tour de…


So I’m sure you’ve all heard me talk about my passion for cycling. No? No you haven’t. Though I do tune in for much of the Tour de France, most of my athletics are of the watching variety and I haven’t been on a bike for greater than a decade. But my latest vacation planning coincided with members of my family not being able to take a bike/barge trip with some friends of theirs and they generously offered me their spot.

The trip was organized by a 75th birthday celebrant and he and his wife were on a greater cycling endeavor benefiting Tradart Foundation. They chartered the trip for our group of about 25 through Cycletours and the route was seven days of cycling from Bruges to Amsterdam with daily cycles averaging out to around 43k a day. The barge would house us for the duration of the trip meeting us at each finish point and offering a place to decamp for the week, as well as enjoy breakfast and dinner, plus fixin’s for packing a lunch to eat on the road.

Bruges to Amsterdam here I come! Wait, bike trip? Now while one could, and some did, take the trip via barge sans bike, it was clearly set up as a bike trip and I wanted to see if I could embrace experiencing the sites on two wheels. After much training (a couple weeks at the gym and one outdoor bike ride of about 22 minutes) I was planning to do the first short day and then perhaps not cycle again.

Fortunately for me the trip was not only mostly flat but much of it was on dedicated bike paths (or other less trafficked options) with multiple breaks for regrouping, resting, snacking, and scenery. And most importantly the ebike was my savior. Ebike you say? Much as I wanted it to be a scooter you had to pedal the whole time (no pedal no movement) but each pedal was made a touch easier and more productive than without. Cheating some called it, but those of us who took the option were thrilled that it allowed us to enjoy what otherwise we wouldn’t have experienced.

I accomplished many things on my bike. Biking on cobblestones. Biking in the rain. Biking on cobblestones in the rain. From pavement to bricks to dirt to gravel to grass, cities, traffic, train tracks, roundabouts, bike roundabouts, 180 degree turns, drafting (not a good idea if you’re not tour level), stair ramps (not great with the extra heavy ebike)… to name a few. I am not yet ready to ride with no hands and to do things like texting on my bike, ah kids today, but I was overall feeling more comfortable with my bike skills.

By the end of the trip my thighs were sore, my left knee was achy, and my tooshie was done. Was the seat comfortable? Probably, and no, not at all. I was told that the third day would be the worst but the fourth it would get better and not sure better was good enough. Padded shorts are a necessity but can’t solve the issue that a person is not meant to sit on a bike seat for hours and days on end.

And while I don’t know that I’ll do another one there’re a few logistics to consider, I’ve talked to a friend who does other cycling tours and they’re all obviously set up very differently. We all rode together in a group which could get challenging for pace, communication, and sheer number of riders. But sticking with our guide and having a daily sweeper assigned ensured none of us got lost along the way (which totally would have happened even with maps). Plus a group of cyclists with our bright yellow panniers was sort of a warning sign to others which in a couple of traffic situations came in handy.

There were a couple of points where some folks were encouraged to go and ride ahead (I chose to stretch my legs with the quick team) and one day where past a point there were two route options to get back (I chose the short route where you could take a ferry to tour a castle). No SAG wagon meant we brought our gear in our panniers and once committed were committed to the whole ride (thankfully no serious injuries). And being in a chartered group of friends and family meant it wasn’t all folks who would normally sign up for a cycling tour so we had a wide range of cyclist skills and interests. For me, our logistics and the terrain made it a perfect first tour.

All in all, I was glad I traded a little discomfort for what was a wonderful new experience. You see the variety of cities and landscapes in a way you never would if you flew or trained straight from Bruges to Amsterdam, and it was beautiful. It was also a lovely group of people who all encouraged and entertained one another. And as each day was completed it was a joy to be greeted by our barge and fellow travelers moving from happy hour to dinner to share our tales, enjoy what turned out to be delicious food, and hear about the next day’s adventure. Our tour guide even invited us on his unofficial but informative post meal evening constitutional through town each evening.

For more adventures tune back in for my post on Bruges, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen which I’ll get around to as soon as I finish unpacking. Update: Finally unpacked, I guess, so check out the post here.

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sf to do list?


A friend has a friend in town and as we started to talk about all the things that we think a visitor should do, we also started admitting some of the things we hadn’t done ourselves. San Francisco is a great city, but it can also be an expensive city to live in, and in order to justify that I think one should take advantage.

We agreed that we would each come up with a list of ten things that we had done that we think should be done in the city. My list is neither comprehensive nor necessarily the list I would make any visitor do, that should be customized based on their interests, but ten things I would do (or to be honest ten categories of things I would do).

So whether you’re entertaining, you’re planning a staycation, or just trying to get out (in no particular order):

  • Eat out: This could be my list one through ten but good food in unique neighborhoods is one of the best ways to experience the city, depending on where you’re from you’re most likely not experiencing good Mexican, good sushi or crazy fresh produce. Check out the SFGate Top 100 for reference.
  • Drinks outside: Ok this is a touchy SF recommendation because you can’t do it on most days, and it’s probably more enjoyable to locals than to anyone else because of the constant chill and few great opportunities, that said there are some great places to experience; if you’re on a particularly cold day you should still go to one of the bars where you might find a quality mixologist (same can be said for our fancy coffee, I tend to lean Blue Bottle if I have the choice). Maybe try Yelp for some options.
  • Golden Gate Park: The options are endless, but honestly for me nothing is better than seeing bison mid park, except perhaps the view of tulips and a windmill as you come to the beach.
  • Window shopping on Hayes Street: A few other streets would do, Fillmore, Mission, etc., but visiting a neighborhood with non-chain boutiques will have a little something for everyone, it’s worth shopping but when the prices are prohibitive a good window shop will do, and then perhaps some food or a drink (and if it’s nice outside!).
  • Museums: I’m a member at SFMOMA and normally recommend that for a pop by even if there’s no major exhibit in play, Blue Bottle coffee on the rooftop sculpture garden is a lovely way to take a break, the food at the cafe is tasty, and the museum gift shop is always stocked with a good selection of jewelry and paper goods as well as books aplenty; that said SFMOMA is shutty for now (though you can catch a modified gift shop nearby and misc art around town) so take a look at what’s showing at de Young which just so happens to be in Golden Gate Park.
  • Take a ferry: It is the Bay Area and what no better way to experience the bay than taking one of the ferries to Sausalito or Tiburon or wherever, get a bite, get a drink, enjoy the view.
  • Ferry Plaza and weekend Farmers Market: The Ferry Plaza was redone some time ago and is a bounty of boutique foods, and the Farmers Market takes it to a whole new level so come hungry and with cash, and perhaps coordinate with a Ferry trip.
  • Crissy Field stroll to the foot of Golden Gate Bridge: I don’t do this a ton but I can’t argue that this stroll isn’t worth it for the view, bonus points if you’re walking a pooch who appreciates the sand and water.
  • Walking tour: Mission Murals, downtown open spaces, you can find a tour on anything you want or didn’t know you wanted do a quick search and it’s worth a good afternoon.
  • Events: San Francisco Lit Quake/Crawl, City Arts and Lectures, Open Studios, and Porchlight are only a few of the opportunities awaiting you, it’s a city of interesting people and culture and there is always something going on somewhere.

I’m sure I could come up with any number of options but these won’t do you wrong. What are would you do?

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50 out of 100!


Well the year is complete. The new list is out, I’ve upped my numbers to 50 and just for the sake of continuity I’ve included next year’s list. Check out my Top 100 page to see what’s what.

But now that I’ve done it, what everyone wants to know if I’ve learned the best? And as much as I’d like to answer that with the straightforward name of a restaurant mostly I didn’t find any one restaurant blew my mind. But I did experience what I had hoped: I tried new restaurants all of which were good, I enjoyed restaurants I wouldn’t normally go to, and I experienced a great range of kinds of food, styles and old and new choices. Plus I learned a lot of other things:

  • Setting a very specific goal and talking to friends about it really increases the chances I’ll do something
  • Not working makes it easier to have time to plan to and then to actually eat out
  • Eating out doesn’t need to cost a fortune but it can
  • It’s better to enjoy the journey than evaluate ‘does this place deserve to be on the list’
  • I don’t like all kinds of foods and ingredients and I like some more than others
  • I could, but I might not always want to go to a super fancy fixed price single seating kind of meal
  • The more people you go with the more representative options you get to experience
  • It’s both easier and harder than you think to go to good and new to you restaurants
  • It’s both easier and harder for your friends to join you than you think

Ok great, that’s mostly not revolutionary, what do I really have to say about the restaurants on the list. Hog & Rocks and Plaj are great examples of restaurants that I might not have gone to based on description alone but were delicious and made even better by the service. Restaurants like Ler Ros represented something that was good, but perhaps we didn’t order anything amazing because we just didn’t see what people were talking about. Locations I branched out to and am glad for it, Piccino in Dog Patch was a pleasant surprise with everything interesting and great and Sushi Ran in Sausalito for some reason just has fresher better sushi without varying much for the standards. As to the difficult reservation and wait time, Rich Table took a glass of wine around the corner to accommodate a walk in but Ramen Shop’s two hour wait couldn’t be overcome, though I’m committed to giving them one more try. And honestly price point is something that came up at a few places, I don’t have a problem spending a bit of dough on a dinner, but food that might have been fantastic at a lower cost got held to a slightly higher standard at places like The Abbot’s Cellar and Central Kitchen.

While I’m not officially continuing in this goal I really enjoyed the process and I will continue to try new restaurants. I also hope to revisit some of the classics I haven’t been to in forever like Delfina, Boulevard, and Slanted Door. And maybe use this list and many others as inspiration for my trips out. And of course there’s bars…

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cooking with…


I’m not known amongst my friends and family as a big cooker, but we do try to do family dinners more Sundays than not, so my sister and I tend to swap on cooking duties. Since we’re often not cooking in our own homes we’ve gotten in the habit of bringing recipes back and forth which can create a challenge with shopping and just keeping track of printouts.

I decided that getting recipes online was the best next step. At the start of my evaluation I wasn’t sure what my criteria was but as I looked at the myriad of options I started tracking it all down.

  1. Ease of recipe input – Trumping all, I want to be able to cut and paste ingredients and directions in one big lump rather than individual fields for quantity/item for each, an extra perk is if the program can automatically import based on common recipe sites/formats; I would like to be able to edit the info input as well as add misc. notes; I don’t want there to be mandatory fields that I don’t want to use. 
  2. Categorization or tagging – I want to be able to search based not only by ingredient or kind of meal (main, side, etc.) but I also want to be able to search based on whether the recipe is one that is mine (vs. say sis’s) and whether I’ve cooked it or not.
  3. Web based – I wanted something that I wouldn’t have to own specific software or an app to view on a particular computer or be a mac specific thang.
  4. Public – Ideally I was interested in something that I could share my recipes with others.

The other nice to have would be a specific printing format, while things I don’t care so much about are an existing database of recipes and the ability to meal plan and do shopping.

After registering for a myriad of free sites and trying them out, it turns out I’m almost final on going with One tsp. They were the easiest to input and with a menu bar addition it “clip”s recipes. You can have up to 150 recipes and for $5/yr unlimited. The things it lacks are the public aspect, which isn’t that big of a deal (you can email your recipes to others), and the nice printing format (though of course the web page view is printable).

I’ve got a start with eleven recipes that I’ve used, input with a combination of clipped, cut & pasted from digital format, and typed from a hard copy. So far so good. Have you gone digital? Any thoughts or reccos?

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