Asheville Hiking

We were determined to get a hike in while we were in Asheville last June. Our friend suggested that we would like the hike to see the waterfalls at Dupont State Forest.
We lost phone service on the way so were very confused with directions. It made me think that there should always be a paper map as a backup plan. We finally found it and parked the car in a designated free lot.
It started raining just as we arrived. It was nothing hard but a sprinkle. We decided to pack our ponchos and do the hike anyway. It proved to be a good choice. Sure we got soaked but rain kept many hikers away. The falls that were normally packed were not very crowded at all.

We started our hike with a stop at a disgusting porta potty. We had a chance to go to either hooker falls or triple falls. 3 is better than 1 right? We started toward the triple falls.

Trails were nice and mostly quiet.

We came across our first set of falls. They looked kind of small and we weren’t sure how to get closer to them.

We reached the big falls. Above them lies a bridge to get across the water.

We finally found a path to get closer to the one set of falls. It was wet and slippery. It was a bit of an obstacle course to get to them. When we got there we discovered we had them all to ourselves. We decided against getting in the water. Perhaps it seemed like too much trouble at the time.

When we arrived at the next set of falls we noticed people climbing the rocks. When it is a dry day climbing the rocks is probably a much safer activity. The day we were there it was raining and the rocks were very wet. My husband decided to brave climbing them anyway.
Notice me below with my superhero cape ready to save him (hint its actually a poncho).

While he climbs I take in the view off in the distance.

He finally gets to the top.

But then has trouble getting back down. Don’t worry, he eventually made it down.

After the day of hiking we returned to my friends house to clean up for the night. Thanks to her awesome husband she was able to come to dinner with us and have a grown up night out. We decided on dinner at  Bouchon in downtown Asheville. While waiting for our table we shared a bottle of wine.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner with great conversation in the courtyard. I miss being around my friend. We were thrown together in a dorm in college and become close. We have kept in touch throughout the years through all our changes and moves. I definitely don’t call her as much as I should. It was nice to spend some quality time with her again. As a special surprise we found out that Jude Law was dining out at the same restaurant the same night. Too bad we missed or didn’t notice him!

Afterwards my friend took us to listen some local music at 5 Walnut Wine Bar. It was a small cozy bar that fit just right on a weeknight. My friend told me on the weekends people line up on the sidewalk to listen and get in. We got lucky and got stools at the bar. A lovely band was playing soft tunes. They did a cover that I knew all the words to but I could remember the band. After some deep thought I remembered it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It was a great night.

Sevilla : More Churches!!!

We spent one more day in Sevilla exploring around town. While we were there, they were preparing for the Holy Week. Most churches around town staged a float for the holy week. Much preparation goes into this parade. It is an honor to carry the float and it can take twenty-four and fifty-four men to carry one float from their church to the Sevilla Cathedral.

These figurines look intimidating but the hoods have a different meaning in Spain. The capirote or pointed hats are used in religious practice and not meant for what we might think they are used for in the united states.

Sevilla Cathedral (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede de Sevilla)

Sevilla cathedral is the largest Gothic church in existence.
The floats during used holy week will all arrive at this cathedral on good Friday. It is a magnificent church but also contains some great works by the artist Murillo.
An organ of 7,000 pipes. That’s some pipe power!

La Visión de San Antonio by Murillo

Some beautiful stained glass windows.

Tomb of Columbus

It is highly disputed where the remains of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus lie. Finally DNA tests prove that at least part of Columbus rest in this tomb (he may also be in Cuba where he traveled posthumously).

St. Justina and St. Rufina, 1817

There was a real interesting back story about these saints.

We got a chance to climb to the top of the accompanied tower. We got a nice view of the bells while we were up there.

Giralda Tower

Interesting drainage solutions outside the church in the orange courtyard.

After exploring the church we did some window shopping. I wish I had a need for a flamenco dress!

The day soon came to an end and we had to leave the next day. We probably could have spent another day or two here not even mentioning all the other cities in the region that we missed. Oh welll! I guess we can always come back! Adios!

Beyond BBQ – Midtown Memphis

Upon my last visit to Memphis I stayed a bit closer to mid town. This opened me up to many more dining out possibilities. I spent two nights exploring this area a bit.

The first night I settled on eating at Chiwawa upon recommendation of a friend. Chiwawa specializes in American and Mexican street food.

The evening was nice so I settled on a table on the outdoor patio.

I decided to start with a local beer.

They had a 3 taco special that night. I settled on the delicious taco del sol, flavorful carne asada, and the not so exciting aftershroom delight. The shroom taco could have used something more…not sure what.

A couple of nights later I decided to head back down to another part of midtown.  On the way I came across this used records store. It caught my eye because it shares a name with one of my favorite terrible movies (and also mentioned in a great Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem).

I found parking spot in the Cooper-Young neighborhood and walked around.
The first thing that greeted me was this cool decor of an overpass.

This area has nice bike lanes and racks.

On the way to dinner I passed by the interesting House of Mews. The House of Mews is a sanctuary that houses cats until they can find a permanent home. There are mucho kitties in this place.

Upon recommendation from a friend I decided to eat dinner at Sweet Grass. Sweet Grass is a southern bistro with a farm to table flare. There were many local ingredients on the menu. Next door is their sister restaurant called Next Door that provides a more casual dining experience. I chose to eat at the more formal restaurant.

I was dining alone and given a table in the front of the restaurant looking outside to the street. I thought that was nice of them to give me something to look at while dining.
The restaurant itself is tastefully decorated with nice wooden tables.
Starting off they brought some warm corn bread and butter. I am not normally a cornbread fan but this cornbread was amazing. It was soft and flavorful and heaven with the butter. I couldn’t stop eating it (It made me too full to try a dessert later).

I started off by ordering their special drink Green Fork ($1 of each goes to charity). It was good but not my cup of tea. I am not a huge midori fan. 

For the main dish I settled on the medium plate chuck roast over the mushroom barley risotto. The meat easily fell apart and was full of great flavor. I really like what the risotto added to the dish. There was just the right amount of savory gravy.

As a side dish I was intrigued by the butternut squash goat cheese flan. It arrived on its own plate with a look of a lumpy yellowish flan. It was a good choice, The flavors were amazing.

I wish I would have saved room for a dessert but I was full. I walked around the area a bit more after dinner and noticed many more places to dine and drink at. If I end up in Memphis again I will definitely return.

Hindu Temples and beginings of buddhism in Sarnath

A trip to Varanasi would not be complete without stopping in Sarnath. Sarnath is where the Buddha first taught the Buddhist dharma.

Buddha taught from a stupa (large round shrines).

Also visiting were numerous colorful school kids (see background). They were excited to practice their English with us and energetically said hello to us as we walked by them.

Dhamekh Stupa

Offerings left outside the shrine.

Lots of people make the pilgrimage here.

Mulagandha Kuti Vihar temple

Walls tell the story of the start of Buddhism.

After our visit to Sarnath, we stopped to see some artisans and how some textiles are made.

This machine has cards that store the “program” for certain designs.

There is always an opportunity to purchase in India.

Along the way to our next stop we saw these children along the ride.

Queen’s College Benares (Now a Sanskrit University).

We stopped next at the old Queen’s College. Neat astronomy measuring equipment is located in the back of the building.

Bharat Mata Temple 

Finally we stopped at the Bharat Mata Temple. In the temple lies a large map of what was once all India territory.

The map represents what was once a very large and vast country but now has shrunken a bit over the years. It was very interesting to see.
I wish I would have had more time in Varanasi. I feel like more time was needed to soak in all the Hindu and Buddhist spiritual energy contained there.
Perhaps some day I will return again.

What it is like to get a PR

For the first time I got to feel what it is like to get a PR (personal record) for a run. Race season is once more and I have been actively training for a number of races. The Disney Tower of Terror 10 miler is just one long run in a series of runs I will do this race season. Since I started distance runs in 2012, I have always striven to beat my time. Unfortunately I never quite could beat my time of my first half marathon. This past weekend I was able to finally beat all my pace records for distance running.

It started off that the weather gods were in my favor. We were expecting a cold front for the evening so the race would be slightly cooler than normal.

We had to arrive around 8:00 PM for the 10:00 PM race. I was chipper and eager to start my run then. Unfortunately I had to wait until 10:00 PM for the corrals to start their race. I posed below with my running buddies who have accompanied me at all my distance Disney races. They are much faster than me but always provide moral support.

The run began for me approximately 10:20 PM since I was in a slower corral. It was a relatively uneventful run. I ran at my normal 5K pace for the first half of the race. That could of backfired and almost did since miles 6-8 proved a bit challenging for me. However I pushed through and finished strong.
The reward at the end was this interactive tower of terror medal (The elevator goes up and down).

Post race I was pretty beat since I pushed myself throughout. I almost puked up a banana that I ate too quickly. Later at home I finally figured out that is was my best time of all my distance races.
I had to compare it to both half-marathons and 15ks since I had no 10 milers in the past.

After our rest period we decided to take advantage of the rides that were open. Our first try at tower of terror had an hour wait. We decided to ride the Toy Story ride first (which had a 20 minute wait) and later returned to walk right on the Tower of Terror. It was so much fun to see my tower of terror medal float in the air as we fell.

See the tower of terror in the distance.

Since we got lucky we decided to try to ride the Aerosmith Rock n Rollercoaster. There was no wait for that one as well. We all got backstage passes from the band.

See the band in the recording studio.

The night was successful but had to come to an end. We drove home and got to bed around 4:30 am. Since I fed the cats before bed they let me sleep in. I woke at 11 am tired and famished. I demanded food and we went to local restaurant for brunch. I decided I deserved a big bloody mary.

I also ordered chicken and waffles – something I never crave but did that day. I deserved it just this once!!!

So there is my story of my PR. Will it end here? Probably not. I have another half-marathon in December that I need to PR. Plus I have a Ragnar team in February that is counting on me speeding up. Wish me luck!!!!

Spain: Another day in Madrid

It was our last day in Madrid and the Prado Museum is a must see. You can find some great Spanish works there.

After our morning visit to the Prado we noticed these Syrian protesters out on the street. In the typical European way, people actually gather to protest things they want to change. We don’t get around to doing that anymore in the US.

After we visited the Prado for a few hours, we decided to wander around the El Real Jardín Botánico. It is the Royal Botantical garden. We fully enjoyed the large collection of plants outside and in the greenhouses.

Fun cactus-like plant

Orchids and other hanging plants

Cactus room

Our park selfie

Next to the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid lies the Parque del Retiro. This large park contains many trails, monuments, and lakes to enjoy. We spent a couple hours lounging around like locals. There is a boat rental and a cafe.

After lounging around the park we walked back into town and walked by this monument Puerta de Alcalá.

Also not far we happened upon this indoor outdoor area with this fabulous ceiling. I guess it is located inside what is known as the El Palacio de Comunicaciones.

After wandering around all day we were hungry. I ordered a hearty Spanish meal for dinner at a cafe nearby the hotel. It is early bedtime since we had to travel to Sevilla the next day. See you there.