Entries from August 24th, 2017

Sri Lanka.

August 24th 2017

My sister and I spent a month together traveling India in 2013 and have been trying to recreate that trip ever since (minus a few of her belly issues). Sri Lanka looked similar. On the map it looked like India’s adorable little sister. They had curry. There were cool temples and hikes and ELEPHANTS. Flights were cheap.

So off we went…24 hours of flying (+layover in Doha) and here’s what we did while there:

DAY 1: Colombo to Galle. Land at Bandaranaike International Airport at 3am, drive directly to Galle. There was no traffic and it still took us 2 hours longer than everyone said it would. This is the theme of Sri Lanka. Nothing is close. Everything is way, way farther than you’re told it is. Check in to Niyagama House (rated #1 hotel in Galle on TripAdvisor). We loved it though its distance from town while nice (it was removed in this lush green forest, super peaceful) was also unfortunate (because I think we missed out on really getting to know the town). We had breakfast at Galle Fort Hotel, checked out the actual Galle Fort (meh), explored the town. Highlights included massages at Galle Fort Spa (AMAZING) and lunch at AmanGalla (try to sneak in and see the pool). Take a tuk-tuk and explore outer Galle area (fruit and veggie markets, fisherman villages).

DAY 2: Galle. Wake up early (jetlaggg), meditate on Niyagama House roof as the sun rises, take the 3 mile walk around the Niyagama House property and then do aerial yoga with the proprietress (part of the reason we booked the hotel was that the food was supposed to be great – and it was – and the owner is a yoga instructor who specializes in aerial).

Visit Unawatuna Beach (everyone said it was a GORGEOUS beach – we walked back and forth trying to find the gorgeous beach, thought we were at the wrong place, but we weren’t soo…not that gorgeous FYI). We got massages at The Sanctuary Spa which was not the best of our 5 ayurveda massages but had a great vibe, with services done in tree houses while the beach breeze blows in. We then checked out the pagoda + Buddha, drank coconuts, etc. The whole area has a backpacker-y vibe without the energy or the actual backpackers. Another theme of Sri Lanka is that no one else is there. It all feels very deserted.

For dinner, take a cooking class at Lucky Fort or Niyagama (we did it at Niyagama, it was yum.)

DAY 3: Galle to Tangelle. We stayed at Buckingham Place. It had amazing review, and I can’t comprehend why. It was bad. Cold. Dark. And the food was gross. It also had a horror movie vibe, we were in the middle of nowhere, and again found no one else there. We then took a 3 hour ride to Tangelle Beach (which was also supposed to be much shorter). I would say skip it but, in Tangelle’s defense, we got cloudy weather and were the only people around for miles. (Sidenote: I literally have no idea where all the other people are in Sri Lanka?!) The reason to go? The AmanWella is there. We had lunch and hung on their pretty stretch of beach. By ourselves. You could also go at night to see the turtles hatch in Rekawa but we passed when we read it was “like watching paint dry”.

DAY 4: Tangelle to Udawalawe National Park to Ella. This was a long day and it wasn’t even our longest drive. We woke up at 4:30am to take the two hour drive to Udawalawe National Park. Literally just typing Udawalawe gives me butterflies! The elephant safari here was the HIGHLIGHT of our trip/my life. 600+ elephants roam free (the only place there’s more is in Africa) and they’re everywhere. We watched them bathe, saw soo many babies and they all came within two feet from our 4-wheeler. If you can find our guide Nandu he is an angel. He is doing his part to conserve the park – he picked up litter everywhere and was so respectful of the elephants. He knew each and every one of them. (“She is like you, madam,” he said when we came across a 32 year old female).

The safari was supposed to be 3 hours but we were so obsessed we did two back to back safaris so we basically spent the whole day in the park until my sister had had enough and made us leave. I would have slept there. I would actually still be living there. The first safari was awesome because it was dawn so lots of animals but also more crowded with vehicles. The second safari was really quiet; we watched the elephants bathe and saw jackals devouring a baby buffalo. We also got to go further into the park to areas that people don’t usually see.

Afterwards we drove straight to Ella. About 4 hours. (We thought it would be shorter.) We stayed at the Mountain Heavens hotel. We really wanted to stay at 98 Acres but we booked nothing ahead of time and it was sold out. So I guess that’s where everyone is in Sri Lanka?

DAY 5: Ella. In the morning we realize that we really like Mountain Heavens (don’t get it confused with Mount Heaven aka “mount hell”). The hotel was nice – small and cute and the view is insane. Best view in all of Ella. We loved Ella! Have cake at Little Folly and hang out with the owner. Take one of his walks. Go see the train – it’s so cute like a little toy. Get massages at Suwamadura but only if you’re ok with super creepy massages. It is a full (full!) body massage so nothing is off limits. Or maybe me and my sister just got molested? We also got a free extra hour that we didn’t pay for.

Dinner was a buffet at Zion View. You have to preorder it – and leave a deposit – earlier in the day. It was good – very clean and lively with a great view.

DAY 6: Ella to Central Province. Spend the morning at 98 Acres – have lunch, relax, etc. I had researched and researched and found this hotel called Taylor’s Hill that I decided we HAD to go to.

It was going to be perfect to break up the 6 hour drive to Kandy except it was literally terrible. It took us 6 hours just to get to central province (instead of 3). We cheaped out and hired a non-English speaking driver who got very lost and was so weird – made us friend him on Facebook, talked to us about Obama and told us our laughs or lives were beautiful and then didn’t understand another word we said including “please stop for a picture” and “how far away are we?” and “STOP THE VEHICLE”.

It would have been cool to stop in Nuwara Eliya on the way (we didn’t because of above driver mishap). It’s an interesting town that they call “little England” but not really worth a night because why be in England when you’re in Sri Lanka? FYI it’s also freezing in this one little specific area, like 20 degrees colder than the rest of the country – we could feel it just through the windows.

Taylor’s Hill was pretty. Doing it over, we probably would have just stayed another night in Ella, though, and gotten more massages. Or taken the train somewhere?

But we woke up had a leisurely morning at Taylor’s Hill (it’s an old English tea plantation farmers home). It’s sort of a standard bed and breakfast like you’d find anywhere in England or New England. We visited the James Taylor tea plantation. Meh.

DAY 7: Central Province to Kandy. Stay at Theva house. Pre-order the 17 spice curry dinner. Watch the sunset in Kandy it’s absurdly beautiful. Whatever you do, don’t get pink eye and go to the public hospital on a Sunday, like I did.

DAY 8: Kandy. Visit the temple of the tooth (we went on Sri Lankan Independence Day so it was insanely crowded but apparently it’s always crowded which is part of the experience), visit a tea factory (or don’t because it’s not that exciting), visit the large walking Buddha (we liked this!) and the royal botanic gardens which is the Central Park of Kandy. Very pretty – bring a book! Have dinner again at Theva House bc the special rice and curry was so good.

DAY 9. Kandy to Colombo. Usually I hate when people tell you to skip the place where the airport is (i.e. I’ve spent time in Guatemala City, Bangkok and a million other places that people have told me to skip) but really, you can totally skip Colombo.

The Perfect Summer Weekend in Maine

August 2nd 2017

My best friend Mike and I share a love for Georgia O’Keefe, Americana and the great open road. After an ayahuasca-filled adventure through New Mexico last year, we opted for a more tame all-you-can-eat tour of Maine this summer. Also, I’m pregnant.

DAY 1:

Mike rents us a car…all the way in Jersey City. (Note to self: No longer put Mike in charge of renting cars). The adventure begins. We download In the Garden of Beasts on audible and onto I-95 we go.

The drive is long. How do you make it feel less long? Stop at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. It’s a little out of the way – plus there’s an offensively long wait at peak hours – but tell me if you still care once you’re devouring White Clam pizza and a Margharita pie topped with roasted red peppers. Pro tip: Order 18″ and pack the leftovers to eat when you check into your hotel room in Kennebunkport at midnight (or was that just pregnant me?).

Speaking of hotels, I’ve never been so happy to see one as I was with The Kennebunkport Inn. It’s a little big inn – with more rooms than you’d think, right in the center of town.

DAY 2:

It’s time to no longer think in terms of traditional meals: There is no breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is only lobster.

On that note, we wake up and make our way to The Clam Shack when they open at 11. The order: Lobster rolls + Clam Chowder. Fun fact: It’s just called Clam Chowder here because it’s New England and there’s only one New England Clam Chowder. Duh.

Aside from The CandyMan, where I stock up on weird flavors of taffy like Root Beer Float and Key Lime Pie, the most exciting thing to do in Kennebunkport is to visit Walker’s Point, George H.W. Bush’s compound.

Following the map, Mike and I drove right up to his front gate before we were stopped by security and told to drive further along the road to a place where senior citizens were gathered admiring the 41st POTUS’ summer home.

Next up: Goose Rocks Beach. Stop for oysters/lobster cocktail (and a real cocktail) at The Tides Beach Club. Bonus: Eating there gives you parking access (otherwise it’s permit only near Goose Rocks Beach) and you can use their beach chairs, towels, etc.

Make the 2 hour drive to Camden.

We stayed at Lord Camden Inn (Mike found it…mental note to no longer put Mike in charge of hotels either though he would probably argue that it was fine). (Also, it is to be pronounced only with an English accent. “The Lowd Kem-Den Inn”.)

Doing it all over again, I’d stay in Lincolnville at The Lincolnville Motel instead of Camden; we drove to it the following day so I could check it out (I had read good things) and it was adorable. No frills (at all) but chic and clean and campy (sort of like Ruschmeyers in Montauk).

At this point, you may be worried that all of this lobster could lead to scurvy. Fear not – head to Long Grain for amazing Thai food. You will be very thankful for their steamed local kale and tofu which doesn’t sound delicious but it is.

Dessert is ice cream at Camden Cove.

DAY 3:

Drive to Portland.

The best thing you will do on this drive is to stop at Red Eat’s in Wiscasset. So cute, so yummy. Apparently on summer weekends the bridge traffic is terrible and everyone gets out of their cars to have lobster rolls while they wait to cross. If the line is too long (or if you just want to stock up on snacks for the car) check out Treats for cheeses, sandwiches and soups.

The rest of the village is adoooorable. Antique stores + home decor stores (Birch, Moulinette, Rock Paper Scissors) that are sophisticated and chic.

Get to Portland, finally, and have dinner at cool, casual Terlingua. It’s down south BBQ meets South America. There’s delicious tortilla soup and BBQ specials on the blackboard (we had the brisket, highly recommend).

Stay at The Press Hotel. It was OK – perfect enough. Good location. It would have been better if there were rooms with double beds – instead Mike ended up on an air mattress that deflated in the middle of the night. Eep.

DAY 4:

It’s a busy day of Portland activities (aka eating).

Start with breakfast at Dutch’s – an order-at-the-counter, seat-yourself, cafeteria-styled restaurant that reminds me of my childhood in Puerto Rico (complete with linoleum floors, faded booths and vintage travel posters) but home to an extensive, yummy menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

Check out the Portland Museum of Art, skip Higgins Beach (it’s eh).

If you’re jonesing for some beach head to Crescent State Beach – it’s a state park but we found it to be really quiet with soft soft sand and calm water. Highly recommend picking up provisions from the nearby Cheese Iron (i.e. meats, cheeses, crackers, sweets, etc..) and having a picnic.

Stay for a bit and then continue on to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth to see the Portland Headlight lighthouse at golden hour. If the Bite into ME food truck is still open, it’s worth the scurvy.

Leave just before the sun goes down so you can catch a proper sunset up the road at Kettle Cove State Park. It’s the most beautiful, magical sunset in Maine, hands down. Bring a blanket and curl up to watch the show OR find out how to rent a paddle board nearby (there were people on them and I was very jealous).

Nearby (for before or after or both, no judgment) is Kettle Cove Creamery. It’s everything I ever wanted in an ice cream stand. Flavors like blueberry pie, salty chocolate malt and sea kelp (yes, it’s good) PLUS they had fresh soft serve, too.

Dinner: Central Provisions (James Beard finalist etc. etc.) on Mule Street. Also wanted to try Eventide but alas, too many restaurants not enough time.

DAY 5:

DONUT leave Maine before you do two things:

Grab yourself a sicilian slice snack from Slab and wait on whatever line there is at The Holy Donut bc seriously, holyyyy donuts (ps, they’re made of potatoes so they’re a little thicker and chewier than regular donuts and they have lots of gluten free options).

Drive home, diet for the rest of the summer.


Things I wanted to do but didn’t: wild blueberry picking, Acadia National Park (too far), go visit some of the little islands outside of Camden (we tried to do this last minute and got stuck on a very long ferry line and then found out there wasn’t a return ferry until the following day…not meant to be)

Articles that I found helpful: Eater’s “17 Essential Maine Lobster Rolls”

Things recommended to me that I wasn’t able to do:
Edge comb: Glidden Point Oyster Sea Farm – near boothbay / Maine Botanical Gardens – small shack with their oysters that you purchase and then they have picnic tables and all the tools to shuck. So fun. Can bring your own beverages and just chill/shuck your own.
Portland: Lucky Catch boat tour. Very cool. Got to learn about lobstering then purchase a lobster off the boat for $6-7 depending on size. They’ll either cook it for you at the restaurant next door (Portland Lobster Company) or if you have a place to cook it yourself you take it with you.

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