Don't waste a long layover! Here's how to spend 12 hours in NYC!

How to spend a layover in NYC

This post is part of our month-long European trip from last August. Check here for our whole trip! 

In planning our adventure, we found ourselves with a 14 hour layover at JFK. Rather than spend our first day of vacation bumming around an airport, we grabbed our bags and headed into New York City for a day of exploring!

Don't waste a long layover! Here's how to spend 12 hours in NYC!

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Spend a few days in the idyllic town of Chinon in the Loire Valley- its the perfect way to relax!!

Relaxing in the Loire Valley

This post is part of our month-long European trip from last August. Check here for our whole trip! 

Our stay in Chinon felt like a retreat into another era. Time slowed down, life got quieter. The biggest question we answered each day was, “where should we eat dinner?” The necessary logistics that go into a multi-stop trip faded as we relaxed.

Tucked away in the heart of the Loire Valley, Chinon is a tiny town in a region of small towns. Fields, vineyards, and dairy farms cover the landscape dotted with idyllic villages. When I asked a friend about the Loire Valley, she summed it up with “Wine and castles. That’s why you should go.” Yes, please.

The big event of Chinon was less an activity and more the place itself. We splurged and stayed in a castle! A château, to be exact. Chateau de Marcay is an old rambling property, complete with horses and a tree-lined entryway. From the lobby full of velvet couches to the attentive staff quick to address you by name, the hotel exudes a feeling of aged European grandeur.

Spend a few days in the idyllic town of Chinon in the Loire Valley- its the perfect way to relax!!

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Local Atlanta: walking the Beltline

Visiting Laura has always been fun – we’ve had our share of adventures when she lived in D.C., and now that she’s relocated to Atlanta, there’s a whole new city to explore!

She and her husband Armando hosted me for a weekend this spring, and their number one recommendation for a Saturday morning was exploring the Atlanta Beltline. I had no idea what this was. Eager to check it out, we set off for a morning outside at one of Atlanta’s less touristy attractions!

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If you go to Scotland, don't skip the Highlands! There's so much to see and experience! We took a day trip with The Hairy Coo touring company and it was the best way to see a lot in a day!

One day in the Scottish Highlands

This post is part of our month-long European trip from last August. Check here for our whole trip! 

The whole reason we went to Scotland was for Logan to get a taste of the Highlands. My husband loves the mountains. He’s from the Appalachian Mountains of NC, and something in his soul needs the peaks and vistas. So as we dreamed about our trip, I knew the highlands needed to be part.

Because of time constraints, we ended up only getting one day to explore them. So to maximize our day we signed up for an organized day trip! My travel style is about 70/30 of individually planned trips to pre-booked group tours. Tour groups can get you the best of the area in the most efficient way possible, without having to worry about transportation! My priority in choosing a tour group is the reviews of the guide themselves: they will make or break your trip, every time. One of my favorite memories of my time in Australia was a quick 3 day trip from Sydney to Melbourne, because our guide was so fantastic! At one point he pulled over on the side of the road  & flew out of the van because he’s spotted an echidna and wanted to show us something you don’t get to see every day!

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If you go to Scotland, don't skip the Highlands! There's so much to see and experience! We took a day trip with The Hairy Coo touring company and it was the best way to see a lot in a day!

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Hiking in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma gets even better in the snow!

A Snowy Hike in the Wichita Falls Wildlife Refuge

My brother came for a long weekend recently! As our first guest we got to do all sorts of firsts with him: take him to the local museum, play in our first snowstorm, try Braums. He even helped Logan build a kitchen table, which I’m thrilled about and will share more of that later.

Our part of Oklahoma is a little funny, because it’s very very flat. For miles and miles. There are a few large rock formations (locals call them mountains, but even compared to the Appalachians they’re more like hills), but they’re few and far between.

There’s options, though an hour away sit the Wichita Mountains, which provide more proper mountain hiking. So when Ben requested a hike, we piled in the car to Cache, home of the Wichita Falls Wildlife Refuge.

Hiking in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma gets even better in the snow!

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A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

The best of Chamonix

In the midst of a history-laden trip, we tried to balance out the intellectual stimulation and big cities with small towns and active, nature-oriented fun! Enter: Chamonix.

Chamonix is largely a sleepy little ski town, giving it a bit of an alpine resort feel. For some reason, I adore ski towns in the off season. They’re always cute! I love seeing them snow- and tourist-free. Anybody with me on this?

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

We went to Chamonix with an agenda: paragliding. It was one of the most ridiculously amazing things I’ve ever done! We flew. Flew. Along the Alps. It’s a truly unbelievable experience, and I highly recommend it even if adrenaline sports aren’t your deal. To hear me gush more specifically, click here.

Culturally, Chamonix offered a different taste of France: being so close to Switzerland meant there was as much Swiss influence on the town as French. It’s nestled into a valley between two mountains. On one side are the craggy, snow-capped rocks so characteristic of the Alps, frozen even in the hottest point of the year. On the other side stands the more rolling, graceful variety, with snow in winter but now crisscrossed with pine trees and hiking trails. The sun set quickly behind the mountains, casting everything in a gorgeous purple golden light before disappearing.

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

We actually stayed in the next town over, Les Houches. I had trouble finding accommodation in Chamonix proper, but Les Houches turned out to be a hidden gem! Where Chamonix strikes the ski tourism chord, Les Houches felt much more local. One main road went through everything, with small shops, a few restaurants, and a tiny chapel along it. The occasional side roads were dotted with homes and the odd inn, complete with a walking path parallel (but not quite alongside) the street.

The homes were quaint little chalets, brimming with rustic charm and wildflowers. Both evenings after dinner we meandered along paths crisscrossing the valley, soaking up the glorious sunset glow. Streams bubbled and flowers grew along log fences. It felt like the perfect place to catch your breath and let yourself decompress.

 

Since we spent so little time in Switzerland itself, I wanted to make sure to eat some authentic Swiss food. I was ready to hunt down some fondue, but Logan convinced me to try something a little less familiar: raclette.

If you’re like me and had never heard of this, get ready to have your world rocked. Raclette is a massive wedge of cheese on a spike that you melt on your own personal grill. As it begins to drip off, you scrape it onto your plate and eat over bread, potatoes, and thin-slice meat. Along with a salad (throwing in veggies somewhere!), it’s possibly the best form of  cheese I’ve ever eaten. And the potatoes! The potatoes were the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. As far as carbs go, potatoes are probably my least favorite. They’re great, I agree, but not usually better than pasta or pastry. Stiff competition. But these small yellow baked potatoes were the single best potatoes I’ve ever put in my mouth. And add melty cheese? Ohhhh yes.

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

I cannot overstate this: it was heavenly. We gorged ourselves until we didn’t know if we could walk home!

If you’re in Chamonix, go to La Ferme Des Agapes. They’ve got a full menu as well as fondue, but you should DEFINITELY not skip the raclette.

I mentioned accommodation was scarce in Chamonix. That’s unusual. We’d unintentionally planned our trip for the same time as the area’s biggest tourism week of the year! The UTMB, or Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, is one of the biggest ultramarathons in the world. At 166 km, it climbs height after height as it winds through the Alps, crossing three national borders in the process! It’s a pretty impressive race. AND it happened to be finishing up in Chamonix while we were there. 

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

If you’re headed to the Alps, you should definitely spend some time in Chamonix. There’s so much to do there even in the offseason!

Where are your favorite places to visit off-season?

The links above contain affiliate links, which means I get a few cents (at no extra cost to you) if you book or buy something via that link. This helps me keep costs down and posts up! All images copyright Teaspoon of Nose.

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

Jumping off the Alps in Chamonix

My whole life I’ve wanted to fly.

As a kid, that was the superpower I wanted. I still regularly have dreams where I’m flying.

I love the adrenaline-pumping parts of it, like you feel with bungee jumping. But I also crave the floating sensation, of being lighter than air with sweeping views below you.

Which is why we went to Chamonix. In Chamonix, you can fly.

Paragliding in the Alps is the BEST thing to do in Chamonix!

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Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

My favorite fall tradition: The State Fair

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

Growing up in the Triangle, the biggest harbinger of fall wasn’t sweaters or Halloween costumes or even the leaves changing. It was the NC State Fair!

I grew up in a household that believed the fair was a MUST every October, and each year I often ended up going more than once with various friend groups. The fair at night is magical and  has a special allure to teenagers eager to spread their wings a bit. Then in college, one of my favorite things every fall was to take friends who’d never been, especially if they’re from up north (or anywhere that things aren’t constantly fried) to watch them experience deep fried twinkies or oreos or bacon – whatever was the new fried thing that year. Yes, the state fair has a new fried thing each year. This year, I think it was jello.

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

This year, Logan and I went during the day for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, mostly because I wanted to see the animals. Yes, I am actually an 8 year old girl still and can’t get over the baby animals. That’s me.

First, food. Surprisingly, my favorite fair food is actually corn on the cob. It’s grilled, drenched in butter, and there’s lots of seasoned salt options. It makes me happy. And I’m that local kid who has a specific corn booth that’s my favorite – the big one near the Village of Yesteryear (yes, that’s a thing. We’ll get to that.) right next to the rabbit exhibit. Best corn at the fair, hands down.

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!Don’t misunderstand me – just corn is not a true fair experience. Over the course of the afternoon, we cobbled together “lunch” at about 5 different booths. Need protein? There’s burgers, BBQ, ham biscuits, turkey legs and lots of other options. Try a weird fried thing, it may surprise you. Our favorite is the bacon-wrapped Reese’s cups, but we ALWAYS have to get a funnel cake. It’s a classic and not to be overlooked. Like all the best things in life, its better when shared.

There’s also fantastic ice cream. N.C. State University always has a booth with a 30 minute line, but it’s that good. Every third booth has soft serve if that’s your thing, and we discovered a new homemade ice cream place with strawberry, so that attracted our spoons this trip.

Backing up a bit, I’m sure you’re wondering about the Village of Yesteryear. It’s such a quintessential thing at the fair, but I get how it’s strange to first time visitors. There’s this corner of the fair, away from the rides and the midway, that’s got semi-permanent buildings. One is an old mill, another details the history of the fair. They used to have a working blacksmith, but I couldn’t find it this time. There’s musical and clogging performances throughout the day – I had a friend who clogged competitively and we always went to see her at the fair. The costumes are AWESOME. It’s also where you can find the petting zoo, handicrafts for sale, and things like that. Definitely worth browsing.

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

The main reason I wanted to go during daylight this year was the animals. There are competitive animal shows, which for some reason I find fascinating (have you ever watched a “best in show” style goat competition? It’s ridiculously cute!) and next door is the Ark, which has the prettiest cows and tiniest piglets you’ve ever seen! Seriously though, these are the best-groomed farm animals I’ve seen in my life.

Side note: it made me laugh to realize that my husband took the bar three months ago in the exact spot that we saw the goat competition. A whole new level of mixed-use facilities, right?

Speaking of animals, my absolute favorite thing at the fair is the pig races. Yes, you read that right. A farmer and his wife set up a mini track where they race pigs, geese and goats for a cheese doodle prize! It’s not to be missed. They do this every two hours or so, so make sure you check it out!

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

There’s so much to do at the fair! I haven’t even touched the rides; there’s something for everyone, from the ferris wheel and kiddie rides to gravity defying contraptions my mom doesn’t want to know I ride. There’s concerts every night in Dorton Arena, usually with a few up-and-coming artists you’ll hear more from in a year or two. There’s also random performances scattered throughout the fairgrounds – one year, I came across a hypnotist show and it was the funniest thing I think I’ve ever seen at the fair.

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

We ran into my college roommate, Taylor and her husband!

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

This year, we discovered a wolf exhibit too! Their “show” is educational, focusing on conservation and their natural behavior in the wild.

A note about parking: there is free parking! You just have to know where to go. Carter-Finley Stadium offers free parking and the walk to the fair isn’t too bad. They had a park-and-ride situation, but we decided we were going to eat enough to merit the extra 100 yards to our car.

My favorite fall tradition is only around 10 days every year, but that makes it all the more special. The state fair wraps up today, but mark your calendars for next October!

Having a ball at the 2016 N.C. State Fair!

What’s your favorite fall tradition? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

The links above contain affiliate links, which means I get a few cents (at no extra cost to you) if you book or buy something via that link. This helps me keep costs down and posts up! All images copyright Teaspoon of Nose.

In motion.

The Al Buehler Trail on Duke's campus is the perfect running trail or a calming walk with a friend. It’s amazing how many of my most favorite things in Durham have taken their sweet time to show up as Triangle Bucket List posts. I think it’s because I treat them as  normal, so I rarely take photos or think about how I’d share it with a digital audience.

So today, instead of telling you why I love the Al Buehler trail, I want to act as though we’re real-life friends in my real-life hometown. If you were here, I’d want to take you on a walk.

Walks have become one of my favorite ways to catch up with friends. There’s something about the action that frees me up to talk – and process – differently than when I’m sitting down on my couch or in a coffeeshop. The movement allows me to ask better questions, to listen to what’s going on in your life that I love about taking walks with friends.

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Maybe we take your dog with us, and he barks every time someone walks by. Or maybe we’re feeling ambitious and want to get a run in. When my Air Force husband prepped for field training, we hit that trail almost every day to run a lap or two. Even this summer, he walked for an hour a couple times each week to get some movement in while still studying his bar-prep flash cards.

There’s a lot to see: a pond, the campus golf course, several sub-trails with connections to other parts of Duke or Durham. It’s where I first saw a two-toned deer, countless turtles just underwater, and my most recent copperhead sighting. It’s not surprising to see people with massive packs training for some backpacking expedition they’re dreaming of. There’s even a unicyclist, presumably training for whatever unicyclists train for.

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The trail runs about 5 km, which translates to an hour of unrushed strolling or a 35 minute run (or less, I’m not fast). It’s great for a midmorning stroll on a day off or an after-work run on the sun-dappled trails. Even in the summer, there’s enough shade on the path to make you melt in the heat.

The Al Buehler Trail on Duke's campus is

I’ll be the first to admit that the photos featured here aren’t the most glamorous. If National Geographic wanted to pick up some of my work, it wouldn’t be from this post. But this trail is so much about movement that to stop and photograph it seems entirely out of place. it’s on this trail that I considered leaving my first job out of college, that I quizzed Logan on law and military, that I listened to friends struggling or celebrating pieces of marriage and jobs and life and community. Somehow, this trail seems best appreciated in motion. 

The Al Buehler Trail on Duke's campus is the perfect running trail or a calming walk with a friend.So there’s not very many photos, because I want you to go experience it for yourself. Go walk it. Go move.

As I reflect on the Al Buehler trail, I confess I feel a bit extra sentimental right now. In a month I’ll move away from this place – to who knows where, but that means I leave this trail where I’ve done so much sweating and thinking and talking and praying and moving. And I know that given time, I’ll find trails that will offer their local flavor of movement and processing and humanity for me: a new place to invite friends and connect with new people and run with Logan. So as I think about this new motion we’re undertaking, I’m grateful for the movement I’ve had here.

Here’s to being in motion, and to the all the trails we find ourselves on.

The Al Buehler Trail on Duke's campus is the perfect running trail or a calming walk with a friend.

all images copyright Teaspoon of Nose

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Southern Village Disc Golf

Now that bar prep is in full swing, Logan has pretty much hunkered down with his books nonstop. But back during the school year, his favorite way to get away from it all was disc golf. So one day after finals, we ran away for a few hours to the course at Southern Village!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

They’ve got an 18 hole course which starts just across the field next to the parking area and winds through the woods. It makes for a peaceful walk if you’re not into disc golf, but also a fun running trail if you’re aiming to make the course into a cardio workout.

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The course snakes through the woods, which makes it seem like you cover a ton of ground over the eighteen holes.

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Let’s just say disc golf isn’t my forte, but it’s fun to hang out with Logan!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

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The woods looked like a fairyland!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

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Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Lost a disc a couple times in the woods, but with enough searching we found it! This actually happens to me all the time – when we’d just starting dating, I lost his nicest disc. Ever since then, I request only the really old ones.

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Taking a disc golf study break in the summertime!

Back to studying!

all images copyright Teaspoon of Nose