I stumbled across Thai Paradise in Ridgway, Colorado while en route to the Grand Junction airport after an amazing weekend spent at Telluride Blues and Brews 2010. Ridgway is tiny with just a handful of businesses, among them being an incredibly authentic Thai kitchen and a liquor store. Good enough for me. It’s an incredibly local roadside gem with an old Thai couple cooking typical Thai dishes behind the beautiful counter adorned with chopsticks and seashells and pillow-covered seating areas in the back. Colorful and friendly and delicious.
I had a traditional spicy green curried chicken dish and a lemongrass and coconut soup that they kindly and graciously served even though they’d closed just minutes before I parked under an approaching storm. Being a lover of Thai, I can make claim that this was one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had- all tucked away off of a quiet Colorado highway. There is no website for this magical little place, but if driving between Telluride and Grand Junction, make time to stop into this charming and promising hole-in-the wall just off of Colorado Highway 62. You won’t be disappointed.
Lewes, Delaware (pronounced “Lew-is”), is a quiet town situated at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay (an area referred to as Cape Henlopen), most famously known for being the “first town in the first state.” It’s a cozy and picturesque town with mossy-roofed cottages nestled between historic buildings still baring the marks of Revolutionary War cannons and ship-filled inlets. It’s a walking town, easily navigated in a long day’s stroll, meandering through the Historic Complex of the Lewes Historical Society, a block filled with the well-maintained and original buildings of significance to Lewes’ history- schoolhouses and a (Greek Revival styled) doctor’s office and other such buildings, all so perfectly charming (and truthfully old) that it could easily serve as a 19th century movie set. There are graves at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church(founded in 1681) dating to the 1600s, a walking labyrinth, homemade ice cream at King’s Ice Cream, and an abundance of fresh seafood. Lewes is historic, beautiful, and wholesome– and sometimes that combination is a necessary escape.
Lewes is a place for relaxing. A place to rise early, embrace the morning with a cup of coffee or hot tea over an Atlantic sunrise, enjoy a traditional home-cooked breakfast, toss a blanket upon the beach at Cape Henlopen State Parkfor an afternoon nap, before returning to Lewes for an evening stroll and dinner in one of the town’s small yet delicious restaurants. It’s a place to retire early too. The town is quiet by 10 p.m. This is relaxing.
The Blue Water House, an artsy inn in Lewes, is a lovely establishment to spend your mornings and evenings, aside colorful paintings and sculptures, well-styled rooms (the Hemmingway Suite is simply enchanting, in an anomalously sophisticated way), cozy outdoor seating areas backdropped by vintage canoes, interesting art pieces, and comfy chaise lounges.
The amenities are simple and ever-appreciated. Buckets of beer varieties and bottles of wine are left about in the communal dining area at cocktail hour, all amidst antique furniture, a fully stocked kitchen, and windows overlooking the bay. And breakfast is served communally at the community of kitchen tables all while jolly kitchen folk whip up hams and pastries and teas and coffees and juices and pancakes and everything else that makes breakfast perfect. There are complimentary cruiser bikes as well as house umbrellas and beach towels to make days spent adventuring more convenient. There’s even a telescope on the patio. The Blue Water House is the perfect place to call home while visiting Lewes.
And for dinner? I highly recommend Half Full, an innovative pizza and wine bar in the town’s historic center. Half Full has a pretty extensive wine & beer list and seasonally creative pizzas on both the always-changing house menu and the daily specials. We had two- one baring fresh lump crab, Manchego cheese, and sweet corn and another with house-made prosciutto and asparagus. On the current fall menu, try the Fall Veggie (butternut squash creme, sauteed mushrooms, Swiss chard, Gruyere) or the Pork and Apple (roasted garlic sauce, braised pork, Gala apple, Gruyere)- both for $11. I suppose I left out that Half Full’s prices are reasonable too.
All too often, the word “Victorian” implies an excess of lace, mismatched floral bedding, and miu-miu-esque curtains. “Victorian” is generally a word I avoid when seeking my kinda accommodations in my travels, particularly when searching for a cozy bed and breakfast.
Contrary to my admitted generalization, San Francisco’sBroderick Victorian, managed by husband and wife owners Sri Jujade and Nisha Yan, is anything but traditional gaudy-Victorian. In fact, it’s rather contemporary, worldly, (tastefully) colorful, and cozy, though one of my favorite characteristics (as if the above were not enough) is the discreteness of the Broderick. So discrete, may I add, that as I arrived, far later than I expected to, I was unable to locate which traditional San Francisco three-story house was my accommodation for the next two nights (which became four when I wasn’t quite ready to leave). So discrete that it blended in seamlessly with its long-established San Francisco neighbors. I liked this quality, not only because a sense of discovery in my travels is something I value, but also because it was that authentic- that San Francisco-real.
Being my first visit to San Francisco, I was particular about wanting to stay in a true San Francisco house, something reflective of the Painted Ladies liningAlamo Squarethat we’re all so familar with- the three story, pastel beauties. I spent several weeks researching local accommodations, but when I came across The Broderick, I knew I’d uncovered a treasure. The Broderick certainly fulfilled that desire and the hospitality of its owners far exceeded my expectations. Let me repeat, far exceeded.
The first three evenings were spent in the Penthouse, which occupies the entire upper floor, with a full living room, a bedroom, a “yoga room” in what I refer to as the ‘princess tower’ and a lovely, small porch overlooking the San Francisco Bay, affording beautiful views of the sunrise and the city. When I first arrived, I was quite taken aback by the expansive, private beauty of my temporary home- an ultra-modern sectional sofa taking residence in the center of the room, tons of original-paned windows that I opened to allow the SF breeze seep in all night and the Asian inspired beddings and sheer curtains separating the “yoga room” with hand-painted murals upon its wall, a wood floor scattered with exotic, colorful pillows and an array of scented candles for relaxation. Instantly, I was in wanderlust.
When I awoke the next morning, wrapped in a silk, Asian floral comforter, I sat up in awe- enveloped in my makeshift kimono, realizing in sincere surprise that I was unexpectedly watching the sunrise over the San Francisco Bay directly through the doors of the porch, perfectly aligned with the queen-sized bed.
Being lucky enough to have been the Inn’s only guest for most of my stay (there are just five different rooms or the option of renting the entire home), I ventured to the floor below me to indulge in the daily homemade breakfast Nisha had prepared for me, left with a kind, handwritten note welcoming me. With a full kitchen, large dining room and a snuggly porch, it was a perfect setting to enjoy a solitary breakfast and a single Guinness Draught left behind in the fridge, presumably a leftover of a former guest. (It turns out Guinness nicely accompanies fresh fruit, crisp bacon and thick, egg-soaked French toast, not that I’d discounted the age-old idea that beer goes hand-in-hand with any meal.)
Midas was my other favorite thing about The Broderick. Midas is the house golden retriever (who lives with the owners in their first-floor home), a lovely pooch pal that I invited to spend the night with me (after having a few drinks and misadventures around town- the usual precursors for such an invite); against my wishes, he declined, but not before having a lovely snuggle session.
Following my two nights at The Broderick, I wasn’t ready to part ways just yet. I intentionally missed my flight and booked two more evenings, one in the Penthouse and the other in the Garden Suite, a very private bottom floor room, which was equally as pleasing- a tad more intimate and isolated with a private entrance at its patio.
My final morning at The Broderick, I awoke to a traditional Indian breakfast that Sri’s mother, Raji, a native Eastern Indian, had prepared for me in their home on the first floor- a traditional cauliflower dish called sabzi and a savory yellow cake topped with strawberries called dhokla served with a tangy mint chutney. It was a delightful way to spend my last morning- a communal, San Francisco-sized table filled with colorful, exotic dishes, sincere generosity and a genuine sense of welcome. The Broderick Victorian is certainly a home away from home.
Organically crafted microbrews, rustic Spanish tapas, and an emphasis on sustainability and recycling are just a few of the unique characteristics of ThirstyBear Brewing Company in San Francisco, the country’s first microbrewery specializing in authentic Spanish cuisine.
When I first read about ThirstyBear, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect pairing of things I love: microbrews and tapas. Homemade lagers and paella?!? Perfection, I know. The more I read about ThirstyBear, I knew in advance that I loved everything about it. It’s San Francisco’s only brewery serving organic, hand-crafted ales and lagers and also recycles all paper, aluminum, plastic, and glass, recycles their cooking oil into biodiesel, buys local produce when available, and uses only sustainable harvested seafood.
And upon visiting ThirstyBear, I was even more in love and lust over its perfections. Among my favorite qualities:
Its location in a massive historic brick building in downtown San Francisco.
Golden Vanilla beer. Yes, I said vanilla. Often times I’m not a fan of flavor-infused beers, particularly of the sweet variety; this, however, was the most refreshing, light beer infused with whole vanilla beans. This beer was euphoric. I’m craving one (actually six) now.
Valenciana paella. Love is an understatement when it comes to my adoration of traditional Spanish paella (when made properly). Microbreweries are renown for having classic pub fare; the fact that ThirstyBear successfully reflects regional dishes of Spain has formed my lifelong relationship with the establishment. The Valenciana paella is served with saffron chicken, chorizo, clams, mussels, shrimp, peas, and red peppers. It’s beautiful. And perfect.
A flatbread served with local clams, Manchego cheese, and peas.
Jamon-wrapped asparagus topped with a fried egg and Spanish spices.
House made sangria (dessert) alongside an ever-changing cheese selection with funky varieties like Leonora- with a golden raisin chutney & chives,
San Simon- with a port caramel & pistachios, La Serena- with a fennel marmalade & almond cookies, and Valdeon- with a rhubarb gelee & port reduction.
With all of the very unique attributes ThirstyBear offers, it will continue to be my favorite microbrewery in the country. Thank you, Ron Silberstein, a former attorney turned brewmaster, turned restaurateur. You’ve made my life complete. And have given me a very distinct reason to return to San Francisco sooner than later.
The entire front wing is falling down. There are no doors or windows in this wing. There are bullet holes in the kitchen walls along with graffiti from its visitors while abandoned over the decades. There’s an underground radio station in a secret room. There are only two rooms that can be reserved in a wing behind the dilapidated wing. There is one bathroom. There is original furniture leftover from its former residents, hauntingly furnishing what little remains of the mansion.
Welcome to Upstairs at the Mansion, also referred to as the Perry Mansion, a two-room “hotel” on a hilltop overlooking the (authentic) ghost town of Terlingua, Texas.
The ghost town of Terlingua is a cozy place. It’s quiet. It’s calming. It has a rich history. It has a few residents in what few structures are still standing within the perimeter of the ghost town. Everyone knows each other and most of them can be found on the steps of the local general store on Texas afternoons and evenings, playing guitar and drinking cold beers. Mind you, this general store allows its patrons to purchase beer, leave it in the fridge inside, and take them out one by one as you enjoy an evening on the porch, under the vast Texas sky. The worker keeps a tally of how many you have left. You can’t get more small-town than that. And that, my friends, is authenticity at its finest.
Kaci Fullwood, the mind behind the Mansion, is an amazingly intelligent, knowledgeable host, offering immense insight into the surrounding area, local charms, natural history, and area legends. She left the Mansion much as it was when she first crafted the idea of renting the rooms to visitors. Aside from her crafty touches in the livable areas of the Mansion, it stands deteriorating as it has been for several decades, which I find both genuine and intriguing.
Arriving much after dark on a warm Texas night, there’s an enveloping eeriness to the Mansion. There’s a quietness to West Texas that’s unlike any place I’ve been. It was almost as if the Mansion was breathing and given its history, that’s a possibility. Miss Kaci (as locals call her) greeted me with a glass of Sangiovese and an intriguing conversation in the rustic kitchen (a tin ceiling, a door leading to the dilapidated wing, and original windows), before showing me to my room.
The room was upstairs. It was simple, simply having two beds and a vanity sink. The curtains hung on “rods” made from local vegetation. And there was an antique filing cabinet found in the remains of the Mansion. The bathroom is at the foot of the stairs, which is lined with built-in bookshelves filled with classic novels and local tales, a collection belonging to another local resident who had nowhere to put them. There’s another door leading to the top floor of the inaccessible wing which remains sealed, as the floor is no longer existent.
I awoke around 5 a.m. to brew some coffee and watch the sunrise over the Chinati Mountains from the Mansion’s porch. The vibrant colors slowly rising over the desert and mountain ranges was the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen. Steam from my hot coffee created a mystic, cloud-like forefront to the distant sunrise. By 7 a.m., Miss Kaci and I were off to Mexico, via River Road, listed in America’s most scenic drives, which travels along the Rio Grande River into Presidio, Texas before crossing into Ojinaga, Mexico, which was about a two hour drive from the Mansion, though I took my time for innumerable photo ops along the route.
We spent the morning exploring the sidestreets of Ojinaga, having roadside ceviche, and interacting with other Terlingua locals who happened to be having lunch at the same drug-lord operated restaurant where we were having morning margaritas (Miss Kaci is well-informed). One of my favorite characteristics of Ojinaga were the city official trucks with cannons in their beds. I didn’t know cannons were still considered conventional weapons?! We then ventured farther in search of San Carlos, a small village about 3 hours into Mexico. We went through Mexican Federales checkpoints (a dream come true for me- ridiculous, I realize) and explored the quiet streets of a village that had little activity aside from a cock-fighting arena and a couple of local farmers selling produce from the back of their truck. With timing seemingly perfect, we were headed back to Terlingua along River Road as the sun set over the Rio Grande, offering scenery that words do no justice.
After napping, I headed down the hill, just footsteps away, to the Starlight Theater, a local restaurant next to the town’s general store- a colorfully converted theater turned restaurant and bar in an adobe style building, specializing in live music and wild game.
The following morning, I set off to explore the ghost town by foot, which I’d yet to do. I enjoyed the Wild West cemeteries scattered amongst decrepit mining houses, backdropped by mountain ranges in all directions, wooden crosses standing pridefully in the desert stillness. I met Blair Pittman, a former correspondent for National Geographic, for lunch at the Ghost Town Cafe, a very local diner- a diner so local my waitress was rolling cigarettes at the table next to me while I ate homemade chicken noodle soup and Bridget (the Ghost Town Cafe kitty) happened to jump into my lap mid-meal. I ventured with Blair to a different ghost town he lives on- a former cinnabar mine (which I’m not allowed to name- hey, that’s The Anti Tourist loyalty; some things are meant to be discovered on our own).
I had planned to leave thereafter when I received a last minute offer from a townsperson to stay another night in their friend’s adobe house in the town. Apparently the said friend was in Ecuador, so they did the logical thing and sent their daughter through his window to unlock the doors, granting me an entire house to myself for another evening of exploration. Anytime “breaking and entering” is involved, I’m happy. Again, names will be left unstated for obvious reasons.
So, I headed to Long Draw Pizza for dinner. I somehow scored a free pizza, made friends with some locals who I ended up incredibly intoxicated with (Newcastles were only $2), and was taught that cell phone usage is not permitted in Long Draw. In fact, the owner will go ape-shit if she sees you on your phone. I like this. We ended up going to La Kiva, a bar down the street, and playing a game called Butt Darts. (That’s one of those things that must be discovered on your own as well. And I might be a little bit ashamed.)
The next morning I ventured to Kosmic Kathy’s Kowgirl Kafe, a pink roadside trailer specializing in BBQ. I sat around a fire with a few locals, attempting to cure the damage from the previous eve. One man mentions being at La Kiva the night before when I said, “Oh! I was there last night.” He responds, “I met you last night. Do you remember playing butt darts?” Laughter ensued around the campfire. I then met Brown Dog, who is apparently the collective pet of Terlingua. Brown Dog wonders the highway between Study Butte and Terlingua (about 5 miles), stopping at restaurants along the way, knowing what time people will be where. When veterinary attention is necessary, a random townsperson will take him and set him free again. I was informed that there’s no worry of a traffic accident as Brown Dog’s apparently a “free spirit, a wanderer, a wise dog.”
The quirks, authenticities, mysteries, and discoveries are endless in this quiet, remote corner of West Texas. Within just three days, I gained random insight, nearly unbelievable stories, unusual experiences, new friends, local knowledge, and reassurance of realness left in the world. Terlingua offers a change of pace that seems impossible to achieve. Terlingua offers a direct interaction with a history long lost. Terlingua offers remarkable beauty, a genuine sense of community, and most importantly, a reminder that our personal velocity is, in fact, our personal option.