Starbucks Around the World: Palo Alto, CA

There’s a small possibility I might not go back to Chicago after all.  While you’ve been having 100+ degree heat and torrential downpours all week, I’ve been hanging out in the South Bay, just about 35 minutes(ish) outside of San Francisco.  Aside from being able to wear a three-quarter length shirt, fashion scarf, and no socks 365 days a year, there are also a plethora of Starbucks around here.  This one is in Palo Alto, and I visited here while checking out the farmers market in town.  My long-time friend Terri fled from Chicago winters a little over two years ago and hasn’t looked back.  After spending a day here, I don’t blame her.

Especially convenient to this particular Starbucks photo is the firework-esque mural behind me… because that’s about as patriotic as I get.  So Happy Independence Day, because our freedom and the state of Capitalism in our country has afforded me the privilege of visiting this, my 29th Starbucks around the World.

Sweaty and Sossy in St. Louis

Round two of the Summer ’12 “Places I’ve never been tour” began just a day and a half after returning from Cleveland.  The primary objective of visiting St. Louis was the Spring to Dance Festival at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.  As such I spent my evenings seeing some of the best dance in the nation (including favorites BalletX and Sossy Mechanics), and took the opportunity of spending my three days here exploring a new city. I really didn’t try to cram it all in; my goals for St. Louis were cathartic, relaxing, and free.  Here are the highlights:

The St. Louis Zoo

Tucked way back in the Forest Park area of St. Louis, the zoo is totally awesome – if you can find it.  I drove round and round and eventually found the North entrance.  If you can happen to find it, go, and DON’T PAY FOR PARKING.  There’s free street parking everywhere; I parked directly across the street from the $15 pay lot.  I’m pretty sure that St. Louisians (?)… Louistons (?)… that people from St. Louis can’t parallel park which accounts for the plethora of available free spots.

I’ve been to a couple of free zoos and generally find them to be lame, which you excuse them for because, you know, it’s free.  The St. Louis Zoo claims to be America’s #1 zoo, and while I can’t say that for sure since I’ve only been to like 5 zoos, I will say that it was beautifully landscaped and the animals look happy and content.  My favorite area was definitely the apes, where I giggled like a little girl at the zoo (a pun, but, not really) as the orangutans summersaulted down a hillside and covered themselves with sheets while making eyes with the audience.

St. Louis Art Museum

“Dedicated to Art and Free for All” graces the proscenium of the beautifully situated St. Louis Art Museum.  I mainly decided to stop here because it is free and air-conditioned.  What a pleasant surprise to find Monet’s Waterlilies and Degas’s bronze dancer statue in the impressionist wing.  I spent some quiet time on top of the hill overlooking a scenic lagoon that hinted at memories of the Palace of Versailles from my trip to Paris oh, say, 15 years ago.  If I ever return to St. Louis, I’m excited to go back here and see the highly anticipated new wing of the museum opening next week.  In the mean time, things are a bit amiss due to the construction, but overall I found this place to be an absolutely lovely place to spend a solitary afternoon


A rather small-ish version of Millennium Park in Chicago, this was my resting spot on a self-guided, meandering, walking tour of downtown St. Louis. With the sweltering 95-degree heat on my brow, the fountains and wading pools were a welcome diversion (as was the super hip ice cream man who drove up to save the day for all the sweaty kids (ok, and grown-ups too).  I then perused the rest of downtown on foot, including a trek down to the Gateway Arch, and then promptly turned around when I saw the amusement park-type lines of tourists waiting to go up to the top.


This morning I explored the Ferguson Farmers Market with great delight since produce isn’t nearly as far along up in the “north country” of Chicago.  Ferguson is the epitome of small town America, and like most typical small towns seems to suffer from a case of Wal-Mart…. what with its quaint downtown business district that consists primarily of empty storefronts.  I really want to like Ferguson, though, and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the healthy turnout at the farmers market and taking a sweaty stroll through charming neighborhood near the downtown core.  If in Ferguson and in search of a meal, go to the Brewhouse, not Marley’s.  Just trust me on that one.

Starbucks Around the World: Springfield, IL

I certainly didn’t need coffee in my state’s capitol. This store just off the expressway showed little to no evidence of the Land of Abe Lincoln, but made for a great place to pee.  My travel companion got me a bottle of Tazo iced tea while I paced nervously in front of the retail shelves waiting for the lady in front of me to finish. This was the first time in quite awhile that a barista tried to upsell me a pound…

“I see you looking at some of our coffees there.”

“Oh, I’m just waiting for the ladies room” I said.

“Well, you should pick up some anyway!”

I’ll think that over, guy, but really, I just need to pee.

All retail attempts aside, the staff at this Starbucks were lovely.  They were friendly and it was a nice, cool respite from a hot and sunny Route 55 to St. Louis…. and so I give it a thumbs up.

Starbucks Around the World: Elkhart, IN

Elkhart, IN proved to be an ideal rest stop en route to my first stay in Cleveland.  In an effort to escape the NATO summit, it took two full hours in an un-air-conditioned sedan to get past the Chicago Skyway that overlooks scenic Hammond, IN.  As such, Elkhart was as far as I could make it before needing a toilet and a refreshing specialty coffee beverage.  Aside from asking if I wanted whipped cream on my grande coffee frappuccino (silly, the plain coffee ones don’t ever get whip), legendary service with a smile with a side of fries and stuffed crust pizza to boot from the neighboring Burger King and Pizza Hut (I kid, I kid).

Starbucks Around the World: Healdsburg, CA

Disclaimer: Since Travelpod does not allow you to export blogs, I shall be bringing old entries to you slowly, but surely, through good, old-fashioned (and painstakingly arduous) Cut-and-paste.

July 27, 2009

After a seriously intense day of 95-plus degree wine tastings through beautiful Sonoma County with my family, I can think of nothing more refreshing than the shaded awning of a Starbucks store and an iced coffee in my personal mug.  Admittedly tipsy and overheated, this is a day that’s slightly blurry, but certainly not forgotten.

Even Master Composters kill their worms

Through a series of unfortunate events, I’ve endured a couple casualties over the past two weeks.  I’ve been worm-sitting for the Glenwood Sunday Market, and am sad to report that not everyone has enjoyed their stay with me…

In short, I killed them.

Ok, well, let me preface that with the fact that many of them are doing just fine, but I crammed them all in close quarters knowing full well that they were too crowded, and a few days later there were dried runaways on the countertop and a not-so-nice smell coming from the bin.

These worms are too crowded, and so were mine.

Then Nancy put the bin outside in really hot weather (she does not have an appreciation for smelly worms).

Then it rained.

All I have to say is, that Darwin guy was pretty smart with the whole natural selection theory, and bravo to the survivors who weathered those storms and are still alive and kickin’.

Moral of this story:

Even Master Composters screw up and kill worms sometimes.  The only difference is that we know why we killed them.  And we’re good at making worm babies to make up for the loss.

Bahias de Huatulco, Mexico: Dos Gringas Rojas

Disclaimer: This trip occurred exactly one year ago.  Since Travelpod does not allow you to export blogs, I shall be bringing them to you in real time, just a year later.

August 3, 2010

To the beach! Our trip to the airport at Huatulco was an absolutely breath taking 35 min flight in a 12-seater tiny plane. On our arrival at an outbuilding at the Oaxca airport–“Terminal X” as I like to call it–was, in truth, a little desk with an Aerotucan sign and some chick (who showed up about 45 minutes late) with a net book, hand written receipts and a calculator. Our bags were searched by hand, and baggage handling, staircase moving, and air traffic control (in the form of a thumb’s up) was also handled a mano. Awesome. The flight was super cool and extremely preferable to the alternative-an 8-hour bus ride through a couple of mountain ranges.

Our first move in Huatulco? Well, after picking up the rental car it was straight to the beach. That’s right. We went to the beach. Near the equator. With no sunscreen. In my defense, we did stop at a farmacia and I felt that the $166 pesos for anything over 30-proof was just a shameless plot to take advantage of white people. In hindsight, maybe it would have been worth the expense–since after five hours at the beach, a couple of lobsters walked into the Mexican equivalent of Wal-Mart and only spent three dollars less for some 45-SPF banana scented sun screen.

Note to self:

next time I go on a tropical vacation, invest in sunscreen state-side…..

At any rate, we are embracing our raccoon eyes and red shoulders–although a little wiser today by lathering up with gringa lotion and ready to face la playa once again. This time, Nancy is a day older and a year wiser (it’s her birthday).