Thursday, October 17, 2019

March 4th: Eat All The Things

I didn't get the best sleep that night, but I wasn't about to let that slow me down. There were things to see (and eat)!

We didn't want to pass up the chance to get some breakfast tacos, so we walked over to Counter Cafe for breakfast. Most of the people in there were dressed very fancy and talking about business things; I guess if I had the chance to have a business meeting over tacos, I would, too.

A short Uber ride later, we were at one of my must-see things for the trip:

East Austin Succulents. Holy monkeys, it was so cool. They had thousands of plants.  :)

I wandered through the whole thing...

...then eventually picked out a few things to bring home. I think I showed a LOT of restraint. If we didn't have to fly commercial back home, I probably would have bought a lot more.

We took an Uber back to the room to drop off the plants, then hung out for a little while before grabbing another Uber to check out part of downtown.

We wandered through a bunch of different shops, then wound up at Trace for lunch, which was very tasty.

I was feeling a little under the weather, so after wandering around a bit more, we went back to the room and I grabbed a short nap. That helped, so we hit the road again.

We took an Uber to Alamo Drafthouse to catch a movie and have dinner. This one was especially cool; it had reclining seats! We saw How To Train Your Dragon 3 (which was really good), and I stuffed my face with avocado toast.

Our last stop for the night was Rainey Street. The entire street is lined with small houses that have been converted to bars, and there are food trucks outside, too. It was really neat! We stopped at Lucille for a drink to start...

...then made our way to Icenhauer's for some sangria and fried Brussels sprouts.

I wish I had been able to get a better picture of what the buildings were like; it was really neat.

Our last stop on Rainey Street was Lustre Pearl. They had a guy playing guitar and singing; he was especially good. We hung out for a little bit before making our way back toward the apartment.

Even though it was getting close to midnight on a Monday, we still managed to find a food truck that was open and grabbed some hummus and pita to take back to the room. We inhaled the snacks, then made our way to bed. It had been a very tasty day!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

March 3rd: Austin (Eventually)

Back in March, we had a long weekend free for Mark's birthday. His pick for a birthday trip was Austin, Texas, so on a dreary Sunday, we packed up the car and made our way up to Dulles.

We made it to the gate and found out the flight was overbooked. They were offering a LOT of money for people willing to rebook and go the following day (I think $800 each at one point), but since we were limited on time, we stuck with the original plan. We eventually boarded, pushed back...and taxied around reeeeeally slowly before returning to the gate because the plane was broken.

Everyone deplaned and hung out at the gate, waiting for an update. They gave us free snacks and drinks while we waited, which was pretty cool!

A little while later, they sorted out whatever the problem was and we got to reboard. By then, it had started to snow, so we also had to deice before heading to the runway to depart. That was easily one of the longest takeoffs I've ever had at Dulles; I think we used nearly 8,000 feet of runway before we finally lumbered into the air. That's about as bad as the A380!

It didn't take long to climb above the clouds, and the flight to Texas was nice. I spent the time sightseeing and rereading a book on my Kindle.

We eventually landed, grabbed our bags, and got an Uber to...

...our apartment for the next few days. Not a bad view from the balcony!   :)

We hung out for a little bit and got settled in, then decided to go find some dinner. There was a nearby ramen place that had really good reviews, but the line stretched way out the door, so we poked around a bit more to see what else was in the area.

We wound up at Il Brutto, a tasty Italian place. We managed to get some sweet seats up by the pizza oven, and started out with some super tasty ham and cheese...

...and I got a burrata pizza (because I kind of had to once I knew it was a thing). Everything was really good; I'm glad we wound up here for dinner! (And if you haven't already guessed, there will be a LOT of food and drink pictures from this trip.)

They even brought us limoncello with our check. We wrapped up here, made a quick stop at the apartment to drop off our leftovers, then headed back out to explore a bit more.

Our next stop was Whistler's for a drink. The old fashioneds were tasty, but it was LOUD inside. We finished our drinks outside, then moved on.

The next bar, Grackle, was a bit more low key and had a really cool vibe. We each got a drink, and grabbed a table to hang out for a bit.

Part of our hanging out involved hiding a shiny purple egg for a group doing a scavenger hunt, which was pretty funny. One of the hunt organizers came up to us early on and asked us to keep the egg; they explained that someone would come ask for it, and we could made them do whatever we wanted for them to earn it. Katie wound up coming over to ask for the egg; she did a decent impression of Olympic curling, and we gave her the egg.   :)

We hung out a bit longer, then made our way back to the apartment for some sleep. We had lots of exploring (and eating) to do!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Lunch at Easton (ESN)

Back in February, we lucked out with a good weather day for flying. We figured we should make the most of it, so we decided to fly to Easton, MD, for lunch.

It's not every day that you get nice clear skies like this in the winter!

We had to cross the Chesapeake Bay to get there. I thought the patterns in the shallow water were pretty neat.

It took a few minutes to cross the bay...

...and get to Maryland. The water was so cold that you could see patches of ice here and there.

We started our descent...

...and entered the left downwind for Runway 22.

Ta da! Parked right out front at the FBO.   :)

Their cafe always has really tasty stuff. My cheeseburger with guacamole was really good, and it didn't take long for me to inhale everything on the plate.

After stuffing ourselves, it was time to head home. We basically retraced our route in reverse.

Over the patches of ice...

...over the Chesapeake Bay (I thought the cargo ship was pretty neat)...

...then around the restricted airspace before turning west toward Warrenton.

For part of the flight, you can follow the Rappahannock River. If you stay just on the north side of the river, it keeps you clear of all of the restricted airspace in the area.

Everything seemed normal as I set up to land, until I turned base. For some reason, the airplane wasn't descending as fast as it normally would. I figured maybe it was just me being a little rusty since I hadn't flown much lately. The problem continued onto final, and it wasn't until I was less than a half mile out and still too high and fast that I happened to look out the side window and immediately found the problem - my flaps never came down!

The flaps are meant to help you descend at a steeper angle as you come in to land, and without them, it's a little harder to get the plane to slow down and descend (especially if you're not paying attention and don't realize that they never come down). I added power for a go around, re-flew the pattern, and did a no flaps landing (and a very nice one, at that). I taxied back to the hangar with visions of expensive maintenance bills and a new flap motor floating through my head.

Luckily, my hangar neighbor, Gary, was nearby. He's been a mechanic longer than I've been alive, and he's usually my first stop if I'm not sure of something. (I'm very lucky to have him as a buddy!) I asked him if I could pick his brain and explained what happened.

He hopped up under my panel, had me turn on the master switch (battery), then poked at a handful of wires. A bunch of sparks shot out! Turns out the flap motor was fine; it was just a loose wire. Gary found a new screw, tightened everything back up, and we were good to go. It had been a fun day (and a good learning experience)!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

December 5th: Paris to Home

I slept terribly that night, but oh well. Nothing I could do about that! I threw on some clothes, and we went out to find some breakfast.

There was some really cool street art near our hotel. I especially liked this cat bat.

We went back to Le Roi de Pique for some coffee and a croissant...

...then stopped at a nearby bakery and grabbed a pain au chocolat. Might as well eat as many French pastries as possible while I could!

We wandered through a small park...

...and watched a couple older men playing ping pong.

I was still feeling a bit rough, so we found a pharmacy so I could get some stuff for the trip home (especially since we were connecting through Iceland, and I know they don't sell any kind of medicine at the airport there). A very helpful lady in the pharmacy helped me find some stuff, and I was set. We went back to the room, grabbed our bags and checked out, and made our way to the airport.

We were connecting through Iceland, and should have had about an hour and a half connection time. That was nice, in theory, but for some reason we boarded the flight suuuuper late and didn't leave until almost an hour past our scheduled time. Oh well...not much I could do about that!

Goodbye, France...I had such a good time!   :)

Mark and I were sitting a few rows apart, and I wound up sitting next to a couple that was hoping to connect to Baltimore. We spent almost the entire flight talking about different places we've visited, which helped pass the time.

Eventually we started our descent into Keflavik. I had already mentally prepared myself to spend the night in Iceland, since we would only have about 10 minutes between when we got to the gate and when our other flight was supposed to start boarding, and we would have to clear customs, too. We got off the plane, I found Mark, and we RAN.

Somehow, we made it! We flew through customs (and maybe cheated by hopping in the faster employee line haha), and got to the gate right as they were starting to board. I was honestly a little disappointed (I'd never turn down a night in Iceland), but after nearly two weeks, we were heading home.

I always think it's cool when we get to fly over Greenland; I'll get there one of these days!

We eventually got to Dulles, and by the time we got to the baggage claim area, they were already paging me. Turns out while I made it on the plane, my checked bag did not. Mark's bag somehow did, though. At any rate, my bag made it to the US the next day and made it to our house the day after that (and I always keep all of my important stuff in my carry-on, anyway), and with that, our trip was over. It had been such a fun journey; we got to see so many cool things and spend time with so many fun people. I'm grateful we got to go, and it's definitely up there among the best trips we've taken.   :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

December 4th, Part Two: Even More Paris

After finishing up our cider, we took the metro to our next stop:

Notre Dame. Might as well check out more beautiful old cathedrals while we could! And in hindsight, I'm so glad we were able to get here. We had visited Notre Dame the first time we came to Paris in 2012, and I doubt anybody could have guessed that just a few months after I took these next pictures, the cathedral would be in flames and the roof would be gone. I'm so glad we had the chance to visit again before that happened, and while it was really hard to watch the cathedral burn, I'm glad it mostly survived and I'm looking forward to visiting again someday.

Anyway, back to December...

There was a giant Christmas tree out front. And really, that was one of the coolest parts about our time in Paris on this trip; it seemed like the entire city was decorated for Christmas, and it had such a cool feel.  :)

I took a couple more pictures outside...

...then we made our way inside.

The stained glass here is absolutely gorgeous (and I think almost all of it survived the fire, thank goodness).

One of the big Rose Windows. I think the high ceiling directly in front of this one caved in during the fire.

We wandered all through the cathedral. In the back, they had a series of holiday scenes out on display.

Another Rose Window.

We made our way all around the cathedral...

...before eventually winding up back at the entrance. A couple parts of the ceiling about halfway down caved in during the fire, too; it was so crazy to watch the news coverage, then look back at these pictures and see what it had looked like just a few months earlier.

At any rate, we finished up inside and made our way back outside.

The detail is incredible; everywhere you look, there is something ornate to see.

We walked around the south side of the cathedral. There were some pretty flowers in the garden...

...and a really cool view of one of the Rose Windows from the outside. The tall spire in the background is the one that collapsed in the fire and fell through the roof into the cathedral.

We continued past the cathedral, then cross a bridge heading south. There was a great view from the bridge; it's still crazy to me that the entire roof and the spire are gone now.

We were getting hungry by then, so we stopped at a cool cafe for some quiche and coffee and a fancy pastry. The view of the cathedral in the background was a neat touch.   :)

After stuffing our faces, we wandered around through the surrounding neighborhood a little bit and found this cool garden.

The buildings over here are so cool.   :)

We eventually made our way to the Jardin du Luxembourg; that was really pretty, too.

After wandering around for a bit and enjoying the clouds and the view, we hopped in an Uber to our next stop...

...the Eiffel Tower!

I took a ton of pictures as we walked closer...

...and closer.

We had a bit of time to kill before it got dark, so we decided to stop at a small cafe nearby for a snack.

I can't say I expected the meat and cheese plate to be quite so massive, but it was all tasty (as was the wine).

It was pretty dark by the time we finished stuffing our faces (again), and we got back to the Eiffel Tower just in time for one of my favorite things about it...

...the sparkly lights!! The first time we came here, I had no idea it did this. We just happened to be walking directly underneath it when it started sparkling, and the entire crowd seemed to gasp at the same time. It's still one of my favorite Paris memories.   :)

We stayed until it stopped sparkling, then eventually got an Uber and started making our way back toward the Louvre so we could check that out, too. We got distracted along the way, though.

Distracted by a Christmas market!! Holy monkeys, I had heard about European Christmas markets but had no idea they were so cool. There were vendors with all sorts of amazing-smelling food, all sorts of odds and ends for sale, music, carnival rides...anything you could think of, they seemed to have it. It was fantastic.

Among the many things they had was a small pool where you could go in an inflatable bubble and float around. It was pretty funny to watch people knocking each other over.

There were some pretty funny displays, too, like this Christmas...zoo? It was full of giant stuffed animals surrounded by wrapped presents.

We wandered aaaaaallll through the market, then eventually started making our way east...

...toward the Louvre.

It's so pretty at night.   :)

We wandered around for a little bit, enjoying the view, then made our way to the Sherry Butt, a bar that Mark wanted to check out. I somehow didn't get any good pictures here, but I did get some good pictures at our next stop...

...Golden Promise.

We managed to get a seat at the bar and both ordered Old Fashioneds. We happened to start talking to the couple sitting next to us, and it turns out they're from Washington DC! Steve and Carrie are both big whisky fans, so we hit it off right away.

This might be the fanciest Old Fashioned I've ever had. It's made with Blanton's, the bartender hand carved, then branded, the ice cube, and it had chocolate candy on the side. It took the bartender almost 15 minutes to make. It was fantastic.

We sipped our Old Fashioneds and talked whisky and other things (like the Paris protests - some of the action had happened right outside Steve and Carrie's hotel room the previous weekend!) for a bit, then Carrie asked if we knew about the speakeasy. We had no clue about any speakeasy, so we followed them through an unmarked black door in a small hallway, and found...


Holy crap.

There were two rooms, and they were both lined wall to wall with shelves of rare whisky.

So of course we ordered some.   :)

The bartender, Kimball. (I think that's how you spell his name!) He was fantastic; he had a good sense of humor and really knew his whisky.

I think Mark may have been in heaven; there were so many cool things everywhere you looked.

We spent a while in the speakeasy with Steve and Carrie, and definitely did some damage. This was the aftermath - it had been such a good time! We eventually said goodnight to them after exchanging contact info, then walked back to our hotel, packed a little, and went to bed. I think we definitely made the most of our one day in Paris!   :)