Rockport, MA

ROCKPORT – A scenic, coastal town in Northern Massachusetts with sailboats in the harbor, delicious lobster rolls, and many local arts and crafts. The town is a vibrant summer tourist destination. The streets become packed with families headed to the beach and couples looking for a romantic bed and breakfast escape.

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Alaska and The Yukon

Earlier this month I went on an 11 day cruise / inland tour of Alaska and the Yukon through Holland American Tour line. The trip was magnificent. We began in Vancouver and sailed for three days up the coast of Canada to Alaska stopping in Juneau and Skagway before taking the White Pass train into Yukon Territory.

Juneau

Red Dog Saloon in Juneau – This is a huge tourist attraction, but with its sawdust floors, amazing burgers, and live music, it is totally worth it.

Skagway

Traveling through the Yukon, we stopped in Carcross, Braeburn, Whitehorse, and Dawson City. We spent the most time in Dawson City and it was by far one of my favorite stops. The town was picturesque old west with dirt streets and western style store fronts. We made a trip out to the Dempster Highway and into Tombstone National Park. This took us out onto the tundra and over a continental divide.

Emerald Lake

Yukon River

Dawson City

Tombstone

Tombstone

Dawson City

From Dawson City, we drove over the Top of the World Highway, crossed back into Alaska and took the Taylor Highway to Chicken. Chicken is but three buildings, a mercantile, saloon, and cafe. The food was amazing! For such tiny little towns in the middle of no where, every place we stopped offered something delicious and tasty. From Chicken we drove on to Tok then Fairbanks before catching a train to Denali National Park. After Denali, our tour concluded in Anchorage.

Top of the World

Fairbanks

Tangierino, Mamma Maria and Improv Asylum

Valentine’s Day was comprised of my boyfriend doing his National Guard duty up in Massachusetts, clearing roads and debris after the blizzard, and me, stuck in a cramped conference room for 14 hours working on yet another audit. To make up for missing the opportunity to be romantic, I drove up to Boston for the weekend to spend some time with my man.

This was our third Valentine’s “together.” To give you a brief history… Our first Valentine’s Day I was still in school and living in the Bronx and he came to visit. I had class for most of the day, but anticipated returning to my apartment to find my boyfriend looking clean and sharp with a bouquet of flowers and ready for a dinner date. Instead he was in boxers, hanging out on the couch with nothing planned. Epic fail. I ended up booking us a dinner reservation at the Capital Grille and we made the best of it. Valentine’s Day #2 was spent home alone while my boyfriend served his country in Afghanistan. It was a tough day to be alone and I missed him terrilbly, but from afar we managed an ,”I love you” and carried on.

This time around my expectations were minimal. I imagined a repeat of V-Day 1. I sent a reminder text to let him know that I wanted flowers and that I was looking forward to seeing him. I figured it would be a normal weekend, nothing too spectacular. Though I did not receive any flowers, the Army Ranger had something even better up his sleeve.

Making up for two lost Valentine’s, he planned an extravagant weekend in Boston with wonderful food, drink and cheer.

Tangierino

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We began our date night at this beautifully decorated hookah and tapas lounge located in Charlestown. It was perfect. I imagine everyone in the restaurant was gagging as we spent the entire time sitting pressed against each other, laughing, sharing drinks and food and the occasional kiss.

We ordered the Merguez (Tangierino spiced ground lamb wrapped in phyllo dough, smoked eggplant, kalamata olives). Heavenly. I adore lamb, it is one of my favorite meats and this was perfectly seasoned.

The other highlight of this restaurant is the Moroccan Mojito made with Blackberry Bacardi, Moroccan mint tea, muddled lime and mint. Heavenly. This was hands down the best spin on a mojito I have ever had.

Mamma Maria

Probably the best restaurant in the North End, Mamma Maria is the only Italian restaurant in Boston to earn the Four Diamond Rating by AAA Travel Guide. It it well worth it.

This was a night for a new experience. I tried the Rabbit Pasta (classic slow-cooked Vermont-raised rabbit, in the Tuscan-style, with homemade pappardelle, crispy pancetta, and fresh rosemary). It was outstanding! The flavor was incredible! The meat was tender and succulent without tasting like strong game. Probably one of the best meals I have ever had.

The place is perfect for dates. Comfortable tables, excellent service and very romantic. I loved it!

Improv Asylum 

After dinner we headed to a midnight show at the Improv Asylum. This was my second time at the asylum and it was as hilarious as the first. The show is run by posing questions to the audience and running wild with the themes and ideas provided. The cast is hilarious and do a wonderful job on taking commonplace topics and giving them a unique and ridiculous twist. I highly recommend this place.

My man surpassed expectations. He planned a wonderful evening for us, full of good food, drink and romance. I had a truly fantastic time.

Orlando – Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

My crazy friends and I planned a trip down to Orlando for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon on November 10th.

We went all out and rented the Camaro convertible!

We began Saturday picking up our race packets from the ESPN center and taking pictures with cardboard cutouts of Ariel and Gaston before heading over to the runner’s expo. Breezing through stand upon stand of sequin sports bras, Disney runner t-shirts with clever sayings, therapeutic tools and technology, we picked up some essentials, Gu (gross!) and a muscle roller.

Off to Downtown Disney where we stumbled upon an art fair with champagne and fancy people. Who says Disney is just for kids? Feeling creative, we joined in on a Michael’s Crafts sponsored color your own frame party before heading over to Fulton’s Crab House for a delicious lunch feast.

Portobello Mushroom Fries with Spicy Mustard Sauce

Cajun Fish Tacos

More Downtown Disney:

The race began at 10pm with a burst of fireworks and cheer. For having done no training, warming up or preparation, and completely winging it, Nicole and I did quite well. Ashley ran off with corral A,  (Superstar!!) as we followed a few corrals behind in D. With the strategy of running a mile and walking half a mile, we made it about 9 miles before I needed a pee break. Stopping for that brief moment allowed the distance and effort to creep up on us and pain shot through our joints. The remaining 4 miles became a bit of a challenge. We managed to jog on and off for another mile or so before succumbing to walking. Once we reached Epcot and the crowds of supporters and photographers (about 0.5 miles from the finish) we gave our last bit of energy and ran.

After hobbling over to collect our bags, we met up with Ashley and made our way over to the after party in Epcot only to change our minds halfway there, exhausted. We made it back to the hotel around 4AM fully prepared for a 7AM wake up call to eat and drink our way around the world at Epcot.

The food was amazing! We ate until we we so full we could barely walk. The food coupled with the soreness made for a very slow pace and lots of resting.I have learned my lesson on long distance running. A few lessons actually… Be sure to actually train, do not drink Powerade or Gatorade during the race because it will make you sick, do not run 13 miles on pavement in Vibram Five Fingers which lack any form of support, don’t stop to pee, steer clear of Gu as it is gross and will make you gag, pass go and collect $200 or in this case a gorgeous medal.

Such a fun weekend! I’ve fallen in love with Disney all over again.

A special thanks to Nicole and Ashley for taking some of the photographs.

Atlanta, GA

Recently training for work brought me to Atlanta for a week of long days learning protocol and processes combined with long nights of exploring downtown Atlanta. A few of the highlights of my trip:

 Alma Cocina:

Carnitas tacos, guacamole, and a Keep Your Head Down to drink

This delicious Mexican restaurant and bar Downtown Atlanta offers a trendy atmosphere, excellent food with a few unique options including braised goat, a full bar and creative drink menu.

Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint:

This place, in my Yankee mind, is the epitome of real southern food and charm.

Blueberry Lemonade Moonshine. Delicious! This was my first time trying anything with moonshine. Dirty south!

Not the healthiest of meals, but it tasted amazing! This is the best fried chicken I have ever had! The meat was juicy and succulent, the breading crispy and flavorful with a hint of sweet. The sweet potato fries were amazing! However, the mac and cheese was a disappointment. I had high hopes, but found it to taste more like stuffing than cheese. Overall, fabulous meal!

I love hot sauce. Thank you Minxy for converting me. This one was delicious! I have never seen it up north, but it is worth hunting around for. The flavors are amazing and it adds a nice bit of heat without overdoing it with burn.

Did I mention live music?

Meehan’s Public House:

Another Irish pub with good drinks, good people, and a good atmosphere. As we were walking out and older gentleman approached my friend and I. Directing the conversation at my friend he told her his friend, Teddy,  thought she looked bored and could give her the night of her life. Stepping aside, Teddy was revealed to be an man with a thick mustache and toupe. Sexy.

Museum Bar:

We took a cab here on a weeknight and were greeted by two big events, a concert for breast cancer, and some promotional event for Bombay Sapphire. We chose the free cocktails from Bombay. Upon being seated we were handed canvas each and asked to paint. So we began to paint… at a bar, with pink cocktails.

Steamhouse Lounge:

This place was a true local restaurant and bar offering fresh, delicious seafood and a good atmosphere. We sat on the second floor balcony overlooking the city of Atlanta and munching on calamari and fish tacos.

Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery

To welcome the first day of fall, two of my friends planned a trip to the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery for a day of delicious wine and apple picking.

We began the morning with a breakfast of wine. Finding the Black Dirt Red and the Black Dirt Blush to be absolutely phenomenal, I took a bottle of each home. For the dessert option, I tasted the Winston’s Harlequin Port and found it to be deliciously bold and sweet.

Off to the orchards, we loaded our sacks with Honeycrisp, Macintosh, Empire and Gala apples. Honeycrisp being my favorite, I stocked up on plenty for snacks and making applesauce and apple butter. The Empire apples are perfect for baking. Those will be baked into a pie with crust from scratch later this week.

After loading up on apples, we headed over to the outdoor grill and had a lunch of hotdogs, brisket, pumpkin soup, and cheeseburgers. We lounged out on blankets and enjoyed the sunshine and cool breeze.

Ten Dramatic Landscapes

I LOVE to travel. New cities, new countries, new anything excites me to the core. I am a bit of a sucker for top ten lists as well. TripAdvisor sent out an email today of 10 dramatic landscapes. These places are definitely going on my Bucket List. For those nature lover’s out there, get an eyeful of these stunning sights!

See the article here. I highly recommend using TripAdvisor when traveling to new places. 

10 dramatic landscapes

1. Badlands National Park

     South Dakota, US

2. Cano Cristales

     Villavicencio, Colombia

3. The Pinnacle

     Cervantes, Australia

4. Salar de Uyun..

     Bolivia, South America
     Bohol Island, Philippines
     Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, US
     Pamukkale, Turkey
      Arizona, US
     Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia, Africa
       Northern Ireland, UK

Newport Polo and The Great Gatsby

On August 4th the Scottish polo team came to Newport, RI to take part in the international polo series. Hundreds of people came out to the polo grounds at Glen Farm to watch the game.

With my friend Helena’s work benefits, we were granted access to the VIP pavilion. A gorgeous spread of food, shrimp cocktail, grilled vegetable and meats, awaited us as well as a generous selection of wine, beer, and cocktails. Unaware of the food and cocktails, we brought boxed lunches from Fatilli’s, a cafe nearby. Before the game even began, we worked our way through most of our sandwiches, pasta salad, and were onto our delicious fresh baked cookies.

Scotland won! The crowd went wild! Scotland is always a favorite. The players ran their lap around the field, giving high fives, and retired the horses to the paddocks. The immense crowds made their way onto the green field with their frisbees and footballs, tossing them around until the sun went down and the Lobster Bake began. My friends and I spent the next 25 minutes watching people sit down with plates of massive, meaty lobster. With no tickets to the bake, we schemed and plotted to determine the best course of action for free lobster only to decide it wasn’t worth it and we’d get more food in Newport.

After a quick change in Helena’s apartment, basically me changing out of my silk top to a beach cover up that is completely backless, we headed over to Malt. Malt is a new restaurant and bar in Newport discovered by Helena. We sipped on Mint Juleps and ate duck spring rolls. Heavenly.

Needing even more food, Minxy offered to treat us to a pizza at The Fifth Element, a bar across the street that was the venue for the band we planned on seeing. The chosen pizza was a special with smoked salmon, crust baked with red chili flakes, arugula, and some deliciously spicy cheese.

The band opened up around ten and was wonderful!! The Little Kitten headed back to the apartment early as she had a WILD time the previous night, and Minxy soon followed her after a few songs. Helena and I were left dancing to fun folk/blues music until the band closed up. We met some charming tall, blonde and handsome sailors visiting for a few days and danced the night away with them.

The next morning we went to a showing of The Great Gatsby, the 1974 version with Robert Redford, and a tour of Rosecliff where some scenes were filmed.

Yet another wonderful weekend in Newport.

Orvieto, Italia

July 28, 2012

Our last full day in Italy, the bus took us from Assisi to Orvieto for a few hour stop for some exploring and lunch before landing in Rome for a final dinner and goodbye. Today was also the hottest day reaching up into the high 90s with a sun that baked you alive if you lingered from the shade too long.

All of the old Tuscany and Umbria cities are situated on hills, easier to defend. Orvieto takes that to an extreme. It is on the top of a hill so high and so steep we were required to take a funicular,  or cable car, to the top. And from that funicular, a bus to take us even high to the Piazza del Duomo where the gorgeous gothic cathedral and San Brizio Chapel stand for all those daring enough to try the steep climb.

From the cathedral we made our way through the city to a restaurant for a lunch of wild boar and carbonara pasta. Absolutely delicious! Being a bit worn out from the traveling and the heat, we took our time wandering the back streets of Orvieto, exploring the more residential areas. Jasmine plants grew 9 feet tall, wrapping themselves around gutters and clinging to the stone of buildings.

Our last dinner in Rome was one of the best. Delicious food with incredible music and endless wine. Arrivederci!

Assisi, Italia

July 27, 2012

From Ravenna we drove through Umbria to the hilltop town of Assisi, well known for Saint Francis of Assisi, St. Clare’s Church and St. Francis’ Basilica. The bus left us as the base of the walled city and we made our way up the steep streets, past the basilica, to our hotel, a nunnery turned inn with rooms designed for a life of poverty. However, no complaints as the hotel was perfectly situated in the center of the city with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

After a few minutes to freshen, we met up with a local guide who took us to the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The basilica is actually two churches, a lower and an upper with a crypt in the very bowels of the basilica. The lower church is darker, with a lower ribbed ceiling covered in frescoes while the upper church has a high ceiling, more frescoes and an exorbitant amount of natural light.

File:Assisi Altare Basilica inferiore.jpg

Basilica of St. Francis – Lower church via Wikipedia

File:Assisis Basilica superiore.jpg

Basilica of St. Francis – Upper church via Wikipedia

We followed our guide through the streets of the historic city to St. Clare’s Church. Along the way shops selling St. Francis wares, blessed items, Pinocchio dolls, and jewelry caught my eye. The streets were crowded with tourists, nuns and monks, and pilgrims.

Arriving at the Church of St. Clare, the church was quite lovely, but the miracle of this building is the crypt which is home to the body of Saint Clare. She was apparently found untouched by decay. They encased her in wood and wax and placed her on display. Until I see her body and touch her flesh, the miracle is complete bogus in my eyes, but interesting nonetheless.

We headed back to the hotel for a delicious meal for our tour group. More fantastic pasta dishes! After dinner my family and a few other people from our tour made our way up to the rooftop terrace of our hotel for some spectacular views and delicious wine. We remained until the sky grew dark and sleep drew us to our beds.