Category Archives: Global

A Road Trip to Manchester

Road trips are the best, aren’t they? All the excitement of going somewhere new without the hassle of dealing with crowds, security check points and little kids kicking the back of your seat. Plus with road trips, getting there really is half the fun because of 90’s singalongs (is that just me?) and pit stops for whatever catches your eye like farmer’s markets and scenic views. So when my friends and I were in desperate need of a break from NYC, instead of hopping on a flight to typical spring break spots like Puerto Rico or Mexico, we opted for a change of pace and rented a car heading for Manchester, Vermont.

What the heck is in Manchester?

Thank you! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who had no idea. Manchester is an adorable town that’s pretty ideal for skiers and snowboarders in the winter and those that like to flyfish in the summer. It’s centrally located to both Stratton Mountain and Bromley Mountain, and there are even several trails in Manchester for those that prefer cross-country skiing. That being said, we weren’t heading there for the winter sports but instead to relax, do some hiking, and just enjoy the adorable town. Oh, and let’s not forget about the fantastic outlet shopping to be had! So if you find yourself staying in or nearby Manchester for a few hours or even a few days, here are some places that you should definitely check out.

Fun fact: Manchester is the home of the Orvis flyfishing chain.

Must-do: Hike the trails at Equinox Preserve

equinox pond-002

Alright, winter isn’t exactly the best time for some hardcore hiking in Manchester as many of the trails are very icy or very muddy. That being said, we managed as best we could with the trails at Equinox Preserve. Mount Equinox is one of the highlights of the town, and up until 1996 the 900+ acres around it was owned by the Equinox Resort. The resort donated this to make sure the land would always be preserved. Start your hike by picking up a map of the trails at the Equinox Resort hotel. Their concierge was very friendly and gave us some excellent suggestions of ideal routes. Regardless of what trails you choose, at some point circle back to Equinox Pond where you’ll have a stunning view of Equinox mountain over the water. The pond also has a historic waterfront property which used to be an ice house, and the building is a popular spot for wedding venues. After you have finished up with the trails, walk back on Taconic Road to pass some beautiful historic homes. If you do happen to come to Manchester in the warmer months you’ll have even more wonderful trails to choose from so take full advantage of it!

equinox trail-002

 

Must-see: The Hildene House

estate3-001

The Hildene House is the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe’s eldest son and the only child to live to adulthood. This house is spectacular and is just part of over 400 acres of the property. Robert first visited Manchester with his mother and brother when he was 20 and they actually stayed at the Equinox Resort at that time. The property was built in 1905 and has spectacular views of the Battenkill Valley as well as Mount Equinox. Descendants of the family lived there until 1975, the longest out of any Lincoln residences. Today it is owned and maintained by the non-profit, Friends of the Hildene. I really enjoyed walking through this estate, especially because most of the furniture and possessions were actually owned by the Lincolns. The house has a 1,000 pipe organ which was added in 1908 as a gift from Robert to his wife. There are over 200 rolls and the guide actually plays the songs for you as you tour the house. It’s actually quite comical at how loud it is but is still a fun peek into the past.

Fun fact: The garden in the back of the house is actually in the shape of a stain-glass window, an idea designed by Robert and Mary’s daughter, Jessie. The garden was a gift from Jessie to her mother, and can be seen from the windows of Mary’s room on the second floor. Of course the flowers weren’t in bloom when we visited, but if you go in the spring or summer you will be able to see that the colors of the flowers are coordinated to match the stain-glass look.

dining room-001

Must-peruse: The books at the adorable Northshire Bookstore

If only every town had a bookstore as quaint as this one! Think 10,000 square feet of pure bookworm bliss, complete with a pretty extensive children’s section as well as a delicious cafe. The company itself was founded in 1976 but the current location was only bought and renovated in 1986 (and then renovated and extremely expanded again in 2003.)  While this bookstore is always bumping, there is so much space that we never felt crowded (I love you Strand but you raise my blood pressure.) Oh, and let’s go back to this cafe! Spiral Press cafe is connected the bookstore but is way better than your average Starbucks in Barnes & Nobles experience. The food is legit and the seating is ample – we saw lots of students studying as well but there was always open tables. Definitely worth a walk-through, although you’ll probably walk out with a handful of great reads, too.

 

Where to stay:

The Equinox Resort is clearly the leading hotel in terms of the four-star experience, but for those of you that are looking for a more affordable stay there are plenty of other options as well. Ask yourself if being walking distance to the city center (where many of the outlet shops and restaurants are) is important or if you are ok with driving. We chose to stay at Manchester View, a hotel that is very close to the center (about a 10 minute walk to Northshire Bookstore) but is very affordable. It was a no-frills hotel but the rooms were very spacious and the grounds had some entries to trails and even a trout pond! Surprisingly you will notice a stark difference between the part of town that has more luxurious hotels versus the more budget-friendly options (think marble sidewalk versus no sidewalk.) We drove by most of the other hotels I was looking at which all seemed charming in their own way, too.

Where to eat:

Up for Breakfast: I have to start with this place – you MUST brunch at Up for Breakfast. This is non-negotiable. Delicious meals, absurdly large portion sizes, an obsession with chicken decor, and a friendly but super efficient staff. ‘Nuff said.

Spiral Press Cafe at Northshire Bookstore: You already knew this you savvy reader, you.

Mulligans: Excellent pub fare and great atmosphere.

Ye Olde Tavern: Next door to Manchester View, the food at Ye Olde Tavern is absolutely delicious. Know that it is definitely an upscale establishment. We stumbled in here on our first night thinking that it was more of a low key restaurant and were caught off guard. The food was excellent though so it was definitely not a problem!

 

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The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

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The Los Angeles Times Featured My Recommendation!

titi-004

Last summer I was thrilled to celebrate a big birthday in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio. It was an amazing week and one of the highlights was taking a guided tour through Manuel Antonio National Park. Yes, sloths showed up to the party and I couldn’t handle their adorable awkwardness, but it was our guide, Johan Chaves, that truly made the tour. So when I saw that the LA Times was looking for reader recommendations, I had to spread the news about Johan. And I was so excited when I got word that they chose to publish my recommendation in this week’s paper because our tour guide truly deserves the recognition for his hard work, vast knowledge of the local wildlife and nature, and excellent customer service.

http://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/la-tr-recs-20150405-story.html

I hope you have a chance to make it over to Manuel Antonio National Park if you haven’t yet! And trust me, the cost of a tour guide is absolutely worth the incredible experience you’ll have that you’ll be talking about for years.

slothysloth-001

Currently reading:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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The Other Side of Spring Break Central

When I told people I was heading to Cancún with my family for New Years, I received my fair share of odd looks. It’s safe to say that Cancún has quite the reputation for Spring Break, college-style partying with its white beaches that pave the way towards Señor Frog’s and Coco Bongo. But no, that’s not exactly why we made our way over there. What many people miss when considering venturing over to the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula is just how much beauty and history surrounds the area: the beaches in Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen, the Mayan ruins in Tulum and Chichen Itza, the reefs in Cozumel, just to name a few places. We only had three days so when we weren’t busy being beach bums at our hotel we day tripped it over to Chichen Itza and Isla Mujeres .

Chichen Itza

The archaeological site of Chichen Itza, one of the largest Mayan cities abandoned in the 1400’s, is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The most impressive structure there is the The Kukulkan Pyramid, named after the Mayan feathered spirit deity, is also known as El Castillo. The Mayans were known to have strong astronomical skills and during the spring and autumn equinoxes you can see a serpent-like shadow slithering down the side of the pyramid. The pyramid also represents the Mayan calendar, with 91 steps on each sides plus 1 at the top (to signify 365 days) and 18 sections of platform for the 18, 20 day-long months. Mind. Blown.

Other main parts of the site include the open-air Great Ball Court where heated games resulted in the losers being decapitated, and the Cenote Sagrado, or sacred sinkhole well, where people and valuables were sacrificed as a form of worship to the Mayan rain god in times of drought. While we weren’t able to visit this cenote on our tour due to the size of the grounds, we were taken to the impressive Ik-Kil cenote nearby, a freshwater sinkhole where we could dive in and pretend that we were just sacrificed. Just kidding – I was trying not to think about that while contently dog paddling around.

Panels like these at the base of the Great Ball Court depicted the players. In the below photo you can see a carving of a decapitated head.

Ik-Kil ("Sacred Blue Cenote") is a freshwater cenote that's 85 feet below the surface and 130 feet deep. There are many cenotes in the Yucatan due to the porous limestone.

Tips for visiting Chichen Itza: Go with a tour group. We saw people coming on their own but without a guide you might miss out on a lot of great historical information. Also, avoid the vendors in the ruins who will try to rip you off with cheap imitations of Mayan handicrafts.

Fun fact: From one end of the Great Ball Court, you can hear what someone is saying at the other end (500 feet away) due to the great acoustics. Archaeologists who have been restoring the ruins even said that the sound is improving as more work is being done.

Isla Mujeres

On New Years Eve we decided to treat ourselves with a day trip to Isla Mujeres, a small island just a short ferry ride away from Cancún. Isla Mujeres has beautiful beaches and reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving. The preferred method of transportation for tourists is the trusty golf cart, and the island is small enough to put put from the downtown area in the north side to the other end at Punta Sur in under a half hour. We managed to cover a lot of ground in the few hours we had wheels, stopping for photo opps along the way and for lunch, and finishing the afternoon at the beautiful beach in Playa Norte. There’s lots of other fun things to do on the island, including visiting a turtle farm, scuba diving or snorkeling at Garrafon Park, ziplining, and seeing a Mayan temple and sculpture garden at Punta Sur.

Tips for visiting Isla Mujeres: If you’re not staying on the island, catch an early ferry over (ideally by 9am) so you have your pick of golf carts. We took a 10am ferry and were fortunate to get one of the last carts, but the pickins sure were slim.

Fun fact: There is a really cool underwater museum that was a project designed to slow the effects of climate change on the ocean.

Happy New Year, and many exciting travels to you in 2015!

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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Costa Rica: Land of the Sloths!

I finally did it. After years of sitting, waiting, wishing (did you catch that Jack Johnson reference?) I finally made my way over to Costa Rica for a belated 30th birthday getaway. I already knew what a good time I was in for after hearing about the awesome trips my friends have made either for honeymoons, bro getaways, Teaching English stints, etc. And even so, amidst my pure joy after arriving I almost broke down into tears when I realized I left my Canon Rebel back in New York. Nooooo, but the SLOTHS. I must capture the beauty of the slow-moving beasts that I love so much! After whimpering for 20 minutes or so I got over myself, because I was in rainforest paradise after all, and I proceeded to have one of the most relaxing, yet active weeks of my life. Ahh, where to begin?

We decided to spend the full week in Manuel Antonio, the destination that my bestie Dory raved about from having spent a month in Costa Rica last year. I must admit that I was a little skeptical about this plan – what about the volcano in Arenal, the Caribbean vibe on the east coast, the wildlife at Tortuguero!? Won’t we just get bored sitting in one place for the entire time? This place better be frickin’ amazing. And well, it was. First of all, I absolutely loved the laid back vibe and how friendly everyone was – it reminded me of a certain Costa Rican classmate who always had a smile on his face (miss you, Fernando!) It was also very cool to meet some expats – the majority of those I met being American – and hear their stories about what brought them there. We chose to stay at Mango Moon, a boutique hotel up the hill in Manuel Antonio. The owner is an American expat who’s lived in MA for the past 6 years and she is absolutely wonderful. And what did I mean when I said the week was relaxing, yet active? Well, even though we had our fill of beach days, we also did plenty of activities. Since tourism is such a big part of Costa Rica’s economy, it was very easy to set up tours of pretty much anything we wanted to do and have the tour companies pick us up at the hotel. The only tour we set up in advance was with a well known guide that leads nature walks through Manuel Antonio National Park, but we had no problem planning the rest of the week once we got there. And even though we only arrived at our hotel around 9pm and were exhausted after a full day of travel, we were up at 7am the next day to greet our national park guide and start on the week’s adventures. The walk through the national park itself is not too far, but since there is so much to see on the trails we spent 4 hours with Johan, mesmerized by all that was there to see but would have been impossible to spot if we were on our own. Our guide parted ways with us at one of the park’s beaches and we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and beach bumming to our heart’s content. The rest of the week was similar with kayaking through the mangroves one day, rafting through the Savegre River and even taking an intense hike to get to the beautiful Nauyaca Falls. Up at 7am each morning to start our day with breakfast with a view, off and exploring by 7:30, and back and in bed by 10pm to start it all again the next day. It was my first time both rafting and kayaking and I had a blast. My favorite day trip was the trip to the falls, which I heard is the biggest and most impressive waterfall in the area. We worked up a sweat getting to the falls and as soon as we arrived we awarded ourselves with a nice long dip in the natural pool.

Nauyaca Falls

Rafting down the Savegre River

Manuel Antonio is best known for its national park, and for good reason. In addition to being able to spot all kinds of wildlife, there are several trails that lead to different beaches. As I had mentioned before, you absolutely need a guide the first time you go so they can point out all the animals, plants and insects for you, and then from then on you can always go back just to relax and swim at the beach. We actually ended up there 3x over the course of the week, taking different nature trails and hiking over to different parts of the park. And what kind of wildlife did we spot? I just so happened to keep a list throughout the walk. And yes, I did get my sloth sighting, complete with fuzzy pictures and all!

Sloth
Red Crowned Woodpecker
Iguana
Crab
Frog
Howler Monkey
Cicada
Eyelash Pit Viper & Fer De Lance
Baby Iguana
Helmet Headed Lizard
Golden Web Spider
Green Tree Anole
Lesser White-Lined Bat
White face (Capuchin) Monkey
Walking Stick
Basilisk (Jesus Christ Lizard)
Raccoon
Squirrel Monkey

Manuel Antonio Beach

Gemelas Beach

Escondido Beach

Espadilla Sur Beach

Tips for Manuel Antonio Nature Park: Make sure to get a guide in advance. We found Johan Chavez through Tripadvisor and he was a very sweet, knowledgable guy. It’s obvious he loves what he does, which is so refreshing to see. We ended up running into him each time we visited the park, and once he went out of his way to show up a pit viper that was just spotted on the trail. Also, while Manuel Antonio beach is the most picturesque, if you want to have the beach to yourself take the trail that leads to Espadilla Sur. We spent hours in the water and felt like we had the place to ourselves.

As if that wasn’t enough wildlife, we had frequent visitors at the hotel every day too – the adorable Titi monkeys.

And finally, we ended the week with an awesome 20 minute flight from MA back to San Jose to catch our flight back to NY. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

So if you haven’t yet been out to this amazing country where the people are so warm and friendly, plans are made depending on the tides, and the raccoons are actually kind of cute, maybe now’s the time to get on that. And while peak season brings more days of sun, I loved going in July when the rain was welcomed by didn’t ruin plans and the sun wasn’t as harsh. Of course, now I feel the need to go back and visit the other parts of Costa Rica. See you next year? Pura vida!

Where to eat: Coming from NYC, we weren’t exactly heading to Costa Rica for the food (yes, I’ll admit that we are spoiled in New York.) That being said, we did have a couple good meals and of course indulged in the seafood. Best meal of the trip hands down was dinner at Emilio’s Cafe, which fortunately for us was just up the street from our hotel. The great food was also well complemented with a live Latin band. Splurge for the tuna trio!

Where to stay: It seems like there are a lot of great options for hotels depending on your budget. Mango Moon was perfect for us because it had fantastic views and was clean yet still super affordable. And really, the friendly owner and staff make the place as great as it is. Even the dog who couldn’t be bothered by my presence warmed up to me by the end of the week.

Black sand beach at the bottom of the trail from Mango Moon

 

Books read:
Orphan Train by Christina Baker
Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis

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Yum Cha Wishes and Dim Sum Dreams

I arrived in Hong Kong late Monday evening, my limbs aching from the 16 hour flight and my vision blurry from my in-flight Oscar nominations marathon. My mom had sprung an impromptu trip at the end of my sister’s visit to Japan and I simply refused to be left out. I expected some major jet lag with the 12 time difference, but upon touch down I was too excited to care. It was my first time in what is often hailed as one of the best cities in the world, and with one of the best food scenes at that! I may or may have not flown across the world just for the food… my mouth was watering before I even got on the airport shuttle.  For those of you that may not know, Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of China, which means that its not part of the mainland China but it still falls under its sovereignty (it was under British control under about the mid ’90s.) So it has its own currency — the colorful Hong Kong dollars — and also a lot of Western influence. The other special administrative region is Macau, which we’ll get to later.

Hong Kong indeed is pretty impressive. I was surprised at the sheer number of skyscrapers, both commercial and residential, that were packed into such a small section of land. Perhaps I’m too used to NYC’s skyscrapers to notice them anymore, but HK seemed much more dense at first glance. And of course, let’s not forget about all the millions of people out and about, which may explain why the culture includes walking fast and cutting others off when necessary. Ahh, I feel more at home already. Oh, can I just comment on the absurd number of shopping malls everywhere? At least it helps me better understand where China gets its obsession with luxury goods. Too bad the prices are far more expensive than back home. ::sigh::

While I’m super excited to get to the local cuisine, I will hold off (briefly) to point out some awesome sights to check out if you find yourself in HK for a few days. While we stayed in one of the more touristy parts of town on the Kowloon side, we managed to cover quite a bit of ground all over:

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island: This was probably my favorite non-foodie part of the trip. It includes a cable car (spring for the glass bottom one) that takes you up into the hills. The big tourist attraction there is the Big Buddha, but there are tons of hiking trails and you can also take buses to Tai O, Hong Kong’s oldest fishing village (see below for one of its storefronts.) The view from the cable car is pretty cool, too. Tip: If you decide to go, purchase cable car tickets online in advance. We were able to cut the line with ours, which probably saved us a good two hours of waiting.

The Markets: If you are a street vendor type of person (I’m talking to you, Noelle!) you would find paradise within Hong Kong’s many markets. There’s the Ladies Market, the Fa Yuen Street Market, the Goldfish Market, the Flower Market… let’s just say you have options. Some of these markets have pop up booths while others are actual stores, and I personally found that the Goldfish Market or Flower Market to be more interesting than others.

Victoria’s Peak: Victoria’s Peak is on the Hong Kong island side and is reachable by bus, gondola or good ‘ol fashioned taxi. We actually went for the hiking, although we soon found that the actual “trail” was more of a flat path. That being said, the walk provided some amazing views of Hong Kong from above as well as some exotic trees and plants on the walk for all you nature lovers. The area up top also has some stores (shocker) and a few look out points closer to where the buses drop you off.

Sky bar at the Ritz Carlton: Perfect for ending a day of sightseeing with a cocktail and a view. I hear the Four Seasons also has a great view from its dim sum restaurant. Tip: Stay on the bottom floor at the Ritz if you want to catch a great view of the sunset as the view from the rooftop is blocked.

Other mentionables worth checking out: Chi Lin Nunnery (Buddhist temple), Avenue of the Stars boardwalk, the Star Ferry and Dragon’s Back hiking trail. I’m sure I am missing so many other nuggets, which will have to wait for next time!

 

 

Ok, now for the other part of Hong Kong’s amazing culture: The Food! It was definitely a dim sum party for the Mony’s during our week there, but we also made time for other delectables like soup dumplings, peking duck, and even some tea time. My tummy was the happiest it’s ever been — here’s the low down on where to go:

Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan: The most talked about and arguably best dim sum in Hong Kong, this Michelin-star restaurant chain doles out the most amazing pork buns I’ve ever had in my life. You would never realize its high rating though at first glance; not only is it a no-frills type of place but each plate of dim sum is about $2 each. The secret is definitely out though since many of its locations come with an hour (or two) wait, but we went to the Sham Shui Po location which is in a less touristy area and got seated right away. Note: I should also mention that there was some discrepancy as to if all the locations had Michelin stars or only some, but this one definitely does (if anyone knows this btw, please share!) That being said, if you want a fix before hopping on a flight out of HK (or maybe first thing upon arrival) there’s a restaurant right next to the airport shuttle at the IFC mall in Central.

Soup Dumplings at Crystal Jade: My sister and I are big fans of xiaolongbao, aka soup dumplings, and so we did our research to find this place. The soup dumplings and the rest of our meal (including this phenomenal chili oil dumpling dish!) was absolutely delicious.

More Soup Dumplings at Din Tai Fung: Couldn’t resist adding this one, another affordable michelin-star restaurant with awesome food. Tip: If you have room to spare at the end of the meal, definitely get the sesame and red bean buns for dessert. Delicious!

Peking Duck at Spring Deer: Diner beware, only come here if you are ready to stuff yourself silly. This restaurant is a favorite among locals and a reservation is best, so if you do manage to get a seat you better be prepared to eat your fill. The duck here is brought to you whole and sliced up before your eyes at your table. I know we ordered other dishes but I was so happy with the duck (in all its fatty glory) that I don’t even remember anything else. Sure, its probably not healthy to have duck all the time but if there’s a time to break the diet it has to be when you’re here.

Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula: While this wasn’t exactly something I expected to do while in Hong Kong, having tea and fancy little finger sandwiches at The Peninsula was pretty great. Granted, it was pricey for what it was, but the ambiance was so nice and it was a great way to relax with my mom and sis after a long day. Being a tourist, tough life.

As its pretty obvious, the food was my favorite part of the experience. I also really liked how many expats live here – probably a good number working at the big financial companies. As for the bad, I was pretty sad to see how much smog was in the air but I guess thats to be expected with the number of people crammed in. Lower your carbon footprint already, HK!

 

Next up, an overnighter in Macau…

 

Books read:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood for Education and Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

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Cin Cin To 2013: Looking Back On My Time In Business School

Happy New Year everyone! I hope last year was a time you will look back on fondly, and that you are bursting with excitement and optimism for what 2014 holds.

I must say 2013 was a good year, and not just travel-wise. Not only did I accomplish one of my academic and professional goals of getting my MBA but I also realized my dream of living in another country. And one so culturally rich as Italy at that! When reading back on some old posts, I came across a quote I found last January by IESE professor Pankaj Ghemawat:

“Research shows that living abroad expands your mental horizons and increases your creativity. However, merely traveling abroad doesn’t produce this benefit. Executives report that it takes at least three months to become immersed in a place and appreciate how the culture, politics and history of a region affect business there.”

– Excerpt from “Smarter Managers for a Semi-Globalized India” in The Smart Manager Magazine 

I feel fortunate to have spent the last year and a half in Europe where I learned so much that extended past the classroom. Indeed it was a very challenging year both academically and personally, but it’s those difficulties that build character, broaden mindsets and ultimately humble us. And because SDA Bocconi has such an international class we all gained insight into each other’s cultures as well. One day I was learning how to say “good morning” in Greek and the next how to write my name in Japanese. Then my German classmate was giving me professional advice for any resumes I may send to Berlin (include a photo!), while another classmate and I were noting the cultural differences between Venezuela and India when it comes to introducing a date to your family. Together we learned from each other while still being able to laugh at our own stereotypes. As Ghemawat said, it is this kind of invaluable learning that facilitates cross-cultural understanding, promotes international business, and makes us more open-minded and well-rounded individuals.

Thanks to my classmates and the school for making this past year at Bocconi so memorable!

     

      

      

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Midnights In Paris, And An Afternoon In Champagne

Part I: Escapades in Paris

I’ve been to Paris only a few times in my life, but its one of those cities that gets better with every visit. This past weekend a few b-school friends and I hopped on a quick easyJet flight, narrowly avoiding yet another Italian transportation strike which had downed many flights for the day, and we were in the beautiful City of Light in time for dinner and drinks.

This Paris trip was particularly great as the 6 of us had all been to Paris before: we spent just as much time exploring the city as we did enjoying the french cuisine (and wine of course.) While we were there for only three nights, I hope a longer stint in Paris will be in my near future. Next on the list: learning French!

Where To Eat in Paris:

Le Petit Marché – A modern French restaurant with a touch of Asian fusion in the Marais District. Try the sesame tuna and the veal.

La Maison de Verlaine – Very intimate and delicious restaurant at the top of Rue Descartes in the Latin Quarter. Fun fact: Hemingway lived in this building for five years in 1921.

L’As du Fallafel – A busy spot in the Marais district but worth the wait. Get the falafel with everything on it.

Pierre Hermé – A very biased choice here as its my favorite macaron place in town!

 

Part II: Bubbles in Champagne Country

One of the best parts of the weekend was a quick day trip Jen and I took to Epernay to visit the Moët & Chandon house. As most of you know, this past summer I had an amazing internship with Moët Hennessy USA in New York, and part of my work in the trade marketing department involved creating tools to increase our portfolio’s champagne sales. Epernay is tiny, but the reason to go there is for L’Avenue de Champagne, the long street of champagne houses that extends through the area (and much much farther than we walked.) Some say that it is even the most expensive street in the world due to the many bottles they have stored there. There are other champagne houses in Reims, such as Veuve Clicquot, Piper-Heisieck and Tattinger, but we were able to secure some last minute spots at the M&C house here in Epernay. The tour itself had room for improvement as it felt far too rushed and our guide was not very clear, but the highlight was walking through part of M&C’s 28 kilometers of cellars. Yes, thats over 17 miles of cellars, and I suppose part of the reason the tour guide was afraid of losing me since I was always lagging behind trying to take photos. The visit naturally ends with a tasting, and Jen and I opted for the “Grand Vintage” tasting which consisted of 2 glasses of White and Rosé 2004 and was absolutely delicious. We made the trip out to champagne country – we had to do it right!

 
 


 

Bisous! Until next time…

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The Beautiful Game: My Fav Football Bars for Euro 2012

For better or for worse, for the last couple weeks I have been obsessively reading up on the UEFA Euro ’12 championship. And now that it’s finally here (yay!) I can barely contain myself. For those of you that are not football fans, the Euros is kind of a big deal. It happens every four years between the World Cup, and the majority of the teams are pretty strong. 16 teams are divided up randomly into four groups and play for the highest points. Once the group stage has passed the two top teams in each group move forward and the winners play the runners up of another group, before it becomes to the death with the quarters, semis and final games. As a loyal Spain fan, I am naturally honing in on Group C whos biggest rival is Italy, but I am also in awe of B’s “Group of Death.” Regardless, each group has already proved to have some highly riveting games and anything can happen at this point.

So if you’re in NYC and looking for a spot to catch the games on the weekends or somewhere to sneak off and watch in the middle of the workday, here are a few spots I recommend checking out regardless of what team you may be backing.

Germany:

Zum Schneider

If you dare to go here for a Germany game, be prepared for the chaos that is sure to ensue. On days when their national team is playing, not only do they have a DJ but they also have an oompah band. That’s right, I said an Oompah Band! And when Germany won the recent World Cup the bat patrons took to the streets in celebration. This spot is definitely not for those that are looking for a quiet place to watch the game, so do yourself a favor and just get involved!

Bierhaus

Bierhaus is a welcome relief from the typically subpar bars in Midtown. While its not an outdoor beer garden, its pretty spacious and there’s good sized tv’s to catch the game. Add a delicious bratwurst, giant beers and dressed up bar maidens, and it’s a solid spot to show your German pride.

Spain:

La Nacional

When Alexis and I walked into this restaurant two years ago to catch a World Cup game, we were initially disappointed to see only about 3 other people in the whole place. However, the whole place was soon packed with Spaniards who shared our excitement for the game, and we were one of the very few non-native Spanish speakers in the room. Football + Spanish cursing = music to our ears.

Circulo Español

Ok, full disclosure – I haven’t been here BUT I feel the need to share it anyway because I was tipped off by a Spaniard who was raving about it. The restaurant is located in Astoria and is a big spot for expats. The suggestion is to get there early enough to order the delicious paella and make sure it gets brought to you before the game begins and the waiters suddenly forget about you.

England:

Football Factory at Legends

Started by one of the owners of Nevada Smith’s, this bar is a hot spot for not only European football but the NY Red Bulls as well. It’s somewhat known to be a Chelsea bar, so you can bet that there will be a big crowd rooting on the Brits here.

Italy:

Diva

Surprisingly not a lot of Italian football bars in NYC come to my mind, but one restaurant that is defintely an Italian supporter is Diva. Located in one of my favorite intersesctions in SoHo, its a great open-air brunch spot to snag a table and watch the game. While there’s only one tv in the whole place, the atmosphere is lively and its still worth checking out. Tip: Make a reservation in advance, try to snag a table closer to the tv, and order some pitchers of sangria.

Other Awesome Football Bars:

Peter Dillon’s

Not gonna lie, I’m a little reluctant to write about this bar because its my secret spot and I like it that way. However, it is a no frills pub that is serious about it’s football. I’ve come to love this place over the years, and you can guarantee big football matches will be given top priority over other sports when necessary. Bring your own food, and make sure to order a drink at the bar or the bartender (who I love!) will give you hell about it.

Nevada Smiths

I kind of wanted to keep this spot off my list as well just because its the main go-to bar that everyone mentions, but you’d be hard pressed to find more hardcore football enthusiasts packed into one dark bar anywhere else. When it’s not a championship game, the bar is rather low-key with seats available and not too many people around. However, for tournaments you can definitely expect a packed house and no seating room whatsoever. That being said, the energy level is high and if you go with it (and not care that you feel like sardines) then this can be a great spot to catch the games. *Note: Nevada Smith’s is currently under construction so they’ve temporarily relocated to Webster Hall around the corner.

Café Felix

Alright, so this is a French restaurant but if you were watching the Spain/Italy semi final match of Euro ’08 here then you would have seen my table of red jerseys jumping up and down in happiness amidst a sea of sad blue fans. That afternoon at Felix is hands down one of the top five best moments I’ve had in NYC and why I am an advocate for watching games at that bar. The brunch is delicious, the drinks are strong and the crowd is as euro as you can get in Manhattan. That being said, it’s a small spot and reservations must be made early in advance if you don’t want to be standing in the back, and make sure they plan on having the projector down for the game you want to watch. You can expect to find me here if Spain makes it to the finals this year.

Honorable Mentions:

Smithfield – A popular spot where football is the sport of choice and with tons of LED TV’s.

*Update – Just watched the Group of Death matches here on 6/16 and it was phenom! Enthusiastic crowd, awesome bartenders and two floors to make sure each game on gets audio. YES.

Central Bar – Large, open Irish bar in the East Village that can draw a rather eclectic crowd.

Stout – Sure, the location is a little annoying, but if you’re around Penn Station looking for a good bar to grab a table and watch the game this is a good call.

Rattle N Hum – This  bar is supposed to be one of the top football bars for the Euros, and also offers lots of delicious craft beer.

 

So now that you are fully informed on the Where, the question is When are we meeting up to catch a game?

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Here’s A Major Workout For You

So with another birthday looming and the start of the summer around the corner, I have painfully tried my best to up my workouts. This last year of traveling has been amazing for me mentally, but its been a little detrimental for my waistline. One of the hard parts of extended travel is keeping up with a daily workout regimen, but this guy seems to have gotten a handle on the situation. You may have already seen his video since it went viral (its currently competing with Nike, but we always root for the underdogs) but Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness spent 18 months traveling all over the world and ::gasp:: EXERCISING. While I was sipping cappuccinos in Italy and eating far too much soba in Japan, Steve was doing jumping jacks in China and push ups in New Zealand. Hey, it sure beats the gym. Way to make me feel guilty, Steve, but your video is still pretty rad.

Check out Steve’s Nerd Fitness website here.

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Japan, A Year Later

My second visit to Japan has ended, and this trip turned out to be even more incredible and eye-opening than I could have hoped for. Not only did I get to check out amazing places like the Chichu art museum in Naoshima and the massive sand dunes in Tottori, but in addition I was able to volunteer with typhoon relief efforts in Wakayama and see some of the tsunami devastation first-hand in Sendai. Even though this country is filled with so much beauty (and, of course, delicious foods), many people are of course still wary about visiting after last year’s events. While I hope that some of my previous posts about Japan can encourage more people to visit the country, I would also like for my entries to encourage others to further explore what’s happening there today. The beauty of Japan is found in more than its beautiful coastlines, amazing ski slopes, and intricate temples – it’s also found in the resilience of the people that are working everyday to restore their towns for their families and future generations. I was especially impressed with the amount of fundraising that I’ve seen from expats there. One group of JETS living in the Fukushima prefecture are selling Fukushima t-shirts in order to raise money for tsunami relief efforts. My sister, a current JET living in Nara, has already ordered several t-shirts and I am anxiously awaiting for mine to arrive in the mail. If you are interested in ordering shirts internationally you can email Galileo Yuseco at fukushima.tshirt@gmail.com.

Back in NYC, I am glad to hear that the conversation is still on-going as well. In February I attended a LucidNYC event where an acclaimed photographer named Kyoko Hamada spoke about her visit to Fukushima and her interactions with the people there. To hear her story and see some of the pictures she took, check out the video clip here. I was also fortunate to help out with another great event this past week hosted by Indiegogo over at Projective Space LES. Jason Wishnow, the filmmaker behind TedTalks, was one of the speakers and shared a new project of his called “We Are All Radioactive.” This online documentary series is about the people living in Motoyoshi, a small surf town 100 miles north of Fukushima, and focuses on their experiences with how their businesses and daily lives have been affected by the concern about radiation. While part of the series was filmed by Wishnow and his team, they also gave out cameras to the locals there so that us viewers can see their story through their eyes. The online series is crowdfunded and new episodes are being “unlocked” as each fundraising goal is hit – to find out more about this project and to donate, visit their site here.

I plan on visiting Japan again within the year and look forward to seeing all of the progress that will be made. Until then, I will have to be content with staying connected online and rationing out my green tea flavored kit kats appropriately.

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