travel

california dreamin’

I have to be up in about 5 hours but I’m not tired, so here I am. By the time you’re reading this I will be about an hour into a cross-country flight to San Francisco!

Guys, I’ve waited what feels like most of my (almost) 30 years to go to California. So, of course, my throat and sinuses decide NOW IS THE TIME to revolt and do things that they don’t usually do. Like, hurt and tickle for the past 10 days or so. The up-side is, I now have a sexy voice to use on all of the Californian boys (except it will probably be like that episode of SATC where Miranda meets up with her friend who moved from NY to LA and now instead of the anxious neurotic he used to be, he’s now laid back and chill. I can’t deal with that. I need someone fueled on coffee and sarcasm, not fresh air and avocados.).

We have some fun stuff planned and quite frankly, I can’t wait to sit and tell you all about it. My camera is all charged and it almost feels like it’s ready to do some work. These photo dumps are going to be large, my friends. GET READY.

I’ll be home in 4 days, so I’ll probably see you here in about 6 months.

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westward bound

One month from today, I will be hopping on a plane pointed west, headed straight to where Tony Bennett left his heart.

For five days I’ll be playing tourist in the land of sea lions, sourdough, and fog named Karl.

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Make sure you check back here and on my Instagram for up to the minute vacation shenanigans!

Also, this is my 300th post! What?!

THIS IS MY 300TH POST

That’s a lot of Harry Styles talk.

Let’s try for 300 more!

NOLA in a nutshell: the finale!

The third (and final!) part of this recap series is going to be all about what I wish I would have done and some other photos that I wanted to share but didn’t have a place for.

Part one was all about food and part two was all about activities. Catch up first!

WHAT I WISH I DID

Ride the St. Charles trolley through the Garden District – I was hellbent on getting to see the huge houses in the Garden District. After the swamp tour, we had a little while before dinner so my mom and I decided to Uber over to the Garden District. Our driver was so nice and chatty. She recommended that we take the trolley from the start to the end and then at the end, we would find the big houses. It’s a nice ride and the trolley is cheap. It’s like $1.25 a ride. take a hint, MTA. We didn’t have time for that so we just picked a block, got out and walked around. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see Sandra Bullock’s (or any NOLA celebrity) house and that I didn’t get to see the house covered in Mardi Gras beads but, there’s always next time.

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Have a drink at the Carousel bar – I heard about this bar through one of those links on Facebook. “10 coolest bars to get shitfaced in the US”, or whatever. The bar itself rotates, like a carousel. We passed it in the Uber, on the way to the Garden District. It was in the nice part of town and much more my speed. Not that I need some fancy-schmancy bar to get drunk in, but Bourbon Street is a mess. And I say that in the most loving way possible.

Get read by Otis at Bottom of the Cup – I know I mentioned him before but I really think Otis is legit. He was featured on The Little Couple when Bill and Jen first went to New Orleans. He predicted kids and all of that. Time passed, they adopted Will and Zoey, and then went back to see Otis the next time they were in NOLA. Everything he told them came to be. So, #realdeal.

Experience a real New Orleans wedding parade – I found out on the walking tour that you are allowed to hop on to the back of a wedding parade, but not a funeral one. For obvious reasons. I would have loved to see either of them, but right place, wrong time.

New Orleans is a very spiritual city. I believe there’s ghosts all over the place down there. The city had its fair share of tragedies in its history so it’s not so far off that people would hang around. Before we got our tarot read, my aunt asked the reader if she knew of any mediums. The reader said that she was one, but she couldn’t open the door to spirits when she was near Jackson Sqaure because there are too many souls around and they all try to come across. She explained that she can’t even go into the square because she gets anxiety attacks. She told us that back in the day, the gallows stood where the statue of Andrew Jackson is now and she feels that the souls of the family members who watched their loved ones die come to her because she that’s how she feels, like she’s watching a loved one die/be killed. I, of course, was fascinated by this but I kind of filed it under a cool story and moved on.

When I got home and started to look at the pictures on the computer, I noticed an orb on the Andrew Jackson statue. I posted this already on Instagram, so if you’ve seen it already, move along.

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See the red circle on the back of the horse? Maybe it’s a sun spot, maybe it’s a convicted felon of yesteryear. I’m going with felon and don’t tell me different.

My friend Nicole asked me to find the mansion from American Horror Story. Delphine LaLaurie’s manison, to be exact. Look her up. bitch was crazy. One of the legends around town about her was that she would have these lavish parties and right in the middle, she would leave and come back with a whole new outfit on. Her guests assumed that she was just trying to show off her wealth or whatever but the truth was that she got an itch to kill/maim someone so she went to her basement or the attic, did the deed and then changed out of the bloody garments. A fire burned the house down and exposed Delphine’s secret. i told you, she was crazy. I’m not sure what happened after that, but fast foward to today and the house is privately owned by, in my opinion, a very brave soul.

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The other legend is that Nicholas Cage owned her mansion but lost it to tax evasion. He owned another house in NOLA and lost it the same way. He also has a crypt in St. Louis Cemetery, but it’s highly doubted that he’ll be buried there because he hasn’t been back to New Orleans. Apparently, the celebrities who live there are seen there. Like, at the local grocery store and stuff.

My final thoughts on New Orleans: It is a beautiful, old, history rich city. Although it is 2016, I was almost surprised to see people in normal clothes and not 1800’s garb. It just has a very old feeling to it, which I love. It’s got charm. It also needs a shower. I was warned of the filthiness of NOLA but I really didn’t believe it. To clarify, the streets are clean. It’s not a garbage-ridden dump. Sure, the streets could be fixed and the buildings could use a power wash and a paint job, but it’s no dump. It’s just that I’ve never in my life have seen so many homeless people. No judgement, just an observation. Just like my mom and my aunt observed a cop discovering a dead man on St. Ann Street. I mean, yea. I’m from New York, homeless people are nothing new; this is just different. There was no shortage of art and music in New Orleans, the Quarter, especially. It gave the city life.

And that’s about it! I hope you have enjoyed New Orleans as much as I did!

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NOLA in a nutshell (part two)

Now that you’ve digested (ba dum dum) part one of my NOLA recap, let’s move on to part two!

As I mentioned in my last post, I came to New Orleans for the photo opportunities. I mean, I wanted to have a good time and experience the city too, but food and photos were my top priority. This post is probably going to be photo heavier than the last one. You’ve been warned.

WHAT WE DID/SAW

Swamp tour – Taking a swamp tour was on my cousin’s list of definites. They offer a speedboat or a normal, not scary boat. We chose the normal boat over the speed boat (sorry, Dez!) and off to the swamp we went. We were told that we had come at a great time because all of the wildlife would be around. Score. This city girl was ready for some gators. Within the first 10 minutes we spotted our first gator.

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crikey.

The tour guide fed our new friend, Herman (the tour guides name them when they get older/bigger. this guy was too small for a name so i gave him one.) and made sure that both sides of the boat got a good view of him. They love hotdogs, marshmallows and hands with cameras. I took the guide’s word for it.

When Herman had enough of us, we moved on to see if we could find some pigs. Unfortunately, the tour that went out before us were kids on a school trip. That means the pigs had already had their fill of marshmallows and pig treats and wanted nothing to do with us. However, the trip to the pig section was straight out of The Little Mermaid and it took a lot for me to not sing Kiss the Girl. Ok, maybe I sang it a little. Just some sha la la la la my oh mys.

On the way back, we caught sight of another gator, Jerry (again, my name, not theirs). Jerry looks like a real jokester, but according to the tour guide, this is what alligators do to cool off and are known to sit this way for hours on end. Jerry wound up moving as we passed; dispelling any “that’s not real” myths. We also saw some turtles on the way back.

To get to the swamp, it was a 45-ish minute ride from the Quarter. We drove through neighborhoods that were obliterated by Hurricane Katrina. There were empty lots where houses and stores used to be. Whole apartment complexes and hospitals were standing there, gutted and untouched in a decade. Things are starting to come back but very slowly and it almost seems impossible to get back to 100%. Because I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t understand the true magnitude of Katrina, I didn’t realize how horrible it was. Hearing the bus driver say that the area used to be all built up and how many people from the area had died, it gave me a lump in my throat. Not that you have to be familiar with an area to feel bad for a terrible tragedy. It’s almost like being a New Yorker during 9/11, I guess.

The French Market – I have a love/hate relationship with flea markets. I love a good bargain but sometimes they can get schlocky. The French Market was a bit of both. It offered a little of everything –  artwork, photography, jewelry, masks, cellphone accessories, food. There weren’t many photography booths which is what I usually gravitate towards so I just wandered through. As I’m writing this now, I realize that I never went back for a mask like I intended. figures.

My cousin Desiree reported live on Snapchat (dla22 tell her I sent you! Or don’t. Just don’t be a creep.) the whole trip. I wish snaps lasted longer than 24 hours because you guys would have loved these.

Walking tour of the French Quarter and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 – Like I said in my last NOLA post, I came for the photo opportunities. I decided that the best way to do this was to hit the pavement. I strapped on my too tight sneakers, threw my camera around my neck and got to walking. The tour was filled with history. Well, New Orleans is filled with history but, I digress. New Orleans was owned at different times by the French, the Spanish and then, of course the United States. There are tons of French, Spanish and Caribbean influences in their architecture (and their food). The tour was two hours long, but to tell you the truth, if my feet didn’t suck and if it were offered, I could have hung out with the tour guide and walked around all day.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Quarter (I think. I’m really a horrible re-capper). The graves/crypts date back to the 17 and 1800’s. Each crypt is usually made of of people from the same family. God bless the crypt keepers because the process is a little much for me. Basically, the crypt is a small building with w ledge in it. The ledge has a hole in the back of it and underneath is all open space. When a person dies, they are waked(?) in a regular coffin. At the time of burial, the crypt keeper transfers the body into a simple pine box. It is then placed on the ledge and the crypt is closed for exactly one year. After that year, the crypt keeper opens the tomb and takes out the remains of the pine box. They then push the remains of the person to the back of the crypt where they fall through the hole and into the bottom of the crypt. It’s a little gross, a little intriguing, a little creepy. Enough crypt talk.

I was adamant about going to this particular cemetery because it is home to New Orleans voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau. I’m all about spells and potions so I wanted to see this for myself. It’s said that if you make a wish and leave an offering at Marie’s grave and it comes true, you must come back to her grave and draw 3 red Xs on the grave. The picture directly above this paragraph is Marie’s grave. The one above that is someone else in the voodoo world( i think. again, horrible re-capper.)  The cemetery constantly cleans Marie’s grave because it is always being vandalized. Personally, I think she’s floating around the Quarter somewhere.

Cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking – Taking a cooking class was never on my radar of things to do, especially on vacation but this was so much fun! We were in a group with 5 other people and a chef who taught us about the origins of Creole/Cajun cooking, what a roux is and what each different color means flavor wise, that cinnamon vaguely looks like sparkles when thrown into a flame. We broke into teams and got to cooking. I, of course, teamed up with my mom. For two reasons – one: she’s good at what she does and two: we work well together. until we don’t. The menu consisted of shrimp remoulade, chicken breast or pork chop stuffed with seafood cornbread stuffing and blueberry compote, glazed sweet potatoes, crepes with berries. According to the chef, Louisiana cooking is saltier that normal. That being said, my meal was a bit saltier that I would have liked since we followed the recipe. We got to keep a copy of the recipes that we made so I would definitely have my mom try her hand at the meal again. I mean, I would try too, but why waste time?

 

A tarot card reading in the French Quarter – After food and photos, my main goal was getting a reading. I didn’t care if it were tarot, palm, tea leaves, a medium – I just wanted to get read. Jackson Square in the day time is full of artists and their wares. Jackson Square at night is filled with readers. After dinner one night we were walking through Jackson Square back to our hotel and we noticed that the psychics were lined up, one card table after another. As much as I wanted to see Otis on Chartres Street at Bottom of the Cup tea room (he was on The Little Couple!), I have an affinity for mass psychics. They’re all over the Brooklyn street fairs in the summer and when I was younger I used to go for zeppolis and a reading. ahh youth.  Not wanting to be the guinea pig, I let my cousin’s friend Stephanie go first. I was next and, I’ll admit, I wasn’t satisfied with my shuffle, but I went with it anyway. When I was done, I went back to compare notes with Stephanie and it turns out the first part of our readings were almost identical. *side eye emoji* The psychic told me that I had to work with the Laws of Attraction to get what I want. She shamelessly plugged the Netflix doc, The Secret (i guess i just did too), and then explained to me how it works. Basically, the universe hears what you tell it so the LoA is you putting out to the universe what you want/need and it will come to you. Except it’s not as magical as it sounds. It’s not going to open the fridge and get me a Diet Coke on the rocks with a twist of lemon; I’m not Matilda, but if I learn how to really hone in to it and use it, it might get me a boyfriend or a well paying job. Right now, I’m aiming big and putting my order in to be a trophy wife. So Universe, let’s talk.

St. Louis Cathedral – As we all know, I’m pretty partial to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, but in reality, I love all cathedrals. Just like a North Jersey mansion, they’re big, filled with marble and ornate almost usually to the point of being gaudy. Saint Louis didn’t disappoint.

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I know I said I’d include the things I wish I would have done on this trip in this post, but I think I’ll do one more. I love a good trilogy. So, be on the lookout for the final installment of NOLA in a Nutshell.

*for reference, all of the photos in this post were taken on my new Nikon 1 J5 mirrorless camera and edited in PicMonkey. except the ones from the cooking class, those are phone photos.

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NOLA in a nutshell (part 1)

Friday marked a week since I got home from New Orleans. I had every intention of getting this post up even before then, but life happened, as it tends to do. Anyway, here I am with a NOLA recap.

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I was going to break this down day by day, but then I thought against it. When I was searching for places to go, things to do, where to eat, etc. I looked for travel blogs, regular blogs of people who go places, blogs of New Orleans – anything. I couldn’t find much of what I was looking for so I’m going to provide that service for the internet. you’re welcome.

We left for New Orleans on May 3rd. It was a week after Jazz fest and after the torrential downpours that they had that whole week. I was ready for heat and extreme humidity. The first day was humid. The rest of the days were absolutely gorgeous. The sun was hot, but the humidity, by the grace of God, was low. Like, 35% low.

WHERE WE STAYED

We stayed at the Maison Dupuy. Personally, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars. It was beautiful. The rooms were nice, but nothing to write home about, unless you are able to score one with a balcony. Because, fresh air.

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My biggest complaint about the hotel was that it was a little bit too far off the beaten trail. It was about 3 blocks from Bourbon Street, which isn’t terrible, but it’s about 7-10 blocks from the heart of the Quarter. With the uneven streets and having to sidestep homeless people, it’s a trek. However, the beds were super comfy, the pool was relaxing and the croissants were delish.

WHERE WE ATE

Other than the photo opportunities, I was most excited to experience the food. I was a little nervous about the spice, because, no thank you. My taste buds were delightfully surprised that they had nothing to worry about.

Cafe du Monde – beignets and frozen coffee FOR. THE. WIN. This was our first stop in the French Quarter and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a survival of the fittest seating system so the trick it to just take any empty table you find. The waiters and waitresses will clean it off while you wait. You can buy the famous chicory coffee and beignet mix at du Monde or you can get it in one of the two Cafe du Monde gift shops. The coffee also comes in K-cups. So there’s really no reason to not go home with some.

Jackson Brewery – We had lunch here. DEEE-lish. I had seafood and corn chowder in a bread bowl. WIN. Everyone else had burgers and they all raved about them. We also shared brisket and cheese fries. Holy shit. I could have dove in and did the backstroke through that pool of cheesy meaty potatoey goodness for the rest of the trip. Or for the rest of my life. Either or.

The sports bar across the street from Jackson Brewery – I don’t remember the name of this place, obvs, but we had lunch here on day 1 and it was pretty good. I recommend the fried pickles and the quesadilla.

Tujages – Housed in either the second oldest or THE oldest buildings in the French Quarter, Tujages (pronounced: two jacks) came highly recommended and it didn’t disappoint. I had the BBQ shrimp. They were served not shelled. Eating something that looked up at me was a little unnerving, but I got over that quick because they were really good. i’m a monster.

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Emeril’s Delmonico – If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I felt 100% out of my league here. Delmonico’s is one of those high-class restaurants that your team of waiters ask you if you prefer bottled water or if tap is OK. tap is wonderful, THANK YOU. I fell in love with the ambiance at this place. The building is old and renovated but it kept its charm. The waiters were great. Very professional and Southern. Lots of “yes, mam’s and sir’s” flying around. I got the 4 out of 5 of us got the steak. My cousin got chicken. We were all very pleased. Then we shared sides. French fries with lemon aioli (yes), mac and cheese (yes), Brussel sprouts, (YES), collard greens (yes) and mashed potatoes (I went with the fries but I heard they were a yes). I was dying for a lemonade (#bey), but sometimes lemonade is tricky. I took the chance and ordered one and it was perfect. For dessert, we got the from the oven chocolate chip cookies with vanilla milk. I still have dreams about them. The cookies even had a little bit of salt sprinkled on top… #nextlevel.

The Napoleon House – Another lunch spot. Supposedly, Napoleon built this building for when he was in the area, except he never made it back because he was exiled. Or something. We came to the Napoleon House in search of muffalettas. Well, that’s why I was there. They serve them warm which I think, even though I didn’t try it cold, is the best way to eat it. It is a monster of a sandwich, filled with every Italian meat you could dream of, cheese and olives. I was a little turned off because I’m not the biggest green olive lover, but this version wasn’t overrun with them. I’ve been thinking of the muffaletta since I got home. I’m determined to find a substitute. Maybe I shouldn’t mention this, but after we were finished eating and getting ready to pay the bill, my aunt noticed a mouse scurrying around under the table The waitress explained that since everything is open and the building is old, this is a common occurrence. I get it, but still.. ehh. Doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t go back for anotha ‘letta.

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*i did not tackle this beast by myself. i shared it with my cousin’s friend. but, if we’re being honest, i would try to in a heartbeat.

Bistreaux– This was the restaurant connected to our hotel. We only had a quick breakfast there before running off to do fun things. We passed at lunchtime, though and the burgers looked really good. Like I said, the croissant was delicious. I also recommend the breakfast sandwich, served on, you guessed it – a croissant. The side of potatoes were a little too spicy for my morning meal, so, pass.  They offered iced coffee, which makes me so happy.

Court of the Two Sisters – First and foremost, it is beautiful. We were so lucky with the weather this trip and were able to sit outside. My mom, my aunt and I came for breakfast on our last day here. I love a good buffet and this was a good buffet. We got there at that awkward brunch time where there’s still breakfast out but they want to switch it over to all lunch. I was able to get an Eggs Benedict for breakfast that I enjoyed. The highlight of the meal was the scoop of creamed spinach I took. I’m going to need that recipe.

I’ve changed my mind about not breaking this into two posts. The next one will be about what we did, what I wish I got to do and overall experience. That one will also have the bulk of the pictures. Just like Christmas, it’s coming.

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finding my nola

Raise your hand if this time next week you’ll be in New Orleans!

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That’s right, friends! Next week I’m trading the Big Apple for the Big Easy. Four days of voodoo, swamps and all the beignets I could shove in my mouth.

I’m going with my mom, my aunt, cousin and one of her friends. We’re already signed up for a cooking class, so if you hear of a fire in New Orleans on Tuesday, it’s probably my dinner.

We have lots of fun stuff planned in these 4 short days and I can’t wait to share them with you. My camera is all charged and I’ve already bought two backup batteries so get ready for a big photo dump, or two (or seven).

I’ll be ‘gramming the whole trip, natch, so keep up with me on there.

nola, here i come!

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Blogtober14 Day 21: dream vacation

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Having fun on day 21!

Today’s prompt is something that I think about on a pretty constant basis. As usual, I don’t have just one answer.
We’re talking about dream vacations today, kids.

If I were given an unlimited amount of time and money to go any and everywhere I’d go to:

EUROPE: i want to eat pizza in italy, ask big ben for the time, see a senorita (with flowers in her hair) in spain, drink beer in germany, pick a 4 leaf clover in ireland, see the beauty that is prague, buy a beret in france, brush my hair with a dinglehopper at the little mermaid statue in copenhagen, smell the tulips in holland, suspend reality in amsterdam, visit castles in scotland… the list goes on. am i stereotyping? i apologize if my ugly american is showing, but the more i wrote, the more excited i got.

EXOTIC BEACHES: after my european journey, i think my next vacation would be to a beach. my cousin has been to atlantis in the bahamas and really liked it. fine with me. i just want a good pina colada, a comfy beach chair, a book or my kindle, and a pool for when the sun gets too hot.

AUSTRALIA: i want to be face to face with a kangaroo ( or a safe distance behind a fence with trained profesionals all around), i want to feed a koala some eucalyptus, i want to see the great barrier reef, i want to find P. Sherman at 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. i want to visit the opera house at night because the pictures are so beautiful.

CALIFORNIA: The furthest west I’ve ever been was memphis, tennessee. which isn’t that far, in the long run. i want to do all of california. see the redwoods, go to haight-ashbury, find the backstreet boys’ star on the walk of fame, say hello to the tanner family in san fransisco, break out of alcatraz, slip some of my celebrity husbands my phone number.

OTHER STATES: i have an ever growing list of places to see in america. i live here; i have no excuse. i’ve heard the grand canyon is incredible in person. niagara falls (the american and canadian side), hawaii, georgia, south and north carolina, louisiana, texas… this list goes on also.

MANHATTAN: but martina, you live in brooklyn! i know. i’ve just always wanted to rent a room in the city, traipse around – taking pictures, doing typical new york things, and when i’m tired and done for the day, just go up to my room and order room service. this vacation (weekend getaway, really), probably sounds better in my head. i’m a big believer in being a tourist in your own city because you’re probably taking the things it has to offer for granted. especially when your city is new york.

I guess I have a bit of wanderlust, huh? Where would you go?

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