Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City was another of my work conference trips and honestly a city I probably never would have gone to otherwise. I was however very pleasantly surprised by the trip and thoroughly impressed with the cities art deco architecture.

While we were out there I found out the local art museam had a traveling exibit of one of my favorite photographers so I took a few of my coworkers to the museam. I think the highlight for them was when I got too close to a statue in the garden and it started yelling at me. I assume that the sculpture garden has video cameras and speakers hooked to the security desk, but we will never know for sure.

 

We were there during one the wildest lightening storm I have ever experienced, and spent most of one night huddled in my broken sleep number hotel bed terrified I might get electrocuted if I touched anything metal in the hotel directly. Yes I realize this is not how it works, but we don’t get storms like that on the west coast. It was scary.

Because of the storm that was in the area the hotel was also hosting a team of storm chasers that were out filming tornados. I loved getting a chance to talk to them and learning more about what they do. But it didn’t necessarily help the fact that I was terrified of major storms.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the food in Kansas City, not only was the BBQ the best I have ever had in several local restaurants. I also had an unforgettable breakfast at the 12 Baltimore Café in the Hotel Philips. The stunning art deco interiors may have played a hand in that review though.

One of the friends that I tortured into accompanying me to the art museum is a sports fan, so she took me to a Kansas City Royals game. Which happened to be hosting ladies night.  We go free t-shirts and way too many margaritas. I had a blast even though I am not the biggest sports. The margaritas may have had a hand in THAT one.

 

 

On the last day in town I wandered around some antique stores and happened upon the City Market, which I wish I had known about earlier in the trip so I could have spent more time there.

Kansas City in one day:

Stay: Hotel Phillips

Eat: Jack Stack BBQ – Martin City Location

See: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Questions:

Have you ever been to Kansas City Missouri? What are some of your favorite must do’s in the city?

Christmas Eve in Lisbon Portugal, Or “The Day we Got Nothing Done”

We came to Portugal with an extraordinarily large list of things to do. With four adults all with widely varying interests it was bound to be a busy trip. European countries has be a challenge to tour at Christmas, things tend to be shut on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Sundays, and Boxing Day. We had heard that Portugal doesn’t totally shut down like say Austria would at Christmas, so we were hoping to get to see a few more thing. But come Christmas Eve most everything was shut and we lost a day of museums and tours. Which in reality was quite good for everyone, the people who live and work here got to spend the day with their families, my mom and husband who were quite sick with the flu felt less guilty laying around all day and it gave us a leisurely day to just wander around and explore. Which happens to be my favorite way to tour a new place.

I haven’t the faintest idea what this mural was for, it obviously wasn’t graffiti and the horses looked like Seuss characters. What ever the reason they were there, they made me smile.

We were staying on the boarder of the Baixa and Alfama district. Our street was the last street in the Baixa that was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. Everything that sat “behind us” in the Alfama neighborhood pre-dated the earthquake. One such building only about a five min walk from our apartment was the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major. Built in 1147 it is the oldest church in Lisbon still standing and is the see of the Archdiocese of Lisbon. While I love beautiful ornate baroque churches there is something special about gothic architecture. While I am not catholic or religious in any way, I did choose to light a candle. Though in typical me fashion, I nearly lit myself and the sweet elderly woman standing behind me on fire in the process. When I went to leave I looked back and saw my candle was already out. I tried, folks I tried.

 

Christmas Eve was a Saturday so we were on the look out for the Thieves Market or Feira da Ladra. Which happens every Saturday and Tuesday year round. It is the largest flea market in Lisbon and totally worth the trouble locating. Imagine street full of small vendors, garage sale items, old and new shoes, food stuffs, jewelry and antiques. You name it they have, they probably even have that thing that was stolen from you earlier in the trip.

We set out looking for the market which was said to be by the Santa Engracia Church in Alfama. When we got to the church it was silent, the gates were closed, the court yard was empty, there was no traffic or people milling about. We were really confused. After standing around frustrated for a few min, I gave up and started exploring the church’s exterior because its beautiful and why not….well it is BEHIND the church. So if you try to locate don’t make the same mistake, find the church, then walk behind it and you literally cannot miss the market. It is amazing. And of all the things we did while there, I enjoyed the market the most.

We also scouted out the walk to São Jorge Castle a roman and pre roman structure, monument and archeological site that overlooks the city. We found my dream apartment on the way, blue tiles ground to roof and rooftop balconies. Sold.

We walked through a small dog park like area that was covered in graffiti and was clearly an old structure of some sort. Everywhere you turn in this city is a beautiful view. We finally wound up locating the entrance of the castle which turns out was REALLY close to our apartment, we wound up walking all over the Alfama district for no reason. Well, it was beautiful and we had a great time so it wasn’t a total loss.

Much of the original city wall exists around the Alfama district, you can follow it around and find small gates and walking streets that lead up to the top of the hill as well as the old city well, the wall of which can still be seen in the picture above.

 

The crest on the city well, which if I remember correctly from the plaque was the original well for the main castle as well as the poorer citizens that lived outside the city walls. As you wander around the original city walls you will find many small archways which were the entrances into the city. They still exist and exist mostly as foot traffic passage ways up until the residential area of town.

 

Something to note about Lisbon, they have very strict rental control laws. As such you will often see beautifully updated apartments next to dilapidated ruins. People who live in the Alfama district have probably lived there their whole lives, apartments turning over to new family members as the years go on. Because of this the area still holds a lot of it’s original charm, as well as being quite outdated but you can feel the sense of community walking through the old quarters where the city has stood for centuries, where Fado music was first conceived, where people have lived since before the roman occupation. It is quite exquisite and should not be overlooked.

Carruthers, Astoria Oregon

There is a small town on the Oregon Coast that I know quite well, they call it Astoria Oregon. Astoria, long famous for being the home of one of the most dangerous river bars in the world, childhood 80s movies and copious amounts of rain, also happens to be one of my childhood home towns.

 

If I am being quite frank, when I was a kid it was kind of (read really) a dump. A sad little town at the mouth of the Columbia River, with a crumbling downtown and a small tourist season in the summer. Somewhere between the 1990’s and the mid 2010’s the town managed to turn itself around and now has a booming year round tourist season and with it some really phenomenal restaurants. None of which existed when I lived there, naturally. One of the newest editions is Carruthers.

Carruthers is located kitty corner to the old Astoria Liberty Theater, which was renovated in recent years and is now used as a performing arts theater which has headlined shows with hometown staples like movies by Chris Lang and musical performances by Blind Pilot. The restaurant was built out inside the old Owl Drug Store (which was a filming location of Kindergarten Cop) and was originally a clothing store.

 

 

The interior has been decorated impeccably, we were sitting next to this fire place (see above) which I could not stop staring at, not least of which because it was about 40 feet tall.

 

Both the bar menu and the dinner menu was amazing, I could have ordered everything but stuck to the butternut squash gnocchi and could have eaten nothing else for the rest of my life and been happy. It was amazing.

The vibe of the restaurant is a bit more upscale than Astoria has been traditionally used to but happily people dined in all assortments of style. It seemed everyone regardless of Sunday best or just jumped off the boat clothing were right at home. I couldn’t stop staring at the lovely surroundings, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and the incredible food. I was only occasionally distracted by the mirror pictured below, as I plotted how to steal it without getting caught. I failed to come up with a way to smuggle a 12 foot tall gold mirror out in my purse so I just took a picture.

Address an Additional Information: 12th and Commercial Astoria,  Oregon 97103

 

 

Monument to the Discoveries – Lisbon Portugal. 

There is a large concentration of free monuments and sights in Lisbon. Sadly since were only there for 7 days, two of which were walk around days since everything was closed for Christmas, we didn’t get to do everything we wanted.

One of the things I wanted to do was go up to the top of the “Monument to the Discoveries” or “Padrão dos Descobrimentos” for those that speak Portuguese.

The statue was built in 1958 through the efforts of the Ministry of Public works in order to commemorate anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The monument sits on the banks of the Tagas River in the Santa Maria Belem area of Lisbon.

When we visited it was getting late so we made the decision to just walk around it rather than go to the top.  It was also under construction or cleaning of some sort so it was difficult to make out the entire structure. However it was still quite impressive. If the scaffolding hadn’t been blocking my view, you could see going up the stairs from the bottom to top 18 prominent leaders and discovers from Portugal as well as 16 more on the other side.

The area that the monument shares an area of town that also houses the Jerome Monastery, the Belem Tower, the Maritime Museum and one of two Military Museums in the city.

To get there from the Baixa area (which was our home base for Lisbon) catch the 15E street car at the Praca Dos Comercio and exit at the Belem stop. You can’t miss the monument it is visible from the street car stop itself, but you will need to get past the highway to walk around the waterfront area it sits on. Walk through the gardens outside the Jerome Monastery toward the water and you will see a staircase down underground that looks like a subway station, instead it is just a walkway under the highway that comes out right behind  Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

If you are feeling homesick and hungry while in the area there is a McDonalds and a Starbucks at the Belem street car stop. You can also get the famous Belem pastries at the Pasteis de Belem also at the street car stop.  We however chose to eat at the cafeteria at the end of the Maritime Museum and quite enjoyed ourselves.

Address and additional links:

Padrao dos Descobrimentos Avenida Brasilia, Lisbon 1400-038, Portugal

Hiking Joshua Tree

We visited Joshua Tree the first time we went to Palm Springs California. My step-dad actually wanted to hike there. And I chose to do something totally unprecedented and not plan a thing. I didn’t even research it. So going into the park I knew literally nothing, I just let myself experience and enjoy the park with no frame of reference.


Since we were hiking on Christmas Day and the actual ranger station would be closed we drove up a couple days before to get a feel for where we needed to go for the hike that had been chosen.

From Palm Springs you drive up highway 62, through Morongo Valley and through Yucca Valley which looks like driving through Thunder Mountain at Disneyland, and then finally through Joshua Tree. You take a right just past the town of Joshua Tree on Park Boulevard, the road turns into Quail Springs Road where the Ranger Station will be located on the right, you can’t miss it, there is a sign, and a lot of cars.

We stopped in at the ranger station, talked to a couple people about the best day hikes and got a driving map for the park. If you do nothing else at the station I would suggest getting a driving map for the park. It is quite large and cell service is pretty spotty, so I wouldn’t necessarily rely on your phone’s GPS applications to keep you from getting lost.

After our fact finding mission we drove up to Pioneertown. The town was built for filming  early westerns. The town was a lot smaller than I would have imagined but it is worth the drive if you are a movie buff or just like old things. The buildings are nearly all facades built out to scale but you can still interact with them and there are a million places to take pictures. There is also a hotel and a saloon you can eat at. Sadly for us we managed to be there the one day of the week the Pappy & Harriets is closed. But I have heard they have some of the best food in the area and have live music nightly. Next time we head up that way we will certainly plan better.

On Christmas Day we woke up early and made our way back up to the park again. The drive through the park is amazing, and even though I don’t love desert-scapes as much as other natural areas I was in awe the entire time.

We had chosen to hike the Lost Horse Mine trail which is a four mile loop out in open desert. The hike wasn’t hard but it certainly wore us out. Being fully exposed to sun for that number of hours is draining, but the views were worth every minute. We took our first break at the mine itself, spending extra time hiking around the area and taking pictures. We continued on the trail to the spectacular views of the park and past the old home site. Then on the easy part of the trail, which was mostly sand and gravel. So while flat it was actually fairly hard to hike through.

It was a good thing we had gotten there early, by the time we got back to the parking lot people were having to park out along the road and hike up to the trail head. We took a few minutes to use the restroom and have a snack and then high tailed it out of there so that people could have our parking spot.

We ended out the day driving around the park a bit and taking a peek at some of the interpretive areas. We got pretty hungry toward the end of the day, cheese and cracker snacks don’t last forever! So we took the long drive back to our rental house and had a nice Christmas dinner. Aside from our trip to Barcelona this was probably my favorite Christmas to date.

Things to Remember when heading into Joshua Tree National Park:

  • As with all national parks, the lands and wildlife in them are protected for a reason. Be kind and respectful, don’t leave trash, damage plants or walk off trail.
  • Wildlife here isn’t always nice: cactus, scorpions, tarantulas, rattlesnakes and other large game make their home here. Be safe.
  • Always back more food and water than you need. It is the desert and it is a high desert meaning you are loosing more water than you realize and can easily become dehydrated with very little exertion.
  •  Cover your head and wear sun screen. Many people think “I tan well” so you don’t need to protect yourself but sun stroke is very common and covering your head well is just about the only thing you can do to prevent it.

 

Questions:

Have you ever been to Joshua Tree? What was your favorite part about it? Or if you haven’t been what is your favorite California Park?

Belém Tower – Lisbon Portugal

If you have even once looked up information about Lisbon you have probably seen a picture of the Belem Tower. The image seems to be synonymous with the city itself. The tower was originally built in the 16th century as a ceremonial gate to the Tagus river continues to stand today as a UNESCO word heritage site today.

I could go on and on about it’s history and architectural style but there are plenty of sites that will give you far better information than I ever could.

Instead lets talk about getting there and what to expect.

I was having a hard time getting a picture of the tower itself, we were there at about sun down, and no matter what angle I approached the exterior it wound up in deep shadow. Despite the poor lighting for exterior shots I would probably go back during the same time of day. Being on the waterfront at sun down was nothing short of stunning.

There are also several food and beverage carts in the area, a wine cart (which my mom recommends), a hot dog cart (which my husband recommends) and a froyo cart (which I really wanted to try but it was too cold). So I would highly suggest timing your visit toward the evening on a warmer day, so you can tour, then sit and relax with a treat and enjoy the sunset.

The tower is in the Santa Maria de Belem neighborhood. To get there take tram 15 and exit at the Belem stop. Tickets for the tour are bought at the Jerónimos Monastery where you can also get tickets to tour the Monastery itself, and several other sites in the area (except not the Maritime Museum as discussed here). To get there, walk toward the water and west along the river bank. You can walk straight there along the highway and cross over on a foot bridge, or walk under the highway near the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and walk west along the river bank. Though if you do this, since there are a few small boat moorings you will have to walk around them in a couple locations, it is however the prettier route.

The structure itself is quite small, you enter via a small bridge weaving around all the selfie takers and slightly confusing lines at the small door entrance. One line for getting in, one line for getting out and a small line coming the opposite direction to get back up onto the platform and tower.


The bottom of the structure holds a small prison and gun slots. The upper platform has small turrets for keeping watch, and then the tower itself which I did not go up because of the sheer number of people waiting to go up a VERY narrow stair case, leads I am sure to some very stunning views. My lower views were just fine by me. Looking west you can see the large opening of the Tagus where it meets the Atlantic. And looking east you can see the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Crito Rei statue up toward to the Tagus estuary.

The 25 de Abril Bridge is the largest suspension bridge in the world and while it looks nearly exactly the same as the Golden Gate Bridge it was not built by the same maker. It was however built by the same US maker that built the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. Side note a fact we learned from one of our drivers, the Tagus River while quite large is actually very shallow, you can see in the picture above a large shipping barge which is about as far as larger ships can make it up. The cruise ships dock just past the Alfama district and after that the river estuary is impassible for larger boats.

Pioneertown, California

I am a huge fan of strange and unique sites and my family is a huge fans of old westerns.  So when I stumbled on the existence of Pioneertown an old live in western town movie set that happened to be pretty close to Palm Springs I jumped on the chance to take my family while we were already down there for a hiking trip.

 

The town was built up in the 1940s and it include several blocks of a an old western town, a sound stage, a functioning blowing ally and post office as well as a working restaurant. The restaurant Pappy and Harriett’s Pioneertown Palace started as a movie set cantina but continues today as a popular restaurant and music venue.

 

Most of the building while interactive are mostly facade’s. You can go into the store fronts but not much more and the heights are all faked to look real by scale but in fact are not true to life two story buildings.

It felt a little bit like being in Disneyland’s Frontierland, which makes sense because it was a movie set meant to evoke a feeling while also being compact and manageable. Much like Disneyland as a whole. We spent about an hour poking around the buildings pretending we were in old movies, dashing between sets and running down the dirt road. We had planned on having dinner at Pappy & Harriett’s but sadly we forgot to check their hours and open days and they were closed. So we hungrily drove back into Palm Springs and had dinner back in the valley. Moral of the story the restaurant and the set is worth the trip but make sure you check the restaurants open hours before you drive up because it does take a bit to get there.

Address and Additional Information: It doesn’t really have an address since it is an unincorporated community in the Morongo Basin but here are the coordinates 34°9′26″N 116°29′41″W.