about We are Akila and Patrick. Our�minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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picnic at the presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

It sounded too good to be true: good food and drinks, stunning views overlookign the Golden Gate Bridge, baby friendly, and completely free.  But, Off the Grid's Picnic at the Presidio in San Francisco met all our expectations and more.  In fact, it was one of the best foodie events we have been to this year.

Off the Grid ups the game for the food truck lover.  They organize and work with hundreds of food trucks and food vendors across San Francisco to organize and coordinate food trucks at different locations.  They've got a brilliant constantly updated map that shows the location of food truck vendors across the city.  And, they run special weekly events throughout the year, including a twilight event at the Presidio and a Friday weekly market at Fort Mason Center.

Dogs at the Picnic at the Presidio Picnic at the Presidio
Picnic at the Presidio
Picnic at the Presidio Picnic at the Presidio

Views of Picnic at the Presidio, including the bar and Bubbly Bar

We headed to Picnic at the Presidio on a glorious Sunday afternoon, sun and warmth replacing San Francisco's usual buffeting wind and fog.  We flung aside our fleeces and meandered through the Presidio's Main Lawn, unsure of which of the thirty vendors we should visit.  People sipped on champagne and mimosas, purchased from the Bubbly Bar, and beer and wine from the main bar in the center of the lawn.

Amara trying pierogis Amara trying pierogis
Pierogi truck at the Picnic at the Presidio Pierogis at the Old World Food Truck
Creme Brulee cart Creme Brulee Cart
Amara trying creme brulee Patrick and Amara at the Picnic at the Presidio

Picnic at the Presidio

Behind me, a group of food lovers debated the respective merits of Napa Valley Merlots and Rieslings, while we tasted and judged our own food.  Funny thing is that we're definitely raising a foodie.  This kid will clamp her lips shut if you try to give her frozen fish nuggets but will happily devour an adult's portion of $12 per pound North Georgia smoked trout.  And, truth be told, most of her food choices are the exact ones that we would have picked.

Her winners at the Picnic at the Presidio were our winners, as well.  Amara was so delighted with Patrick's pierogis from the Old World Food Truck --- creamy, soft, and delicately spiced potato dumplings --- that we barely got bites. She wasn't impressed with my lemongrass tofu on a vermicelli salad from the Little Green Cyclo Vietnamese truck and I agreed that the flavors were bland and uninspired, lacking in punch and spice.  We rounded out our meals with vanilla and nutella and strawberry creme brulees from the Creme Brulee Cart and all of us preferred the cleaner and lighter vanilla option.  The fresh strawberries in the nutella creme brulee muddied the texture and flavor of that creme brulee.

But, honestly, those are just nitpicks.  I would suggest Picnic at the Presidio even if the food wasn't good, and, for the most part, it was good.  It was one of those lovely events --- full of good food, drinks, pups, babes, and happy people in the bright sunshine --- that I wish every city had.


Picnic at the Presidio

Off The Grid's Picnic at the Presidio is located at the Main Lawn on the Presidio.  It is a seasonal event, running from April until Octoberish.  Food trucks line one side of the lawn and food vendors, primarily from local restaurants, line the other side.  The main bar and bubbly bar are located in the middle of the lawn.  There is also a truck that provides dog supplies and a tent that has picnicking gear.

The food is a bit pricey, but most meals are under $12. Picnicking supplies are very expensive so I would suggest bringing your own.

The views of the bay are beautiful and, if you walk a bit to the end of the Presidio, you get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's cold at the Presidio, so bring a jacket or blanket.  But, on sunny days, the sun hits hard and there's no shade, so bring sunscreen and possibly a pop up tent to keep out the sun.  As with all weather in San Francisco, prepare for every season in one day.

The grass is nice and lush, perfect for baby feet and dogs.  This is a very kid-friendly event .  We brought Amara in a stroller, which was convenient since we were able to keep her a bit shaded and also put food on her stroller tray.  If possible, I suggest bringing a small bottle of bubbles with you for the kiddos because the breeze is perfect for bubbles.  The picnicking station sells bubbles for $10 for a bottle (!) which we thought to be ridiculous.  Many people bring games, such as bocce balls and such, up to the picnic.

This is a great dog-friendly event and we saw many adorable dogs around.  Dogs must be on leash but there is lots of space to spread out so if your dog is a little shy, you can still find a bit of space for him to spread out.

This post was brought to you by Hoot Holidays , which provides holidays across Asia, the Pacific, and the United States.

chewy and abby do europe

2012 was a banner year in our household.  We traveled across Europe with Chewy and Abby , found out we were having a baby , came back to the United States, bought and remodeled a house (and, yes, I'm going to post pictures at some point soon), and finished out the year by moving in.  Patrick started working full time again and I've been interviewing for new jobs, working, and doing a lot of growing:

Me from 10 to 30 weeks pregnant

In fact, that's the reason that things have been so quiet over here: my real life has overtaken all the time I used to spend on my virtual life.  But, I'm hoping that will change in 2013.  (Though, of course, I'm saying that and we're already halfway in to the month of January.)

So, let's start this new year off right with a photo recap of all that our pups did in Europe.  I give you Europe Chewy-and-Abby-style:

Chewy and Abby in Brooklyn

Chewy and Patrick in Brooklyn

Chewy at Prospect Park

United States : Roadtripping to New York and enjoying the Manhattan skyline from our hotel and the Brooklyn promenade

Chewy looking at the Statue of Liberty from the QM2
Chewy and Abby on the QM2 Chewy and Abby on the QM2
Queen Mary 2: Crossing the Atlantic on our seven day voyage from Brooklyn to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2

Abby at the Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Chewy and Abby in the Cornish coast

Playing in the snow in the Peak District
Chewy with London skyline in the background Abby in London
England : Touring around the super pet-friendly Cotswolds (and seeing rhinos and zebras at the Cotswolds Wildlife Park ), romping through the ocean on the Cornish coast , playing in the snow in the Peak District , and enjoying the Greenbelt in London .

Abby in Bilbao

Chewy and Abby at Parc Guell

Chewy and Abby at Madrid park

Spain: Discovering the Guggenheim in Bilbao and Spain's many beautiful parks, including Madrid's Parque del Oeste , and Barcelona's Parc Guell .

Forte dei Marmi

Chewy in Tuscany Roberto park
Chewy at the Leaning Tower of Pisa Chewy at Pisa

Chewy in Rome

Abby in Tuscany

Chewy and Abby in Venice

Abby in Venice

Italy : Loving the fields and vineyards of Tuscany (and the best dog kennel in all of Europe in Forte dei Marmi), visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa , relaxing in Rome's beautiful Villa Doria Pamphilj , romping in Sorrento, and taking in the canals of Venice .

Abby in Switzerland

Chewy in Switzerland

Chewy in Switzerland
Switzerland: Running through the snow among high peaks and turquoise lakes .

Abby in Pula, Croatia

Chewy at the Pula Amphitheatre

Abby at Pula Amphitheatre
Abby and Chewy in Zagreb
Croatia: Surviving the frigid bura on the Croatian coast, visiting the Pula Roman Amphitheatre, and playing in the deep drifts of snow in Zagreb .

Chewy at Parliament

Hungary : Running through our far too short stay in Budapest by exploring Budapest's great dog parks and the ornate Hungarian Parliament.

Bulgaria: Relaxing and barking at sheep in the rural southern parts of Bulgaria.

Abby in Istanbul Chewy and Abby in Cappadocia
Chewy in Cappadocia Chewy and Abby in Cappadocia

Turkey: Seeing the big city sights of Istanbul, exploring the many walks and wonders of surreal Cappadocia, and relaxing in gorgeous coastal Bodrum.

Abby in Santorini

Abby in black sand beach
Chewy in Greece Chewy and Abby in Greece
Greece: Beaching it up in the picturesque islands of Kos, Rhodes, Santorini, and Naxos (the dogs' favorite), and then hopping over to the big city of Athens for a few days.

Chewy and Abby in sunflowers

Austria: Visiting the ornate grandeur of Vienna and the beautiful sunflower fields outside the city.

Chewy  in Prague
Czech Republic:
Walking the streets of beautiful ornate Prague.

Abby with Cannes in the background

Chewy in Paris

France: Meandering through the parks of Cannes and visiting the sights (including the Eiffel Tower) in Paris.

Queen Mary 2 and Chewy

England and the Queen Mary 2 : And, then, we hopped back over to England for a short stint before heading on to the Queen Mary 2 and made our way back to the United States.

When it all boils down to it, by the numbers, Chewy and Abby:

- traveled for 14 months nonstop
- extensively in 13 countries
- drove through an additional 5 countries in which we only spent a few days each
- and lived in 10 of the great European capitals

They've visited more parks than we can count and stood in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Hungarian Parliament, and much much more.  They've encountered hedgehogs and rabbits in France, sheep in England and Bulgaria, donkeys in Greece, and deer in Italy.  They've romped through vineyards and castles, all with gigantic grins on their faces.  Yes, there were some challenges --- like the day we had to pick eighty ticks off them in Cappadocia or the day when Abby peed in the house in England (the first time ever in her life, due we think to an excessively long stressful travel day) --- but, for the most part, we had an incredibly successful trip with two of the best travelers we know: our dogs.

chewy and abby in austrian sunflowers

Chewy and Abby with sunflowers

Chewy and Abby with sunflowers

I am not ready for the summer to be gone.  I haven't fully accepted that we are in autumn, though the leaves are changing and dropping, and I've reluctantly traded in my sandals for shoes.  Patrick always talks about how he loves autumn crisp weather, apple cider, and Thanksgiving . . . but I start to get blue, realizing that winter is just around the corner.  Hurricane Sandy is bringing winter even sooner this year and temperatures in the South have precipitously dipped into the 50s, something that usually happens only in December (though we are very fortunate compared to the rest of the East Coast which is dealing with battering rains and snow.)

Abby in front of sunflowers

Chewy with sunflowers

Abby and Chewy with sunflowers

I also feel like we are halfway still in summer because the last six months have flown.  We have been back in the United States for just over a month but, in many ways, we both are still in travel mode.  We are hanging out at my parents' house until the closing of our new house and then we've got some renovation work planned, meaning that we're driving to Atlanta every weekend to deal with all of the house stuff.  I still carry my water bottle with me everywhere, Patrick's wearing his convertible pants, and our toiletries kits are always pre-packed, in case we need to make a rush trip out of town.  In the meantime, Baby M is growing like a weed and the baby that I unknowingly carried in Vienna has fast made his/her presence known in the last four months.


Sunflower field

So, the week we spent in July in Vienna with Go With Oh , feels as recent as yesterday.  There were sunflowers everywhere as we drove from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy through Austria and into the Czech Republic.  Fields and fields of the yellow giants crowded the two-lane highways and we weren't the only ones stopping to take pictures of these summertime beauties.

*Our stay in Vienna with Go With Oh was sponsored and I'll be writing more about that trip in the next weeks.

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the wild dogs of turkey

Cat in front of the Library of Selcuk in Ephesus
Cat in Turkey Kitty in Cappadocia
Cat in Ephesus Cat in front of Hagia Sophia

Some of the many cats in Turkey (at Ephesus, sleeping in Istanbul, begging for food, and in front of Hagia Sophia)

Turkey is the first country I've ever seen where the cat section at the grocery store is twice (or even three times) as large as the dog section.  Cats dominate the streets, the squares, and the hearts of the people, in some respects for historical reasons .

Before we arrived in Turkey with Chewy and Abby, I was incredibly concerned about how people would treat our dogs .  I had read horror stories about the wild dogs of Turkey being poisoned with strycchnine by the government, hung, shot at, and chased for fun, because Islam states that dogs are "unclean."  I read on message boards about neighbors poisoning dogs and dogs dying from unsuspected treats. Renee at Ramblecrunch , who had just traveled through Turkey with her terrier, reassured me a bit and, once we got there, we found that our fears weren't (completely) warranted.

I won't say that the Turks are completely comfortable with dogs; occasionally, people walked all the way across the street to avoid standing next to our very innocuous pups.  Finding pet-friendly accommodation was often very difficult because people didn't understand why we would want to keep our dogs inside the house.  (We were told on one occasion, at a supposedly "pet-friendly" hotel, that we would be welcome to keep our dogs in the car.)

Dog at Bodrum beach Puppy in Cappadocia
Cappadocia dog Wild dog of Turkey
Wild dogs of Turkey
Tagged dog in Istanbul Dog in Turkey
Dog in Istanbul Dogs on Istlikal Street

Dogs from all over the country, notice the red tag chipping them in Istanbul

But, at the same time, it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected, either.  In Istanbul, we stayed in a wealthy area on the Asian side where it felt like everyone had at least one or two dogs and our landlord in Cappadocia had two beautiful dogs of his own.  Best of all, our amazing landlord in the Bodrum peninsula loved dogs so much that he even watched them for us for two days when we went to visit Ephesus and Pamukkale (more on this pet-friendly apartment later because it's one of our favorite places that we've stayed in the last three years.)  We found a great English-speaking vet and groomer in Istanbul, pet stores that sold what we needed, and people who wanted to cuddle and pet our dogs when we took them for walks.

I came away from the country feeling that, though the Turks are not used to dogs as the Italians, French, and English are, their compassionate hearts keep them from treating these animals too badly.  In Istanbul and many of the large cities, the government tags every single stray dog, spays and neuters them, gives them innoculations to prevent rabies, and provides free food three times a day.  The dogs we found in Turkey were generally healthy, well-fed, and calm.

And, so this weekly photo post is dedicated to them: the beautiful wild dogs of Turkey.

February 2012

the unvarnished truth on travel with pets
February 21, 2012

January 2012

chewy at the leaning tower of pisa
January 6, 2012

October 2011

how to ship your car to europe
logistics and chaos
October 27, 2011

September 2011

a history of luxury
on the queen mary 2
September 15, 2011

April 2011

introducing the road unleashed!
April 18, 2011

February 2011

weekly photo: accomplishment
February 11, 2011

January 2011

candid canine: war eagle!
January 11, 2011

December 2010

chewy's silver screen soiree
December 6, 2010

September 2010

one year of dog toys
September 27, 2010

May 2010

sweet georgia skies
May 25, 2010

September 2009

September 14, 2009