Friday, September 15, 2017

Where I've Been All Summer

It has been a ridiculously long amount of time since my last post. If you've been following me on Facebook, then you know that I have a pretty good excuse. I boarded a plane in Portland on April 25 and I did not return until August 23, exactly 120 days later. Why? I wanted to check out the only part of Europe I had never been to, plus I was researching the developing beer scene in the Balkans and central and eastern Europe. As you will see below, I ended up covering A LOT of ground in four months. I have many, many blog posts to write about more specific topics like the destinations themselves, the logistics of a trip like this, and my experiences. But, for now, at least you'll know where I've been all summer.
This itinerary from a Lonely Planet guidebook was part of the inspiration for my trip.
My journey started in Sofia, Bulgaria, by way of Amsterdam. I did not have a plan other than I knew I would stay in Sofia for the first few days and that I needed to be in Munich on May 19 to meet my husband Greg for his vacation.
The famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia
I ended up visiting the following cities while traveling primarily by bus, a few times by train, and a few of times by private vehicle for day trips. My accommodations were in dorm beds in hostels.

Sofia, Bulgaria - 3 nights (day trip to Rila Monastery)
Plovdiv, Bulgaria - 3 nights (day trip to Buzludzha)
Skopje, Macedonia - 3 nights (day trip to Pristina, Kosovo)
Ohrid, Macedonia - 1 night
Tirana, Albania - 2 nights
Kotor, Montenegro - 2 nights
Dubrovnik, Croatia - 2 nights
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina - 2 nights
Split, Croatia - 1 night
Plitvice National Park, Croatia - 1 night
Zagreb, Croatia - 2 nights
Ljubljana, Slovenia - 2 nights
Plitvice National Park is well worth a visit!
Once I met up with Greg in Munich, we had a set itinerary which involved taking trains across Germany and Austria, then returning to Munich to pick up a rental car and drive south to Switzerland. We stayed in simple, family-run guesthouses and hostels in private rooms with shared baths, except for the last night in Munich was at an airport hotel.

Munich, Germany - 3 nights
Vienna, Austria - 4 nights (day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia)
Salzburg, Austria - 2 nights
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland - 3 nights (day trips to Schilthorn via Gimmelwald and Murren; Interlaken and Grindelwald) 
Munich, Germany - 1 night (via Liechtenstein)
This is why we went to Switzerland.
I dropped Greg off at the airport early on the morning of June 1 and, after returning the rental car in Munich, boarded a train. My accommodations were a mix of hostel dorm, hotel, and Airbnb private room with shared bath.

Regensburg, Germany - 3 nights
Plzen, Czech Republic - 3 nights
Szczecin, Poland - 2 nights
Yes, I went to Plzen for the beer (and the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour)!
My friends from Seattle, Eva and Jeremy Rees, were vacationing in Europe at that time, so we decided to travel together for one week. They picked me up with their rental car in Szczecin. We stayed in Airbnbs except for one night with Eva's uncle.

Poznan, Poland - 2 nights
Wagrowiec, Poland - 1 night at family home
Lodz, Poland - 2 nights (via Gniezno)
Wroclaw, Poland - 2 nights
Eva's uncle is building this motorcycle for her.
Eva and Jeremy continued on their vacation while I stayed in Poland another couple of days to figure out where I would go next. Ultimately I decided to venture farther east which required some flying along with more trains and buses. All of my accommodations were in dorm beds in hostels.

Wroclaw, Poland - 2 nights
Lviv, Ukraine - 3 nights
Minsk, Belarus - 4 nights (day trip to Mir and Nesvizh)
Kiev, Ukraine - 5 nights (day trip to Chernobyl)
Odessa, Ukraine - 3 nights
Chisinau, Moldova - 3 nights
Iasi, Romania - 2 nights
Brasov, Romania - 3 nights (day trip to Bran and Rasnov)
Bucharest, Romania - 3 nights
St Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kiev
After battling the oppressive heat off and on for weeks, I was exhausted and ready for a break. Thankfully the timing was perfect to visit my family in the Netherlands. I slept in the guest room of their beautifully renovated farmhouse in Zuidbarge.

Emmen, Netherlands - 7 nights (day trip to Orvelte)
The van Oosterom's house in Zuidbarge, Emmen.
I was hoping to continue traveling in eastern Europe, but after enjoying the comforts of home in Emmen I was finding it hard to get motivated to fly all the way back to Romania to finish off my sightseeing in the western part of the country. Also, if I traveled that far, I knew I would want to venture overland through Serbia, then back up through Hungary and into Slovakia to visit some friends. Ultimately I'm glad I opted for something different as the region experienced a horrific heat wave during that time. However, I ended up having other challenges (torrential rain) during my two week car camping adventure across northern Germany. I rented a car in Emmen and borrowed all of the camping gear from my Dutch family.

Gyhum - 1 night camping (via Bremen)
Grossensee - 1 night camping (via Hamburg)
Wismar - 1 night couchsurfing (via Lubeck)
Rostock - 1 night hostel dorm (via Schwerin)
Born - 1 night camping (via Warnemunde)
Stralsund - 2 nights Airbnb i.e. paying to sleep on someone's couch (day trip to Rugen Island)
Berlin - 3 nights hostel dorm
Wusterwitz - 1 night camping (via Potsdam and Brandenburg)
Garbsen - 1 night camping (via Magdeburg and Hanover)
Bad Rothenfelde - 1 night hotel (via Bielefeld)
My campsite at Regenbogen Born
I returned to Emmen to see the van Oosterom's off on their 3-week holiday and get final instructions for housesitting at their beautiful home. Then I proceeded to rest, relax and prepare for my return to Portland and reentry to "normal" life.

Emmen, Netherlands - 15 nights (day trip to Groningen via Zuidlaren)
My Dutch family
I couldn't resist spending a full day in Amsterdam to say a proper goodbye to Europe by visiting five breweries and beer bars. This was made even better because I got to spend time with my good friend and flying partner Adena Leal who happened to be there on a layover.

Amsterdam, Netherlands - 1 night hostel dorm
The draft list at Proeflokaal Arendsnest
I decided to fly back to the east coast of the U.S. instead of direct to Portland so I could visit with my family in Nashville, some of whom I hadn't seen in almost two years. Another incentive to go a bit out of my way - the solar eclipse, which I was able to view in its entirety, including two minutes of totality, from a folding chair in my grandmother's driveway.

Hermitage, TN - 5 nights (day trips to Franklin and Orlinda)
Watching the eclipse with my grandmother
Since I was flying standby, I had to wait until all of the eclipse watchers cleared out before I could get a seat. I ended up on a nonstop from Nashville to Seattle and then caught the next flight down to Portland.
Departing from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with Mt Rainier in view
One hundred twenty days later, on a beautifully sunny afternoon, I arrived at home and slept in my own bed that night.
Sunset view from our deck on the evening I returned home

Thursday, April 6, 2017

From mountain to coast

My friend Corey flew in from New York City last Wednesday for a weeklong visit. He has been here before and I wrote about it in this post:
Corey is not a beer drinker, but occasionally he will have a pint with me
I met Corey at the airport around noon and we picked up his rental car, a brand new Subaru Crosstrek. After dropping off his luggage at the house, we had lunch at a Montavilla neighborhood spot, Tienda Santa Cruz. Afterward we stopped at a few dispensaries to stock up on supplies for the week. Later, we met Greg for drinks at Vintage Cocktail Lounge and ended up eating dinner there as well.
the wall of booze at Vintage
Since we've had a big winter in terms of snowfall, Corey couldn't resist heading back to Mt. Hood for some skiing. We drove up on a rainy Thursday morning; it started snowing just east of Sandy.
following a snow plow on Hwy 35
Thankfully, shortly after we arrived at Mt. Hood Meadows, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. I spent the afternoon in the lodge while Corey was on the slopes.
view of the Stadium Express lift from the lodge
After checking into our hotel in Government Camp, we had dinner at Charlie's Mountain View, then called it a night pretty early as it was still snowing at that elevation.
driving from Meadows to Government Camp
The next morning we were back at Meadows by 10 a.m. It was cloudy at the hotel, but it was sunny and clear at the lodge. While I resisted the urge to ski due to fear of getting injured (I've had hip and knee surgery since the last time), I did rent snowshoes and spent a total of four hours exploring the trails which I basically had all to myself.
snowshoeing on the Honeysuckle trail
The slopes closed at 4 p.m. so we started the 1.5 hour drive in light traffic back to Portland and were home in time to meet up with Greg for dinner.
this entree is called Three Amigos
I got up early Saturday morning to make a quiche so we wouldn't get hungry on the two hour drive to the coast. It rained most of the way to Cannon Beach but was just overcast and windy for the rest of the day.
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach
We explored Haystack Rock at low tide, made a loop through Seaside, and stopped in Fort Stevens State Park to check out the wreck of the Peter Iredale.
the wreck of the Peter Iredale c1906
By 3 p.m. we had made it to Astoria and checked into our motel near the Megler Bridge. We walked to Buoy Beer for a late lunch / early dinner and watched the first NCAA semifinal game there. Afterward, we walked to the newest brewery in town, Reach Break, to taste some of their beers. By then the second semifinal (featuring the Oregon Ducks) was on, so we doubled back to Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery to enjoy more beer while we watched the game.
cargo ships at anchor
Breakfast on Sunday morning was at Pig 'N Pancake across the parking lot from our hotel. Even though I've lived in Oregon for almost six years, this was my first time to eat at the local chain. After loading up on chicken-fried steak, eggs, and yes, pancakes, we checked out of the hotel and drove up to the Astoria Column. Of course, it started pouring rain just as we left the hotel, but thankfully cleared up again when we reached the column.
Astoria Column
Greg and Corey climbed the stairs to the top for the 360 degree views, while I stayed down at parking lot level and took pictures. After meandering through the residential area filled with 100+-year-old homes, we stopped at Pier 39 to say hi to the sea lions.
As usual, they were hanging out on the boat dock, barking, fighting, and generally lying around doing nothing. When a big log floated by it caused a huge ruckus; I captured the sea lions' reaction in this video:
We drove east along the Columbia River, and crossed into Longview, Washington on the Lewis and Clark Bridge. Corey likes to play blackjack, so we stopped at The Last Frontier Casino in La Center. Luck was not on his side on this particular day, and soon we were heading south toward Portland.
view of Oregon across the Columbia
We got off at the Vancouver exit and drove down Main Street and around Esther Short Park so Corey could see the downtown area. Then we stopped at McMenamins on the Columbia to have a look at the just-below-flood-stage river.
I spotted this bunny in the parking lot
After crossing back into Oregon, we continued into downtown Portland and found a parking spot near Providence Park. We ate dinner at Thai Bloom, then had a quick pint at the Fred Meyer Stadium bar before walking to the stadium for the Timbers match. They ended up tying 1-1. After the match we drove home to rest and relax before the start of the work week.
Portland Timbers vs New England Revolution
Corey drove up to Mt Hood and skied Timberline on Monday, but I stayed home so I could attend the Beer Party PDX board meeting that night. After Greg and I finished work on Tuesday, we went out for a final meal together with Corey, whose flight departed very early Wednesday morning.

It was a great week and I hope we can do it again soon!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Recap of the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards

Since my friend and fellow beer writer, Ezra Johnson-Greenough, has already posted a comprehensive write-up about the winners on his blog The New School, I am going to share some of my photos from that evening.
Me and Maude Haney
The Greenneck Daredevils provided excellent musical entertainment
Logsdon wins their second gold medal of the evening
pFriem wins Best Brewpub Experience
Ben Edmunds accepts one of Breakside's 10 total OBA medals
Dr. Tom Shellhammer impresses with his German language skills.
He is teaching my upcoming Origins of Beer Flavors & Styles class!
Marielle Cowdin gave an inspiring speech about
protecting Oregon's wild places, wildlife and waters.
While I was hoping my friends at Culmination Brewing would take home some medals,
at least they got recognition for their excellent Burton Ale brewed in collaboration with Bill Schneller.
Ezra Johnson-Greenough announces the finalists for Best New Brewery.
Alesong was the well-deserving winner.
Baerlic wins Brewery of the Year - Small
The Commons wins Brewery of the Year - Medium
Breakside wins Brewery of the Year - Large
Finally, here's one of my favorite photos taken at the end of the event with Steven's phone:
Hilda Stevens, Steven Shomler, me, Jen Ulrich
The video of the entire 4+ hour event can be seen below.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Our First Visitors of 2017

This past weekend, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law flew up from Los Angeles for a visit. Their first visit was exactly two years ago, so they knew what to expect in terms of typical Portland winter weather. Mother Nature didn't disappoint, with constant rain all day Thursday (arrival day), some sunshine and a break from the rain on Friday, rain and fog all day Saturday (plus snow on Mt Hood), and rain on Sunday. It was also raining when I dropped Doug & Alexis at the airport Monday morning! In fact, as of the 21st, we have already broken the record for most precipitation in February.
a selfie at Bridal Veil Falls
In spite of the unforgiving dampness, we still made the most of their visit. After spending Thursday evening catching up over dinner and beers at home, Greg headed into the office Friday morning while our guests slept in and I went to a doctor's appointment. By the time I returned home, Doug & Alexis were ready to get some fresh air, so we hiked to the top of Mt Tabor. Thankfully the weather was cooperating and they were able to see the beautiful downtown skyline, Mt Hood and Mount St Helens.
Doug counting rings on Mt Tabor
We had worked up an appetite so we drove to one of my favorite Asian lunch spots Ha VL. Friday's soup options were Phnom Penh seafood or chicken pho; all three of us ordered the Phnom Penh. It was so delicious; we slurped away to our heart's content. Afterward, we took a short walk to the Fubonn Shopping Center to look for a specialty Korean seasoning that Doug needed for his spice cabinet back home.
Phnom Penh soup at Ha VL
Mission accomplished, we drove to the SE Hawthorne business district for some strolling, shopping, and people-watching. Soon enough it was time to make our way down to the vicinity of Greg's office to meet him for a few post-work beers. We decided to try the new Iron Tap Station at Brooklyn Yard, which turned out to be an excellent choice for their well-curated tap list, complimentary peanuts and pretzels, and the added bonus of being next door to Coco Donuts when an employee brought over a few bags of doughnut holes that were shared with all the Iron Tap customers.

Since we were in the neighborhood, I also insisted that we stop by the new Ross Island Brewing to visit my friends, the owners Carston & Maude Haney, and beer slinger extraordinaire Abbey Bowman. After a round of some fantastic collaboration brews, the gang was hungry so we doubled back toward our house and grabbed a table at East Glisan Pizza Lounge. We shared a bacon and a capicola pizza, washed down with more locally brewed beer, of course, and then headed home for a nightcap.

Our alarms went off fairly early Saturday morning as we had planned a day trip along the Columbia River Gorge and up to Mt Hood and I wanted to do the bulk of the driving (and sightseeing) in daylight. It was pouring rain as we left Portland but tapered off a bit when we stopped for breakfast at Shirley's Tippy Canoe just outside Troutdale at the west end of the historic highway. While it wasn't that busy when we arrived at 9:30 a.m., there was a group of a dozen people that was seated just ahead of us. We were given no warning that our food would take additional time to arrive, and we ended up waiting more than 30 minutes for our orders. By the time we ate as much as we could of the massive portions, it was already 11:00. Not the best way to start our day in terms of wasting valuable time!
chicken-fried steak at Shirley's
I have driven the scenic route many times now as it is a favorite destination of visiting family and friends. With limited time (and crappy weather), I have a rough itinerary of all the easiest stops for views of the gorge and waterfalls. We all donned full waterproof gear and made the most of our day, in awe of the tremendous amount of water in the falls, the result of all the heavy rain we've had this winter.
Doug & Alexis at Horsetail Falls
We also made a brief stop at Bonneville Dam, but sadly didn't have time to go inside the visitor center or to see Herman the sturgeon. We continued on to Hood River, where we planned to have drinks and snacks at Pfriem Family Brewers, but our plans were thwarted by an hour-long wait for a table and, due to the crowds, no place to even stand to enjoy a beer. As it was already 3:00 p.m., we decided to turn south toward the mountain, knowing we would likely encounter snow and unpredictable road conditions.
cherry trees in the snow on Hwy 35
Sure enough, it started snowing before we made the loop around to Hwy 26. Thankfully, the roads we in great shape, and it only took about 45 minutes to reach the turnoff to Timberline Lodge. It was snowing hard enough that the road to the lodge was getting some accumulation, but plows were actively doing their best to keep the path clear and we didn't have any trouble in either direction, thanks in part to my friends loaning me their 4WD Ford Expedition.
We spent about an hour on the mountain admiring the lodge's architecture, historical exhibits, and the intrepid skiers and snowboarders in almost white-out conditions. By then everyone was ready for food and beer, so we drove down to Mt Hood Brewing Co. in Government Camp where we ate burgers and drank happy hour ($3.00 pints!) beer.
The snow changed back to rain pretty quickly as we drove east in the darkness, and I was thankful to arrive safe and sound back in our neighborhood at 7:00 p.m. The guys wanted to stop for a beer at Montavilla Brew Works, a participant in Zwicklemania earlier in the day, so I indulged them even though I was ready to be home.

After a good night's sleep, I cooked breakfast for everyone Sunday morning then had to leave the house before noon to return the borrowed Expedition and meet up with my friend Cindy to take her to the airport. She had generously offered to loan me her car while she was out of town for the week, and it made sense to take her up on her offer to continue to be able to chauffeur our guests around for another day. I dropped Greg, Doug and Alexis at the Gateway Transit Center and they took the MAX all the way to Sellwood. I met up with them a couple of hours later at Laurelwood brewpub then we walked around (in the rain) and browsed at an antique shop before settling in at Lompoc's Oaks Bottom Public House for more beer and some happy hour totchos.
Alexis's parents gave them fifty $2 bills - Doug enjoys paying bar tabs with them
I already had plans to attend a memorial service that evening, so the gang tagged along to Ecliptic Brewing and enjoyed beers at the bar while I celebrated the life of Teresa Culp with her friends and family in the brewery. After an emotional but heartwarming couple of hours, I said my goodbyes and rejoined Greg and our visitors so we could get dinner at Fire on the Mountain, Greg's favorite wing spot.
We returned home to relax in front of the fireplace and get ready for the week ahead, and went to bed fairly early. I took Doug and Alexis to the airport on Monday morning, marking the end of hosting our first visitors of 2017.