Travel Month: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Each month I like to reflect upon my monthly travel and explorations in my current city. I love remembering past trips and enjoy looking ahead to future plans. These monthly reflections help me to do just that.

I've spent June in Connecticut catching up on work, traveling my home state, and enjoying a visit with my family. Connecticut in the summer is beautiful, the weather is warm, and there are numerous farmers markets and other activities to enjoy. I also spent a lot of time filling out visa documents for China and planning our trip. I am so excited for our upcoming trip to China but I still have a lot to do to prepare before hand (lots of gifts to buy for friends).

What did you do in June? What are your plans for July?

Food Defeated Me in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Friday, June 27, 2014

In May, I spent a long weekend in Asheville, North Carolina before heading to a conference in Cherokee, NC. I was pleasantly surprised by the food in Asheville. Each and every restaurant I ate at in Asheville was incredible. Here is the food that defeated me. My only thing to note is that I thought food was very expensive in general and there were few cheaper options.

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Chai Pani

Chai Pani is a restaurant specializing in Indian street food and served the best Indian dishes I've ever tried before.

Double D's Cafe

Early Girl Eatery

White Duck Tacos

The Chocolate Fetish

Want to learn more about Asheville? Click here!

Asheville, North Carolina - An Art Oasis

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I really didn't know what to expect from Asheville while making plans to stop there before a conference in Cherokee. I looked up Asheville on AFAR and TripAdvisor for some travel suggestions, and found cool-sounding restaurants, cafes, and bookshops. What I didn't expect was the amazing art/culture oasis that is Asheville.

I arrived in Asheville in the late afternoon on a Friday, and I wasn't sure how I felt about the downtown at first. That quickly changed after I had a filling and delicious meal at Tupelo Honey Cafe (more about the food on Wednesday). I began my Saturday early with a walk to the Basilica of Saint Lawrence on Haywood St. The birds were chirping, the weather was nice, and Asheville was surprising me. After visiting the Basilica, I wandered down Page Ave. to visit the Grove Arcade. The Grove Arcade is a small shopping mall full of restaurants and craft stores. It also boasts the coolest bookshop/cafe/bar I've ever seen. Battery Park Book Exchange is a dog friendly palace of books, beverages, and benches.

I spent the rest of my weekend in Asheville wandering and eating, eating and wandering. I'd suggest checking out the shops and art galleries on Walnut St., College St., N. Market St., Lexington Ave., Battery Park Ave., and the rest of the downtown. Mora on 9 W. Walnut St. had beautiful jewelry, Frock on 4 Battery Park and Duncan and York Modern Market had gorgeous gifts. Asheville Market Basket had beautiful souvenirs (36 Battery Park Ave).

Getting there: From the Asheville Airport it is about a 30 minute drive into Asheville. There are few cabs at the Asheville Airport and wow are they expensive. A less expensive option is taking bus 3 from the airport to the Asheville downtown (the bus depot is on Asheland Ave.), but keep in mind that buses do not run on Sunday.

St. Lawrence Basillica in Asheville, North Carolina

Basillica of St. Lawrence
Basillica of St. Lawrence

The Basillica of St. Lawrence

Ahseville, North Carolina

The Grove Arcade in Asheville, North Carolina
The Grove Arcade

the delicious early girl eatery

Malaprops bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina
Malaprops - such a wonderful bookstore!

Asheville, NC

the inside of double d's cafe in Asheville
Double D's Cafe (in a double decker bus!)

Memorial in Asheville

the battery park book exchange in Asheville, North Carolina
The Battery Park Book Exchange

Have you been to Asheville before? Have you ever been surprised by a place you visited?

Saying Farewell to Madison, Wisconsin

Monday, June 23, 2014

I had a love-hate relationship with Madison, Wisconsin, USA while attending graduate school. I recently returned to Madison a few days for my dissertation defense and despite my tenuous relationship with the city there were several things I was excited to re-visit.

Me in front of the Abe Lincoln statue on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus

Where to Eat:

I was most looking forward to the food in Madison as there are just so many great choices. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Madison.

FUGU - Very authentic Yunnan and Sichuan-style Chinese food. 411 W Gilman St.

QQ - The perfect spot for cheap Chinese take-out. This is one of the only restaurants that was between my office and my apartment so I would frequently stop there on my walk home from work. Yum! 1401 University Ave.

Saigon-Noodles Vietnamese - Wow their noodles are just so good. 6754 Odana Rd.

Meditteranean Cafe -  Only open for lunch, this near-campus hotspot is always packed. 625 State Street.

Sunroom Cafe - A great place for breakfast or lunch. State Street.

The Old Fashioned - Classic Wisconsin cuisine. 23 N Pickney St.

The Great Dane Pub - Pretzels with dip and Wisconsin fare. 357 Price Place and other locations.

The Weary Traveler - The bad breath burger is oh so good. 1201 Williamson St.

Mickie's Dairy Bar - Mickie's serves the most gigantic breakfasts ever. Be sure to arrive early on the weekends as the line can extend down the block. 1511 Monroe St. Madison, WI.

Blue Plate Diner - Ready for doughnut french toast? This is the place for you. 2089 Atwood Ave.

food in madison, wisconsin


Michelangelo's Coffee House - 114 State Street

Barriques - I enjoyed doing work on weekends at Barriques. 1825 Monroe St.

Steep and Brew - Coffee Coffee Coffee 544 State St.

Steepery Tea Bar - Has a wide variety of teas and bubble teas. 430 State St.


To work off all of the food I ate in Madison I strolled around the capital, enjoyed the Olbrich Botanical Garden, and the UW-Madison Arboretum.

In the summer there are also Wednesday night concerts at the capital. There are boats for rent at Wingra Boats, so you can explore the lakes. I've also visited the Chazen Art Museum several times and do enjoy several of their exhibits. The Chazen is also free!

For more about Madison, Wisconsin check out this post.

the colorful chairs outside at the university of wisconsin-madison

the orpheum theater in madison, wisconsin

What are your favorite spots to visit before you leave your home?

Today I'm linking up with Bonnie Rose and her co-hosts for Travel Tuesday!

Photo Diary: Hidden Catholic Statues in Italy

Friday, June 20, 2014

In Italy, I noticed cubbyholes displaying Catholic statues and icons. It became a sort of game for me to wander the streets of Milan, Venice, and Cinque Terre and photograph these images. I can't find any information about these online - have you seen them before? Do you know if they are owned by someone or public? I'd love to learn more!

mini statue of the virgin mary in italy

mini icon of the virgin mary and son in italy

Jesus on the cross in Italy

Religious statues in Italy

catholic statue in Italy

Catholicism in Italy

Icons in Italy

When you travel do you make photography a game? Have you ever noticed these statues in Italy?

I'm linking up with Bonnie Rose and her Co-hosts for Travel Tuesday!

That time I ate pig's blood and thought it was a brownie

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So this one time in China I ate congealed pig's blood. Yeah this happened. Let me explain...

This story takes place during my first time living in China in 2010 (I was there for 3 months). I was a total China newbie and was awarded a fellowship (during graduate school) to conduct biodiversity conservation research in northwest Yunnan Province, China. I spent my first several weeks of the trip making contacts and traveling throughout the province. I spent the next several weeks living in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, trying to form collaborations with professors at local institutions. During this time in Kunming, I was invited by my wonderful roommate (who seriously took me in as her stray foreigner) to go to her aunt's birthday party. I had a great time meeting some of my best friend's relatives and practicing my Mandarin. Around dessert time, some fruit and something that I thought was a brownie was placed on our table. My eyes bugged out of my head at the sight of a brownie and a grabbed one off the plate (with chopsticks of course) to eat. I took a gigantic bite while my friend looked on with horror trying to explain in English (so no one else would understand) that what I was eating wasn't what I thought it was. After my tastebuds registered that I really wasn't eating a brownie I returned my friend's look of horror. I swallowed the not brownie and proceeded ask my friend what the heck that was. She explained that congealed pig's blood with added sugar is sometimes a popular dessert.

A street in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China
Oh Kunming - how I love the curveballs you throw at me!

Do you throw caution to the wind when you eat? What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten?

I'm Linking up with Frank About Croatia for the Sunday Traveler.

Pros and Cons for Madison, Wisconsin

Monday, June 16, 2014

I moved from Connecticut to Madison, WI to attend graduate school in 2009. I traveled back and forth between Madison and China (where I conducted fieldwork) from 2009 to 2013 and I always found it harder adjusting to life in Madison than life in China. There were certainly some great things about living in Madison; however, I'm glad living in the Midwest was only temporary. Have you ever moved somewhere that you were glad was only temporary?

Some great things about Madison

1) The beer. O'so good!

2) The cheese. Needs no explanation.

3) The farmers market around the Capital on Saturday mornings. It is huge and delicious.

4) Great places to eat.

cheese head hats from University of Wisconsin-Madison
The land of the Cheese-Heads

Central Waters Brewing from Wisconsin
New Glarus Brewing Co from Wisconsin

Some not so great things about Madison

1) Despite the amazing cheese and fresh produce good pizza was hard to find. Try Glass Nickel Pizza or Green Bush Pizza to get your cheesy, saucy, yummy fix.

2) There is public transportation- buses- available in Madison (and students at the University of Wisconsin get a free bus pass), but the schedule is strange, the buses are frequently overcrowded, and the routes can be so long. 

3) The airport frequently cancels flights. It's sometimes best to take a bus to Chicago and fly out of Chicago rather than Madison, especially if you are taking an overseas flight.

4) Throughout my years in Madison, violence, especially around campus, increased. It actually made me nervous to walk around the city alone during my most recent trip in May - a very rare occurrence for me. 

pizza from glass nickel in Madison, Wisconsin
Pizza from Glass Nickel

Have you been to Madison, WI? What do you think?

Today I'm linking up with the Little Friday Linkup and the Local Adventurer Linkup with Esther and Jacob!

Hotel Review: Best Western Plus InnTowner

Friday, June 13, 2014

I stayed at the Best Western Plus InnTowner while I was in Madison, Wisconsin in May. The Best Western Plus InnTowner is located at 2424 University Avenue, which happens to be just a few blocks away from my old apartment. This hotel is particularly convenient if you are in Madison for a Wisconsin Badgers football game, as the stadium is about a 10-15 minute walk away.

The rooms at the Best Western Plus InnTowner were spacious and comfortable, however the hallways really needed a re-model. Overall I enjoyed my stay at Best Western Plus InnTowner.

*This is not a sponsored post.

An Ode to Italian Gelato

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chocolate and Hazelnut Gelato
licorice gelato

I've never tasted something as delicious as gelato in Milan. Because the gelato was so excellent in Italy I now feel a bit snobby when it comes to buying ice-cream.

Licorice Gelato
Licorice Gelato - so amazing!
cooccolat italianni in milan
In Milan try the gelato at cooccolat italiani

Typically, I'm a chocolate ice-cream lover, however that licorice gelato was the best I've ever tasted. What is your favorite flavor of gelato or ice-cream?

Today I'm linking up with TravelTuesday!

Travel Necessities - China Edition

Monday, June 9, 2014

My travel necessities change when I'm heading to China or other parts of Asia. Generally, when I'm in China I'm way off the beaten path (see examples here and here), so I tend to require some different essentials. This summer I'll be heading to China with J for several weeks to visit friends and see some new sights. I'll be spending at least two weeks exploring new places in Yunnan Province. In Yunnan, it can be hard to find deodorant, razors, towels and band-aids so I always bring these necessities. Also, many toilets don't have toilet paper so it is best to pick up some toilet paper or tissues.

Packing essentials for rural areas of China
I pack band-aids and moleskin to protect from blisters, sunglasses and a hat to protect from too much sun, hair clips and ties to keep my hair off my face, a Lush shampoo bar, deodorant, a razor, a compact mirror, and a quick drying towel

In addition to the above items I'm always sure to pack a plug converter, a pocket knife, iPod, tissues, and my small notebooks.

universal plug adaptor

small notebooks for travel


pocket knife

I'm linking up with Frank About Croatia for the SundayTraveler!