Hotel

My Favorite Mountain

I love Jackson Hole, you guys. For the second year in a row, my husband and I made the trek for a ski weekend, and this time we convinced my entire family to come along, as well as a few friends.  And I do believe we've made converts of them, too!

Most of my ski days happen at Alpine Meadows for one simple reason: that's where I work as a volunteer patroller, so I have a pass.  Pretty hard to pass up unlimited days, especially on a mountain that offers a wide variety of steep, interesting terrain - especially if you're willing to hike for it!

However, Jackson Hole has won my heart and I know we'll be returning again and again. Why?

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

Taking a little peruse through a powder stash...

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski  Corbet's Coulouir .

...and agreeing, once again, not to ski Corbet's Coulouir.

The terrain: it's unbeatable. Vertical for miles, plenty of steeps, lots of varied aspects, tree skiing, that great dry snow... it's really got everything you could want. Plus, there's a pretty impressive amount of beginner and intermediate terrain so a group with varied skill levels like ours can be happy.

Long steep blue runs for days.

Long steep blue runs for days.

The views: I mean, just look.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

I ended up with jalapeño infused tequila (yum), a pickle juice back (even grosser than I thought), and a sour beer.

The village: lots of hotel options (we absolutely adored the Four Seasons - even the smallest rooms are big and comfy with plenty of places to unpack your ski gear, the service in the boot/ski room is next level, and there's a fully staffed bar at the hot tub/pool after 3pm with tasty warm beverages), good restaurants, and an excellent apres scene (don't miss beers at the Alpenhof or roll the dice for a potentially disastrous shot/back/beer combo at the Handle Bar).

The simplicity: United has direct flights from San Francisco, making Jackson Hole more accessible than pretty much all the great Colorado mountains. And this year, no cancellations!

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

My sister taking a few glorious turns.

The bonus: you can do a day heli-skiing trip! My husband gave me heli-skiing for my birthday last year and made good by sending my sister and me for an epic powder day unlike anything to be had inside resort boundaries. It was total hero snow: 6 inches of light high mountain fluff on hard pack, and fresh tracks all day. And we completely geeked out climbing out of a helicopter on the actual top of a mountain!

Usually at this point in the year I'm pretty excited about the end of winter, but if I could I'd go back to Jackson this weekend. It's that good. That said, I'm always willing to try something new! Where else should we look at for next year's ski trip?

LMW

What I'm Organizing: Working Remotely

For all its flaws, the startup culture that’s taking over the world is making my life a lot easier.  There’s one simple reason: most places I go, there are cafes and co-working spaces that cater to people like me who can work anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection.

Recently, my husband and I went to London for a week.  We lived there for a few months in 2011 for his job, made great friends, and have made a point to visit at least once a year since.  It’s an easy and relatively low-stress trip for us due both to that familiarity and to the fact that his company has an office there, so he can go into work and as a result have to take fewer vacation days.  

I cannot lie and say that I got a particularly early start each day that we both decided to work, but I can truthfully say that I did get up at an undisclosed time, work out, and then get ready and pack myself off to one of the many work-friendly cafes close to our hotel.

Kale caesar, spiced carrot soup, a slice of crusty bread, and fizzy water: the perfect lunch.

Kale caesar, spiced carrot soup, a slice of crusty bread, and fizzy water: the perfect lunch.

At the risk of becoming a total hipster (or hipster wannabe), I have to say that I found one of the best working environments at The Hoxton.  All day, every day, the lobby of this hotel, restaurant, bar, and coffee shop is packed with tech workers and freelancers on laptops.  The food is great (I had the 2 for £10 soup and salad combo), the servers are completely unbothered by you having your nose stuffed into your screen, there’s plenty of natural light, and comfortable seating and outlets abound.

Photo courtesy of thehoxton.com (I posted up at that gray chair closest to the camera)

Photo courtesy of thehoxton.com (I posted up at that gray chair closest to the camera)

The vibe of a space like The Hoxton works for me because the dull roar of people around me feels like pleasant white noise, and I work better when I have slight guilt about the possibility of someone seeing my screen and judging that it’s not actual work.  The only thing I need in addition to my laptop is my glasses - for some reason, wearing them helps me focus even better even though they don’t improve my actual vision all that much.  You wouldn’t want to set up camp in a place like this if you needed to make phone calls, though!

Where are your favorite places to get a little work done while traveling?

LMW

Weekly Peek - Trip of a Lifetime Part 1

Sometime's life's best experiences take you by surprise.  It's why I've made it my personal policy to always say yes to unique opportunities.  So, when my mom emailed me the link to a Stanford Travel Study trip to an eco lodge well north of the Arctic Circle and told me my dad couldn't go, I just said, "let's do it!"

By saying yes to adventures, you also often encounter an amazing amount of serendipity.  The best way to get to Arctic Canada from the west coast of the US is to fly through Calgary, and our dates perfectly aligned so that we would be there for the final weekend of Stampede - one of the biggest rodeo events on the planet.  Obviously, we took this as a sign and extended our trip!

I can't do justice to this trip in one short blog post, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of parts.  Today: our adventure at the Calgary Stampede and exploration of Yellowknife, the jumping-off point for our Arctic expedition.

Calgary

My limited knowledge of Calgary came from stories I've heard about Stampede from horsey people (I briefly learned to ride gymkhana races in another life) and the Disney classic film Cool Runnings about the 1988 Winter Olympics.  As it turns out, Calgary reminds me of a hybrid of Denver and Houston: a modern city built on oil money in the middle of the plains featuring a high rise downtown and significant suburban sprawl.  There's clearly a lot going on there as evidence by the modern indicators of prosperity: a burgeoning food scene, a million condo buildings going up, and plentiful Ubers.

We had a great dinner at Rouge (fresh, local ingredients prepared expertly on the pretty patio of a historic home in the beautiful Inglewood neighborhood) the first night, followed by the heroic portions and epic kimchi hollandaise of brunch at Anju the next morning.  Appropriately fortified, it was on to the Stampede!

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

Our seats for the rodeo (that guy is about to go flying over the stands)

The Stampede Spectacular

The Stampede Spectacular

Calgary Stampede is basically a combination of a huge rodeo and a massive state fair.  All the fried foods you could ever wish for are on site, plus tons of agricultural exhibits and acres of livestock barns.  My mom did her research ahead of time and got us tickets in the stands to the actual rodeo events in the afternoon, which were so worth it: I had never actually seen bronco or bull riding in person, and it was so thrilling I watched most of it through my fingers.  We each picked a decadent fair food for dinner (spicy custom mac and cheese for me, poutine for my mom in honor of our Canadian hosts) and followed it up with fried cookie dough to share which was EVERYTHING wrong and delicious in this life!  We rounded out the evening by watching the Stampede Spectacular, which was basically a mini version of closing ceremonies at the Olympics.  We were both impressed by the theme of the show - "We Are Better Together" featuring many of the cultures that make up modern Canada and enthusiastically supported by the crowd - and wistful that such a progressive theme would never be featured at a similarly rural/conservative leaning event at home in the US.

If you go to the Calgary Stampede:

  • Book your hotel early.  We booked months ahead and the boutique hotel my mom wanted was already full so we ended up at the Fairmont.  It is perfectly fine, but overpriced for a relatively under-remodeled old hotel (good bathrooms though!).
  • Dress for the heat and potential thunderstorms.  We both wore light cotton sundresses and flat shoes and carried rain shells and although we wilted slightly we were happy campers!  If I had tried to cowgirl it up in jeans and boots I would have been sweltering, and I felt for the riders in their heavy leather chaps.
  • Once you're at the Stampede grounds, plan to stay until you go home for the day.  The lines to enter only increase as the day goes on.
  • Fly Air Canada if you are a United customer with status - Star Alliance gold gets you into priority check-in and security lanes as well as the Maple Leaf Lounge.  Bonus: Global Entry also works for immigration in Canada, both arriving and leaving! 

Yellowknife

The official Stanford Travel/Study trip began in Yellowknife, Northern Territories, because it has Canada's northernmost airport served by major commercial airlines.  We really didn't know what to expect here, to be perfectly honest.  It's a bigger city than we imagined, about 25,000 people, and has a definite frontier town feel.  It's built for the harsh winter weather: buildings are square, sturdy, and no-nonsense.  The biggest industry in the area remains mining, so there's cash on hand - as we saw in our exploration of a very high end grocery and homewares store - but the legacy of mistreatment of First Nations and Inuit peoples is also pretty obvious in the form of substance abuse issues and social stratification.  Food and alcohol are expensive, since everything must be trucked in over vast distances: a head of organic broccoli was on sale for $7.95 CDN!

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking over old town Yellowknife from the Bush Pilots Monument

View across Frame Lake to downtown

View across Frame Lake to downtown

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Looking back towards downtown from the Bush Pilots Monument

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Inside Bullocks' Bistro

Yellowknife is less a tourist destination than a jumping off point for adventure excursions, but we had a day and a half there and had a great time!  Our first day, we walked into the historic old town and poked around - and were somewhat gobsmacked to realize that Yellowknife's pioneer heyday was pretty recent as in the 1930's and 1940's!  The second day, we did the hike around Frame Lake, a very pretty and well marked trail that borders the newer downtown, and visited the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre which has really high quality exhibits.  That evening, we met our travel group, got fitted for boots (more on those later), picked up our expedition parkas, and then headed out for dinner at Bullocks' Bistro.  This is one of those places with extreme amounts of local character, and also the best fish and chips I have ever had in my life - and I have spent more time than the average bear in the UK including sampling of various types of fish and chips!  On the way home, it felt so early - at was probably 8:30 p.m. and fully sunny - that we stopped off for a beer at Northwest Territories Brewing Company.  A great spot (we ended up coming back for dinner on our way back through Yellowknife at the end of the trip), and I recommend the Amber!

That would be PM.

That would be PM.

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

The view from our Explorer Hotel room

This was where we realized that the long northern days were going to be weirder than we thought.  In Yellowknife, the sun does set at midsummer, but it only really ever gets dusky.  As a trip host told us, she hadn't seen stars since early May!  So, we easily lost track of time and found ourselves rushing back to the hotel after 10p.m. to make sure to get some shut-eye before our early-ish departure the next morning!

If you go to Yellowknife:

  • There's no need to dress up.  I felt overdressed at the hotel restaurant in jeans with a nice top, and we bummed around during the day in workout clothes and our finest Patagonia outerwear and fit in just fine.
  • If you want to sleep properly, close your curtains!  It may feel at 11pm like it's about to get dark... but it won't.
  • If you're patient, everything is walkable.  Taxis exist, but we were perfectly happy walking everywhere.  Nothing you want to see or need to do is more than a mile away.
  • Lodging options are limited.  We stayed at the Explorer Hotel, which is supposedly the best in town.  Facilities are what you would expect from a big city Holiday Inn or similar, rooms are less recently remodeled but perfectly fine with comfortable beds.

To see even more photos from this epic trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram.  I'll be back with more on our Arctic adventure next week!

LMW

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Weekly Peek

Friends Are Family

As I mentioned on the day itself, neither my family nor my husband's has a particular Thanksgiving tradition.  So it was that we found ourselves flying to North Carolina this year, to spend the holiday with my husband's best friend from college (they served as each others' best men), his wife and one year old daughter, and their families.  It was a warm and festive holiday just the way you always want Thanksgiving to be, including absolutely amazing food.  

Personal Best

I may have mentioned before (mostly because it seemed so daunting) that I planned to run an 8K race on Thanksgiving Day.  Well, I did in fact run the thing.  And at a personal best, averaging less than 10 min/mile!  I still don't think of myself as a runner, or even as a particularly fit person, but it was really rewarding to prove to myself that I can set a physical goal and achieve it.  I'm actually continuing to run a couple of times a week, but I am in no way addicted to long distance: five miles is plenty for a long run, thank you very much!

This is actually the room we stayed in!  Photo courtesy of fearrington.com

Cozy Country Inn

Our friends had a seriously full house while we were visiting, so we decided to stay in a hotel.  My husband found this adorable inn with amazing restaurant attached: The Fearrington House Inn outside of Chapel Hill, a Relais Chateaux property.  It was a little bit dicey getting to and from our friends' house since we didn't rent a car and Ubers were rare, but the commute was well worth the ambiance, service, and amazing food - from the included afternoon tea to the handmade chocolates placed by the bed each night.  If you need to be in the Research Triangle area, I'd highly recommend passing on the usual chain hotels and checking out this much more charming (and not much more expensive) option!

Weekly Peek

Petunia, positively delighted by all the attention she got at Fleet Week

Doing Fleet Week?

I was alerted by a friend who recently moved here from NYC that the phrase "doing Fleet Week" has a different meaning there.  Here, it means going to Marina Green (or someone's rooftop, if you're lucky) to watch the Blue Angels air show.  There it means... not that!  Cue me turning bright red.  Anyway, a really good friend celebrates her birthday by taking a picnic to the air show every year and she has it down pat: she and her husband go early, bring lots of umbrellas and blankets and coolers, and stake out a prime spot behind the VIP viewing area.  It's a really relaxed, good time to catch up with friends, and we even get in a little exercise since the parking situation is so insane we walk the 2+ miles from our house with Petunia.  Every year I think maybe I'm not that excited so see the Blue Angels, and every year they blow me away!

Photo courtesy of yelp.com

Neighborhood Spot

My husband and I have recently been lamenting that we haven't been trying enough new restaurants.  Living in San Francisco, home of foodies and organic local everything, we could never hope to keep up with all the openings, but still we find ourselves going back to the same few favorites.  It's hard not to, when there are so many great options within walking distance!  We recently headed out for a leisurely weeknight double date to Tataki.  This Japanese restaurant is a local favorite, partly because it only serves sustainable seafood, but also because everything is just so delicious.  It's the perfect place to go when you're craving authentic Japanese food (as opposed to your garden variety cheap sushi joint) but not looking for a big deal omakase experience.

Still smiling at the reunion tailgate!

10 Years Later

We recently attended my husband's 10th Stanford reunion.  Although I'm literally the only person in my immediate family without a Stanford degree (plus a couple of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents... we're one of THOSE families), the place is very special to me because that's where we met and fell in love.  So, in a way, his reunions feel like coming home!  In order to make sure we could attend all the events without going crazy, we spent all our hoarded American Express points on a room at the Rosewood Sand Hill for the weekend.  And we're so glad we did: the hotel is gorgeous, even the basic rooms are big and luxurious, and the service is truly stellar.  

Family Friendly Halloween

One of my friends throws a Halloween open house every year, and this was the first year I was able to go.  She lives in Cole Valley, right near the epicenter of trick or treating and Halloween decor gone crazy - they even shut down multiple city blocks by her house for the festivities!  Her house was warm and fun and full of families with rambunctious toddlers - there was a sword fight going on between Superman and a Ninja Turtle in the foyer for about half an hour!  And after the kids were all taken home for bed, a couple of the girls and I stayed for a last glass of wine and a chat.  Since I didn't want to be a party pooper, but also knew the event was all about the kids, I went with a half costume: wore my tiger ears, pinned my tiger tail to my orange t-shirt dress, and called it a day!  You can see more reasonable day to day (and party) outfits on my Instagram: @lmwedits.

What I'm Organizing

As I type, I'm stalling on packing to come home from Italy. As ever, more things are coming home with me than arrived in my suitcase, but there should be enough space for everything. I have a longer post with pics planned on exactly what I packed, but for now I'll say that I'm very pleased with what I brought!

As promised, I wanted to a quick update on the Scrubba travel wash bag.  If you, like me, refuse to pay the usurious rates hotels charge to send out laundry, and don't feel like spending hours of your precious trip holed up in a laundromat, I can heartily recommend the Scrubba as an excellent solution. It really does work exactly as described, when used as we did with individual travel pouches of Woolite detergent. Our clothes got fully clean in one wash, and they felt and smelled exactly like machine washed clothes.

Directions are printed on the side, so throw away the instruction booklet! 

Directions are printed on the side, so throw away the instruction booklet! 

A couple of tips, from us to you:

  1. There is a certain amount of physical effort required to scrub for 3 minutes straight! So, perhaps do your washing before you shower.
  2. The bag is rather small (I'd say the largest load we did involved a couple pairs of each of our underwear and a couple of t-shirts), so we recommend doing one small load every day or two instead of letting things pile up. 
  3. The more diligent you are about rinsing, the better the results. I throughly swirled each load in a full sink of clean water at least 3 times.
  4. Wring each item thoroughly and then shake out and position carefully to hang dry to avoid wrinkles or stiffness (we found the fabric strips of a standard folding luggage rack work really well for hang drying underwear and socks!).

And now, to pack.

LMW

Organize a Getaway

My husband and I have stumbled on what we believe is the perfect formula for a short getaway/extended date.  It’s easy to plan, doesn’t steal the prime social time from your precious weekend, requires no vacation days, and takes less than 24 hours start to finish.  

The formula is simple: a decadent Sunday lunch + Sunday night in a lovely hotel.

We were inspired to create this getaway by a lucky stroke of fate in the form of a reservation at The French Laundry for 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday – which arrived around 9 p.m. on that very Wednesday! And even though it was booked solid all weekend, we scored a room for Sunday night at the Bardessono resort and spa, just a couple of blocks from the restaurant.

We enjoyed our weekend in San Francisco as it had been planned for weeks, and just as the weekend felt like it was winding down, we started our date!

On a gorgeous, sunny Sunday morning that literally and most cheesily reminded me why I live in SF, we got gussied up, threw a few things in overnight bags, hopped in my husband’s convertible and drove to Yountville.  We got there in plenty of time to check in at Bardessono and get a tour of the petite but beautiful property before we walked over to The French Laundry.

Photo courtesy of thomaskeller.com

The French Laundry itself was everything it’s rumored to be.  The food is exquisite, the rooms are cozy, and the service is phenomenal without being overwrought - you don’t feel as if you’re in some sort of Temple Of Gastronomy.  I actually thought the vegetarian tasting menu looked more interesting and chose that even though I’m definitely an omnivore – and although I was a little jealous of my husband’s famed Oysters and Pearls dish, I was really happy with my choice.

Photo courtesy of bardesonno.com

Full and admittedly tipsy after lunch, we meandered back to the hotel where our airy, modern room with sunny terrace beckoned.  We lazed, read, and napped the afternoon away, and finally emerged around 7 when we felt the faintest growling in our stomachs (we could hardly believe it was possible…) to enjoy a light dinner at Bouchon.  

Back at Bardessono, we had a nightcap in the bar (Paul makes a truly excellent Vesper if you’re into those) and were in bed sawing logs by 10.  We woke up to a delicious room service breakfast before we checked out and enjoyed yet another sunny morning drive back to SF, and were both back at work by 11:30 a.m. We couldn't stop commenting to each other the whole way home how refreshed we felt, as if we'd been on a real vacation.

You don’t need The French Laundry for a great Sunday night getaway – we’ll definitely be reprising this date again without such a difficult reservation!  

LMW