The bikers had a separate bikepath/lane as well but the runners got first dibs on the sights.

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I think the freedom tower is a pretty neat building.

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Statue of liberty!

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There were a ton of piers for me to run up and down which was really cool since usually at home I run my same paths, same sights. The sky also just opened up to an amazing spectrum of colors that my iphone would never be able to capture. Across the river is Jersey but I’m not sure which specific city I was looking at. I was mostly staring at the water and sky.

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As the night grew dark, so did my run. I don’t like running in darkness and although I felt like I could go on forever, I decided to head back to the hotel and shower and rest up.

QOTD

Do you ever get long runs in on vacation? Ever do a sightseeing run?

Half IronMan Weekend, Portsmouth, NH; South Berwick, Maine; and What I packed

Besides the 70.3 triathlon, I had a great weekend! Just kidding, I had a great weekend even with the race. I’m still in the glow of the moment of having completed this 70.3 miles of sweat and tears. I’ll get to the race in another post. The whole race still seems a bit surreal.

On Friday, we took it easy for dinner and some drinks at Pier 6 in Charlestown that gives you a lovely view of Boston from Copley to Seaport to Financial district. Probably my favorite spot to view the skyline. The food was okay, but it was 90 degrees that night and being on the waterfront has never felt more pleasant since I am easily cold.

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On Saturday I woke up bright and early to get a haircut just to learn, the salon near my house opens an hour later than I thought.

After chopping off a few inches of hair, because every ounce counts, I went to pack. Yup last second packer for the win.

What did I pack for my half Ironman?

In a summary, way too freaking much.

The main outfit

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I’m such a triathlon pro, that I didn’t even own a pair of tri shorts, luckily, I borrowed from a friend.

Swimming

2 pairs of goggles – main one and a back up pair

Swimming Cap – just in case

Ear drops

Wetsuit borrowed from a friend

Wetsuit spray

Biking

My bike

Helmet

Sunglasses

Patch kit/tubes/air

Air pump

Bike shoes

socks

2 water bottles

Camelpak

Running

Socks

Running shoes – Mizunos waveriders and Skechers flats because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run in racing flats after biking

Fuel

Nuun

3 Cliff Bars

3 packs of shot blocks

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Misc.

Garmin

Two Towels

Back up outfit

Swimming suit

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Jack was there to supervise the whole process!

Anyways after loading up and packing up more crap for half a day than I took with me for 3 weeks in South East Asia, I was ready to go. Had I done a destination triathlon, I would need 2 suitcases of baggage. This is not an efficient sport.

On the drive up we stopped by Portsmouth, NH that I’ve been wanting to stop by.

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I didn’t know much about it, but the highway signs always made me want to stop. The town looked cute with lots of little restaurants and historical buildings.

Tony grabbed a meatball sub from a deli to eat as fast as possible and jetted over to the Portsmouth Brewery at 3pm. They give free brewery tours that comes with a card to get 6 samples!

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For a brewpub that only does direct sales, they had a nice selection.

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Between Tony and I we had 12 flights. Since I’ve been so stressed about packing, I realized that I haven’t eaten yet. So of course, I ordered the healthiest item I could think of.

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Now that I had some nice liquid courage and my mind wasn’t thinking about all the ways I can drown, I decided it would be a good time to roll up and get my numbers for Sunday’s race. When I got to the race site, I freaked out. Here’s the thing, runners come in all size and shapes, that chubby kid next you, might surprise you and pull a 3:15 marathon. However, everyone around me, all these triathletes, were super fit looking with pure lean muscle. I instantly started regretting my nutritional lunch of nachos and beer.

Unfortunately, the pond wasn’t set up yet so I couldn’t judge what the distance would look like. I guess its good because I rather just not know until I had to swim it. My race packet came with a bunch of numbers that I had to stick to everything. I’m actually surprised it didn’t come with a sticker for my butt because there seemed to be one for everything else. Good, I always wanted to be photographed drowning.

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I did love the fall theme. Fall is my favorite season and there’s nothing I love more than pumpkin and the color orange.

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After freaking out some more about how fit everyone else is and how I don’t belong there, we drove to Dover, NH to our Airbnb place. Our host’s friend who was also there, has done several triathlons and gave me some tips about taking my time in transition. After reorganizing all my gear for the 10th time that day, I decided that I should probably eat something for dinner. Technically the nachos at 4PM could have been dinner, and I wasn’t hungry. However, skipping dinner would have left me starving in the morning which would have been a terrible idea. I’m not very good at eating well morning of the races so Tony and I set out to find something to eat.

We found the perfect place back in South Berwick, Maine. So we drove the 10 minutes over the state line to Thistle Pig. It was the perfect prerace meal. Actually, it would have been a perfect dinner, and I’m hoping to return another time when I’m more hungry to try more things.

They had this amazing veterinarian squash risotto.

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Tony got the heirloom tomato salad

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and we shared a jar of homemade pickles that we regret not keeping the brine from.

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My photos don’t do this place justice, but if you’re ever driving through Dover, NH/ South Berwick, ME definitely check out this place!

We also tried a glass of their white Sangria to help me fall asleep earlier than my normal bed time.

And before I knew it, I had less than 8 hours before it was race time.

Eugene – Oregon – Only the cool kids try to sneak into a track field

When I told people I’m spending an afternoon in Eugene, Oregon I either got a “why” or just a confused blank stare… with the exceptions of a few.

My brother, whose is also named Eugene and wanted to visit a city that shares his name.

And any running nerd friends out there; will know Eugene for its collection of elite runners. It is after all known as Track Town USA thanks to Nike.

So it is with no surprise that between me and brother, we had to make it a pit stop on our road trip.

Our first order of business was to find a brewery… because if California is known for wine, then their friendly neighbor to the north has the beer corner.

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We stopped at Ninkasi Brewing Company and immediately ordered one of everything!

Eugene Oregon Brewery

Which of  course left us starving. We hit up yelp and found a Korean place about half mile away. Since we have been sitting in the car for several hours. The drive from Crater Lake is long one, we decided to walk.

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The area was absolutely adorable with a Yoga place, some tasty looking bistros and cute little houses with little micro farms and wild flowers.

When we finally got to our destination, we realized it’s also a burger place. Korea food/burger place? Interesting combo, but Yelp reviews don’t lie? Chingu Burger Lovers, okay we decided to go for it!

Eugene Korean Food

I got the bibimbap, a mixed rice with veggie dish. My brother got brave and ordered a burger. Tony ordered a beef dish and we all ate happiliy as Who Wants to be a Millionaire played on TV. After being on the road for a week, it was our little home from home type of feel. TV and Korean take out. All that was missed was a couch.

After stuffing our bellies, I decided there’s no way we could leave for Portland without a visit to University of Oregon…

Eugene Hayward Field

I don’t know what I expected, but a field under bolt and lock was not it. Maybe Galen Rupp doing 400m repeats? Or the ghost of  Prefontaine? Either way, after walking around the field and looking for a way to sneak, or squeeze onto the track, i gave up and settled for a photo by the gate instead.

I wish I could say that one day I’ll be back to compete here, but we all know I’m getting too old and am far too slow for these dreams.

And with that, back to our car we went for our next stop was Portlandia.

QOTD

Ever been to a city with the same name as you? I would love to find the city of Liana out there.

Weirdest food combo? This burger Korean place is only beat by Kosher pizza/Chinese take out combo I always see in Brooklyn. 

48 Hours in Burlington – Eat up, drink up and watch the sunset

What can you do with two days in Burlington, Vermont? Besides of course running a marathon.

Well for one visit the Cabot Cheese Creamery for a factory tour and eat so many cheese samples that you’ll be good on cheese for weeks to come.

Burlington Cabot

Okay so technically it’s not in Burlington, it’s about 30 minutes away. But the drive from Boston is a long one so you’ll want to make a stop or two.

Our first stop was in Lincoln, NH at one of my favorite places Gypsy Cafe

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Burlington Vermont Gypsy

I got the Tuna steak, it was so big that I kinda just gave up on the bread.

After eating, then more eating at Cabot, we set up our tent, picked up our bibs, stopped by a corner store for wheat thins and wine and went abroad the Whistling Man Schooner for our sunset cruise on Lake Champlain.

Burlington shio

Burlington ship

Although it didn’t look that way, back in Burlington, it really was turning out to be a beautiful day.

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but then the clouds rolled in

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and things started to get a little scary

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and a whole lot more wet. It actually started to pour and get quite cold, so we cut the boat ride short and hightailed it to shore.

Back at the shore, it was still clear with a cloudy but beautiful view.

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Since wine a box of wheat thins is not a dinner for me, Tony and I went to Pho Hong because I was cold and really craving some pho!

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I got some spring rolls and a pho, Tony got a curry and everything was awesome.

After the marathon, the initial plan was to visit some breweries, but my marathon, finding the car and showering took all a little longer than planned so I had to pick one brewery to pick. I opted out of visiting Magic Hat and went for something a little smaller.

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Four Quarters brewing just opened up tastings about 3-4 miles from downtown Burlington and although they currently have 6 brews on tap, they’re all light and tasty. I did try the Oyster one but it was a little to much for me. Number 2 was mt favorite! They also sell local honey, which we restocked on!

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So marathon, plus beer equals a starving Liana! I really wanted to return to farm house tap and grill, but Tony said we should try something new, so I guess we should.

We decided to try out American Flatbread and got some pizza. I loved the way this was cut, that way I can eat all the yummy center and leave the crust pieces for Tony.

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After lunch, or early dinner, we walked around with a stop to Dobra tea. I wholesomely believe that every city desperately needs a tea den like this one!!! Tony drank tea and I half napped, half nodded along.

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After some tea, we walked around some more bike baths around Lake Champlain that I’m pretty sure I didn’t run on.

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And as you know, walking is exercise and exercise deserve reward so this

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And before driving back home, we watched our final Lake Champlain sunset.

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QOTD

Ever been to Burlington, VT?

Soft serve ice ream? What do you call it? They called it creamies in Vermont! I always called it soft serve.

Friday Five – 5 Things to do in Gloucester & Rockport

Although only about 40-50 minutes north of Boston, the Rockport & Gloucester area is one of my favorite day trips within my house. Spring/Summer/Fall and maybe even a sunny winter day are all great to check it out. I thought this Friday, instead of telling you what I did the last time there, I’ll list five of my favorite things to do there. Coincidentally, I tend to visit all these place every time I am there!

1. Check out the old Rockport Quarry at Halibut Point Park. Parking is free in the off season and only two bucks during the summer.

Halibut Point State Park use to be a huge granite quarry that was closed back in the 1920s but sign of the old quarries are obvious.  Huge holes in the ground that were carved out and massive chunks of granite are still just lying around everywhere.

Quary Rock

The actually quarry is now filled with water and the flat rock pieces are perfect for a picnic. You can even get some great wind protection.

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2. Take a side trail for amazing ocean views in Halibut Park. There’s several beautiful less than a mile side trails for the most breath taking cliff side ocean views.

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Great for some coffee, but a little to windy for me to sit and relax.

3. Eat a Lobster Roll at Roy Moore Lobster Co

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Or in my case, everything on the menu!

4. Lay on a beach

Beach

Sure it might be chilly, but that’s why you gotta make sure you do number five first!

5. Run a race… you have several spring time half marathons going from April, May and June and countless 5Ks.

Run A race

Check out RunningInTheUSA for other races. Or feel free to catch up on my Twin City Half marathon (May) or Fool’s Dual 5K and Half Marathon (April) Race Recaps.

 

What’s your favorite day trip near your home?