Monday, June 27, 2011

Destination Mondays #8

In this week's edition of "Destination Mondays" we're going to pretend-travel to...

...New York City, New York.

One of my all-time favorite destination spots!

Manhattan, New York

There are a host of places you need to go when you visit New York (and I say when, not if, because you definitely need to go - the sheer size alone is enough 'wow' factor, especially if you're from the midwest. Nowhere I've been compares). 

Photographed 2006: The Plaza Hotel 

 Of course, you have to visit places like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis IslandTimes Square, and the World Trade Center Memorial, etc...

Now, normally my next suggestion would be the Empire State Building, but in light of my last trip to NYC, I have a new suggestion. Go inside the Empire State Building, because the inside is a beautiful homage to art deco, but instead go to The Top of the Rock - an observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center. Not only is it more affordable (and you spend less time in line), but you can still see the entire city (including an awesome view of the Empire State Building). Check it out:

New York City from The Top of the Rock.

The Empire State Building

Isn't this city just amazing? 

Both times I've been to NYC, I've stayed at the Embassy Suites in the Financial District near Battery Park. It has a great location (walking distance to Battery Park, the September 11th Memorial, the Cortlandt Street Subway Station, and Pier 17 and the South Street Seaport). There's also a really good deli located under the hotel.

Photographed 2006: Battery Park.
If you look carefully, you can see the Statue of Liberty.

Also nearby that hotel are Little Italy and Chinatown. I would definitely recommend any restaurants in Little Italy, and none in Chinatown. Do your shopping in Chinatown, especially if you're looking for knock-off purses.

Walking around NYC is one of my favorite things to do, mostly because the buildings are so tall, and the sights are so awesome:

While exploring, you should check out St. Patrick's Cathedral:

St. Patrick's Cathedral.
This Cathedral is massive - but it's dwarfed by the buildings that surround it.

Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios:

Photographed 2006: NBC Studio, 30 Rockefellar Place.

Grand Central Station:

 and of course, Central Park:
Photographed 2006: Central Park.

Photographed 2006: Central Park.

Photographed 2006: Central Park.

There are a million other places you should go while in NYC: Rao's Restaurant (true story - no relation, but great food. Just make sure to make your reservation six months in advance); 5th Avenue (to check out   Bergdorf'sSaks Fifth, and a ton of other places you can't afford); Tiffany's; The Public LibraryLincoln CenterCarnegie Hall; FAO Schwarz (which allegedly has a life-size game of monopoly on the third floor); and The Natural History Museum where according to James, "there were a TON of cool things in the museum...dinosaurs...old instruments...old people...totem poles...and BUTTERFLYS."

Don't forget to go to Broadway and see a musical! I've seen "The Phantom of the Opera," "Fiddler on the Roof," and "The Lion King" - all three were fantastic, and I've heard great things about "Chicago" and "Wicked." And if you're looking for somewhere to eat before hand, check out Carmine's - it's a delicious family-style Italian restaurant right near Broadway.

I love New York. I'm super jealous of my friend, Tracy, who is currently living in Manhattan. The city's so full of things to do, too many to do in just one or two trips, and there's always something going on. You'll never run out of places to go, sights to see, or delicious restaurants to eat at. And the energy of the city is unlike anyplace else.

Photographed 2006: Pier 17, Manhattan. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Destination Mondays #7

(Gold links = more great websites!)

Photographed 2011: 55 Hwy through what I would assume is "The Bayou."

A few weeks ago while heading to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a family vacation (check out this Destination Mondays post for more info on that), Stephen and I made a "pit stop" in New Orleans, Louisiana to visit my long time bestie, Josh and his girlfriend Kali! And that, my folks, is your "Destination Mondays Location Number Seven!"

New Orleans, Louisiana

Now, we were only there for a day and a half so I don't have a ton of info...but you can always get loads more from Josh! He's lived on Frenchmen Street near the French Quarter for almost a year now, after residing just North of New Orleans for about thirteen years so he knows what he's talking about!

His building (the left one) was built in the 1840's and used to be a candy factory.

Josh's Apartment Entrance. 

Photographed 2011: View of Frenchman St. from Josh's Apartment

View from Josh's Balcony.

One of the coolest things is the National WW2 Museum, where Josh has worked since he was fifteen on restoring artifacts, like the Pt-305 boat the guys are working on now. (Which is now residing in the new Restoration Pavilion that opened just a couple weeks ago). The guys are restoring the boat to it's original awesomeness - it'll run and everything when they're finished!

We were lucky enough to have a "behind-scenes-tour" in the annex where the museum guys (and Kali) currently work on restoring WW2 artifacts. It was seriously cool.

Photographed 2011: WW2 Museum Annex

Josh and Stephen with a tank.

Stephen inside said tank. 

Phtographed 2011: Inside the WW2 Museum.

One place you definitely have to visit while in New Orleans is Melt Down - Michelle, the chick who owns it, makes the best organic and vegan popsicles. Her flavors include Strawberry Basil, Blueberry Lemonade, Sweet Corn and Blackberry, Salted Caramel, Peach Orange Blossom, and Lime Basil. They're ridiculously fantastic, and so perfectly cold after walking around in the heat!

Meltdown: New Orleans, LA

Naturally, you have to get beignets at Cafe du Monde,
the original beignet and coffee shop. It just can't be beat.

Another place we visited was The Mayfair Lounge - an awesome, (and cheap!) low-key-hole-in-the-wall bar where you ring the bell to get in and the ceiling is covered in a multitude of decorations (from barbies, Happy Meal toys, beads, glitter, glitz, lights, etc.) hanging on old bed springs. Definitely a great place for a late-afternoon drink. Josh and Kali call it the old man bar, since they frequently go out to drink with the guys that work on the boat.

The Mayfair Lounge: 1505 Amelia Street New Orleans, LA 70115

The Saturday afternoon we were there, we tried a new-to-Josh-and-Kali restaurant called Franky and Johnny's...a super cute, and majorly delicious restaurant. I had a shrimp po'boy, Kali had two pounds of crawfish (one of the many reasons I like her so much), and Stephen had gator nuggets. Yes, you read that right, ALLIGATOR nuggets. And Josh had a gator po'boy. It seriously did taste like dark-meat chicken. It's a bit of a drive from the Quarter, but totally worth it.

Josh also recommends The Joint...a great BBQ place (although I can't vouch for it - he did live in KC for five years so he does know what good BBQ is), The Spotted Cat, a music club on Frenchmen (which we could hear into the wee hours of the morn - great music.), and Cochon - a "crazy popular restaurant right now." Of course those are just a few of the places you can find great food, great music, and entertainment in the real city that never sleeps. Unless you can sleep to a trumpet player belting out jazz next to your window at 4am, in which case you're all set!

Photographed 2011: New Orleans, Louisiana

There is so much character all around this city. 

The buildings are so neat. 

So, if you like jazz music, a laid back social scene, plenty of history and character, and some of the most delicious food you can find - head down to New Orleans! I know Josh would love to show you around :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Counting Stars


"She thinks she missed the train to mars;
she's out back counting stars."

Crumpled, yellowed sheets of Daisies
sleep under black-eyed skies,
tear-streaked green
from the Moon.

So in the midst of all our travels lately, we've been listening to a lot of music (60 hours in a car over a span of 2.5 weeks...we've listened to A LOT of music). So, here are my favorite songs right now (some are old favorites, some are new songs, some are just whatever seems good - basically this is my "Recently Played" list in iTunes) in alphabetical order by artist...naturally:

  • "Rolling In The Deep" - Adele
  • "Changing" - The Airborn Toxic Event
  • "Jump On My Shoulders" - Awolnation
  • "Sail" - Awolnation
  • "Effington" - Ben Folds
  • "From Above" - Ben Folds
  • "Kylie from Connecticut" - Ben Folds
  • "40 Day Dream" - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  • "Home" - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  • "Om Nashi Me" - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  • "Echo & His Brother" - Hopewell
  • "Windy Day (Giant Dancers)" - Hopewell
  • "Stars" - Hum
  • "Pyro" - Kings of Leon
  • "Daylight" - Matt & Kim
  • "This Bitter Earth/On The Nature of Daylight" - Max Richter & Dinah Washington
  • "Sigh No More" - Mumford & Sons
  • "White Blank Page" - Mumford & Sons
  • "Animal" - Neon Trees
  • "O Children" - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • "Don't Look Back In Anger" - Oasis
  • "Nasty Letter" - Otis Taylor
  • "Ten Million Slaves" - Otis Taylor
  • "Talk Show Host" - Radiohead
  • "Kill Monsters In The Rain" - Steel Train
  • "Dancin' In The Moonlight" - Toploader

"A Good Place to Listen to Music."
Photographed 2011: Grandma Gazdag's House - Kalamazoo, MI

So...maybe you'll find some new music, or maybe you already like some of it, or think it's just repulsive. It is what it is. Either way, enjoy! (And feel free to send me some of your favorite music suggestions)


P.S. Oh, and as far as entire albums go..."Way to Normal" by Ben Folds, the "Apollo 13" soundtrack, and the "Twister" soundtrack were played numerous times during said travels. Maybe Stephen will do a post like this soon?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Destination Mondays #6

Right after my senior year of high school, my bestie Brittanie and I went with her family to...

Kauai, Hawaii.

Kauai, Hawaii from the plane. 

Kauai, Hawaii, United States

The Island of Kauai, HI

And I'd be a lying fool if I didn't recommend this island to you. As the Garden Isle, it is less populated and less-touristy than The Big Island (and has only 562 square miles of space). After a 5 hour flight across the Pacific Ocean, you'll take another hour flight on a teeny-tiny plane to the small (almost entirely outdoor) airport in Lihue/Kalapakii. Then you take the highway (yes, the one highway) to wherever your destination might be: The North Shore, The South Shore, The West Side, or Coconut Coast...because that is it. There is no where else.

Near the Airport on Kauai in the Lihue/Kalapakii Area.

In the South Shore, I definitely recommend staying at Poipu Beach. There's a great restaurant called The Beach House and the beach is beautiful - and has good snorkeling. You can also go to Shipwreck Beach, so named because the beach is made up of not just sand, but thousands of rounded bits of glass from sparkles and is beautiful in the sunlight.

Poipu Beach on the South Shore.

Photograph 2006: Poipu Beach at Sunset. 

The drive to The North Shore is fantastic...especially when you pass Coconut Coast and start seeing thousands of waterfalls EVERYWHERE you look.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai (on The West Side)
Named "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific" by Mark Twain.

I believe this is Coconut Coast
(Brittanie can correct me if I'm wrong)
But either's in Kauai somewhere. 

More of Coconut Coast. 

On the West Side, along with Waimea Canyon (pictured above) you can check out the Wailua Falls to see this:

Waailua Falls

Depending on rainfall there may be two or even three waterfall spouts. You can hike the trail down to the bottom to see this:

You can hike down the ravine to this waterfall and swim in the cool water
or hike around the see the waterfall up close on the rocky ledge.
Warning: the hike down is steep, slippery, and scary.
But clearly - it's worth it. 

On The North Shore, you can stay at the St. Regis Princeville Resort...which overlooks Hanalei Bay and has the most beautiful view from their pool (or you can just walk through the lobby and take pictures from the look-out, like we did!)

If you look carefully, you can see a waterfall.
This is on the drive to the North Shore.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is a beautiful place to lay out and get some sun (not great for swimming, but it's totally worth it). North of Hanalei Bay is Haena Beach Park and Tunnels Beach - which is the best snorkeling ever. The reefs have paths in them that form tunnels for you to safely snorkel through while looking at beautiful tropical fish and baby sea turtles (they were about three feet away playing - it was unbelievable).

Part of the Napali Coast. 

The Napali Coast is just a beach - there's nothing else. 

My personal favorite part of the trip was camping out on the Napali Coast. Not even joking...we went camping on the beach. No electricity, no plumbing, nothing. Just swimming, sunning, walking, and relaxing. 

Photograph 2006: Our Camp on the Napali Coast.

Nothing but beautiful beaches and sights everywhere. 

The mist early in the morning - rare, but beautiful.

My other favorite part of the trip was Ultra Lighting with Brittanie's family friend's business Birds in Paradise. My eyes almost popped out of my head when we flew over the island and into the misty mountains, surrounded by clouds, waterfalls, and jungles. It was like being a bird.

Bird of Paradise. 

Rainbow falling into the ocean.
Photograph 2006: The South Shore. 

The sunsets are always beautiful here.
Photograph 2006: The South Shore. 

If you're looking for a tropical getaway...Kauai, Hawaii is your destination.