There are rare occasions when traveling that one experience rises so far above the others, that no matter how amazing the others are, they fade into the background when remembering the trip.
Such is the case with one experience from our pretty-epic-if-I-do-say-so-myself July travels around the U.S. (and a quick trip up to Canada).
Now, if I saw you on this trip, I don't want you to be jealous. If I sailed on a boat with you, went to a funeral with you, rode a cruzbike with you, danced in your bedroom, crab-clawed my way down a mountain with you, cherished your adorable newborn, planned world domination with you, rode in a hot air balloon with you, chased waterfalls with you, cuddled with your loving, one-eyed Chihuahua, or floated in a jacuzzi during a hurricane with you, please don't be jealous. I'm telling you I had a wonderful time.
If you are my husband, please don't be jealous.
I think you will all understand.
What happened was, I fell in love with a bowl of Pho. It was just so delicious.
More specifically, this bowl of Pho served up at New Tu Do
on Bowery Street in NYC is the one that has my heart:
For the uninitiated, Pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle dish usually prepared in an oxtail broth that has been slow-simmered for a long time.
This one had juicy pieces of thinly-sliced beef, bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, and lemon. I dressed it with the perfect amount of Sriracha. How my heart longs for it again.
I emailed a friend, "I can have hope in all things turning out okay in the world because that bowl of pho exists."
Now let's put that bowl of Pho in its place in the trip.
My trip began a week earlier than we had planned with the passing of my Aunt Jenny, who had been suffering with brain cancer for almost two years. I wasn't planning on going to the memorial service, but after I talked to my mom, Prince Charming and I decided to scramble and see if I could fly home to NC for a week before our regularly scheduled trip which would have begun in NYC. I could and I did. It was great to be with my family during this really sad time. Of course, joy was mixed into our grief, because Aunt Jenny's suffering has ended.
It's always fun to get together with my big family, even if though what brought us together was sad. Being one of the oldest cousins on this side of the family, I remember the birth or toddlerhood of most of my cousins, who now, inexplicably, have become handsome young men.
The handsome part is explicable (those good genes everywhere) but not the grown up part, and not the "men" part. I have no idea why there is a preponderance of males on this side of the family. Out of my seventeen cousins, there are 13 boys and 4 girls.
Next Prince Charming flew over and I flew up. We met in NYC where we enjoyed civilization, including lots of people-watching and wandering the streets of Manhattan. During our time in the city, we ate things like hipster pork sammies served on chopping boards with artisanal sasparilla soda. But more importantly, I met my other soulmate, that aforementioned bowl of Pho. The first time I ate it, I regretted not being able to finish the bowl. Even though I was stuffed, I immediately wanted to go back to the restaurant. I begged Charming. I hoped for burps that would bring back the taste. I had a very vivid dream in which I was eating it again. So of course we went back a second time. I made sure to get a pho-to of the two loves of my life.
I think this pho-to captures the crazy look in my eyes revealing my obsessive adoration.
Both times after I took that first bite of Pho, I felt my unborn child move in my womb. No joke. I wasn't sure if I'd felt fetal movement before, but the kid loved the pho and decided to let me know. Oh! Yes, we are expecting. This is the first time I've mentioned it on the blog. If all goes as planned, we'll have our baby in December.
After eating the Pho the second time, we left the restaurant. I was just thinking of how excited I was to tell everyone about the Pho and the baby kicks, and then I looked down and there on the ground was a fifty-dollar bill. No joke. The streets of New York paid for both meals.
Immediately after the second pho-ntastic experience, we met my family on this cruise liner in Brooklyn.
We had a lovely family reunion on board Cunard's Queen Mary II.
Boston & Halifax
This cruise had two stops: Boston and Halifax. Boston was rather rainy and cold due to Hurricane Arthur. We spent most of our time inside foggy-windowed cars, busses, and restaurants.
Halifax, Nova Scotia was more fun. We debarked and enjoyed shenanigans around the old port city.
Then, back in NYC after the cruise, we took the last opportunity to hang out with the family for a while and enjoyed a nice, long, getting-a-bit-lost walk on and around the Brooklyn bridge. My sister hurt her knee and had to be carried part of the way.
From New York, Charming and I parted ways with the family, enjoyed a couple more days in the city, and then got on a plane bound for Portland, Oregon.
My dear college friend and travel buddy Elizabeth and her husband Chris had welcomed, just a few days before our arrival, their firstborn into the world. What a little bundle of heart-melting sweetness! I'm so thankful for getting to share this special time with Chris and Elizabeth and their tiny one.
Elizabeth and I both had the extreme good luck to fall in love with and marry devilishly handsome, virile men who do all the grocery shopping and cooking for the household. I know. You want to hit us. It is pretty awesome since we all know the corollary to "love covers a multitude of sins" is "a fresh baked loaf of sourdough bread covers a multitude of sins."
The guys talked sauces, charcuterie, and local produce. A friendship blossomed.
Chris took us out chasing waterfalls and showed us the splendid natural beauty of the area.
And of course there was lots of gorgeous hipster food, including the city's famous Voodoo Donuts (second photo down).
My weekend activity in Portland was the World Domination Summit, which was incredible, and which I will postpone writing about until later this month. For now, suffice it to say I rode in a hot air balloon.
After Portland, we jumped on a flight for San Francisco. This time, it was all about seeing family, friends, and enjoying my uncle's amazing electrified Cruzbikes.
A few quick days in LA were next, and that trip was about seeing friends too. It's been more than two years since Charming and I have been together on the West Coast, where many of our friends and connections live. We are so grateful we got to spend some time with these folks and even more who aren't pictured.
Back to Palestine on One of the Last Flights
This is a long post, and it doesn't even cover the whole trip - just some of the good stuff. I didn't even have time for the misadventures, the things the hurricane ruined, the arguments, the vomiting, the hurt feelings, the flight delays, the exhaustion. There's always more to the story.
Shortly after we got back, flights into Tel Aviv from the states were grounded until further notice. We got back safely to Ramallah, preparing ourselves to try to understand exactly how bad things are. Things are indeed very bad in Gaza (although we are safe here). Israel's bombs and chemical weapons have killed and injured many children and civilians in Gaza, and likely more by the time I publish this. Thousands of people have been displaced. Remember our friend Osama
from Gaza? He and his wife now have 28 people living in their apartment, and he says they will soon run out of water. This conflict needs to end, and it needs a truly peaceful and just resolution.