Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Skivvies Optional: Party in Your Tartan

Edinburgh at night

If you are starting to make New Year's plans and looking to travel then consider Edinburgh's Hogmanay. I'm not big into New Year's but this festival is worth attending.

This NYE celebration consists of three fun days of games, entertainment and celebration. I attended the Street Party in 2008 with about 14 close friends and approximately 80,000 other friends and acquaintances which starts on the 31st and ends with a huge firework display at midnight over Edinburgh Castle before everyone runs for a club or pub to continue the celebrations. There is live music and food and drink. It's a great time! Tickets for the Street Party are relatively inexpensive, running about £15. Make sure you pack some leggings, hats, gloves and a warm coat as it gets pretty darn chilly during this event.

Note: If you're going to continue your celebrations, then you need to find a club or bar to head to after the fireworks as places fill up quickly and stop admitting people soon after midnight.

If the Street Party doesn't sound like your fare then check out the Concert in the Gardens. Every year the event brings in a big name musical guest (the year I went it was Scotland native, Paolo Nutini). This concert runs about £35 for the show and continues until midnight when you can watch the fireworks from inside the Gardens at the base of Edinburgh Castle.

Don't want to pay for the Hogmanay celebrations? Hike Arthur's Seat outside of town to see the fireworks.

Edinburgh Castle

Other Hogomanay events worth scooping out:
  • Torchlight Procession - Usually on the 30th and is the opening ceremony of the festival. Thousands of people gather on the Royal Mile for a torchlight procession.
  • Loony Dook - Celebrate the arrival of the New Year by taking a plunge in the River Forth on January 1. (Find yourself a hot toddy afterwards)
If you're only in Edinburgh for less than 36 hours (like I was), consider:
  • Hike Arthur's Seat for 360 degree views of Edinburgh
  • Eat pudding: red, white, black
  • See a tattoo
  • Drink a hot toddy

New Year's Day 2009, Arthur's Seat

Friday, October 28, 2011

Honey Badger Love

TGIF!  Thank you Randall for a great jump start to the day....

... gets me every time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Denver: Favorite Brunch Nooks

In honor of going home soon and brunching with my friends, I'm highlighting my top Denver brunch spots.

The Black Pearl (Pearl & Florida)
When I first started going to The Black Pearl back in college, bottomless mimosas were $5. Last time I went about a year ago (October 2010), the price had gone up $2 to $7. Needless to say, I still think it's worth it. This place is swanky; the waitstaff and bartenders are nice eye candy - always a plus! Expect to pay a bit more for a meal but it's worth it, you won't be disappointed.

The Crushery (Pearl & Florida)
Not even a block from it's boozy, more upscale brother is The Crushery. Cute and quint, the front the store rolls up like a garage door. Most the time you can find people sitting on the back porch or hanging out with their kids and dogs (warning: you might feel out of place on Old Pearl Street in Denver without one of these accessories or both). Try the #5, #11, #16 - my favorites. The staff is super friendly, helpful and accommodating. Of all the place listed, it is the least expensive (if you're coming from NYC, it's basically free). And probably my favorite.

Snooze (Multiple Denver locations)
Started by two University of Denver alumni (Yeah Pios!), Snooze has become a Denver landmark when it comes to brunching. Rich food adorns the menu and you'll probably not eat all day after having your meal here. Last time I checked they did not take reservations. So make sure you show up early, before 9 a.m. on a weekday or weekend, as all three locations (Downtown, Colorado Blvd, Southglenn) become packed quickly.

Lucile's (2 Denver + 1 Boulder location)
There is always a line to be found at Lucille's but it's worth the wait! This Creole cookhouse is delicious; the drinks are strong, the biscuits are mouthwatering and the meals reasonably priced (if you're coming from NYC, it's dirt cheap). Many of the ingredients come from the very own Lucile farm. Coloradans love organic, locally grown food, especially Boulderites! Try the french toast - I order it every time and have yet to be disappointed.

Racine's (6th ave and Lincoln)
I've actually never eaten at Racine's - that's why it made the list, I still want to go but the wait is always so long. Racine's has breakfast, lunch, dinner and, on the weekends, brunch. I also hear they make a killer margarita.

Steubens (E. 17th btw Pearl & Pennsylvania)
Two words: Food truck. That's right! Follow the truck on Twitter at @SteubensTruck as it motors around Denver. The food is good old American comfort food. I personally like the meatballs, Benny's chorizo & avocado, and cast iron french toast. 

Gaia's Bistro (Pearl & Florida)
Located between The Black Pearl and The Crushery, sits an old house that was converted into a restaurant for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner (check the times though as they aren't open for all meals everyday of the week). Guests can dine inside, outside in the yard or on the patio. My favorite spot is the yard near the fence so you can check out all the people and dogs wandering the street. I can't remember what I've eaten here but I remember being satisfied every time I've left.

Next time your in Denver, check out these places and let me know if you have any favs I should taste.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Speed Demons and Daredevils Welcome!

Located in the hilly heart of St. Elizabeth, one of the 14 parishes in Jamaica, near the South Coast is Y.S. Falls.  Whether you just want to relax on the lounge chairs at the natural, smooth pebble-bottom pool and listen to the falls or scream through the canopy on the five ziplines, this is a beautiful spot for all to enjoy. I was fortunate enough to zipline and drop into the falls via the rope swing.

That helmet is sexy.

The first couple of ziplines are great for first time zipliners – like myself. It helps you get comfortable working the breaks and knowing the signals from the guides. The third zipline is by far the highlight of the tree top trip. You start close to the top of the falls and glide over the top for the perfect aerial picture of Y.S. Falls. You're flying! It’s pretty accelerating and definitely gets your hear pumping. I'm hooked.

Trying to slow down

I was also able to swing from a rope into the falls. The guides make you wear protective gloves and life vest. You climb out onto a very stable wood platform secured to a tree and the guide hands you the rope. He counts you down and off you go! Luckily, the man also tells you when to let go as if you drop in the wrong spot you probably have an uncomfortable landing. The water hole is about 16 feet deep.

Looking at my guide to tell me when to let go

The day we jumped the falls were overflowing onto the banks from lots of rain (June through November is the rainy season in Jamaica).  So the water wasn't clear blue like it is most of the time but it didn't feel muddy like it looks. In fact because the water level was so high, I almost didn't jump. I've had a few not-so-fun river rafting accidents and a life jacket does not soothe my nerves or provide me much assurance.   Honestly, I was darn scared but I can't pass up an opportunity to do something remotely thrilling. So I jumped...four times. Now that's facing fear.

Monday, October 17, 2011

If you only work

"You can't get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good."

This picture is from when I lived in Manchester, England, and hiked on Mondays, after a long week and then weekend of work, at Snowdonia National Park in Wales. It was hard to get up with the rain and the cold outside but the days, like the one pictured above, with the sun out and not a soul in sight, made it worth it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#TT: Rose Hall Great House, Montego Bay

Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica

I love history! So recently when I have the pleasure of traveling to Jamaica (more to come later) and toured Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay, I was THRILLED!   It’s a beautiful, old Georgian sugarcane plantation house positioned overlooking the Caribbean Sea and is one of the few Great Houses that survived the slave uprising. The house is said to be haunted by the last owner Annie, a.k.a. The White Witch, who killed her three husbands and numerous slave lovers.

Disclaimer: The Jamaica Tourist Board is a client. However, the opinions are solely my own.

A little history lesson... (Warning: there is a lot of death involved)
During the height of use, the Rose Hall Great House was approximately 6,000 acres and housed more than 2,000 slaves. The house was built by George Ash, who named the house after his wife, Rosa. After George died, and before the house was completed, Rosa remarried three more times. The final marriage was to John Palmer who later married (and was murdered by The White Witch, Annie).

Annie, was born in England; moved to Haiti in her younger years with her parents who were traders. As a young teenager (tween?) her parents died and she was raised by a maid who taught her voodoo. When the maid died, Annie moved to Jamaica to look for a husband. She married John Palmer.

Annie (only 4'11") became famous for killing her husbands, including John Palmer, and numerous slave lovers (she was obviously not well. Tale says that she probably went crazy from lead poisoning. Historically, lead has been used to make utensils and silverware.) She murdered them as follows:
1.     A dash of arsenic in the coffee (yum)
2.     Stabbed to death (lovely)
3.     Killed with her voodoo lover (Takoo) by strangulation (wowsers)

Karma came back to bite Annie in the butt though (as it should). She was killed by Takoo in her sleep.
Annie's bedroom

The house was not burned during the slave uprising, like so many Great Houses were, because the slaves didn't want to bother Annie's spirit.  It is said that Annie's spirit still haunts the house.

The house passed through numerous owners and feel into decay. The Rollins Family bought the house in the 1970s and restored it. Most the pieces had to be resorted but a few original pieces can be found throughout the house.

Today, the property is used for an array of activities including tours both private and public, weddings and other parties.
Our tour guide at Annie's grave

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inspirational Monday: Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford University Commencment Speech

Mondays should be nothing less than great. In honor of the late and great Steve Jobs, enjoy the inspirational speech from the 2005 Stanford University Commencement address.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from this speech:
  • "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
  • "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life."
  • "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." 

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.