4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “Beaches”

Hurting for a Yurting (by Carmen)

It was still a cold, blustery spring when our friend Taylor suggested a summer camping trip. As extra enticement, the campsite she had in mind came equipped with the most fun to say accommodation on earth – a yurt. The heat of summer was still just a glimmer in our eyes but we could already taste the campfire s’mores. We replied with an enthusiastic yes.

Yurt sweet yurt

Yurt sweet yurt

It was months later, in the dog days of summer that Taylor, Andrew, Nathan and I piled into our rental car for the drive to the Belleplain Forest in New Jersey. But NJ didn’t want us. Or so it seemed from the massive effort it took to get into and through the Holland Tunnel. When we finally emerged on the other side we all felt extraordinarily grateful for leading car-free lifestyles exempt from the daily traffic grind. We still had a ways to go since our destination was in the southern end of the state. We passed the time with upbeat music, good conversation and entertaining roadsigns, like the community of Cheesequake. I think NJ just wants to be made fun of sometimes. When hunger got the better of us, we made a quick pit stop for decent Chinese food in a random little town along the way. Thanks Yelp!

Building our fire

Building our fire

After a few hours on the road, we pulled into the campsite after dark and found that friend Megan and Andy had built a lovely campfire for us. What a welcome sight after a long drive.

Lake Nummy (photo source: Megan)

Lake Nummy (photo source: Megan)

Woodsy stroll (photo source: Megan)

Woodsy stroll (photo source: Megan)

The next morning I awoke to the most perfect weather ever. It was not too hot, not too cold; not too humid, not too dry; just right. To get a taste of the surrounding woods we did a quick stroll around Lake Nummy (rhymes with yummy :) before jumping in. While the lake was rather small, the designated swimming area was even smaller. And of course it was watched over by two lifeguards, just in case. Thankfully, we all survived.

Andrew after he successfully hung the hammock

Andrew after he successfully hung the hammock

Hammock views

Hammock views

Improvised hummus wrap (photo source: Taylor)

Improvised hummus wrap (photo source: Taylor)

We ate a crunchy lunch of veggie and hummus wraps and hung around until it was swim time again. While the group headed back to the lakeside, I opted to rest in Taylor and Andrew’s deliciously comfortable hammock while reading my beloved Alexander McCall Smith writing about my favorite city, London. Felt like care-free days of summer camp.

Cooking on the campfire

Cooking on the campfire

Campfire gathering

Campfire gathering

In the evening we gathered around the campfire to assemble some kabobs for dinner. Though by the end of it we were incredibly full on charred veggies and spicy rice we still had s’more room for dessert. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret about s’mores – the best method for a perfect ooey-gooey s’more is to warm the chocolate. Because lets face it, chocolate tastes better in melted form. To do this simply place your square of chocolate on a graham cracker and place on a grate near the fire. It only takes a minute and your s’mores may forever be changed.

Sea Isle City Beach (photo source: Sea Isle City)

Sea Isle City Beach (photo source: Sea Isle City)

On our final New Jersey day we couldn’t pass up the a chance to visit the Jersey shore. Yes the shore of MTV infamy. Indeed there were the dense looking guys who spent way too much time at the gym and sunning themselves. But this simply gave the beach some NJ credibility. With good waves and decent sand even this California girl has to admit, this was a nice beach overall.

Thanks to Taylor, Andrew, Megan and Andy for a great weekend! Let’s do it again next year :)

Solstice on Fire Island (by Carmen)

Sunset on the solstice

Sunset on the solstice

Yes, the solstice was a few months ago – we’re catching up a bit. After a strenuous hike on the AT, we decided to take it easy this time and head to the beach. The summer solstice seemed like the perfect time to get to the shore and soak in as much light as possible.

Wide open expanse of beach

Wide open expanse of beach

Fire Island is a skinny spit of land spread along the south shore of Long Island. While it only has 300 year-round residents, thousands of fair-weather visitors descend in the summer. Indeed Fire Island has reputation as a party zone, which explains why I got a few puzzled looks when I told people that I was backpacking there. The general lack of knowledge about the island’s wilderness zone worked in our favor as we encountered beautiful stretches of beach to enjoy all to ourselves.

Ferry that took us across Great South Bay

Ferry that took us across Great South Bay

Wooden walkways become the “roads” of the car-free sections of Fire Island

Wooden walkways become the “roads” of the car-free sections of Fire Island

Like the Appalachian Trail we had hiked earlier, the Fire Island trails had the great benefit of being transit accessible. We boarded a Long Island Rail Road train to Patchogue (pronounced PATCH-og) and walked a little ways to the Davis Ferry landing. (If you go, note that there are two ferry landings in Patchogue. You want the one further north, closest to the station.) The 30 minute ferry across the calm Great South Bay was packed with families, coolers, barbeques, dogs, and us with our backpacks. There are no cars allowed on most of the island and the only access is by boat.

Our secluded campsite among the dunes

Our secluded campsite among the dunes

After checking in with the visitors center, we filled our water bottles to the brim. There would be no amenities once we walked into the wilderness zone, not even a water spigot. This seems to be enough of a detraction that within 20 minutes of walking the crowds dispersed. The incredibly bright sun beat down on us as we crossed wide swathes of empty sand, though because it was only June, the cool breeze meant we welcomed the suns warmth. When we felt we had lost sight of all other backpackers, we nestled our tent against a sand dune and devoured our all-time favorite hiking lunch, a PB&J.

Near the tip of Old Inlet which was breached by Hurricane Sandy

Near the tip of Old Inlet which was breached by Hurricane Sandy

There was more walking to do, however, as Nathan convinced me to join him in hiking to the Old Inlet 4 miles away. The name Old Inlet is a bit of a misnomer. While it was once a dwindling waterway connecting the bay and the ocean, Hurricane Sandy increased its size tenfold. The Reborn Inlet, as they should call it, now creates a swift tide rapidly pulling water in and out of the Great South Bay.

The man can cook

The man can cook

Mmmmmm

Mmmmmm

Nathan and I sauteed a light dinner of vegetables and couscous while perched on a large piece of driftwood. It felt so exhilarating to be in such a empty, idyllic setting, breathing the salt-scented air, absorbing the sound of waves crashing. We toasted our good fortune with a few sips from the flask, then carefully climbed a nearby dune to watch the sunset on the solstice.
Once the last bit of sun was gone, we bid a hasty retreat into the tent to escape from gigantic mosquitos that found us irresistible.

Tequila!

Tequila!

Sea shells by the sea shore

Sea shells by the sea shore

In the morning, we milked our beach time with some sun salutations and splashing around. As we headed westward, the families with coolers at the beach set again surrounded us again. While waiting for the next train, we shared a delicious meatball sandwich from Delfiore Italian Deli and marveled at the fact that such natural beauty could be found so close to NYC. In the end, we retained three souvenirs from our solstice on Fire Island: sea shells, sunburn, and a new respect for east coast beaches.

Koh Tao-ism (by Carmen)

Beach view on Koh Tao

Beach view on Koh Tao

We disembarked from our overnight ferry and stepped onto the shores of Koh Tao (Turtle Island) off the east coast of Thailand. Despite the lush hills and palm tree lined shores I was seeing, I was slightly disappointed. There was more rocky cove and less sandy beach than I had been hoping for. We decided to walk north to see what we found. Three kilometers later we winded our way down the path to Bow Thong Resort and found what I was looking for: a little slice of paradise.

Our bungalow

Our bungalow

After quickly settling into our little bungalow, we threw on our swim suits and hopped into a lounge chair. Given the beach bumming in Phuket in the days previous, our trip was feeling more like a vacation than a travel adventure. It’s good to take a break sometimes.

The beach at Bow Thong Resort

The beach at Bow Thong Resort

We spent the day alternating between dipping into the cool, clear waters and hiding from the scorching sun under our umbrella. Since there was wifi on the beach we took the opportunity to call our families and gloat, I mean, let them know we were safe.

Sunset joy

Sunset joy

Fiery sunset

Fiery sunset

The sunset was brilliant and beautiful. The colors merged between sky and sea in a fiery glow. As the day closed it also marked a transition for me. The next morning I woke up and was officially one year older.

Pork noodles

Pork noodles

Duck noodles

Duck noodles

I’m not going to lie. Spending you birthday in paradise is a wonderful thing. I started the day out right with brunch at the oddly named 995 Duck. The pork and duck noodles were the best meal we had on the island.

Koh Nang Yuan

Koh Nang Yuan

Next we boarded a bright orange, blue and green taxi boat for the 10 minute ride to a little strip of sand called Koh Nang Yuan. The coral-strewn sand bar separates two crystal bays punctuated by small, lush hills.

Overprotective snorkeling

Overprotective snorkeling

From our staked out square of sand we watched diving classes, which is the reason most people come to Koh Tao. But today we were part of the snorkeling crowd. This group was entertaining to watch, especially the Chinese mom almost drowning her son with so much floating gear he could hardly move.

Snorkeling bay called the Japanese Garden

Snorkeling bay called the Japanese Garden

When we made it into the water with our masks I was awestruck. The fish were yellow backed with little neon strips of warpaint under their eyes. Black with orange stripes. Bright blue. Neon yellow, green and pink. But the real show stopper was the plant and reef life. The variety of coral from leaf like shapes to stalagmite growths to flat geometric patterns covering rocks. We even saw brilliant purple anemones as big as basketballs. I really wish I had Nalat’s underwater camera to capture it all!

Enjoying the strip of beach

Enjoying the strip of beach

Blooming coconut on a bed of coral

Blooming coconut on a bed of coral

After a short hike, we boarded the taxi back to Koh Tao. I will not soon forget this picture perfect birthday.

Eating carrot cake

Eating carrot cake

But what is a birthday without cake? Fortunately a British expat opened a shop to ensure that anyone requiring baked sweets was not left behind. I enjoyed a very satisfying carrot cake, making me a very happy birthday girl.

Just another beautiful sunset

Just another beautiful sunset

How does it get any better? Another glorious sunset, mango cocktails on a candlelit beach…let’s just say Koh Tao was everything I’d hoped for and more. It was the perfect place to celebrate my birthday as well as the big 3-0 (that’s the number of countries we have visited in our lives – not the number of years quite yet!) Already, country number 31 is in our sights as the temples of Angkor beckon.

Phuket, Get Me Some Dirty Noodles, Extra Spicy (by Nathan)

Dry noodles with pork and dumplings

Dry noodles with pork and dumplings

Enter paradise and you will find that thousands arrived before you and will continuously arrive throughout your stay.  Sometimes we just have to throw up our hands and say “Phuket” and have a good time anyway.  The hoards of tourists make it challenging to get amazing authentic Thai food, thus it became our motto to search for the “dirty noodles.” On side streets and alleyways, market stalls and hilltops we were going to enjoy Phuket and eat well too.  Who cares if your restaurant has a peppy australian or ladyboy serving bolognaise, burgers and beer, we want noodles and curries over rice and make that shit spicy.  4feet2mouths had doubled in proportion with our friends Nalat and Tim.  With scooters and sandals we were determined to explore and conquer Phuket.

Scooty Booty Biker Gang

Scooty Booty Biker Gang

Pork fried rice

Pork fried rice

Phuket is an island, a rather large island with multiple cities.  We desperately needed wheels and it was hard to resist almost new scooters at $7 per day.  It seemed rather funny that so many blondes and beach bebops rode around in just skimpy bathing suits.  Instead we wore clothes, Tim and I fashioned bandannas on our heads, our ladies grabbed on tight and the birth of a new biker gang emerged from the depths of Kata Beach: Scooty Booty.  The first stop was dirty noodles of course!  We had egg noodles, rice noodles and crispy noodles with clear, spicy and red broths and pork balls, fish balls, shrimp and wontons.  The second lunch of the day was a fried rice stand.  Up and down the island we rode and not even a late monsoon rain storm could stop us.

Fluorescent sunset

Fluorescent sunset

Feast at Khao Rung Tung Ka Cafe

Feast at Khao Rung Tung Ka Cafe

The evening approached with a sunset that made the eighties look dull.  The pinks were so bright that I started to miss “A Flock Of Seagulls.”  Back on our scooters hogs we putted roared into the night.  We snaked through the jungle and up a small mountain to treat ourselves to a fabulous Thai meal looking over the city.  Go to Khao Rung Tung Ka Cafe if you are in Phuket. We ordered spicy shrimp “dip” with fresh veggies, local greens pak good, satol beans with pork, coconut crab curry with rice noodles and a whole fish roasted with lemongrass. It was another Thai feast and oh was it good.

Phuket school of fish

Phuket school of fish (Photo credit: Nalat)

Tim and I snorkeling

Tim and I snorkeling (Photo credit: Nalat)

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

We needed the fuel because the next day we scuba dove into the crystal clear depths of the Indian Ocean.  Schools of fish fluttered around us of every color.  Lion fish, eels, and cuttlefish entertained us with each artificial breath.  We were able to do some snorkeling with a waterproof camera.

Three paper lanterns ready to take flight

Three paper lanterns ready to take flight

That night was special across Thailand.  The first full moon of the dry season, called Loi Krathong, enables a time of hope for the months ahead.  Woven boats carry candles and wishes into the tide and paper lanterns float away with promises and dreams.  We each released a lantern into the sky.  The light frame and tissue encasing are carefully expanded with the ocean breeze then the coil is lit on fire.  The hot air fills the cubic balloon and with a hopeful holding of our breath we each in turn made a wish and let go…  They climb higher and higher into the night transforming to a tiny orange speck among the stars.  The flame either silently fades out of existence or lights the entire lantern ablaze as a last glorified hoorah.

Phi Phi Island

Phi Phi Island

Colorful boat taxi on Phi Phi island

Colorful boat taxi on Phi Phi island

Our next day ws another stuffed with beautiful sights.  We positioned ourselves on a sardine can of a boat set out for Phi Phi island.  The scenery was magical with black cliffs climbing sharply from the sea and topped with tropical jungles.  White sugar-like beaches, coral formations and a variety of fish all welcomed us to this paradise.  We snorkeled, avoided the crowds and snorkeled some more.  The sun was intense and the water slightly cooler and refreshing.

Hermit crab (photo credit: Nalat)

Hermit crab (photo credit: Nalat)

At night we wondered along Kata Beach in search of food.  We opted for the ocean view atmosphere over the “locals eat here.”  Nalat must have told them to rock our world because this meal was the spiciest thing we have consumed in Thailand.  At one point Carmen had tears dripping down her cheeks between bites.  And all of us dripped with sweat to deal with the Thai heat.  That night Nalat found this wonderful helmet crab on the prowl along the shore.

Grilled chicken with spicy, tangy sweet dipping sauce

Grilled chicken with spicy, tangy sweet dipping sauce

Pad Krapow!

Pad Krapow!

A morning at the beach and we were ready for more food.  We trekked our way up to the busy main road in search of other Thais eating lunch.  We found a guy grilling some chicken and the attached cafe tucked away.  I had been craving pad ka prow, ground pork, chillies and a more medicinal tasting Thai holy basil.  Again we ate more than our fair share, but real Thai food is so good!

Phuket waterfall

Phuket waterfall

Lantern street in Phuket Town

Lantern street in Phuket Town

With an afternoon free we rented some more scooters and unleashed terror on the streets.  We visited and hiked to a small waterfall.  We cruised the streets in search of restaurants, markets and whatever had people and food.  Again we found ourselves sharing bowls of slimy and rich pork noodles.  For dessert we grabbed a bag of rambutans and mangosteens to be eaten at the hotel.

Phuket sunset silhouette

Phuket sunset silhouette

Want to know the sign of good friends?  Friends will join us anywhere in the world just to tell us that we are missed.  Great friends realize that we might be missing good wine by now.  Nalat and Tim brought us not one, but two bottles (a Bordeaux and Turley at that!).  The laughs and conversation continued late into the night.  In the morning they left us, the room felt empty and the reality of it being only 4feet2mouths was once again.

Boat noodles in a bookstore

Boat noodles in a bookstore

Delectable boat noodles

Delectable boat noodles

Carmen and I packed our bags and made way for Phuket Town.  We wondered aimlessly without our Thai guide Nalat.  There was still hope for us as we did discover this wonderful Blog.  There was only one thing that could sooth us from missing our friends…dirty noodles.  Coffee shop in a bookstore: BORING, boat noodles in a bookstore? That’s AWESOME!  A touch of sugar, a little vinegar and chillies, a dabble of fish sauce and a spoonful of dried red peppers and we were on our way to feeling much better. Noodles doctored to perfection!

Kanom jee spread

Kanom jee spread

In the morning we were in higher spirits.  The rain crashed in buckets overhead, but with our ponchos we stayed mostly dry.  Breakfast had one goal- Kanom jee at Pa Mai.  We doused a plateful of rice noodles with several curries and sat down at a table.  A tray  of crisp and pickled vegetables awaited our consumption.  There was a renewed sense of strength within us, “we can do this, we can travel within Thailand.”

Bags packed full and buckles cinched tight we were on the move.  Local bus to the bus terminal, then a five hour regional bus to the ferry terminal.  A meal from several streetside carts  delivered us more boat noodles, fried rice and spicy long beans.  Sandals off, we crawled onto our mat beds for the night.  The rumble and rocking of the boat was almost enough for a peaceful night’s rest. Goodnight Phuket, goodnight to our friends and family (and readers).  In the morning we will be in Koh Tao.

California Coast, Vineyards and Food For the Sol (by Carmen)

Four feet dangling over the sand

Point A: Home base in Los Angeles

Point B: Friend’s wedding in Sonoma

There are various ways to get from point A to B, but Nathan and I chose to take it slow. A mini road trip to enjoy the changing landscapes of the California coast was in order. As we pulled out of LA the hip beaches quickly gave way to rocky shores lined with oak trees. First stop: Santa Barbara.

Sunset in Santa Barbara

Rocky central coast beach

Nathan has fond memories of Santa Barbara based on the many family camping vacations that took place here in his youth. My family enjoyed Santa Barbara as well but since they aren’t exactly the camping sort, they had different reasons. One of them was La Super Rica.  We happened upon this gem years ago after learning that it was one of Julia child’s favorites. We went and we fell in love. The love has since spread to Nathan and his family.  Indeed, it has become Nathan’s favorite Mexican restaurant in California!

La Super Rica lunch (and dinner)

This little white and blue, divey looking shack is now a Santa Barbara institution.  It is not a typical California burrito stand; it’s better than that. Instead it serves much more authentic and complexly flavored dishes, often on heavenly handmade tortillas. On this occasion, Nathan and I indulged in a veggie tamal (corn husk stuffed with maize dough) covered in crema, rich rajas (sautéed Anaheim pepper strips), delicious chicken sopes, and a queso fundido (melted cheese) studded with chorizo and onions.  Add a Jamaica drink and our feast came in at under $30. Best deal ever.

Rolling Paso Robles hills

From Santa Barbara we made our way to Pismo Beach, a cute little town right on the water. Our mission here was to make our way to Sans Liege, a special little winery with vineyards around the Paso Robles area. In their tasting room we enjoyed smooth whites, reds and rosés poured by a winemaker with a heavy French accent.

Wildflowers at Tres Sabores

“Yeah…I’m standing in my food been. Your point is?”

We set up camp for the night and headed off the next morning through the rolling hills towards Napa. Nathan and I were lucky enough to be invited to the rehearsal dinner at our favorite winery, Tres Sabores.  The wines, staff, ambiance of this special place are all cozy and laid back, somewhat rare qualities in Napa.

Spring Lake campground

View from Rockpile Winery in Sonoma

After dinner we set up camp again, this time at the charming Spring Lake.  With all the wedding activities we didn’t have time to go tasting but just being in the area brought back nostalgic memories of wine tastings past.

Barrels of wine

Old truck

Finally we made it to point B, the beautiful wedding on a Sonoma winery. The vintage truck at the entrance set the easy going Sonoma chic tone for everything. After the touching ceremony we enjoyed delicious food, good people and a rocking dance floor.  Really, what more could you ask for? Congratulations Julia and Jonathan!

The bright and shiny Sol Food

Pollo al horno at Sol Food

To finish off a great weekend we headed over to another amazing restaurant, Sol Food.  Basically, the food at this Puerto Rican eatery is too good for words. My thoughts while eating here usually start with “how” as in, “How do they get this chicken soooo tender? How is this rice so wonderfully garlicky? How is this shrimp so perfectly fried? How is all their food just so damn good???” I love everything the chefs send out of the kitchen at Sol Food but the customer gets to put the finishing touch. On each table there is a bright orange, tangy hot sauce that is the perfect balance of spicy and sour. As soon as the plates touch the table Nathan excitedly douses everything and I happily let him.

Schwieger vineyard

Wine country was a wonderful part of our life per-year off.  California is beautiful with its rolling hills green trees and vineyards.  It was a great way to be reintroduced to the Bay Area as we spend the next couple weeks catching up with old friends and attending yet another wedding!

The Tiny Island of Ihla Do Mel (by Nathan)

Colorful fishing boat

Colorful fishing boat

Time for a vacation from this vacation.  Traveling is hard work. Every few days we pack our rucksacks and transport ourselves to a new destination.  Each place is an adventure and every city requires planning for places to eat, sights to see and activities to entertain.  To us, this is the fun of traveling, an adventure wherever we go.

We try to spend an afternoon here and there reading or napping, but then we get to the point where we need a few days to really relax. We grabbed our swim suits and headed to the tiny Ilha do Mel (Honey Island).

Docks of Parana

Docks of Paraguaná

Originally it was a colonial fort, but now it has less than 1000 residents, no cars, no roads, just sandy paths, lush forests and pristine beaches.  I’m relaxing just writing about it!

Buffet in Paraná

Buffet in Paraguaná

The only way to get to the island is by ferry from Paraguaná or Ponta do Sol.  Before departing we grabbed lunch at a per kilo restaurant. The variety and quality of food at these places is wonderful.  We filled our plates with feijão (black beans) and salads and then waddled our way onto the boat.   Then we chugged along through the calm blue waters to the island.

Water sunset

Water sunset

There are two villages on the island.  We stayed on the southern edge in Encantadas.  Our hostel was adorable with its own wooden balcony and two hammocks overlooking the beach.  A five minute walk and we were in the water watching the sun disappear behind the mountains.

Dinner in the sand

Dinner in the sand

We had several options for dinner that night.  We walked along the beach with our sandals in our hands until we found a place that offered everything we wanted.  The owner suckered us in first complimenting our Portuguese then questioning us if we were Argentinean.  We gorged on fish shrimp, fries, salad, rice and feijão.  With our feet in the sand we quenched our thirst with a caipirinha or two.

Playa Grande

Playa Grande

Travel around the island is by foot along winding sandy trails through the forest that emerge on picturesque beaches.  We traveled here mid-week and the island was empty.  Supposedly the island is packed with thousands of people in January, but we were only aware of fifteen or so tourists during our stay.

Grilled fish with capers at Mar e Sol

Grilled fish with capers at Mar e Sol

We would swim at a beach, bathing in the sun for a few hours, then grab our day pack and hike to another part of the island.  The other village is called Nova Brasilia and there is about an hour and a half walk between there and Encantadas.  There is also a ferry that is about twenty minutes that runs every 1-2 hours.  For lunch we plopped our sandy bodies down on the bench seats of Mar e Sol.  They grilled us a delicious fish, heaped high with capers the size of small grapes, bursting with salty brine in every bite.

Ihla do Mel fort

Ihla do Mel fort

A few hours more in the sun, and miles of beaches later, we arrived at the northern tip.  Here we found the remains of the historic fort with thick ornate white-washed walls and canons to protect the island from the Spanish.

Carmen on a sandbar in the sunset

Carmen on a sandbar in the sunset

Our little beach in Encantadas has this special sand bar.  The tide would recede in the evenings abandoning the fishing boats in the sand.  It was a challenge to become fully submerged.  We walked 300-400 feet from the shore and the water was still knee deep!

In the morning the water would return and wipe away the foot traffic of the previous day.  The revived boats bobbed happily in the water.

Banana fritters

Banana fritters

Our hostel served us a particularly wonderful breakfast of fresh papaya, mango, watermelon, bananas, bread and jam.  On the last morning  the quiet young woman that ran the hostel made us these delicious banana fritters (if you know the name please comment).  Crispy and sweet on the outside and gooey oozing banana on the inside.  Perfect dumplings of joy from the perfect and beautiful little Isla do Mel.

Post Navigation