Category Archives: City

Boston 2022

We went to Boston, again! We had such a fabulous time in 2021 we decided to repeat the journey in 2022.

Things were different. To say the least.

When we visited in 2021 Boston was still coming out of it’s COVID slumber. There were people out and about but it wasn’t too busy, lodging was inexpensive, restaurants weren’t all that busy, and airfare was cheap. Totally not the case in 2022 – seas of people, lines for everything, and fortunes needed to stay close to anything neat in Boston, and extremely expensive airfare. Boston woke up from it’s slumber and we were able to experience a vibrancy missing in 2021. It felt like we visited an entirely different city. It was wonderful!

I am an early riser. Despite all the changes from last year Boston is still a sleepy town starting it’s day a bit later in the morning. I had a great time walking around the North End, Chinatown and everywhere in between while Boston woke up.

During the day we managed to visit places that weren’t open last year, see some festivals, like Saint Aggrippina’s festival in the North End, and even hiked to the tri-state point for Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The hike was a wonderful reminder how terrible the trails are on the East Coast compared to literally anywhere else in the world.

The weather was hot. Singapore hot. Super humid, super sunny, and super warm. A lot of the time during the day was figuring out how to stay cool – spending time indoors, playing in the fountains, or hanging out in the shade. We went last year over July 4th and it wasn’t as hot, nowhere near as hot. I think this is the only part of the trip we’d change – move the date so we’d visit during a non-Singapore hot period!

Otherwise, I took a few photos – enjoy!

Chris W.

Boston 2021

It felt great to travel again, even if it’s just in the US.

We chose to go to Boston because we wanted to go somewhere we didn’t need a car and had a lot to see. Turns out, Boston was perfect. The food was amazing – our place was right next to the North End so walking into the North End for amazing food and desserts was no hassle. We walked about 50 miles in our six days in Boston and more than offset that calorie burn with huge meals like pizza at Ernesto’s and fantastic desserts at places like Bova’s.

We had a great time in Boston. There was plenty to do and it was super neat to be in Boston on July 4th – the town came alive with all sorts of independence day celebrations. We had a wonderful Chinatown tour and stopped at quite a few of the major sites in town. We walked the entire greenway and stopped at many of the installations along the way.

There were some surprises. On the positive: pretty much everything we ate was incredible, playing on the beach during sunset on Cape Cod is something I’ll never forget, Boston seems to be filled with late risers so walking around in the early morning was super quiet and fun, and there were so many family activities we could do that were free or super cheap – like walking tours and playing in all the fountains along the greenway, and the history / architecture was wonderful; our central location made everything accessible within a 15 min walk. On the negative: Provincetown in Cape Cod was a let down and the weather went from cold to blistering hot to tropical storm. In the interest of making lemonade, we ran around to a couple museums like the old south meeting house and the old state house during the tropical storm and we were the only people there!

The biggest surprise was Tropical Storm Elsa. Elsa hit right as we were about to fly out and we actually flew out of the storm – one of the photos is the edge of the storm as we flew out.

All in all, Boston was 100% awesome. 5/5 would do again. It was cathartic to get out and resume normal activities after being locked in for the last year.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Vegas 2021

We went to Vegas in March but I forgot to write about it. It was great but there were still a lot of pandemic restrictions so it sorta felt normal.

The hiking was phenomenal. We had a fabulous time hiking in quiet solitude since no one goes to Vegas for hiking. There was just us and Search and Rescue at one trailhead in the Valley of Fire State Park; they were busy doing search and rescue stuff so we didn’t see them. The weather wasn’t great, it snowed a bit, but it did create beauty – we drove back from the Valley of Fire State Park by Lake Mead and watched the sun break through the clouds / snow and create a spectacular scene. 

The food was great too – Vegas is two hours behind us so getting breakfast or donuts at 5AM in Vegas is no big deal. We did something new, we went on a self directed food tour, and it was a lot of fun. It was in old Vegas and it was super neat to go to three different restaurants with wildly different food.

About a month after we visited Vegas it became crazy – everyone is done with COVID. We heard the mayor say, “for all intents and purposes, Vegas is sold out of hotel room and rental cars for the indefinite future”. That’s wild!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

The Rona Life

It’s been an interesting four months since COVID-19 ended the daily routine for most of America. We’ve been fine; we’ve had nothing but good luck, and we’re fortunate our time has gone so well.

Normally, we sneak in another trip or two during the spring and summer but this year has been spent at home for extremely obvious reasons. That said, it’s been pretty great for us because we’re still employed and we’re healthy. Given the situation of tens of millions of Americans, I’d say we have nothing to complain about.

The lockdowns started when the weather was still a bit shit and now we have our plants bearing fruit. I remember the governor mentioning how great Minnesotans were at social distancing when the shelter in place order started. I laughed because the weather was still crap and of course people weren’t going to be out and about. Once weather improved it shouldn’t have been the surprise it was that people got together and were a lot closer. Maybe it takes a non-Minnesota native like me to see the situation for what it is!

We’ve had quite a bit of time to take stock of what we have and make the most of our surroundings. We’ve done our best to enjoy everything to the max.

But life has been strange; it was super strange to see: 

  • almost no one on the road for rush hour,
  • stores out of diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, and medicine,
  • stores running out of food,
  • lots of people going for walks in the neighborhood,
  • lines to get into stores and shops,
  • our jobs transition to work-from-home.

Traffic is picking up, stores are getting the shelves full, and life is sort of returning to normal for us. Restaurants and bars are open and even the Mall of America and the skyways downtown are open. It’s sad to walk around the Mall of America and the skyways simply because no one is around, many stores have closed permanently, and even more haven’t yet opened. I’m hoping life continues to become normal and the mask wearing by most becomes the mask wearing by all.

I decided to add some photos of the last five months. All the photos pretty much come from a three mile radius from our home. Make sense, the world just became a lot smaller with the pandemic.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris

Las Vegas and San Diego 2020

Well, I’m a bit late writing this. Like six months late. Better late than never, right?

This last winter we decided to leave the frozen tundra and spend some time with friends in Las Vegas and family in San Diego. Back in 2019 we did the same, except we went to Spain, and we missed the worst of winter. It was fabulous and we were trying to repeat our luck this year.

We weren’t so lucky missing the worst of winter BUT we still had a great time. This is easily a trip I could see us making every year. We were able to see a few amazing national parks during the flight and it really was a treat.

First we went to Vegas and the weather was perfect – no higher than the 80s and absolutely wonderful in the morning and evenings. We had a chance to hit up some new restaurants and eat some amazing donuts. Las Vegas has a LOT to offer on the food front. We went hiking in some of the local parks and it was awesome – no one was around in the early mornings and we truly had the parks to ourselves. I get the feeling people come to Vegas for activities other than eating and hiking so we really enjoyed watching the alpenglow at sunrise and sunset completely alone.

Most amazing part of wandering around was when we stumbled across Mt. Charleston, the local ski resort. First, we had no idea it snowed enough to create a ski resort, and second but most important, people were having picnics in the snow. Now, when I saw they were having picnics in the snow I’m not saying all the people were wearing snow gear and sitting near snow. No, these individuals literally were in street clothes and shoes and were sitting in the snow or hanging out in snow piles enjoying picnics. It’s not like one or two people were doing it either, there were hundreds. There must be some novelty to snow.

After a brief few days in Vegas we left to visit family in San Diego. The second half of the trip was equally amazing. Just like before we enjoyed great company and wonderful food. We wandered around San Diego at sunset and sunrise, much like Vegas, and really enjoyed seeing the world come awake and go to bed. Sunsets at Ocean Beach are flat out amazing and seeing the sunrise over downtown San Diego was wonderful too.

We walked quite a bit more and went to different parts of San Diego, like Pacific Beach, just to explore. Of course, we still went to Bronx Pizza, quite a few times, simply because it’s the best NYC style pizza outside of NYC.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and were very fortunate to have had great weather, great travels, and most importantly, great company.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

 

 

 

General 2019

So I’ve been really bad at updating this website this year. Life has been busy. That said, I figured I should add a few photos of our adventures over the last six months. I have changed jobs and my new work has brought me to rural Ohio and Phoenix. I was treated with the most amazing sunrise over the Rockies on my way to Phoenix and an illuminating life experience when visiting the Amish in Ohio.

We celebrated four years home this year. It’s weird to think that we’ve been back in the US for four years since it feels like yesterday we were coming back from our travels. Now, the memories we have are no longer current and the world has changed quite a bit. We talk quite a bit about World Trip #2. Maybe it’ll happen sooner than later 🙂

Enjoy the photos!

Spain 2019

We decided to go visit Spain in February to avoid some of the dreary Minnesota winter. We were incredibly lucky – we missed -30F weather with 30MPH winds!

I think I could make a habit avoiding winter in Minnesota.

Terrible Minnesota weather aside, Andalusia in Spain was pretty incredible. The sights were pretty fantastic, the food was amazing, everything was super laid back, we chatted with some incredible people, and we had a couple of wonderful cooking classes! We had a brief stop in Gibraltar, a British colony, and it turned out to be a super strange experience. All-in-all, we had a fantastic visit and we were happy with our visit.

It was neat to tour around Spain and see an area where Muslim Moors conquered and set up shop for 700 years. The architecture and artwork of this period is similar to what we saw in India, Singapore, the Middle East, and the Balkan areas conquered by the Ottomans. It was strange to think the Iberian Peninsula is so far away from India yet shared a similar architectural language because of a shared religion! Besides Muslim architecture, we saw some oppulent churches and cathedrals. Spain hit it’s stride right after it drove all the Muslims out (1492) and soon found itself as a major world power and owner / ruler of the new world. All the gold taken from the Aztecs, Incas, and other indigenous peoples ended up lining the walls of huge churches and cathedrals in Spain. Of our all travels, the cathedrals were unlike anything we’ve seen. The blend between Christian and Muslim architecture was a bit schizophrenic – a lot of the buildings looked like the car Homer Simpson designed with all sorts of different styles and features just mashed together.

We probably ate our weight in tapas. It seemed like everywhere we visited we found extremely delicious food. I’m not huge in eating meat and it was surprisingly easy to find delicious vegetarian / vegan food wherever we went. We learned some new favorites, like paella and pisto, while engorging ourselves in olives and bread. If nothing else, Spain is 100% delicious.

No one really seemed to be in a hurry in Spain. In fact, we had to modify our typical eating times slightly to accommodate the issue of a lot of restaurants closing between 2PM and 7PM. We are not really night people so it was a bit strange to eat a large meal early and then try to find a snack in the evenings. In many ways, it was helpful the culture was so laid back. We were able to get around easily and see a lot of sites without being surrounded by people since folks were busy eating at times slightly different than what we were used to!

We had great conversations with folks but there is one experience which stands out – our English paella cooking instructor located in rural Spain. We had an incredible cooking class with her, paella is amazing, but most of all we had a great conversation about traveling, immigrating, Spanish culture, the Brexit, and all sorts of other topics. It was an incredible experience because she and her family went a step further than Jac and I when we were traveling: instead of returning to their home country they decided to lay down roots somewhere a bit more laid back. Anglosphere culture is pretty similar so it was extremely educational to get her perspective on Spain. She informed us of a side of Spain we couldn’t possibly know unless we lived in Spain.

Gibraltar was an extremely strange place. We’ve been to a handful of places that used to be British colonies where driving on the left is the rule and the areas still have a lot of ‘Britishness’. For whatever reason, Gibraltar is right-side driving yet feels very British. This is different than Hong Kong where there is left-side driving there is a giant ‘unweave’ interchange between Shenzhen and Hong Kong to accommodate right-side driving on the mainland. Gibraltar is super tiny and has their own currency to boot so it was weird to pay cash for things and get Gibraltar pounds back. I guess regular UK pounds are valid currency in Gibraltar on a 1:1 basis but Gibraltar pounds are not really valid anywhere outside Gibraltar.

The cities were pretty neat and the Seville Cathedral Roof tour is one of the amazing things we’ve done but I think our favorite area of Spain we visited was the rural areas with the tiny white villages. We had a fantastic night in Zahara de la Sierra and enjoyed visiting the tiny white villages strewn across the countryside. The small towns were a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city centers of Madrid, Seville, Granada, etc. The mountains were absolutely stellar and the countryside just smelled good! The streets were super narrow in the small villages. I ran into a building in Arcos de la Fronteria while trying to back out of a bad situation – the directions I received from a local would have required me to drive down some stairs so I decided maybe that I shouldn’t do that in a rental and ended up driving into a building. We had a new, black, VW Polo with 500KM and ran into a white building. Not great.

Aside from driving into buildings it was very easy to drive around Spain. Drivers were very courteous and pretty much everyone was driving below the speed limit. We were surprised with the narrow ‘highways’ in the mountains. It was incredible to see buses traversing the mountains knowing the road was barely wide enough for two small vehicles let alone a huge coach bus.

Spain was surprisingly cheap. Meals weren’t that expensive and lodging was a bit on the pricier side only because we picked some great views / great locations for lodging. Our rental car was super cheap and it was, in general, just crazy to see how far our dollars went. We were a bit surprised to learn Spain is kinda poor by American standards, especially the rural areas. Average wages are quite low to match the cost of living. There’s a lot of agriculture work and tourism seems to be the big industry in Andalusia so I guess it’s pretty logical wages are lower.

We were lucky to visit Spain when we did. It was neat to see ripe olives on the trees, see almond trees blooming, and enjoy local festivals like Christians & Moors in Madrid. Traveling in shoulder season is truly the best – all sorts of festivals and the earth is active with changes for the upcoming seasons. We also caught a Flamenco show in Seville and were completely floored with what we saw – the music, dancing, and singing was incredible.

We’d happily go back to Spain to eat tapas and hang out in the many white villages in the mountains :).

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

San Diego 2018

I think it’s impossible to not love San Diego. Perfect weather, great food, wonderful sights, friendly people, and loads of sunshine.

The trip was off to a great start when we flew over the national parks we visits in the spring – Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, etc. The parks were impressive enough from the ground so having the opportunity to see the parks from the air was nothing short of amazing.

Then, things became better.

Jac has family in San Diego, who are always wonderful to visit, and they happen to live near the beach. A short walk brought us to great restaurants, wonderful beaches, and extremely interesting people. We took advantage of our time in San Diego to get food that is hard to get in Minnesota – good classic donuts, Asian foods, NY style pizza from Bronx Pizza, and some great vegetarian food. I had something I’d never heard of: nitrogen charged coffee. I loved the coffee. It tastes a lot like a Guinness and since I don’t drink anymore it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a beer since drinking beer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though this coffee related innovation has made it to Minnesota so I’ll have to deal :/.

We were in San Diego during the July 4th holiday so we had a chance to see the Big Bay Boom fireworks. We had an absolutely incredible view of the fireworks because I found a random stranger willing to let us use her deck overlooking the bay. I had spent quite a bit of time looking for a good view of the fireworks and continually struggled to find a viewing location not overrun by people. The fireworks show is one of the largest in the nation and attracts people from all over the country so it was no surprise I had a hard time. In desperation I decided to use Google Maps / Google Earth and Airbnb to find an Airbnb host with an unobstructed view of the bay. I sent out a few requests and we were lucky a woman agreed to let us use her deck. She was so kind, asked for nothing in return, and had a $5mil view of the bay. We saw the best fireworks we’ve ever seen and is easily one of the greatest experiences we’ve ever had. 

I miss traveling greatly, especially visiting lesser developed areas of the world. I feel an energy in open-air markets and communal gathering spots that is missing in developed countries. I thought it’d be great to visit Tijuana since we were close and had heard good stories. We decided to hire a tour guide since we had never been to Tijuana and don’t speak Spanish. We were completely surprised – we had great food, had a great time, and our tour guide was fantastic. Our guide was about our age, grew up in San Diego, went to college in San Diego for a liberal arts degree, and decided to move to Tijuana for better opportunities. Instead of entering the rat race for low wage type jobs for generic liberal arts degrees in the US he decided to start a walking tour business in Tijuana. Rent is cheap, food is incredibly cheap, and tourists are happy to pay $100 day in and day out for walking tours. While $100ish/day is nowhere near a livable wage in the San Diego area it is a phenomenal wage in Tijuana.

I’m an early riser and California is two hours behind central time so I was a really early riser. I found great enjoyment in drinking a pot and half of coffee while staring at that ocean and watching the world wake up. As others in the house woke up I further found great conversation and company. Complete relaxation.

San Diego-ians complain a lot about the “sunshine tax” with the high cost of living in the area. Wages for engineers in the area aren’t a whole lot different than wages in Minnesota but housing is way, way, way, way, WAY, more expensive. A one bedroom one bathroom apartment in San Diego is about the same, if not more, than what we pay for our entire mortgage, interest, insurance, and property taxes for a three bedroom, two bathroom, 2,000sqft house in a desirable neighborhood of the twin cities. Folks kept on telling us that we were lucky to live in a place with cheaper housing but I was quite to point out that they have a “sunshine tax” and we have a “quality of life” tax because going outdoors five months out of the year hurts our face due to the cold. No wonder things are cheaper here, why would anyone sane move here?

All-in-all, a wonderful trip. We had a great time and enjoyed every moment. Hard not to love San Diego :).

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

The Cold North 2017 / 2018

So I realized I haven’t put anything on the website since our trip to the Smoky Mountains. Looking back on my previous posts I think there is a clear trend: we hibernate in the winter so the likelihood of taking outdoor photographs plummets precipitously. Makes sense; the cold air in Minnesota often times hurts my face so why go outside?

Winter is awful in Minnesota. It boggles my mind people live in this climate voluntarily and even immigrate to and stay in twin cities regions from extremely warm regions like Eastern Africa, South East Asia, Latin America, and the Indian Sub-continent. 

Weather aside, somehow an interesting culture was built in the Twin Cities / Minnesota which fosters the development of businesses and happy people. Minnesota punches well above its weight in the number of Fortune 500 businesses, intellectual property development, cost of living adjusted wages, and general welfare / health. There is a pragmatic approach to just about everything here and so long as people can cut thru the Minnesota Nice and tolerate the weather it can end up being a pretty neat place to live. 

Maybe there’s something to staying indoors for five-ish months a year that makes people industrious and makes people thankful for the small things, like vitamin D. 

I have had a couple reprieves from the cold this winter. There were two visits to Chicago, which feels like a tropical paradise compared to Minnesota, and a visit to Denver for the holidays. 

It was neat to be back in Chicago for a bit and see familiar sights and smell familiar smells. I don’t particularly miss Chicago but there is an energy to Chicago not found in the twin cities.  One evening was even nice enough to make the seven mile walk on the Lake Front Trail from McCormick Place near the South Side to my hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood. I was the only one who walked from the group and managed to beat my coworkers who were stuck in traffic. I’ve always enjoyed the walk so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to walk along Lake Michigan and weave my way thru downtown to my hotel and skipping the traffic was just the cherry on top. 

Of course the visit to Denver was awesome. Denver is a fabulous place and it’s great to see family. The weather was great and I even ended up with a slight sunburn.

Probably the last thing to note about Minnesota is a conundrum I’ve found: I lived in this state for a bit over 10 years without traffic violations or vehicle accidents. In the last four months I’ve had two people hit my car while driving around with my wife with the most recent occurring yesterday. What makes this especially weird is that I drive very little since my work is a bit over a mile from where we live and I don’t drive around very often with my wife. I’m not sure what clicked between departure and return to Minnesota but it’d make me happy if this trend discontinued. 

Enjoy the photos 🙂

Chris W.

Summer in Minnesota 2017

It’s no secret I dislike Minnesota. In fact, I generally tell anyone who will listen how much I would enjoy living elsewhere. While Minnesota has a lot of great attributes like: innovative job market, STEM opportunities, foods from around the world, pragmatic state and local leadership, and a fairly good standard of living; the weather is awful and the state is flatter than Kansas. Being cooped up indoors six months out of the year is tough and having no where good to hike is worse. My wife doesn’t seem to really care but she grew up here so I don’t really trust her opinion on the matter.

So, I’ve been trying to make the best of it since the world trip as it’s apparent we’ll be living here for the indefinite future.

This summer has been the best summer of all the summers we’ve lived in Minnesota. We’ve made it a point to go hiking at nearby parks, we’ve gone to a ton of cultural events like Little Mekong Night Market, Polish Fest, and Latino Fest, the Capitol Building Grand Re-oepning, we’ve found ways to spend time outdoors in our yard, and we’ve managed to start growing a lot of beautiful flowers. We are lucky we have events where the locals feel compelled to launch fireworks and we’ve had some spectacular shows to watch. Our little town we live in is great, and we have tried to make it to all the local events – including the water treatment plant facility open house!

As it turns out, summer isn’t so bad in Minnesota. Maybe my dislike of Minnesota is unfounded but I am still grateful we have a major international airport nearby :).

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.