Category Archives: Recommendations

Getting bent at Fort Orange Brewing

September, with its temperatures that can swing 40 degrees in 48 hours, is flying by. If I look at my calendar too far ahead, I get palpitations, so I’m trying to be in the moment as much as possible. I don’t want to miss anything in my haste to get through a month that is chock full of events and activities. Yoga helps.

When it comes to my practice, I’m happy to take a variety of classes. Fortunately, The Hot Yoga Spot is always upping their game and offering classes in cool new locations – like June Farms or, as I experienced Sunday, the Warehouse District’s Fort Orange Brewing.

Class (approximately 60 minutes) was a total bargain at $12, including a beer. I arrived about 10 minutes early and grabbed a spot in the rear, away from the open garage door that faced the street. Our instructor was terrific – her voice projected well and despite a lack of mirrors, her vocal cues kept us all engaged and focused.

Although I’ve probably been guided through chaturanga to upward dog dozens and dozens of times, something clicked for me during yesterday’s practice. I finally, while in plank, shifted my body forward before bending my arms and the flow was completely different. It felt awesome. Today, my arms and shoulders feel tender, a sensation that I welcome as evidence of my need to use those particular muscles more frequently.  The cool evening also provides me with the ideal excuse to take an indulgent bath. Win-win.

I’ll be stretching those traps and triceps again this Saturday at the 2nd annual Yogapalooza. See you there?

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Filed under Albany, beer, Brunch, drinking, Events, Exercise, favorites, Local, Recommendations, sunday, yoga

Getting your goat – goat yoga at June Farms

When I first starting hearing about goat yoga, I was puzzled. Outdoors yoga is kind of a hit or miss for me and I didn’t really understand the appeal of having a small barnyard animal messing around with my downward dog. What was the point of that? I take my yoga somewhat seriously, preferring a 75 minute class in a super hot room. I mean, I go to yoga to stretch and sweat, not to be climbed on by farm animals, with the potential for poop as an added bonus.

 

But, when your dear friend escapes unscathed from an earthquake and wants to go to goat yoga – you go. Especially when your favorite studio, The Hot Yoga Spot, is sponsoring the class and it is taking place in a spot as beautiful as June Farms. So, off we went on a recent Tuesday.

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We arrived early, as suggested, and had plenty of time to use the lovely bathrooms and stroll down to the goat pasture. We set up our mats and were eventually part of a group of approximately 70 attendees, outnumbering the goats by a solid 60 people. The field we were in was reasonably flat and surprisingly devoid of bugs, one of my biggest distractions usually when doing yoga outdoors.

Our instructor was terrific, balancing traditional yoga with a lighthearted approach when it came to the goats’ participation. The goats were not incredibly interactive, preferring to fill their faces with leaves within their reach, but a few times they did prompt laughter with their antics. They have a real curiosity and were interested in the folks who were closest to their feeding spot, exploring their mats, shoes and other possessions. There was some pooping, but I don’t believe the goats directly sullied anyone, and while their amorous activities elicited some giggles, we basically did yoga and they did goat. It was great. 57971B61-25E5-4533-8102-ABF234990F37

When the class ended there was a crowd trying to create an Instagram worthy pose and the goats didn’t disappoint. With the slightest encouragement, along with the tantalizing offer of fresh leaves, the goats were happy to “top” one’s table by climbing up on one’s back. I personally didn’t feel the need to take it that far, but it was fun watching the antics.

Goat yoga at June Farms will be continue through the month of September on Tuesday evenings and I recommend Kay’s as the perfect place for pizza and a beer after class.  Beyond that, there’s The Hot Yoga Spot and their multiple locations to get your asana on and plenty of local places to get a good beer.

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Filed under beauty, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, Summer, Uncategorized, yoga

BlacKKKlansman

Eight or ten years ago my former husband and I celebrated an anniversary on Martha’s Vineyard. I think it was Labor Day weekend and, to kill time before our ferry departure, we squeezed into the Black Dog Cafe in Vineyard Haven for a final indulgent breakfast. After we were seated, I noticed the father and son seated next to us and realized pretty quickly (confirmed by the Yankees cap) that it was indeed, Spike Lee and presumably his pre-teen son.

The conversation at their table had been lively and Spike looked a little exasperated, but even more amused. He and I made as much eye contact as was possible in our tinted glasses, and smiled at one another before exchanging a few words:

“Why do we teach them to speak?
They never stop talking!”

…and then we laughed.

It was pleasant and illustrated to me how he and I are much more alike than we are different. We’re both parents and we spend time teaching our children how (not what) to think and behave and communicate. It was a perfect encounter with a cultural icon.

If we’re incredibly lucky, we raise children who can communicate like Spike Lee. His ability to depict with film a reality with which many people are unfamiliar, is remarkable. In his most recent release, BlackkKlansman, he strings together images from Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, and 2017’s tragic white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA, with the true story of Colorado Spring’s first black police officer, Ron Stallworth, to make his case that overt racism is the American way. We’ve been perfecting it for generations.

I went to the movie with my generally aware 13 y/o, yet repeatedly found myself elbowing him to explain historical references such as a mention of Branch Rickey or the blaxploitation scenes, both subjects with which he was unfamiliar. When it came to the closing scenes of the violence which was perpetrated in Charlottesville last year, it was my turn to be unfamiliar – somehow I had avoided ever seeing that footage. I left the theater in tears.

If you haven’t yet seen BlackKKlansman – go.

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Filed under Events, Movies, musings, Observations, Recommendations

Raindrops on roses 🎼

When I travel I try to keep my options open with regards to activities and attractions. My ultimate goal on vacation is to have unstructured time to explore my locale, not to have a schedule, so I generally book a single thing per day and fill the rest of my time with whatever happens to inspire me.

The impetus to visit Salzburg was my son’s fondness of The Sound of Music, so I reserved space for us on the Fraulein María bike tour, TripAdvisor’s #1 outdoor activity in Salzburg. Our tour began at about 9:30 when we met our guide, Kata, near Schloss Mirabell. She explained what we should expect (3.5 hours, approximately 10 miles and plenty of singing) and we began our adventure. The ride itself wasn’t particularly challenging beyond the fact that the bikes are heavy and the route unfamiliar. Our group was lots of fun and it was obvious that a number of them were big time fans of the classic movie, but, I believe Liam had them all beat when it came to familiarity with the story and music. He knew all the answers.

Frau, fraulein, whatever.

My own knowledge of the movie is scattered and I intend to rewatch it with my new perspective on what was accurate and what was mere Hollywood sleight of hand. The ride was a wonderful way to explore areas of Salzburg that we otherwise might not have made it to and I would definitely recommend the tour for anyone going to that beautiful little city. The ride isn’t overly difficult, but there are a couple of semi-challenging hills and bringing water is a must. You wouldn’t want to not be able to belt out Edelweiss due to a dry throat now, would you?

 

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Filed under Austria, beauty, biking, Boys, Europe, Exercise, family, Flowers, ideas, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Riding that train

Most of my recent trips to Europe have been with my uncle and aunt, which means that I haven’t had to really deal with transportation once I hit the ground. Our primary means of travel has been by auto and I’ve only had to buckle up and sit back. Easy.

This trip has been quite different but surprisingly almost as effortless – Europe knows what they’re doing when it comes to transportation. Aside from our inner city travels, also fairly priced and convenient, we’ve traveled between 4 cities in three countries and it has been a piece of sachertorte.

In an increasingly frequent leap of faith, I opted to not book any tickets in advance. I’m not sure if there were any financial consequences to that decision, but I found the prices for tickets to be reasonable, even a bargain when you factor in the quality of the trains. I’ll get to that, but first the prices: from Munich to Salzburg (for two without any discounts) was 31 euro, from Salzburg to Vienna 53.80e and Vienna to Prague via Linz was a combined total of 68e. I think that converts to about $185 give or take a little, a deal when you consider it would have cost us almost $170 for two to travel from Albany to NYC on Amtrak.

The ticketing process is super simple. I downloaded the Trainline EU app when I was in Munich and set up an account. Searching for tickets is easy and you can choose which criteria is most important to you – time, price or speed. Most of the time I went with what was direct and cheap. There definitely were faster trains at higher prices, but our longest journey was a total of 6 hours when we went from Vienna to Prague. There was a nearly one hour layover in Linz, though, to factor into that. It was actually a welcome bonus for us because we had sufficient time to pick up some food for the trip from the Spar market in the bahnhof.

Other advantages of train travel? Well, there’s the pleasure of stretching one’s legs and walking around rather than being crammed into a car. Pit stops for bathroom breaks are unnecessary since the train has WCs available and speaking bathrooms, the bathrooms on the trains we were on were cleaner than 90% of the bathrooms I encounter at home. Immaculate, well stocked and modern with automatic water, soap dispensers and hand dryers. The contrast with what I’m unfortunately accustomed to on trains in New York, is dramatic. Eating and drinking is also a comfortable option with many of the seats set up in little booth arrangements.

The train stations are so pretty…

In addition to comfort, there are amenities such as power outlets and WiFi on most trains. I was a bit bummed that we didn’t have WiFi on our lengthiest trip, but the friendly guy sitting near us said it was a good introduction to the difference between Austria and the Czech Republic. I can live with that since the ride was scenic, my legs could be extended and I had the cutest little table to eat my grocery store lunch upon.

…and quaint!

One final advantage – I don’t seem to suffer from motion sickness while writing or reading on a train. If I were in a car, I wouldn’t be able to relax and bang out a few posts. Reasonably priced, reliable, clean, comfortable and scenic makes European trains right on track.

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Czech Republic, Europe, family, Germany, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Smitten with Salzburg

B72CE3D0-3C28-478F-8CA4-3B2E81DDB72DAfter spending a couple of hours becoming familiar with Salzburg’s historic and beautiful city center, I returned to the flat and collected my son. There was so much more to experience! We didn’t really have a plan, but I wanted him to see this picturesque city and there seemed to be plenty with which to keep ourselves occupied without the need for an itinerary.

We traced my earlier footsteps and went along the river where vendors were set up displaying and selling their artwork, artisanal food items, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While there was nothing that I was interested in enough to commit to carrying it home, there were lovely items available and the quality definitely seemed high. Continuing past the market, I shepherded Liam to the tourist office so he could collect brochures and, after some consultation, we decided that the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg was a must do. Twenty minutes, and about 22 euro, later we were on top of the city.

8A1E4474-351D-4A0E-9E04-BC6162F71D07The views as we walked up to the castle were fabulous and as we went by the cafe’s terrace an open table near the vista beckoned. Sitting there in the sun sipping on a glass of gruner veltliner was a perfect moment that I hope to never forget. The castle itself, open since 1077, was great. The video presentation which told the history of the fort was really well done and the artifacts and limited furnishings were tremendous. The torture devices on display were interesting, but, for me, it was all about the view.

 

We walked down to the city center rather than taking the funicular again, and sought out a spot for lunch. I had a craving for trout and we came across Restaurant Elefant that offered a wonderful seasonal preparation with a simple brown butter and chanterelle mushrooms. It was really fantastic, perfectly cooked and fresh as hell, as was the simple green salad that I had also ordered. We finished with a local speciality that Liam had noticed, the Salzburger Nockerl, a raspberry and meringue dessert that was massive, yet fairly light. We were unable to finish it, but I’m glad we splurged on something we had never before tried.

 

It was about 4:30 when we finished lunch and I was ready for a nap or another glass of wine. Since I needed wanted to run that evening, I went with the first option. Liam was interested in a Mozart musical thing that began at 8:00, so we returned to the flat where I settled in for a power nap and he relaxed a short while before leaving solo to see his performance.

My run is a whole ‘nother post, mostly just visual, but just to give you an example of why I am so smitten with this city, I’ll tell you this – as I was running back north after covering a few miles on the east side of the river, who did I literally run into? My son. How crazy is that? I paused to chat with him for a moment and we made a plan to meet after I showered. I ran the rest of the way home with a huge smile on my face and anticipation for yet another round of gelato. How can I not love this place?

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Boys, drinking, Eating, family, Food, Recommendations, Restaurants, Summer, travel, Wine

Moments in Munich

Spending 48 hours in a city like Munich, especially when the weather is outstanding, is practically criminal. I should be embarrassed by how little I actually learned about the city or how to navigate my way around it. I concluded, though, that I do better with that sort of thing when I travel solo. If I have someone else willing to study maps and figure out directions, then I have more time to sit outside, drink beer and people watch. That’s really what I’m there for anyway.

Without a doubt, the most important part of my stay was the time spent with family and a friend from many years ago. Catching up on the last year or 26, was just awesome. Isn’t it amazing how there are people we don’t see for months or even decades, yet the connection and comfort with one another remains? Life lesson: that soul filling is worth every effort it takes to travel and connect with those kind of people in your life.

We did do a few traditional tourist things beyond consuming beer and pretzels, though, such as…

Lots of walking around the city center. The buildings are beautiful, the streets are cleaner than a New Yorker can imagine and there are bright flowers everywhere you look.

We watched Croatia beat England while we sat at a sidewalk cafe with a television monitor and a diverse and fun group of soccer fans. C0A0E0C4-442D-469F-8620-06E69A883AA3

I ate gelato, more cheese than I typically eat in a month, and a terrific white wurst served with sweet mustard. For the train ride out of town, I picked up a falafel sandwich which was dynamite, if a bit messy. I neglected to eat any pastry or cakes. Personal fail.

We spent a good part of one day visiting Dachau, but that’s another post. After that excursion, I was left wanting little more than warm sunshine and cold beer. My son went to visit Bayern-Munchen’s stadium while I indulged myself and he seemed to really enjoy the tour he received and his independence to go do something of interest to him.

C2D7DD47-A497-44D5-8DDE-19292D6488F9Our last morning and early afternoon was spent hitting a couple of spots – the BMW museum and Olympic Stadium are in the same area and we checked both of them out prior to leaving for Salzburg. For me, one engine looks like another one so I may have under appreciated the more mechanical aspects of the tour, but the cars were pretty and BMW does own Mini these days so I’m practically a shareholder, aren’t I? We didn’t really have the time to commit to a stadium tour, but did walk around the Olympic Park and saw the memorial to the athletes from the ‘72 games.

62DB0B5A-C584-47A8-9041-C49E151DB1CAWe finished with a walk through the Englischer Gardens and a last weisse beer for me. I did no shopping, nor did I splurge on any spectacular food or experiences, but I boarded the train feeling richer from my time spent in Munich and confident that one day I’ll be back.

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Filed under beauty, beer, Boys, Europe, family, friends, Germany, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, Summer, travel, vacation