Saturday, April 30, 2011

About town in the spring

Well I haven't posted in a while.  I'm sure my two followers are just waiting in anticipation! So here ya go (mom and dad).  :)
I can't help but be a little out of focus tonight, as I'm sitting here with my "Bedtime" tea trying to make myself sleepy at 9:30 on a Saturday night.  Because tomorrow I get to embark on a never before had adventure in NYC.  The annual TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour is taking place tomorrow in NYC and I  (along with 30,000 others) will bike 42 miles through carless roads that take us to each of the 5 boroughs of NYC.  The more I keep hearing about it from those who have done it, the more excited I am.  But more on that to come later, right now I just have to focus on catching a 5:30am train so I can start the ride in time!
Last weekend I was in DC with my dear friend Lisa.  It was a great time and it was good to see old familiar faces.  To tell you the truth I was feeling pretty hard up for a taste of good old friends.  But really a second blessing came out of my weekend away.  Overnight, spring has graced CT with its presence.  All my life my favorite part of spring in Fayetteville was the blossoming of the Dogwood trees.  And lucky for me they are in abundance in Norwalk.  All along most of the streets near where I life dawn is brightened and color fills the scene as I've never experience before.
Today I went for a walk and I thought I would bring my camera along in order to give people a better idea of my surroundings.  And what better time to do it than when everything is reborn and blossoming around me.  The above picture is the street directly in front of my apartment building.  My building lies as a random, unmarked doorway among a line of bars and restaurants and quaint little shops.
This morning I took this picture on the way to my favorite nearby coffee shop.  The atmosphere is filled with an array of art, antiques and delicious temptations.  On Thursday and Friday they have live music and sometimes I go there with a book or my computer and grab a cup of tea and a truffle or biscotti or light dinner.

While the weekend night crowd can get a little crazy, I love living around so much activity.  There is a mix of art, music, bars, upscale restaurants and little bakeries.  This place below seems to have a rotating assortment of different crafts and items for sale.  I happened to walk by today and see it was quilts!
But also one of the good things about where I live is you can, to some extent, get away from the hustle and bustle pretty easily and be among parks, birds and water.  The area is a heavy fishing community, there are boats everywhere.  Not 2 miles over the bridge near my house you will find a small beach and a boat yard full of some massive boats, on stilts for the winter.  Fresh seafood (oysters, clams mostly) are brought in just around the corner every day. 

Another great thing about this little bubble of cultural and natural activity is now that Spring is hear not only is the entire town getting out and stretching its legs and shaking the ice off their skin but the restaurants provide ample access to the sun as they set up little tables on the sidewalk, French style.  I look forward to maybe getting a chance to relax outside at one of them and do some good people watching and sun soaking.  Or maybe i'll just enjoy a delicious meal for way more than I should be paying for one meal.
But one downside, which I didn't really capture and those who have visited me can's not all picturesque around here.  You mearly have to walk a few blocks in one direction and you're not in Kansas anymore if you know what I mean.  Kind of strange how close the lines can be between different standards of living.  The area is definitely very old, as much of the Northeast is, and a little crowded and bustling.  With the train station merely half a mile away you get a lot of commuter traffic as well.  You definitely have to watch yourself trying to get around.  I found this picture below down at one of the waterfront parks.  It shows my street in 1909.  You can even see my apartment building.  I guess I'm really glad my landlord renovated!  It definitely doesn't feel that old.  They have evidently renovated the entire area quite a bit (much like they did with Dickson back in the day)
Well with that I shall leave you to hopefully go out and enjoy Spring yourself.  You may blink and it will be over..the blossoms are already starting to fall.  But that's what's great about Spring, because while the blossoms fall, summer is near and warmth will envelope our souls :) 
Now sleep time I go. I've got to cover alot of ground tomorrow!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2 Weeks, 2 Mothers, Every Form of Transportation Known to Man

Every time I sit down to write one of these things I tell myself I am going to write an outline so my thoughts are more organized.  Then I start to and I just give up...Who am I kidding, this isn't a high school term paper.
Well a number of things have happened since I last posted.  1. I got my first visitor! My mother :)  2. I finally got a break from a second mother - mother nature (the bipolar mother) and took Rosalita out for a spin!  Rosalita is my bike and she's had the winter blues (as have I) for quite some time.  The weather is not so much brutal here is that it just sits teetering on the fence post between spring and winter (aka bearable vs. unbearable outdoor activity).

So sadly when my mother visited last weekend it was, as it has been since I got here, just not quite spring yet.  BUT we made the most of it and I think all in all my first visitor was a success.  I showed her around my "neighborhood" where we enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of wine at one of my favorite restaurants - Barcelona.  They are basically an upscale tapas restaurant and they have the most unique small plates that taste AMAZING.  But we really only went there for the wine, because they also have a lot of good Spanish and Argentinian wine.  The people there were very hospitable, encouraging us through the door even before they opened for the evening.  The bartender seemed to know exactly what we wanted and we did manage to sample a couple of the small plates because we were there during happy hour and they give out complementary Tapas.  But the real treat lay ahead.  I won't go into all the details of her trip. But I took her to some amazing seafood on the Sound (and got her to try a fresh Oyster which she loved!), went through some crazy adventures trying to get to NYC and then nearly walked her to death by the end of the day.  But probably the greatest reward that day: dinner with an old friend and nice gentleman in a loud authentic crazy Italian restaurant.  Or were we the loud, crazy ones..I'm not so sure...  All in all she got to see a piece of my life up here and I think she had a good time as well. 

Lessons learned for the future: sometimes winging it is not such a good idea (especially in a place like NYC) and by far food will be what breaks your budget up here.  Although it was definitely worth it! But, I hope to find some less upscale hidden gems - probably one of the best meals was just a little local Greek restaurant where we got one of the most amazing white pizzas with mozzarella & ricotta cheese, sauteed spinach, artichokes and olives.  And even though I was exhausted as I dropped her off in NY, I was sad to see her go.  It was good to have someone to explore with, and shop with too :)

So, while I recovered this last week from travels/visitors and endured another week of cold and rain I took full advantage of today and I finally was able to explore at least one of the biking areas in CT.  It was my first ride back since last November so I joined a group of leisurely riders on the Farmington_Canal_Trail that runs from Cheshire down to New Haven.  One day it will go all the way up to Massachusetts and probably connect further south in CT as well.  It was well worth the hour drive too.  I had never been that far north in that direction and there are a lot of cute little towns, state parks and possible bicycling roads to add to the list.  I figured this was my best bet to start the "season" and get me comfortable on a bike again. Of course as they say, "it's like riding a bike", you never forget and pretty soon I caught the bug and just wanted to ride as fast and as far as I could go.  Probably the happiest I've been in a long time. I love it! Can't you tell?

So I will definitely be exploring some more riding potentially this week.  Especially because I need to be ready for the 5 Boro Bike Tour in NYC on May 1st!  Some of the riders in the group today are also going and the more they tell me about it the more I am excited!  I can't imagine the chaos of 32,000 bikers hitting the streets of NYC, taking over the bridges and taking a ferry to the finish line at the end.  It sounds like one day long celebration of biking and cyclers :)  Can't wait.  Hopefully I can find the few familiar faces I knew will be there, otherwise I will just be a random jersey among the masses.  If anyone has any festive bike costume ideas..let me know ;)
With that I leave you a picture of my happy "butt buddy" :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Home is where the heart is? Or where the head lies?

Well after just a 3 month term in the Northeast I got the unexpected chance to take a  trip back home.  At first I was a little apprehensive - too soon?  Would it really be that spectacular? Would things seem different already?  And well the answer is no, things were just as familiar as if I had left the week before..when I arrived in Fayetteville I merely felt like I was returning from a dream.  It was a refreshing dip back into the comfortable life.  And alas a week later I returned to Norwalk with the strangest feeling...I was coming home but leaving my home at the same time.  I didn't quite know how to feel.  Sure there was relief to find my own bed but I didn't get the same warm, familiar feelings I was used to having when one does return home after a long trip.  I wonder how it will seem a year from now.  But I think I know the answer to that question and I am not disappointed to say that Fayetteville will always be my home.  And I have merely just discovered a new kind of home.  The kind of "home" we come to as we grow older and move away and pursue new experiences.
So while three months isn't very long, I think I had enough time in my new surroundings to notice a few things.  Sure, you really can't compare one of the richest counties in the country to a bustling college town 3000 miles in the southern surroundings are definitely different here.  I found many things refreshing.  Jeans and t-shirts (Nascar and College football all the way), wide open space, less traffic (but drastically inferior drivers), casual dining, beers under 4 dollars, slow talking people, conversations from random encounters, sitting on the back porch drinking Michelob ultra, late night greasy grub, long drawn out story telling, hooping!, hippies, hipsters at that!, goats, cheap Mexican food and fire pits in back yards.  Oh the south is a beautiful place, it really is.  But there is still much to explore up here.  And while the people are different, the roads more crowded, my fashion out of style and the culture a little hard to find it won't take very long to discover all the beautiful things about the northeastern coastal life vs. the Ozark educational hub.  And although the younger crowd isn't the same as the college crowd in Fayetteville, they know how to have a good time from what I've seen!  But if there's one thing I like other than a good time it's good food.  And one of the things you really can compare is the food.  By far the food up here is to die for!  Of course you pay the price as well (although there are some more hidden gems you can find if you get lucky).  I really love the prevalence of European influences that you just don't find in the south.  Italian, Irish, Greek, Indian etc etc's all here.  Granted Fairfield county is probably a little less diverse than say NYC or northern NY or New Haven it definitely has its influences.  The fact that St. Patrick's Day parades occur the entire month of March tells you something of the background of many folks up here. 
I'll get my first chance to show a southern home body around this weekend.  My wonderful Mother is soaring in a jet on up here and I'll give her as best a flavor as I can give of the area.  Seafood, frisk beach walks, big city NYC, authentic Italian dining and more!  We'll definitely have an adventure.  Let's hope she's the first of many..  Because at the end of the day a bit of my heart is still down south and every little bit I can get makes it feel all the more whole :)