Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NYC

I feel fortunate and love getting to go to cool places with work. We have been in New York City for a conference this week and finally had some time to explore and enjoy the city today. From lower Manhattan to Gramercy Park to SoHo to Central Park and everything in between, we walked our feet off. Shopping and eating our way back to the Hilton New York, we soaked in the liveliness and diversity that makes NYC like few other places on earth.

During my time here I enjoyed some flashbacks of my youth in the mid-eighties when my dad was stationed here for three years. Walking along sidewalks that used to house hand-carried dance floor squares for impromptu break-dancing sessions and remembering how my nose used to wrinkle with the scents of the city as the scents of NYC summer wafted in the air. I enjoyed a hot soft pretzel from a street vendor and smiled as I remembered how I used to get one at school (P.S. 26) every Thursday in the cafeteria. However, it was a bit ill-begotten as I technically stole the money from the Girl Scouts to do it.

I just happened to have Brownies on Thursdays as well and dues was $0.50. I guess I reasoned that I had two quarters, so using one for a pretzel was no big deal. My conscience apparently wasn't quite in tune yet, I think I was 6. Anyways, at some point my troop leader pulled my mom aside and said something to the effect of - hey, it's fine that you guys only pay half the dues, don't feel bad about it. My mom, knowing nothing of my pretzel shenanigans, was confused and then the troop leader filled in the part about how I only paid half my dues for about six months. Ah, the memories, pretty sure I got in trouble for that. But man, I still do love a NY hot pretzel, even if I have to use my own money to buy it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Souvenirs

When you travel, what do you like to bring home with you? My "rule" for trips is usually an article of clothing (which I know won't last forever but is still fun), a piece of jewelry and some kind of art (painting, sculpture, etc. but small enough to fit in my luggage). Obviously I want to find things that will remind me of where I have been and transport me magically back there in a single glance - which is a lot of pressure to put on inanimate objects, but hey, why not try, right?

If you are like me you are also in search of the perfect gifts for your best friend(s), family, co-worker covering for you, cat-sitter, etc. It's great when you find something that works for everyone (indigenous item like coffee or wine (before the liquid ban in carry-ons of course), shot glass, sand, etc.) I sometimes give myself a pass from finding the perfect gifts for everyone and instead just get things for people if I just happen to come across something that is perfect for them. Those are the best gifts anyway.

But sometimes I am like a crazy person on a mission, I know - shocking. I just want the people in my life to know that I was thinking of them while I was away and it was really no trouble at all to commission half a Malagasy village to make every woven thing in their catalog. Actually, it was no trouble, they needed the income and it was my absolute pleasure as I love to give (and receive) gifts. So fun!

In case you were wondering about my three items from Madagascar that I am counting as my official souvenirs:
1.) Okay, if I was creative and not going anywhere formal, I would wear this. It is a sarong. Okay, I would wear it by the pool maybe. The clothing item was hard to come by as almost 100% of the clothing available was shipped from the US and other industrialized countries who donate clothes. Seriously, things I wore in the 3rd grade were in piles at the local market.

2.) This is apparently is something that the witch doctors buy at the market and wear as a pendant on a necklace. No one could tell me why or what it represented. I am leaving it on my desk for now as I don't want any bad mojo around my neck until I know for sure what it is exactly.

3.) It's art and art can go inside! Double whammy! I am planning on picking three of my favorite pictures and hanging this in my office at work. One of the many beautiful woven items I brought home.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quirks

Do other people have quirky travel habits like I do? I was thinking about this the other day while flying back from Miami and figured that people probably do but may not think twice about them. One of my favorite habits revolves around magazines. I love periodicals, they have always represented travel to me from as far back as I can remember. Going on trips as a kid included going to the bookstore or CVS and picking out some magazines to keep me occupied. I now have many subscriptions to magazines, remember all those left over airlines miles from a few posts ago? Anyways, my routine goes a little something like this:

1.) Read magazine, from front to back cover of course, no peeking ahead
2.) Rip address label off
3.) Strategically hide magazine behind in-flight magazine so the flight attendants or cleaning people don't notice it
4.) Secretly hope the next person feels lucky, like someone left them a gift

As a bonus for me, my bag gets lighter and makes room for anything I buy along the way (or any giant amount of conference crap I acquire if that's where I am going). I have many more travel routines and habits but we'll have time between trips to discuss those I guess. In the meantime, if you board a plane and find a "bonus" magazine in your seat-back pocket you can think of me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Rest

So, after the last post we took the rest of our time in Miami easy. We went to breakfast at the Big Pink - which if you ever go to Miami - which is totally worth checking out. We then shopped Lincoln Road in South Beach and I may have discovered a pro to having a kid (check it out below). We checked out the beach, had some snacks and went back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. I unfortunately left my camera at home so all photos had to be taken during daylight and the sunset ceremony didn't work out, so no wedding photos here, sorry.

It was a beautiful setting though and as soon as the vows were exchanged the skies opened up and poured rain. We all went inside and the outdoor tables were relocated to under an awning. We were seated inside originally so we were dry. The rain eventually wore off and we danced the night away. Everything was beautiful. The next morning we woke up late, had breakfast in Coral Gables and went to the after wedding Sunday Funday Pool Party. It was a gorgeous day. We then headed to Fort Lauderdale for the evening and flew out this morning. Not too shabby a mini-vacation, nice to have those excuses like weddings to get away. Congrats Stef & J.M.!
Best french toast ever!
The photo really doesn't do this toddler outfit justice. (Sarah Z. I almost called you to get Anna's size.)
A few minutes before the ceremony began.
Sun starting to set right before we sat down.
For those of you who know me, know my love of cupcakes. This was a beautiful one but I didn't get to eat it. Grabbed it on the way out of the reception, way too late to eat it then. Ate breakfast in the morning and then checked out and headed to the pool. Left it for the maid (with her tip of course) - hope she enjoyed it!
Sunday Funday at the pool!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kitschy Keys

Have you ever had a day where you planned nothing but just did anything that came along? I haven't had many of those myself, but had one today. It's obviously easier to do in some places than others and since we are in Miami, the Keys seemed like a good place to play for a day. The only thing on the agenda (you probably knew there would be something, right?) was a piece of key lime pie from Ma's Fish Camp, which I had read about in Budget Travel magazine while I was in Madagascar. So, after a Starbucks run we hopped in the car and this is what ensued from there... 
Found the mecca of all things sandal, flip flop heaven...
Brian eating some mighty fine mahi mahi.
The key lime pie, rumored to be the new best, waiting for this year's contest to take over the reigning champion.
 Beautiful roadside beach along Route 1.
Looking for the kitsch? Here it is, a lovely manatee mailbox holder and a spiny Floridian lobster sculpture both found at a roadside art gallery.
And then it was onto The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.
And finally a two hour cruise to see the only undersea park in the U.S. by glass bottomed boat. (John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park)
And wrapped up the day with a Mediterranean pizza and beers at Andiamo. Yum!

Then it was time for bed. Cheers!