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Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Virtual Tour of San Diego

Virtual Tour of San Diego:  Downtown San Diego
Virtual Tour of San Diego: Downtown San Diego

Because of the pandemic, I have waited almost a year to write my blog on the best things to do in San Diego. People had stopped traveling. Over time, though, I’ve discovered that armchair tourism lives on. We all want to dream of a freer time. In response, I’ve detailed a virtual tour of San Diego. Kick back, sip your quarantini, and imagine you are there. Or going there soon.

Despite San Diego’s reputation for year-round good weather, I found it unpredictable, particularly in January. I began my trip in short sleeves and ended it in a hat and gloves. Especially if you plan to go out on the water, pack for cold weather, just in case. Since you aren’t going away, at least not yet, feel free to turn up the thermostat or throw open the windows. Or both. No one will judge you, except maybe your cat.

Fun Stop for Families: San Diego Zoo

Best Restaurant for Foodies: Nobu

Quintessential Pacific Experience: Whale Watching

Best Way to Gain Access to Attractions: Go San Diego Pass

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Archives World Oyster At Home

Venetian Lobster and Squid Ink Pasta

About a year ago I ate a fabulous dinner of lobster and squid ink pasta in the heart of Venice. Thanks to a tour guide, who said that it was his favorite traditional Venetian dish, I ordered it at Le Magazin, a restaurant not far from our hotel. This dish requires a whole cold water lobster for maximum presentation and flavor; however, you can dispense with it and use only the meat.

The first time I tried to recreate the recipe, it didn’t taste quite right. Last summer, with Maine lobsters on sale and my garden brimming with fresh grape tomatoes, I decided to give it another go. I used dried squid ink spaghetti, although any long black pasta will do. If you can’t bring yourself to eat squid ink pasta, substitute regular spaghetti or linguine for a less dramatic but still delicious dish.

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Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Restaurants Travel

Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes

Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes:  The marina near Blue Point Grille
Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes: The marina near Blue Point Grille

Finding the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes region requires both less and more research than I’m used to. Less, because the options are limited. More, because we found it difficult to find the truly good among them. In keeping with the rural and outdoor nature of the Finger Lakes, even the fine-dining restaurants listed below retain a relaxed, semi-casual vibe.

Best romantic restaurant: Pleasant Valley Inn

Best Menu: Ports Café

Restaurant With the Best View: Ginny Lee Café

Most Relaxing Restaurant: Blue Pointe Grille

Because of covid-19 restrictions, we selected restaurants that either served outside or, by law, at well-spaced tables inside. Reservations are either required or strongly recommended since seating can be limited, particularly on the weekends. Note: Since pandemic restrictions can change, check out the current status before reserving.

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Archives Hotels Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen, NY

Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen, sunset
Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen at Sunset

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, we stayed at the Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen. The bed-and-breakfast inn, perched on a hill above the town, provided a quiet, Victorian-style retreat. Owners Marcus and Elin Dowd offered warm hospitality and delicious breakfasts.

For us, the Idlwilde Inn ended up being near-perfect for what we wanted.

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Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Finger Lakes Wine Tour

Finger Lakes Wine Tour: Tasting at Ravines Wine Cellars, overlooking Keuka Lake
Finger Lakes Wine Tour: Ravines Wine Cellars, overlooking Keuka Lake

With the coronavirus still raging, my husband and I decided to plan a Finger Lakes Wine Tour in upstate New York. We did not live in a banned state, and we could drive there in a few hours. Besides, we liked the bookend to our last out-of-state trip before the shutdown, to Napa Valley. With social distancing and mask-wearing in effect, the trip provided a low-key, relatively safe, and fun deviation from our routine.

Although the region focuses on white wines made from riesling and gewurtztraminer grapes, other varieties and styles tasted quite good. We tasted a few reds, but while they were perfectly enjoyable, they didn’t meet our admittedly high standards for red wine.

Best Overall Experience: Boundary Breaks Vineyard

Worst Overall Experience: Dr. Konstantin Frank

Tasting Room Most Closely Connected to Wine Making: Hermann J. Wiemer

Most Knowledgeable Service: Wagner Vineyards

Most Intimate Tasting: Tower Tasting at Heron Hill

Biggest Surprise: Keuka Spring Vineyards

Because tastings cost less and are less formal (also less informative) than those in California, we were able to visit many wineries a day. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes.

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Archives Travel

The Murals of La Jolla

Walking Tour of the Murals of La Jolla:  Man, Myth, and Magic by Steven Hull
Walking Tour of the Murals of La Jolla: Man, Myth, and Magic by Steven Hull

Earlier this year, before the coronavirus lockdown, I planned a self-guided tour of the Murals of La Jolla, California. Even if you don’t live in the San Diego area, you can “visit” them in this seaside town, albeit virtually. The Murals of La Jolla project commissions art by both well-known and lesser known artists based in California. Murals such as my favorite Man, Myth, and Magic by Steven Hull (above) bring art to the the buildings and community.

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Archives World Oyster At Home

Twists on Three Easy Summer Salads

Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon with Fresh Herb Dressing
Grilled Pineapple and Watermelon with Fresh Herb Dressing

Easy summer salads are a mainstay in my kitchen during the hotter months. Still, I get tired of the same old/same old. Enter inspiration from restaurants and friends. Although I previously shared a recreated Watermelon Greek Salad, a dish that easily falls into this category, I tackled three new recipes this summer, each with a twist on a classic.

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Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus World Oyster At Home

Art in the Time of Coronavirus

Art in the Time of Coronavirus:  one of Van Gogh's Sunflower series
Art in the Time of Coronavirus: one of Van Gogh’s Sunflower series, as seen in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Viewing art in the time of coronavirus has shifted from physical museums to virtual tours. While this happened, something else shifted underneath society. We have mutally discovered how the arts keep us sane and connected during lockdown. Whether an entire town singing from balconies or an individual dancing with himself in front of a mirror, we’ve discovered that creativity and expression help assauge aloneness. When people sing together in a Zoom mosaic of faces and voices, they strengthen connections despite physical distance.

All those who have said that studying the arts is useless should heed what’s happening. The arts sustain us. They allow us to soar beyond our small spaces and into the world. They reach across language barriers, oceans, and cultures to establish a human bond where perhaps none existed before. For that reason, I’ve chosen to focus this article on the visual arts currently locked away in collections but now available for all of us to visit, virtually.

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Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Restaurants

Curbside Pickup from White Orchids

Curbside Pickup from White Orchids, Center Valley, PA
Curbside Pickup from White Orchids, Center Valley, PA

Curbside pickup from White Orchids, one of our local Thai restaurants, brought the spicy flavors we love to our date night during life in the time of coronavirus. We’ve tried to spread our support of local businesses over several of our favorite restaurants. Although we hadn’t eaten at White Orchids in several months, the time seemed right to do curbside pickup. I pulled an actual white orchid off my planters’ rack, and my husband looked up music from Thailand on his phone. We were ready to satisfy our “spice teeth.”

(In case you haven’t been following my Life in the Time of Coronavirus series, check out my first installment to see how to make takeout into a special occasion.)

Curbside Pickup Restaurant: White Orchids

Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA

Phone: 610-841-7499

Pickup Hours: Daily, 11:30 am-7:30 pm

Recommended music: Thai classical music from YouTube

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Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Restaurants

Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Curbside Pickup from Torre

Life in the Time of Coronavirus:  Curbside pickup at Torre
Life in the Time of Coronavirus: Curbside pickup at Torre

Our recent curbside pickup from Torre, our local higher-end Mexican restaurant, served two purposes: supporting a small business and giving me a night off from cooking. It gave us a break from the now-normal routine of life in the time of coronavirus. As I wrote in an earlier blog, you can create a special date night out of curbside pickup. In this case, we chose another ambience. Different food, different mood.

If you don’t live near Center Valley, PA, find your own local restaurant to support. They will appreciate it.

Curbside Pickup Restaurant: Torre

Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA

Phone: 610-841-9399

Pickup Hours: Wed. – Sat. 4:30-7:30 pm; Sun. 3:30-6:30 pm

Recommended music: Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra (Joaquin Rodrigo, composer)