view from twin peaks, san francisco
What an absolute gift it is to have a day off in the middle of the work week. Disrupting the usual cadence of work week/weekend, a mid-week day off feels a little bit like suspended reality (it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to my dream of freezing time, ala Evie in that old show Out of This World). It’s a day set aside for one thing: leisure. And for my family today, that leisure was an urban hike.
Ever since living in New York City in my 20s, I’ve loved urban hiking, but look forward to it even more now that we’re not city dwellers. Good old off-the-beaten path hiking is great too (and if you’re into that, check out this list of 43 Hidden Hikes to Try This Summer), but urban hikes feel adventurous. Cool. Unexpected. Hip and fit at the same time. Navigating gritty sidewalks, people of all shapes and sizes, and pungent smells…delighting in delicious surprises and beautiful vistas en route…and seeing a familiar place with fresh eyes, urban hiking helps you feel like a tourist in your own backyard.
Today we hiked along the Bay in San Francisco, checking out the America’s Cup staging area, stopping to play in the sand at the beach, starting at our reflections near the Palace of Fine Arts, talking about the varied architecture, smelling the flowers, and stopping for ice cream along the way. San Francisco offers endless routes of challenging and easy hiking punctuated with hidden ge,s like the Seward Street Slides and Baker Beach and the wildness of Glen Park Canyon and the swings and staircases that appear out of nowhere.
San Francisco is urban hiking mecca (I read a great story about LA a few months ago too), but I’m sure there are beautiful options across the country. And here are a few simple reasons to give it a shot:
- No gear required (we bring a backpack for our 3-year-old, but that’s it)
- It’s free (unless you get lost and need to use mass transit or a taxi)
- It’s environmentally friendly (if you live relatively close to a city)
- It’s social (you can visit people along the way)
- It’s yummy (goodbye trail mix, hello crepes)
What do you like most about urban hiking? Do you have a favorite hike to share?
I just got back from a trip to Australia, where two dear friends exchanged some of the most heartfelt vows I’ve ever heard on a steep cliff overlooking Sydney’s sparkling harbor. It was a spectacular ceremony, and it’s always exciting as a friend to sense a couple’s palpable anticipation of the joy a lifetime of togetherness will bring. But, I think weddings are and should stay very private, so this post isn’t about my friends’ marital bliss…
It’s actually much more basic. It’s about a love affair I had in Sydney with bircher muesli. Sydney is hot and humid this time of year and full of beautiful people walking, running, boxing, training in parks, swimming in oceanside pools, surfing, relaxing in the sunshine on the city’s many spectacular beaches, and eating “real food.” It makes Australia feel like the land of the healthy (and according to the Gates’ Foundation’s 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, it is, sitting comfortably in the top 10 for life expectancies for both men (#6) and women (#9)).
Good food feels like a daily requirement in Sydney, which makes the appearance of bircher muesli unsurprising, but delightful nonetheless. Some American friends of ours living on one of Paddington’s Victorian-lined streets served it alongside eggs and (yes) kangaroo at a delicious brunch, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I liked it so much that I ordered it the very next day at the famous Bill’s restaurant. Bircher muesli was created at the turn of the 20th century by a Swiss physician named Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner, an early raw food advocate. And Bill’s has perfected a simple version of it we can all make at home. Here it is (at home, I think I’ll add some nuts to the recipe as well):
Bircher Muesli with Stone Fruit (Source: Bill Granger)
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup coarsely grated apple
- 1/2 cup natural yogurt
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 cup sliced peaches & nectarines
- 1/4 cup mixed berries
- 2 Tbsp honey
Directions: Place oats and apple juice in a bowl and soak for 1 hour, or overnight. Add grated apple, yogurt, and lemon juice to oat mixture and mix well. Spoon into serving bowls and top with fruit. Drizzle with honey.
This will now be one of my weekend brunch staples, which will be extra yummy because I think I’ll always associate it dear friends and sun-kissed Sydney. What healthy foods have you discovered while traveling? Have you managed to bring them home as a way to savor the taste and the memories?
photo by kuster & wildhaber photography via flickr creative commons
I took a 14-hour flight earlier this week and am staring down the return early next. I love flying…I love meeting random people on planes and working/reading without interruption and knowing that I’m either going somewhere or going home and realizing how amazing it is that humankind has evolved to a place where we go to sleep in San Francisco and wake up in Sydney. But, I really don’t like sitting for hours on end, breathing stale air ,and worrying whether the water the flight attendants are serving is going to kill me. Don’t get me wrong, the benefits of getting on planes far outweigh these little nits of mine. But, why not optimize our flights to be the very healthiest they can be? Read more