Category Archives: Travel

A Business Gathering with a Spanish Accent

By mimorg33

loleta-muelle-uno-malaga-15

Under a waxing moon with a lovely breeze swaying the palm branches, the Miami skyline shone picture perfect as the backdrop for the second year of Next Destination, Málaga: Gateway to Andalusia, where members of the cruise and shipping industry from Málaga got together with their Miami counterparts along with tour operators, travel agents and other professionals.
The air was perfumed with amontillado wine, tapas and paella; flamenco music played in the background welcoming guests to the Island Gardens on Watson Island for a night of Spanish-style business : with joie de vivre. The Consulate General of Spain in Miami, Don Cándido Creis Estrada, and his charming wife, Carla, presided over the event with typical relaxed style. Despite its laid back demeanor, Málaga is positioning itself to increase its traffic from the North America cruise traveler who in 2015 made up 48% of the total 23 million passengers in that category.

Monteajaque, one of the many White Towns.

Monteajaque, one of the many White Towns.

The area emphasized the many alluring possibilities available to visitors arriving to the port of Málaga that may be easily scheduled as excursions for cruise ship travelers: from the enchantment of the city itself with its many cultural and culinary offerings, to attractions such as the astonishing White Towns, the vibrancy of the Costa del Sol, as well as other cities in that area with the same lovely, easygoing Andalusian poise.

Algatocin, one of the White Towns

Algatocin, one of the White Towns

Chapeau to the organizers of Next Destination, Malaga: Gateway to Andalusia: the Málaga Port Authority, the City of Málaga Tourism and Marketing Department, the Costa del Sol Tourism and Planning Department, the Tourism Department, the Andalusia Advisory Tourism and Sport Board, and Málaga Cruises. In Miami, the effort was supported by the Consulate General of Spain, the Board of Andalusia Foreign Promotion Agency, the Spanish Tourism Office (OET), and the Business Office of the Spanish Embassy. Also several businesses contributed to the success of the evening: Málaga Virgen, Mahou-San Miguel, COVAP, Inés Rosales, Cardenal Mendoza, La Gitana, Hidalgo Imports, Montecristo y La Española.

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Watr on the Heights

By mimorg33SALADS

Whether you are welcomed with a directly flown-from-Hawaii lei, a glass of bubbly and perfectly seasoned crispy rock shrimp or not, the mix of one of South Beach’s coolest rooftops and sushi-poke cuisine makes Akûa or Watr on the 1 Rooftop a uniquely seductive destination for locals and tourists alike. Nonetheless, the food alone is enough to beckon you back and again to the invitingly open-air Watr Restaurant at 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach.

SUSHI

I was particularly impressed by the Tako ($18) salad: the smoked chili vinaigrette added a fiery edge to the octopus and edamame but for those of more traditional palates, the Kimchi ($17) with just a touch of crispy garlic to give a kick to the tuna and avocado, is the way to go. The Dragon Roll ($19) from the Sushi Maki sampling was especially flavorful with a delightful crunchiness from the cucumber, asparagus and shrimp while the cashew cream cheese and avocado added a rich layer to the Happy Vegetable Roll that made it quite appetizing. The Salmon Teriyaki $26) was delectably cooked while for the carnivores, the Wagyu Skirt Steak ($36) would be the ideal choice.-1

Our taste buds were sent to ecstasy upon encountering the alluringly mouth-watering Ginger Bread Pudding with coconut chips ($12).

watr+8

Just thinking about it makes me want to dress up, run out to the car and drive across town to try my luck at getting in without a reservation. Did I forget to mention that you should make one? It is recommended as the seating is limited and if the weather turns ugly as it has today, they need to call you to cancel because Watr is an outdoor restaurant. Everything in life has its pros and cons but trying to experience this gem is well worth it. Listening to the distant sounds of the waves rushing in and out while watching the sunset, slowly sipping one of Watrcocktails and trying a savory starter is one of the finer ways to begin a South Florida evening.

The chef 10-course tasting for $95 is an excellent option to get to know the Polynesian-Japanese menu. A well-thought-out wine, sake and cocktails list is available. However, don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of the great $39 prixe fixe offer for a three-course dinner: Monday – Thursday and Sunday nights under Miami Spice through September 30. Watr at 1 Rooftop is for 21 and older. Aloha!

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The Magic of the Alpes Maritime

Oranges under the morning light.

One is first seduced by the light and immediately understands why so many artists flock to this sun-kissed area of the Mediterranean. Overlooking St. Paul de Vence from the terrace at Auberge Les Orangers, a lovely B&B my friend and travel sleuth Marilyn discovered online while she organized our trip to an area nearby Nice, I could only thank Mother Earth for her many blessings. Nestled among the hills, surrounded by trees and flowers, it was like stepping into a magic space: an oasis of calm that speaks of life in direct touch with nature. Awakening at dawn, I sat in the small terrace to bask at the panorama. The oranges shone under the early morning rays while birds chirped; the air was pregnant with the fragrance of rosemary, thyme and roses. Brewing coffee and freshly baked croissants from Thomas’ kitchen alerted my senses that breakfast was beckoning; my friends joined one by one to the rhythm of classical music in the background. I felt right at home.Les Orangers

Soon thereafter we left for our first day exploring the area: the Matisse Chapel I had tried to visit on two earlier occasions but had been closed. Hours are tricky but this time Marilyn was in charge. The chapel was an experience worth the wait particularly after having seen the sensational cutouts at a Tate Modern show in London. From there we headed to the exquisite Chagall Museum with the biblical themed paintings; there we caught an exhibition of his monumental tapestries but also saw the mosaic by the basin and, of course, the stained-glass windows surrounding the auditorium. Before entering the museum we had lunch at a small restaurant located in the Mediterranean style garden adjacent to it where I opted for a simple salade niçoise. In the early afternoon we strolled around Vence, stopped for gas and then discovered a huge Monoprix where we shopped for herbes de Provence, calissons (those heavenly morsels typical to the area) and other goodies. We got to Les Orangers in time to take a nap and get ready for an early dinner at L’Olivier Rouge were we had walked in the first night to a closed kitchen but they had provided us with a lovely repast. That second night we were warmly welcomed and I sampled a memorable ratatouille: so simple and difficult to make with this perfect balance. The house wine was clean and crisp and the desserts were also delightful including homemade calissons as macchiato accompaniment.

Matisse's home

Our final day took us to the Maeght Foundation, the modern art museum and sculpture garden with several strong pieces by Joan Miró and Giacometti among others. It’s located on Colline de Gardettes overlooking

Saint Paul de Vence, the walled town with cobblestone streets that we visited later; it’s a fun artsy town packed with tourists, galleries and boutiques. If you take the time to locate its tiny cemetery, look for Marc Chagall’s tomb with its simple white structure where many leave their message of love written in simple stones. Time after and again I pay my respects.

Les Alpes Maritimes is an area of the French Provence I never tire to return.

 

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Days 3-5 of NYC: Sweet Chick, MOMA, Central Park, Go Green Ride and more…

Okay, so it’s NYC and there’s tons of things to see, places to eat, etc.  Here’s what I did, broken down into places I ate at, hotels I stayed at, museums I visited, places I visited, and my preferred means of transportation.  So here goes:

Ate at:

First things first, it’s Restaurant Week through August 15th — you must check out these great restaurants offering 3 course meals for $25 lunches and $38 dinners!

Now, I ate at…

Los Tacos No.1 in Chelsea’s Market: TRY ANYTHING — the food is amazing and the prices are cheap! This is my new favorite place!

Capizzi on 40th & 9th in Hell’s Kitchen: pizza crust is great, the service is outstanding, very cozy, not the best area, amazing Oreo Truffle cannoli, decent wines.

Sweet Chick NYC – Williamsburg — Oh my, have everything at this treasure!  My table had yummy Arnold Palmers, Elote Corn (Mexican-style), biscuits with a variety of butters, divine mac ‘n’ cheese, a sweet ‘n’ spicy chicken on a bacon and cheese waffles, and a deliciously fried chicken sitting on scrumptious rosemary and mushroom waffles, and peach crisp for dessert.  Amazing! The ambiance is great.  The service was slow, but they are very nice, but who cares because the place is amazing and you need some time with that food!

Street meat – just go to a hot dog stand.

Broadway Bites by Urbanspace:  in Greeley Square Park, located at the intersection of 33rd Street and Broadway.  My lunch mates and I had: a slice from Roberta’s Pizza (yum), some shrimp dumplings, and the best was the rainbow macaroons with salty caramel ice-cream sandwiches!

Trop Pops – frozen fruit dipped in chocolate that requires a moment of silence.

People’s Pops – blueberry rhubarb deliciousness while strolling on the Highline? Please experience that!

Bouchon Bakery – Thomas Keller’s lovely bakery at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery – Outstanding and cheap.  Vietnamese sandwiches (get the SANDWICHES not the rolls – down in Chinatown/Little Italy.  NOTE: When they ask you: “Spicy?” SAY NO unless you want to experience what it would feel like to eat a lit stick of dynamite!

Magnolia Bakery – Bleecker Street.  Great cupcakes, lousy service.

Mille Feuille – French cafe on 74th and broadway -great cronuts (a hybrid of a croissant with a doughnut), macaroons, coffee, pastries in general…

 

Stayed at:

The Standard at the Highline – great view, Joel who will meet you in the front has amazing customer service skills, but watch your charges because they will nail you with all sorts of incidentals that either you had nothing to do with or were supposed to be included. Oh and careful with being awoken repeatedly with false alarms at 2:30 am.

The Fairfield in Hell’s Kitchen – mmmm…not a great area and let’s leave it there.

 

Art Museums: take student IDs for substantial price reductions.

Guggenheim – the building itself is a work of art by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frick – I think this is my favorite museum in the city…and it’s right next to Central Park — look out the windows facing the garden facing Central Park…

MET – it’s the MET, you have to go see the mummies, and everything else…it’s the MET.

MOMA – despite the fact that Lam’s The Jungle and all of Mendieta’s works were not on display, Chagall’s, I and the Village was, which was enough for me, along with the Rothkos, Monets, Kahlos, Duchamp, and you-know-who’s The Starry Night.  It’s the MOMA, you have to go.

Whitney – Jeff Koons: A Retrospective.  Ahhh, the Rothko made it for me.

 

Visited:

The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – if you want to go up to the Crown, make sure that you reserve your tickets way in advance.

9/11 Memorial: check out one of my previous blogs for more information.

Central Park – Spend hours there, have a picnic in Strawberry Fields, ride a tuk tuk if you don’t value your life, and quickly walk by the Alice in Wonderland sculpture with a million children buzzing by.

Heather’s off-Broadway show at the New World Stage – rude staff that made me go all the way over there for nothing — yes, I’m still bitter.

WilliamsburgBrooklyn Flea, Artists & Fleas, Brooklyn charm

Riverside Park: beautiful, hidden treasure in the city.

Note: No, I didn’t miss the Empire State but the tickets are expensive, the wait is incredibly long so go to the top of a nearby building for cocktails. and take a selfie with the Empire State in the background.

 

Preferred means of travel other than the subway or bus:

Go Green ride – do it instead of a taxi – flat rate even if you’re in heavy traffic. Phone chargers.  Pleasant drivers.  Environmentally-friendly hybrid cars. Download the app and have them pick you up and drop you off at the airport so that you don’t get ripped off by a taxi.

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Day 2 of NYC, Part 1: 9/11 Memorial & Museum

On our second day, the first place we headed to was the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which has been at the center of a lot of controversy.  It’s an emotional experience as you would anticipate.  When you first step onto the plaza, you will probably be facing one of the two enormous reflecting pools where the towers once stood. They each measure about an acre and have 30-foot waterfalls that cascade beautifully throughout multiple levels.  As you walk along the perimeter of the reflecting pools, you will notice the names of the victims engraved in bronze on the sides…it was impressive and gave us chills.  I would almost say that you feel a presence.  Once inside, the feeling of loss becomes increasingly present as you walk through what feels like catacombs.  You will see some of the steel beams where the planes hit, and the last one that was found, the 36-foot “Last Column” which became a tribute to all, but especially the rescue workers; it was the biggest urban rescue effort nationwide and most of them died valiantly as they did everything they could to help people get out.  You will walk by the wall, referred to as “the bathtub”, that had it collapsed, would have led to downtown Manhattan being under water.  You will walk next to the stairs where people were being told to “run fast, as fast as you can”.  You will see Brooklyn-artist, Spencer Finch’s, Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on that September Morning, which is an installation comprised of square papers, representing each of the victims, in different hues of blue to represent the color of the sky that morning on 9/11.  It was an incredible piece.

Spencer Finch_911 Installation

There are interactive touchscreen memorials, where you can search for a loved one, hear about them, and see their picture.  I chose to filter the search to victims from Florida, where I stumbled upon the picture and history of Bernard C. Brown II…he was from Leckie Elementary School in Tampa.  He was 11; born June 19th, 1990.  He was on Flight #77 to California because he had been chosen for a trip sponsored by National Geographic to visit a marine sanctuary.  I can’t tell you how it felt to see his smiling face and know that he never reached his destination.  You can hear about the history of every victim.

I remember that day clearly –  my daughter, then 2, sitting on my lap as we and the rest of the country watched on the day that changed our realities forever, and as my family, who worked in the city, walked home to Brooklyn that day as ashes fell on them.  Those of us that are old enough to remember, will never forget that day, where we were, what we did, who we lost.

When you go, you don’t need to get an audio guide, just download the free museum app.  If you’re a student, take your ID everywhere! If you are family of a victim, your entry is free. Here are the prices: Tickets.

Go to this, it is amazing.  Also, make sure you hug your loved ones every day…

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Day 1 of NYC: the Meat-packing District

I’m going to have to break this up because it’s NYC and therefore, amazing.

I’ll get right to it after I complain about the taxi driver that ripped me off (you know who you are cab #8N21 that picked up unsuspecting victims from LGA around 9 a.m.!)…I know – I have Waze (great app) and you took the route that wasn’t even on there!

Moving on…I arrive at the Highline Standard — Joel and Weezer (I think that’s his name — blondish, cool beard, and very easy on the eyes) demonstrated amazing customer service– above and beyond.  Our view overlooks the Highline and the Hudson…I can’t tell you how spectacular today’s sunset was.  It’s The Standard — chic, hip, awesome location…all that good stuff.

So I’m starving…we head to the Chelsea Market – great stores, restaurants, etc…we find a stand Los Tacos No.1 and they are #1…get an adobada on a corn tortilla with everything on it — incredible.

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Now that my belly’s happy, we head for the Highline, which I love (it’s a cool park overlooking the city), and if you walk enough, you’ll stumble on vendors and food stands that include: Blue Bottle Coffee and People’s Pops (try the Blueberry Rhubarb!), among others that I’m sure are equally great.

photo (10)

 

We relaxed a little at our lovely hotel and then headed back out.

We hit the West Village – ate at a Mexican restaurant, Molé that was okay…good cheese enchiladas, cheap and tasty margarita with salt that did its job very well…only thing don’t get the adobada tacos, especially if you just ate the best at Los Tacos No.1.  Headed over to the Magnolia bakery – great pistachio cupcake, yummy coconut cupcake, great iced coffee, terrible service.  I know we ate a lot today, but when you’re deprived of real cooking in your hometown, you’ve gotta make up for it!  Following that, I went into a food coma/side effect of a sleepless night for about 2-3 hours, awoke, felt refreshed, headed back out…

The Standard Grill – delicious and refreshing watermelon and cucumber salad on a bed of guac, wonderful fries, scrumptious mushrooms, and the rudest waiter.

Then, we found Perfect Brows, a threading shop at 316 West 14th Street, between 8th and 9th.  As a walk-in your wait time is less than 5 minutes, and you are done in 5 minutes.  $7 for eyebrows and $5 for the upper lip.  Great, great deal!

Then, finish off with  a sunset walk on the Highline and if you’re lucky you may see fireworks over the W from your room.

Tomorrow: 911 Memorial, the Frick, and more…

 

 

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“Is Your Tummy Ok?” Whispered the Ghost.

“Is your tummy ok?” whispered a woman in my hotel room.  What woman?  Not sure since I was the only woman in that room.  Where was I? St. Augustine: Charming & harmless on the outside.  Eerily haunted on the inside.
I have been cleansing crystals and getting my cards read since I was 18.  I’ve been to seances, consider visiting Medium villages a vacation, and take pictures to see orbs.  I’ve traveled to haunted towns like Cassadaga or New Orleans, and gone on ghost tours and other activities of a similar nature.  My point: I consider myself a little tougher than most when it comes to encounters of the supernatural kind…or so I thought.
St. Augustine’s clean streets, manicured lawns, polite citizens, and overall welcoming demeanor is what you see.  Then take a tour of the ghostly kind and your perception may change.
The Ghosts & Gravestones Tour will take you on a trolley where the driver is dressed as a prisoner, while the guide points out the different haunted areas in St. Augustine.  You will get off at two locations: a park right outside the lighthouse (where a children’s swing set can be seen moving without the assistance of a person or wind), and the Old Jail, listed on the Florida and National Register for Haunted Places, where inmates lived 12 to a cell, often the sentences were 3-5 years, but the life expectancy in the jail was only 1-2 years.  That was how terrible the living conditions were.  Couple those conditions with individuals who were in for murder, and you’ve got some unfriendly spirits.  And you will feel their frustration and anger.  Don’t believe me?  Fine.  Try it yourself.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.   There’s a reason why this tour was rated the best ghost tour of St. Augustine last year.
If you rather not visit the darker side of St.Augustine, take the Old Town Trolley Tour, which will show you all the city’s landmarks in the downtown area.  Definitely, get off at the stop for the San Sebastian Winery, and take a free tour & tasting.
Don’t forget the beaches, Anastasia Park, or Wednesday’s Market Day at the St. John’s County Pier.

I give my visit to St. Augustine 3.5 ghostly thumbs up!

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