Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dreaming of warmer weather...

This freezing cold NYC weather (and the subsequent cold that I caught from being out in it) makes me miss the warm, sun-drenched Bahamas. In going through past posts, I realized I never posted pictures from this summer's "Learn to Cook and Relax" press trip to Eleuthera and Harbour Island (or the Scrubs shoot...but those will come at a later point).

Photos below:


The pink sand beaches of Harbour Island (known as "briland" to locals):


"Queen Conch" stop on Harbour Island cooking crawl. We learned to make our own conch salad:




Cottage at The Cove Eleuthera:


Snorkeling at a pond in Eleuthera (yes, that's an octopus):


Glass Window Bridge in Eleuthera - the dark, menacing-looking Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the turquoise, clear waters of the Caribbean on the other:



Our flight back to the states:




All in a day's work (well...five days, to be exact).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

British Columbia or Bust

Our final destination on our jaunt through Canada was Vancouver, BC. Just driving into the city, I knew that I was going to love it -- a sophisticated urban center set on the edge of nature. The glass-window architecture of the high-rise apartment buildings on the water gives it such an iconic, modern look.




We took the Aquabus to the Granville Island Public Market, where we had a nutritous breakfast of fresh porridge finished with apricots and skim milk. The city of Vancouver is not only asthetically beautiful -- its residents are health-conscious and fit as well (it's so inspiring). At any given hour of the day, regardless of any precipitation falling from the sky (it rained both days we were in town), residents are out hiking, running, rollerblading and just enjoying the outdoors.




Vancouver will be hosting the 2010 Olympics -- and the countdown has begun!





In our two days there, I ate some of the most incredible seafood I'd ever had, sipped delicious Canadian wines (and beers), perused local art and spent plenty of time outside in Stanley Park, emulating the Vancouverites. They certainly have the mind, body, soul thing in check.

Prairies and Mountains

Alberta is stunningly beautiful. With a varied landscape ranging from the flat prairie flatlands surrounding the small city of Calgary to the majestic mountains poised over the valleys in Banff, this province is filled with some of the most beautiful natural wonders that I've ever seen.

Calgary is such a walkable city that we were able to see most of its highlights in one afternoon. We went to the top of the Calgary Tower (see?? another step towards conquering that fear of heights) to get a better sense of the layout of the land. On our way up, we asked our host when it starts to snow in Calgary. When we reached the top, we noticed some white flakes falling through the air. Question answered.

From there, we visited Stephen Avenue, home to the trendy boutiques and hottest restaurants in the city, and then drove by Calgary's famous Stampede grounds. After hearing numerous stories about the event, I will definitely have to come back for the Stampede. We saw the Olympic Park. Apparently, the events are open to the public now. I considered giving the ice luge a try, but thought against it at the last minute. Had to save some stamina for the rest of the journey.

I couldn't help but sneak a picture of this sign hanging in our Western-themed (is it still "themed" if you're in the West?) restaurant the first night:








Our time in Calgary was short but sweet. Banff was calling our name, and I'm not one to turn down a visit to a scenic destination from which I'd heard stories of world-class skiing, fondue, and hot springs (!!).

The drive to Banff was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Every ten minutes, I'd find myself lifting my jaw up off the ground. Words won't even do it justice.










In Banff, we dropped our belongings off at the Fairmont Banff Springs, one of the most luxurious hotels I've ever had the pleasure of staying in. The castle-like structure is perfectly set at the base of the snow-capped Canadian Rocky Mountains, with unbelievable views from every room.


I then participated in one of the most terrifying moments of my adult life. Yes, I may be exaggerating just a tad, but I do have a serious fear of heights...and I took a gondola up to the top of the mountains (arriving at a height of 7,486 feet)! Once we reached the top, I managed to take a few pictures of the incredible views and I couldn't have been happier about my decision to venture to the top. You could see everything from up there.









Day 4 of the trip took us on a road trip to Lake Louise, where the color of the lake is literally the color of the Caribbean. This gorgeous blue-green lake sits at the base of the surrounding regal mountains. It was snowing quite heavily when we bought our lunch, but the color of the water pulled us from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise's dining room out to a bench set in front of the lake.

Oh Canada.

Six cities in three provinces in six days.



This was truly a whirlwind (and wonderful!) business trip across Canada. We started in Toronto, where we wandered the city and went to the top of the CN Tower (yes you read that correctly...I braved several hights on this trip!). Our efforts to find poutine fell short...but that just means that I have to go back, right?



The following morning, we rented a car and drove to Niagara Falls and it was even more spectacular than I'd expected. The wind was quite strong and we were soaked head to toe by the time we strolled back to the car. From there, we drove to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we stopped at Iniskillin, the vineyard supplying wines for the 2010 Olympics.





Alberta and British Columbia stories to follow...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bahama Mama

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, but I was in the Bahamas for a solid week for work and then spent the last week trying to play catch-up with my other clients!

The Bahamas Weather Conference was an absolute (and QUITE successful) whirlwind. We stayed at the Westin Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island, which was lovely. Palm trees, infinity pools, great restaurants, etc. All of the planning we did over the past eight months totally paid off when multiple people approached me to tell me our team was a "well-oiled machine." They thought we pulled the entire conference off flawlessly, which is fantastic (little do they know that there were a couple of brief moments here and there that were anything but flawless, but we made things work in the end)! 104 meteorologists, 150 live broadcasts from the Bahamas, numerous insightful presentations on weather/forecasting/insurance and the 2008 hurricane forecast (which said it will be an active year, uh oh).

The "well-oiled machine":
My office for the week:



The resort:





Sunday, March 30, 2008

On my horizon:

Grand Bahama Island: next week [for work]

Cozumel, Mexico: April 29 - May 3 [for play]

...where should I go next?

Family Fiascos: Germany - Part III



I arrived in Germany with a VERY limited, VERY rusty German vocabulary learned at the Stoll residence over the years. Their family used to speak in German with the Au Pair du jour at the dinner table and I'd picked up a couple of key phrases over the years. However, I quickly learned that almost everyone in Germany speaks English.

[And when in doubt...throw in a "Prost!"]

After three hours reading about technology and science at the bland Deutsches Museum, Craig and I decided it was time to check out the world-famous beer hall, Hofbrauhaus.







Over the course of our time in the beer hall, we sat with Germans from Colon (who, despite a severe language barrier, taught us their national anthem and declared that I was destined to marry their son), two ladies from Southern Spain who told me I spoke flawless Castillian Spanish (!!!) and a spirited group of American backpackers who invited us back to their hostel bar for after-hours.



Apparently, I caught the eye of an older gentleman from Istanbul who asked me to dance. He spun me around to the cheers of the band and the bar patrons, then sat me back down, providing me with an "open invitation to visit Istanbul."


The following night, we asked a local waitress for nightlife recommendations. After some thinking, she gave us directions to Milchbar in Kunstpark Ost (an open park, formerly a factory ground, in the middle of nowhere that is home to about 30 different nightclubs). This dance club was seriously embracing the 80's, and I felt right at home. We danced until dawn and then enjoyed some freshly-baked bavarian pretzels in the market near our hotel.

Always smart to ask the locals.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Family Fiascos: Germany - Part II

We ran across the airport, [politely] cut the entire line at security and delivered ourselves to the terminal with two minutes to spare...only to find out that the flight was delayed by an hour. Well, at least we got a workout.

And what does one do with an hour to kill at 6am in Barajas Airport? Duty-free shopping, of course. I decided I wanted a new perfume. Totally reasonable thought for a Friday morning at dawn. Craig and I ran around the store, testing out each and every scent they had to offer (the employees must have loved us). Around 6:25 a.m., I settled on a classic: Prada. I pretended that the numbers shown were U.S. dollars, not Euros, and handed over my American Express.

Finally, we boarded the plane and arrived in Munich just a couple of hours later -- famished and in need of a serious nap. We collapsed into chairs at a cafe across from our hotel and I inhaled a rich bowl of cream of asparagus soup and half a basket of Bavarian pretzels with mustard.


After lunch and a quick power nap, we left the hotel to wander around Munich.

[of course, more to come...]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Family Fiascos: Germany - Part I

Our family did not joke around with vacations. Over the years, we had an eclectic mix of adventures (one of the many bi-products of having parents who are artists). When my friends were heading to the Jersey Shore or Disney World, we took off to St. Johns, Newfoundland to go whale-watching or to trace our family history in Brixham, England (plenty of stories to come about these National Lampoon-style family vacations).

When I was studying abroad in Madrid, my brother gave me the best birthday gift I've ever recieved - a week-long trip to Germany. This time is was just the two of us - no strict itineraries to follow, no wake-up calls, just a couple of guidebooks and some pre-set hotel reservations.

Craig was planning to fly into Madrid in the afternoon, and we'd leave for Munich bright and early the next morning. "So when you get here, we'll just go out to dinner and get a good night's sleep before we fly. My friends are going out, but I don't think that's a good idea for us," I warned him.

Famous last words. At 5 a.m., he approaches me at the dance club and tells me, "Okay, it's time to go!"

The guy I'm talking to turns and asks him, "Oh, where are you going?"

"Germany."

We ran out of the club and flagged separate taxis. Craig rushed back to his hotel on Gran Via and completed the fastest check-out in the history of the property, practically throwing his room key across the desk - while I flew back to my Senora's apartment, grabbed my bags, took a seat on the park bench outside her building and waited for my brother to arrive. Suddenly, a yellow taxi came to a screeching halt in front of me and Craig jumped out of the car, and practically threw both me and my bag into the vehicle. We sped towards the airport, holding our breath as the sun rose outside.

The ticket agent asked if we spoke Spanish. I nodded vigorously and she told me with wide eyes, "Your plane is boarding in 15 minutes." We grabbed our bags and sprinted across the airport towards security.

[to be continued...]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Flamenco!


I studied ballet for 13 years and yet Flamenco impresses me tremendously. It's just such a sultry, passionate, rhythmic art form. Many people consider Flamenco to be all about the dancing [baile]-- when in reality, it's just as much (if not more) about the Flamenco guitar [toque] and song [cante]. We attended an intimate cave performance in the mountains of Andalucia, Spain and sat in awe, sipping our sangria, as the dancers performed their intricate moves.




One of the dancers picked me out of the crowd to participate (surprise, surprise - my red hair stood out). And lets just say that I have profound respect for these dancers. The hand and footwork is much more difficult than they make it appear to be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Slum Tourism

According to the New York Times:

"Slum Tourism, or 'poorism,' as some call it, is catching on. From the favelas of Rio de Janiero to the townships of Johannesburg to the garbage dumps of Mexico, tourists are forsaking, at least for a while, beaches and museums for crowded, dirty--and in many ways--surprising--slums."


....Really?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Travel Tip of the Week: Do NOT eat Mexican food in Ireland.


As the guard handed my passport back to me, I smiled and gave him my now-customary, "gracias," forgetting that we we'd arrived in an English-speaking country.

It'd been months since we'd been surrounded by our native tongue. And apparently at some point over the course of our first two days in lovely Dublin, we lost all rational thought -- and agreed when someone in the group suggested we eat dinner at Acapulco, a Mexican restaurant just down the street from our hostel.

"The last time I was in Acapulco, I got SO SICK," Jody commented as we walked into the restaurant. We all laughed and enjoyed our fajitas and burritos.

Long story short, Jody and I wound up subsisting on saltine crackers and seltzer water for the rest of the week, while our partners-in-crime explored the Irish countryside.

The two redheads at the Guinness Factory BEFORE
the Acapulco fiasco:
















And quarantined in the hostel AFTER (not our finest moment):

















"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." - Henry Miller





World's top 10 art museums

TripAdvisor recently named its list of the world's Top 10 art museums. I reviewed the list and discovered I've visited 7 of the 10 so far in my life. Not too shabby!

1) Musee du Louvre (Paris, France)

2) Vatican Museums (Vatican City, Rome, Italy)

3) Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)

4) J. Paul Getty Center (Los Angeles, CA)

5) Musee d'Orsee (Paris, France)

6) Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)

7) Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

8) Tate Modern (London, England)

9) Prado Museum (Madrid, Spain)

10) National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)

My personal opinion: Great list, but could also see the British Museum, MoMA, and Guggenheim(s) as other possible contenders.

A LA CARTE: Maoz Vegetarian

My first delicious Maoz experience was in Amsterdam, Holland -- at their flagship shop. Next, I stumbled across branches in both Barcelona and Madrid. Finally, last spring, I got the good news: they opened a U.S. branch right in Union Square!


Their official promise: "At Maoz, we understand that today’s lifestyle is more demanding than ever, leaving almost no time to take care of the fundamentals such as maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, including a nutritious diet. We at Maoz provide our customers with the highest quality of products and services at a reasonable price and in minimum time, fitting into each and everybody’s busy day and night…"

I think they get it.

**A healthy, inexpensive, fast-food menu featuring crisp falafel, flavorful hummous, warm whole wheat pita, and a salad bar where I can choose my own fresh veggies? Yes, please.

More than a fairweather fan

Watching Six Nations Rugby is our favorite new Saturday afternoon pastime. Each weekend, teams from Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy and France suit up to compete for the coveted championship trophy.


Photo by √Čamonn 

Yes, being a loyal fan requires hanging out with British men for several hours and partaking in a pint or two of Guinness. A tough job...but somebody's gotta do it.

Next Matches: Saturday, March 15
Italy v. Scotland (1:00pm)
England v. Ireland (3:00pm)

[Note: I recommend watching at the Red Lion on Bleecker St. or at Mulligans in Hoboken]




Friday, March 7, 2008

Bit by the travel bug


My first international trip was a family vacation to London when I was 11.

Afternoon tea, where I sampled clotted cream for the first time... Shopping in Harrod's world-famous Food Hall, browsing the shortbread and Cadbury chocolates...Long dinners followed by late-night theater excursions where I fell asleep in my velvet-lined chair...Concentrating on the high and low notes of the fabulous accent, then practicing it myself back in the hotel room.

I was in love.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Azahar


For two weeks prior to settling in Madrid, we traveled around Spain as a group - known as "Azahar." Highlights included visits to Toledo, Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla. Each town was more beautiful than the next (and led to more crazy adventures -- many, many more humorous stories to come!).


Each day, we visited historic sites and took diligent notes at lectures about Spain's history. We learned all about Convivencia -- Spain's period of religious tolerance, when the Muslims, Jews, and Christians all lived together in harmony. It was so interesting to wander through Cathedrals that were full of Moorish architecture and Jewish influences.

On Spanish Time



Azahar: [AH-za-har]; verb; 1) to be inefficient;
related forms: azahamas [we are inefficient]

Very soon into our journey, we learned about Spain's schedule. NOBODY is in a rush.

"I'll meet you there at 3pm." [Spanish translation: I'll be there around 3:20. Maybe 3:15 if I'm wearing comfortable shoes.]