Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

May 30, 2022

Guide to Eat/Drink/Visit: Roanoke VA

Guide to Eat/Drink/Visit: Roanoke VA

I am a fan of easy to read recommendations for traveling so I can create lists of possible places to eat/drink and things to do when I visit cities. I find it hard to find so why not share my own mini guides with others! 

Between Camp Flex & Flow last year and my weekend getaway for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon this year, I have been lucky enough to spend some time in Roanoke Virginia which is just over a 4 hour drive away from Baltimore. This small city in southwest Virginia is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and features a vibrant downtown with plenty of ways to explore the great outdoors. Roanoke was very pedestrian friendly and easy to drive around and find parking in, which is a plus as a tourist. Here are some of my recommendations for what to eat, drink, and do in Roanoke, VA: 


EAT

Bread Craft- This artisan bakery has selection of fresh breads and pastries as well as a café with super delicious sandwiches in their café. They were sold out of many items later in the day so make it a part of your morning during the visit!

amazing croque monsieur sandwich from Breadcraft

Local Roots-I haven’t actually visited this spot due to time constraints of my last visit but this was on all the lists of places to check out for farm to table cuisine

Jack Brown’s Roanoke-A lowkey spot with DELICIOUS burgers and a large selection of craft beers

Blue Cow Ice Cream Co-This small batch artisan ice cream company has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had! Blue Cow Ice Cream Co flavors include Goat Cheese with Blueberry Swirl, Chocolate Brownie, and Sea Salt Brickle with Caramel Swirl. They even do ice cream FLIGHTS!

The River and Rail-Also another restaurant I didn’t get to eat at, but the reviews are great. Here you’ll find southern fare and craft cocktails.

Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje- delicious tacos and tequila & mezcal-what’ better than that!


DRINK

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention checking out Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheer Trail for a collection of local breweries, wineries, and distilleries. I didn’t have a chance to visit any wineries yet but there’s so many to choose from in Roanoke so go have a glass (or two!) in my honor.

Big Lick Brewing Company-Great craft brewery downtown with a large beer garden. There’s no food onsite but you can have food delivered onsite from nearby Tucos Taqueria or Beamer’s 25.

Golden Cactus Brewing- You can’t miss the colorful mural on the outside of this brewery located in an old warehouse.

Starr Hill Pilot Brewery & Side Stage-craft brewery with stage for lie music and rotating food trucks on their outdoor patio

Sweet Donkey Coffee-Super cute coffee shop in a historic house with a large porch and outdoor patio. They also have some pastries and specialty drinks including a delicious cinnamon bun latte.

Well Hung Vineyard-If you have a sense of humor and enjoy wine, this is the place for you.

 

VISIT

Mill Mountain Star

The Mill Mountain Star is one of the most famous attractions in Roanoke and stands 88.5 feet tall! It was actually first built in 1949 as a Christmas decoration. This 90-foot icon has overlooked the city since the 1950s. While you’re visiting the star you can also visit Mill Mountain Park which has several hiking & biking trails as well as the Discovery Center, Mill Mountain Zoo, and Wildflower Garden.

Taubman Museum of Art

The Taubman Museum Art is a museum with a cool, modern exterior and contains galleries of art from around the world alongside regional art. Admission is free!

Shopping in Grandin Village

This walkable area downtown has lots of restaurants and unique stores that makes for a perfect afternoon of eating and shopping.

Blue Ridge Mountains exploring

The Blue Ridge region of Virginia offers over 1000 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and paddling that includes Roanoke. Start planning an outdoor adventure of your choosing with some suggestions here.

Virginia Museum of Transportation-This large museum in downtown Roanoke’s freight station includes a large collection of locomotives. FYI, many of the locomotives are outdoors so wear comfy shoes!

Roanoke City Market

Historic Roanoke City Market is a year-round farmer’s market open downtown 7 days a week 8 AM-5 PM since 1882.

Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon

After running the Blue Ridge Half Marathon this past year, of course I have to plug the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon weekend. The race includes a marathon, half marathon, 10K, and the option to do a double marathon as well. It all happens in April during the Down by Downtown Music Festival. It is “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” with over 7430 ft in elevation change. You run miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway with lots of hills and fun along the way. It starts and finishes in a festival-like atmosphere in downtown Roanoke. The race was well-organized and a perfect race-cation.

{Disclosure: My race entry/lodging for the half marathon this past year was sponsored by Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge}

Roanoke Pinball Museum

Play over 65 pinball machines ranging from the year 1932 to today at the Roanoke Pinball Museum. Don’t worry about bringing quarters, the museum has flat admission ticket fees that cover UNLIMITED play!

Chocolatepaper

This store was such a hit during our scavenger hunt for Camp Flex & Flow that I was sure to hit it up last time I was in town. It’s a cute store that has lots of chocolates, candies, a large collection of unique greeting cards, gifts, and other paper products.


Have you ever visited Roanoke and what was your favorite thing to eat/drink/visit there?

November 5, 2018

Berlin Marathon 2018 Race Recap


September 16, 2018 I ran the freaking Berlin Marathon! It was my 7th marathon and 3rd World Major Marathon. It was quite the experience! So much on an experience it’s taken me a month and a half to finally get this post live.  I plan to blog about my time in Germany as well as how I planned for this trip, but let’s just focus on the race for this recap.

berlin-marathon-race-recap-2018

Planning for the Berlin Marathon
Like many large marathons these days, the Berlin Marathon uses a lottery system. Check out their registration page for information on registering (Registration for the 2019 race ends 11/7/2018)! The entry fee this year was 125€-this does not include a race shirt (you can pre-order one when you register). The race also has you choose between a post-race poncho and being able to drop a bag of clothes off for after the race, which is unlike other races I have run.

I talked a little bit about my training in recaps one and two-I never got to my final training recap before flying out to Berlin (whoops!).

Travel-wise I booked roundtrip flights to Munich. We left Thursday from Baltimore, arrived in Munich technically Friday morning, and caught a small flight from Munich to Berlin later that morning. It was a bit exhausting not flying straight into Berlin. I’d also probably give myself an extra day or two to get acclimated to the time change before an overseas race. I wanted things to be relaxing so I booked a hotel in the Mitte neighborhood, right near the Alexanderplatz and a train station.

2018 Berlin Marathon Expo


The race has over 40,000 runners, and I heard the expo was very crowded Saturday, the day before the race. After checking into our hotel and grabbing a bite to eat I headed over to the expo at the old Berlin Tempelhof Airport (the place is huge and has lots of history-one of the 3 iconic European pre-World War II airports!). We got there with just over an hour to spare. The expo was really crowded and took a bit of time. 


The expo included time outside of the airport as well as two full airport HANGARS before getting to the actual bib pickup in the back. First I showed my bib confirmation and then ID, then received a participant bracelet I needed to get into the expo and race corral. The official gear was by Adidas, and if you have ever raced a World  Marathon Major or huge marathon you know it gets crazy crowded plus some things sell out. I picked up my pre-ordered race shirt, and I also bought a race t-shirt (youth sizes for the win!) and hat.

 

There was the 6k Generali Breakfast Run the day before the race that thousands of people participated in. I instead went to a November Project shakeout run. It was fun to meet people from some different tribes as well as see a few friends and of course get a sweet spray-painted tag on my shirt.



Later in the day I spent way too much time on my feet walking around and doing some sight-seeing. I even spotted some of the Berlin Marathon Inline Skating race which is so unusual. I had pizza the night before the race and an alcohol-free beer. It happened to be a Neapolitan Italian pizza place that was some of the best pizza I've ever had.



Race Day

The Berlin Marathon begins later in the morning, just like the Boston Marathon. Wave 1 began at 9:15 AM, but maybe because I was jetlagged it didn’t feel very late in the day. I left myself plenty of time to navigate the pre-race area, but ended up having LOTS of time before the race. I hopped a train from right by my hotel and then walked right over to the starting area by the Reichstag Building. Bag check around 7:45 AM was very quick to get through. There was a giant field where I hung out.

  
Race photographer caught me checking out social media
I even found a little port-a-potty with like ONLY 3 people in line as I was walking over to ask someone which way the start corrals were (MARATHON RACE DAY MAGIC!). The race area was near the Tiergarten which is like the Central Park of Berlin. It was easy to follow all the signs to bathrooms and the race corrals. I was in the last corral of the first wave.



I spent a lot of time just waiting around in the corral. I ended up meeting a woman from the Boston area and another from New York, both who recognized my November Project tagged tank top! It was truly amazing to be in such an international race surrounded by runners from all different countries, hearing so many different languages around me in the corral. 


They had a big jumbo screen playing videos with runners speaking about the race in different languages and then played some Shakira song that everybody but me knew. It was also really cool because we could see on the screen when the hand cyclers and elites started.


I had planned to fuel with a mixture of Honey Stinger Ginsting gels, Huma Gels, a couple GU gels and carrying Nuun Hydration in a handheld bottle because the on-course nutrition was different from standard Gatorade such as in most big U.S. marathons. The race actually offers the option for us non-elite runners to have bottles of fluid on tables (just like the professional elite runners). There actually wasn't that many bottles on the tables so I probably should have done that! They had iced and hot tea on course which was unique. I had a few cups of the iced tea which was yummy and okay on my stomach. There were also some different sport gels and these things called gel chips that were cola flavored-I had one on my race bag from the expo. It tasted like a cola marshmallow. The electrolyte drink was Beetster which yup, is beetroot plus other extracts like lemon. I love beets and drink beet juice before races, but didn’t want to mess with it during the race.


There was a big balloon release at the start of the marathon which was so fun! 


Miles 1-6: The first few miles of a marathon are always exciting. I told myself to settle in and try to not get caught up in all of the runners around me. It was awesome trying to soak it all in. I kept reminding myself that I’m in Germany running the Berlin FREAKING marathon right now! Very quickly I found out the water stops were a mess due to plastic cups (see my overall recap bullet points at the end of the post) so it was hard because I usually follow the squeeze-the-cup drinking method during races.

Mid-run selfie right after the start


Miles 7-12: Around mile 6 or 7 I found the 3:30 pace group come from behind me and decided to stick with them. With pace groups sometimes I get anxious because there’s a lot of people clustered around them, especially in a big race like this one. I was looking out for my boyfriend around Mile 8 because that’s when we planned he would be able to see me since we weren’t sure how he’d get around the course. I didn’t see him which was honestly a bummer because I thought it was the only time I’d see a familiar spectator face on the course. I was still feeling pretty happy and good during these miles. 


I didn’t feel as comfortable as I wanted by the halfway mark, but I tried to just focus on sticking with the group and not looking at my watch. There was plenty of sights to take in and lots of beautiful scenery running around Berlin to distract me from the mileage left to go. 


Miles 13-18: At this point I was trying to tell myself that I was feeling strong and all was well. Yes, I spent a lot of time during marathons playing mind games with myself! I was running pretty consistent splits which is something I apparently do well during big races (according to my boyfriend who was tracking me and trying to find me). I was trying not to look at my watch really (which I had in miles so no worries about kilometers throwing me off!). I was sticking with the 3:30 pace group and really focusing on just staying with them. There were a few times from 16-18 that I got ahead of them which felt good. I had moments of getting anxious that the group got ahead of me when I slowed down or stopped at water stops plus I like being more near the front of pace groups to avoid the feeling that I’m chasing rather than running with the group. With the later start date plus the warmer-than-usual temperatures in Germany for the race (and my whole trip) I was feeling warmer than I liked. The high for the day ended up being 74 degrees so it was definitely in the 60s by 11 AM- noon.



Miles 19-finish: I was not feeling hot for most of these miles. It was probably a combination of the jetlag, it getting warmer out, plus just being at the end of the marathon. My legs were feeling tight, and the pace wasn’t feeling easy. I walked through the water stops and stopped to stretch my calves out at Mile 23. Despite feeling crappy, my pace wasn’t super slowed down. I looked at my watch and saw I could still make it under 3:35, which was my goal for the race so I asked myself “how badly do you want it? Do you want a BQ because you can get it girl”. I decided at Mile 23 I wanted it, and I pushed it to the end. 

From Mile 21 to the end I focused on just hitting the next mile marker (via my watch, because kilometer markers were obviously more frequent). It was so VERY exciting to run through the famous Brandenburg Gate. I knew that the race finish was past the gate so that last 0.2 ish miles was definitely in the pain cave. I started crying once I was running through the Brandenburg Gate because I was so happy and grateful to be running my 7th marathon and be in Germany.



Crossed the finish line in 3:31: 27. It was my second fastest marathon. I was hoping to have a bigger kick the last 10K to get sub-3:30, but I'm still really happy and proud of this race. I'm happy that I mentally fought through and made the decision to keep pushing when the going got tough. 


Smile and stop the Garmin! 

Post-race
Once I finished I had my obligatory my-legs-are-on-fire-I-feel-nauseous crouch down followed by the usual volunteer telling me to “keep moving along”. I got a water and my bag of snacks (ALL BIG RACES should bag snacks so I don’t have to carry everything!). Since I had opted for the poncho instead of dropping clothes off, I got my nice thick Berlin poncho.


Despite being freaking Germany, land of beer, there is alcohol-free beer for runners at the finish line. I partook in it because German alcohol-free beer isn’t actually so bad, plus electrolytes and all the good recovery things minus the alcohol. Don’t worry, a real deal alcohol-filled beer was in my future.





My boyfriend and I had gotten German SIM cards for our phones so we were able to call/text to meet up together by the Reichstag building. My last text message to him actually didn’t go through because there were so many people using cell phones! When I found my boyfriend he was helping a runner from Italy use his phone to call who he was supposed to meet up with-see so much fun international runner love! 


Once I found out Kipchoge set the world marathon record today, it was SO MUCH COOLER that his face was on the back of the medal! 

I slowly walked back to our hotel to shower and change before having beers and schnitzel. I spent the evening outdoors at a Berlin beer garden with some of my new November Project friends, a.k.a. the perfect post-Berlin Marathon evening.


THE GOOD:
-The race is huge with over 40,000 and energetic. There are always other runners and spectators around!
-The race is super international with people all over the world running it. It made for a beautiful running community and experience.
-The course is flat and fast-no wonder many world marathon records including the latest this year by Kipchoge (2:01:39) were set in Berlin!
-The races photos looked awesome! I ended up buying all of them because Sportograf, the photography company offered a deal for downloads of all race photos for only 29.99€! Pretty good deal, especially for a race I may only ever run once.

THE BAD:
-Oh the plastic cups. The water stops at the Berlin Marathon were horrendous. They were very crowded and bottlenecked but also the race uses plastic cups so the ground was covered with them at the water stops. There was the crunching under my feet and it also made a slippery hazard. I ended up walking a few steps to drink through them.
-On course nutrition. Not the usual Gatorade and water from US races, which I know I can handle. It hard to have to carry enough of what you train with/use, especially depending on the weather and where you are travelling from.
-It’s a big race. This is partially a good thing but can also be a bad thing. You are surrounded by runners the whole time which can feel crowded, especially if you are used to smaller races.

That’s my big ol’ Berlin Marathon race recap. 3/6 World Marathon Majors completed! After a lot of back to back marathon training cycles, I'm ready for the off-season from running and some new goals. 


Have you ever run an international race? Have you ever run the Berlin Marathon?

As always follow along on Instagram @breathedeeplyandsmile to see what I’m doing in the off-season!  



July 19, 2018

Your Definitive Guide to Baltimore’s Foodie Scene Gems

Disclaimer: I was not compensated by Lemonade or any of the aforementioned establishments. I collaborated on the article with Lemonade, and as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.

When Lemonade insurance company reached out to me asking for my foodie recommendations for an article, of course I said yes! I love eating my way through Baltimore, trying new restaurants, and sharing my recommendations with others. I not only stand by my recommendations, but also agree with all the other recommendations from the other bloggers in the article so I thought I would share. There is a great mix of types of food, parts of the city, as well as price ranges in the article. Let me which of these spots is your favorite or you want to check out!

Your Definitive Guide to Baltimore’s Foodie Scene
We go beyond the crab to help you discover local foodie gems


Baltimore, or “Bawlmer,” (if you’re a true local) is standing up to its nickname, Charm City. So charming, that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner after he witnessed the British defeat at the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814. That charming.


The city is a hotbed of history and as it’s perfectly located between DC and Philly, it’s not to be missed. Next time you’re driving down the I-95 consider stopping for a walk around the Inner Harbor, or a trip to the Fort McHenry National Monument (aka, where Francis Scott Key wrote the U.S. national anthem).


But we’re here to prioritize the real reason you should get yourself to Baltimore: the food.


Here are the best of the best spots to grab some grub in Charm City, fit for your every craving.


Breakfast for champions:
Baltimore blogger Lauren of “Breathe Deeply And Smile” points us to Blue Moon Cafe. With two locations in the city, it couldn’t be easier to get your hands on, wait for it, the Captain Crunch French Toast. This is the definition of comfort food, American style, and it’s brought in travelers from around the nation. Other notable mentions on the menu: ginormous cinnamon buns and “Sweet Baby Jesus,” made up of fried hash browns, chunky crab-meat, cheese, tomatoes, and eggs all covered in hollandaise sauce.  Food coma, anyone?
blue-moon-cafe-baltimore-cinnamon-roll
The giant cinnamon roll at Blue Moon Cafe are made for sharing! (photo by me)
Brunch for late risers:
Baltimore entrepreneur and fitness guru Kate Rowe steers us to Sobo Cafe, a cozy, intimate neighborhood restaurant in Federal Hill. All of their food, breads, and desserts are prepared fresh, from scratch, using seasonal ingredients. Local is the name of the game. It’s a great break from the Inner Harbor area, so go for their everyday specials - from chicken pot pie to mac and cheese and some great vegan dishes!


Something-for-everyone food court
Putting a food court on a foodie guide is painful, but when it’s good, it’s good. And R House is a smorgasbord of cuisines that is simply delicious. The surroundings set the tone: an industrial-chic food hall in a former body shop with roll-up garage doors will greet your hungry faces. Seating 350, the hall is spacious and offers 10 chef-run stalls, serving everything from Hawaiian poké to Venezuelan arepas and barbecue-flavored ice cream. You’ll want to try ‘em all, and with doors opening at 7am, we can see how one would want to stay there all day.


Superior takeout
Driving through Charm City? Picnicking? Stop everything and order takeout from Ekiben, a consensus among all the Baltimore bloggers. Rachel Lipton notes they serve the best steamed buns in the city, calling ‘em a “party in my mouth.” The small menu means you can’t go wrong: choose among four protein options and then choose either a steamed bun (bao) or a rice bowl. Yum.
ekiben-baltimore-bun
Ekiben also has a stand at the Baltimore Farmers Market! (photo by me)
Under the sea
We’ve waited long enough to mention seafood, but here it is, folks! Lauren chose the ultimate seafood destination for us: Thames Oyster House, serving self-proclaimed “traditional and modern Maryland, Mid-Atlantic, and New England seafood with a spectacular à la carte raw bar.” But it’s the lobster roll that everyone’s raving about, so we say, go for that. You can get your grub (and cocktail!) downstairs next to the main bar or upstairs, and enjoy a quintessential Baltimore view of the water. If it’s nice out, head out to the lovely courtyard.
thames-st-oyster-house-baltimore-lobster-roll
The lobster roll at Thames St Oyster House is not to be missed (photo by me) 
Back to Basics
New York and Chicago are world-renowned, but how ‘bout some Baltimore pizza? Hersh’s is your place, with ingredients that are as farm-to-table as they get. Besides the delicious pies in their wood-burning oven, you’ll find homemade Italian cooking: breads, cheeses, fresh pasta, and sausages.


Another mouth-watering recommendation is Di Pasquale’s. The gourmet specialty deli and market lets you stock up on imported Italian classics and homemade dishes, or take a seat at the adjacent cafe and order away.


Fancy shmancy
The name kinda gives away the vibe, but Charleston is your pick for New American and French plates in a white-tablecloth setting. Rachel tells us to go for the tasting menu: you have the option to order as many courses as you like and dessert is complimentary. Bonus? The chef Cindy Wolf makes her rounds around the restaurant to hear firsthand your foodie feedback. Notable dishes: Artichoke Soup with a Gruyere Pastry and Local Sweet Corn Flan.


South of the border
Leah sends us to Clavel, a family run mezcaleria and taqueria located in Remington, the heart of Baltimore. Clavel means means 'carnation' in Spanish, and boy, is it blooming! Beyond the delicious tacos, handmade tortillas and other Mexican-inspired cuisine, Clavel is a mecca for mezcal (the spirit made from different types of agave plants).


Next to your drink
Bar food can be, well, terrible, but it also can be, well, dreamy. Kate sends us to Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood, to Lobo - a fun, small spot to get a specialty cocktail and small bite with the locals. Grab a meat and cheese plate, some raw oysters and clams, and pair with an oak-aged cocktail for the win.


Lauren sends us off to another destination - Bar Liquorice, a Locust Point bar that has friendly people, great drinks, and jars of candy at the bar - perfect for the sweet tooth in all of us. The bartender hands out free rosemary garlic popcorn, and we’re told there’s a signature nutella bread pudding. No time for shots at this joint.


Get munching
Now that you're equipped with knowledge from Baltimore’s experts, you're ready explore this glorious city. Whether you call Baltimore home, or are just popping in to explore, don’t forget to get your stuff protected while you’re out on the town. Take Lemonade for a spin, so you can focus on eating, relaxing, and adventuring your way through Maryland, worry-free.

*This Baltimore City Guide was originally published on Lemonade.com



Have you visited any of these restaurants-what is your favorite? If you haven't visited Baltimore, what spot do you want to check out?