Guide to Savannah, Georgia

This post is dedicated to Forrest Gump (His famous bench is in Chippewa Square).

Yes, I know he’s a fictional character but he’s been a beloved character to millions of people. What I love about him is that he attains all of his successes through his innocence and his imperviousness to contamination by the business of living. He never negotiates his spirit regardless of his fears or insecurities. He remains authentic through and through and that is beautiful. His goal isn’t to live happily ever after, it isn’t to finish the plot, resolve the conflict and roll through the credits. He realizes there’s more to life – life is a process that we will always work on.

Savannah is an enchanting southern escape. Defining it is difficult because it has the classic southern charm with a quirkiness mixed with grace and hospitality. There is also a romance to this city that cannot be explained until you walk (this is a perfect walk anywhere city) through the beautiful squares.

*This is Keith’s favorite US city. He equates it to a classic Hollywood starlet.

1) Historic Squares: Savannah has 22 breathtaking squares with grand live oak trees and ample green space. All of the squares are located within walking distance of one another, so seeing them all in one day is doable. If you’re pressed for time, limit your journey to the picturesque squares along Bull Street.

  1. Live Oak Trees: I’m not a nature person, but these trees are massive, magnificent and hauntingly beautiful.

  1. Cemeteries: There’s no better place to learn about Savannah’s history than in her cemeteries. Colonial Park Cemetery, located in the center of the Historic District, features gravesites that date back to the mid-18th century. Laurel Grove Cemetery, on the city’s west side, is a haunting reminder of Savannah’s segregated past, with separate sections for whites and blacks, along with a Civil War burial ground for Confederate soldiers. Bonaventure Cemetery, on the city’s east side, boasts breathtaking views of the Wilmington River.

  1. St. Patrick’s Day parade: The parade, the second largest in the nation, is held every year on March 17 (except when the holiday falls on a Sunday), but expect the party to get underway a few days prior and continue until the last pint of Guinness is chugged.

Hotel:

  • Kehoe House – Exquisitely restored 1892 Renaissance Revival mansion in the historic district, this luxury bed and breakfast is quaint and beautiful. We spent our anniversary weekend here. It’s in walking distance to everything.

 

Respect the Food:

  • Huey’s: Cajun-creole cuisine that is SO good. I was obsessed with the gumbo and the crawfish etoufee.

  • Wilkes Dining Room (closed on weekends + month of Jan / cash only / no reservations): There is always a line but it’s DELICIOUS Southern home cooking. Family-owned since 1943, the lunch crowd finds seats at one of the large tables-for-ten shared by strangers. By the time the meal is over, you are no longer a stranger. Located in the same building as the original Wilkes House, the Wilkes Pied-A-Terra property is a perfect place to stay during your visit to Savannah.

  • The Olde Pink House: We had our anniversary dinner here. Savannah’s only 18th Century Mansion, the Olde Pink House was named for the beautiful shade of “pink” stucco, which covers its old brick. Food standouts? Reynolds square platter, mac and cheese poppers, pulled pork, blackened oysters and crispy fried lobster tails. Wow!

  • River Street Inn: Gorgeous for a cocktail at sunset. Was an old converted cotton house.

  • Clary’s Café: Wonderful breakfast – The Elvis! The Victorian! Country fried steak! Also, a great post-drinking morning meal.
  • Back in the Day Bakery: Fresh-baked bread, cupcakes and fork-ready pies – hearty portions at this vintage bakery & espresso bar.

Drinking:

  • Just do a bar crawl on the waterfront

Must See / Excursions:

  • Hit the cemeteries – Its strangely beautiful and peaceful
  • Forrest Gump’s bench (Chippewa Square)

  • Horse and buggy ride tour to see the city – so romantic!
  • Pop into any antique store.
  • Take one of the bus tours (if you don’t do horse and buggy) because you get to see all parts of the city and can journey back to your favorite spots. Remember it’s a walking city.

  • SCAD Museum of Art is part of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and housed in an 1853 train depot.
  • Just walk around and see what you run into!

#stayinspired

My Favorite NY Ramen Spots

This post is dedicated to Renee Iselin, my Ramen partner in crime, and Sats Gawa, a world-renowned ramen expert hailing from Japan – he knows the real deal!

It’s in my blood. I love soup, and I especially love Ramen. For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food. I have sampled some amazing ramen throughout Manhattan and wanted to share my favorites.

Zundo-Ya: The soup base has integrity. Pork bones are simmered in a special pot called a zundo (hence the name) for twenty hours, creating a thick, creamy liquid. To ensure the results are as close as possible to the broth found in Japan, the team “softens” the water using a closely guarded technique. The blend incorporates some dried fish into the sweet and salty mix, adding more umami flavor than most compounds have.

Ipuddo: In 2008, this was the place that made me fall in love with Ramen. It’s authentic Hakata tonkotsu pork soup. You cannot go wrong. Expect a wait.

Takashi: I stumbled upon this gem when my girlfriends and I wanted to try premium Japanese and American beef. The selections are delicately prepared and served raw to be grilled right at your table (yakiniku). Note: they serve a variety of very decadent meats (raw liver and flash-boiled achilles tendon). I discovered through my friend Simon Kim, owner of Piora restaurant which happens to be down the street (more on his place later!) that Takashi served a LATE NIGHT BEEF BROTH RAMEN!!!! Pure ramen heaven. Here’s the info!

Mei Jin Ramen: Hip Japanese place for ramen & izakaya-style small plates with an adjoining cocktail & dessert bar. The chicken spicy miso ramen and curry beef ramen are exhilerating.

Totto Ramen: You simply cannot go wrong with any of the ramen varieties. The assortment of additional toppings is ridiculous, and they even serve ‘specialty’ ramen. Be experimental and play with your noodles!

Hide Chan: The Tonkotsu Ramen is a rich creamy pork bone soup with thin long noodles. Tonkotsu, which means pork bone, usually has a cloudy white colored broth. because it’s made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours. The result is a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk, melted butter or gravy. The ramen is hearty and delicious.

Mr Taka: The ingredients are carefully selected and there is a lot of care that goes into these slurp worthy noodles. One of the owners ramen restaurant in Japan, Bigiya, was listed on Michelin Tokyo in 2015. It was the first year for Michelin Tokyo to list a ramen restaurant and there are 5000 in Japan. It’s worth a trip here.

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as more ramen joints open up, but for now, these are my staples. Enjoy – slurp up and #stayinspired.

La Dolce Vita! An Italian Adventure.

La Dolce Vita! An Italian Adventure in Venice, Verona, Padua, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Palermo (Sicily)

This post is dedicated to my father and mother’s family: The Caruso and the Rossi Clan – I am blessed to be an “honorary” Italian.

Italy is remarkable. It’s a kaleidoscope of regions and experiences with an incomparable artistic and cultural heritage that coincide with natural wonders fueled with a feisty passion for living. Throughout Italy, the local character and color is astonishing mainly due to the survival of regionalism, old traditions, customs and lifestyles coupled with a healthy interest in food, perseverance of history/events and elaborate commemorations of everything imaginable. In summary: everything is a celebration. I could get used to living like this…

Chapter 1:  Venice

Posted on 3QT separately: http://threequartersthere.com/2016/12/venice/

Chapter 2: The Veneto Region (Verona and Padua)

Verona is a vibrant trading center and the second largest city in the Veneto region after                             Venice. It also boasts many Roman ruins, second only to those of Rome itself!

Must See / Excursions:

  • Romeo and Juliet: We are all familiar with this tragic story. At the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house) No 27 Via Cappello, Romeo is said to have climbed the balcony. In reality, this is actually a restored 13th century inn, but people still line up to see (myself included). The Casa di Romeo is a few streets away and the Tomba di Giulietta is displayed in a crypt below the cloister of San Francesco al Corso on Via del Pontiere.

  • Piazza Erbe: Colorful market built on the site of the ancient Roman forum and considered the center of Verona.

  • San Zeno Maggiore Church: Unusual medieval bronze door panels with extraordinary carved scenes honoring Verona’s patron saint.
  • The town of Padua is not far from Verona and is an old university town with an illustrious academic history. It houses a major museum complex which occupies a group of 14th century monastic buildings attached to the church of the Eremitani. A must visit spot is the Cappella degli Scrovegni dating back to 1303. The frescos of Christ are stunning and reveal what a powerful influence this art was on the development of European art.

 

Chapter 3: The Tuscany Region (Florence and Pisa)

The cradle of the Renaissance, but also a vibrant witness to new forms of creativity in wine, food, fashion and artisanship, Florence is magnificent. As a writer, I was tickled pink to know that writers such as Dante, Machiavelli, and Petrarch contributed to the city’s literary heritage, though it was the paintings and sculptures of artists such as Donatello, Michelangelo, and Botticelli that turned the city into an artistic capital. I was only here for a day, but it’s a compact city and a majority of the sites can be seen on foot. (Brian and Liz Shick – thank you for the tour)

Must See / Excursions:

  • Explore San Marco area: These buildings once stood on the fringe of the city serving as stables and barracks (lions, elephants and giraffes were held there). It’s fun to see the hustle and bustle of the young Florentines.

  • Explore the Duomo area: Dante was born here! It retains its medieval feel and is home to the Baptistery, one of the city’s oldest buildings. The richly decorated Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore has become Florence’s most famous symbol.

  • Santa Croce: This gothic church is home to the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. The setting is a masterpiece but realizing the company you are keeping is incredibly humbling.

  • Uffizi: Offers a chance to see the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings – there is nothing left to say. A must see.
  • Piazza della Signoria: The great bell used to summon citizens to public meetings and it’s a popular promenade for visitors. The piazza’s statues commemorate the city’s major historical events.
  • Cappella Brancacci: The church of Santa Maria del Carmine is famous for the Brancacci Chapel, which contains frescoes on The Life of St. Peter.
  • Shopping in Florence: There is a kind of magic when shopping on these medieval streets. From family-run businesses, artisan workshops, high end designers, local goods, antiques, fine arts and FOOD, there are few cities comparable in size that can boast such a profusion of high quality shops.

  • Near to Florence is Pisa, known for its Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) which are all testaments to the city’s scientific and cultural revolution.
    • Duomo and Baptistery: Pisa’s famous Leaning Towner is now the best known building on the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), but it was intended as a campanile to complement the Duomo which is one of the finest Pisan-Romanesque buildings in Tuscay. The Baptistery houses a marble pulpit carved with reliefs of the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation, the Crucifixion and the Last Judgement.
    • The Leaning Tower of Pisa: Begun on 1173, the Leaning tower started to tilt on the sandy silt subsoil in 1274 before the 3rd story was complete – and there are 8 total. It has been defeating the laws of gravity since.

Chapter 4: Rome

(This paragraph was taken from Wikipedia – it summarizes the history better than I could have)

Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at only around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. The city’s early population originated from a mix of Latins, Etruscans and Sabines. Eventually, the city successively became the capital of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of Western civilisation and by some as the first ever metropolis. It was first called urbs aeterna (The Eternal City) by the Roman poet Tibullus in the 1st century BCE, and the expression was also taken up by Ovid, Virgil, and Livy. Rome is also called the “Caput Mundi” (Capital of the World).

I will return to Rome. There was not enough time to see everything and the city is truly glorious. Italy’s capital is a sprawling, cosmopolitan center with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. It’s a global playground twirling with passion and energy. Rome has a bounty of things to see and the mix of its architecture is a testament to its past: ruins, baroque squares and Renaissance gardens combine to give the city its enticing edge.

Respect the Food:

  • The Flavors of Rome: Roman cooking is slow and inventive. Pasta is the vital ingredient and the best dishes are simply prepared with the freshest ingredients. I can still taste fresh vegetables (artichokes), the fruit (lemons are the size of softballs), the bucatini all’amatriciana with spicy tomato and bacon sauce. Try everything.

  • Camp De’Fiori: It use to be the place of public executions, but is now a picturesque market by day. At night, it turns into a hub for nightlifers with restaurants and bars open for business
  • Piazza Della Rotonda: City square on the south side near the Pantheon. In the center of the piazza is a fountain, the Fontana del Pantheon, surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk. La Campana is nearby – Rome’s oldest trattoria (1518).

  • Piazza Navona: The Stadium of Domitian built in the 1st century AD is here. It was an open space stadium where the ancient Romans went to watch games. It was called the Circus Agonalis (competition arena). Check out Il Cantuccio – dazzling celeb place – for a delectable Roman meal.

Must See / Excursions:

  • *The Colosseum: It’s an ancient amphitheater and Rome’s most legendary landmark. This Roman icon, where gladiator battles once entertained more than 50,000 spectators has a maze of subterranean chambers which caged the fierce animals used in the battles – over 9,000 wild animals were killed.

  • The Roman Forum: It was originally a chaotic area with food stalls, brothels, temples and the Senate House but soon became the ceremonial center of the city under the Empire. Think House of the Vestal Virgins, Temple of Castor and Pollux, The Temple of Romulus, Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius.

  • Palatine Hill: Located in the same archaeological area as The Roman Forum, this is the spot on which the first settlers built their huts, under the direction of Romulus. It is one of the seven Hills of Rome and is located in one of the most ancient parts of the city.
  • The Pantheon: This was the temple to ‘all gods’. The maze of streets around it is a mix of lively restaurants and cafes.

  • *Vatican City: The world capital of Catholicism is the world’s smallest state.

  • Tens of thousands of people visit the Vatican to see St. Peter’s Basilica, masterpieces by the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael, and the Sistine Chapel. It is a UNESCO-listed complex with a collection of galleries filled with classical and Renaissance masterpieces, including the Sistine Chapel frescoes. Stroll through rooms like the Gallery of Maps, with its golden, vaulted ceiling; the Raphael Rooms, painted by Renaissance artist Raphael; and the stunning Sistine Chapel, considered to be the Pope’s home chapel, with Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and The Last Judgement. Finish with a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church ever built and one of the holiest and most important sites in Christendom. The Pietà, one of Michelangelo’s earlier sculptures that depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion, is breathtaking. St. Peter was martyred and buried here, and became the residence of the popes who succeeded him. This was one of the most overwhelming experiences of the trip. Everything is grand and almost larger than life. You are completely humbled regardless of religious affiliation by this experience.

  • Fontana Di Trevi: Rome’s largest and most famous fountain features figures of Neptune flanked by two Tritons, one trying to master an unruly seahorse, the other leading a quieter beast, symbolizing the two contrasting gods of the sea.

  • Arch of Constantine: The triumphal arch is one of Imperial Rome’s last monuments built in AD 315 a few years before he moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantine.

  • Piazza Di Spagna and the Spanish Steps: The network of narrow streets around this Piazza forms one of the most exclusive areas of Rome – Via Condotti. This is the most famous square in Rome.

Chapter 5: Naples & Campania Region (Pompeii)

The UNESCO-listed site of Pompeii is worth the trip. After the volcano’s infamous AD 79 eruption, lava and volcanic ash destroyed the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Evidence of those ancient streams of lava is still evident in the area. Once a thriving Roman city, Pompeii is best known for its archaeological digs, which are home to a wealth of relics.

There were preserved fossils and other ruins, plus plaster imprints of the town’s victims who were buried for years (there was a dog on a chain frozen in time!).

The ability to wander the streets and see how locals lived before the ashes took over is amazing. You’ll see where ancient shops, cafes and even brothels existed.

Chapter 6: Amalfi Coast

Discover one of Italy’s most beautiful stretches of coastline: The Amalfi Coast (aka: Brielle’s retirement). The picturesque towns combine stunning Italian scenery, archaeology and history.

 

The town of Amalfi was a former naval power now famous for its cliffside perch on the coast of the Tyrrenhian Sea. The views/cliffs are scary and breathtaking. Relax over a coffee or limoncello at a café.

Oh, and there is a Hotel Caruso… I think I need to stay here next time…

Chapter 7: Sicily (Palermo)

Active volcanoes, Greek ruins, remarkable landscapes? Palermo is an eclectic crossroads of Mediterranean and northern European civilization I also have a soft spot because my father’s family is from here – The mighty Caruso Clan!

*Keith and I were here in August. It’s hotter than hell. The only other place on earth we experienced such heat was XI’AN China (check out that post). We rationed water and dripped sweat but continued to explore this amazing town. The softball size rice balls and pizza fueled us…powered by pizza had a whole new meaning.

Respect the Food:

Make sure you eat!!!!! Sicilian food bears the mark of medieval influences. The Arabs introduced sugar cane, rice and certain citrus fruits, and the strong flavors of caponata (aubergine and caper salad), arancine (filled rice balls), cassata and cannoli (both filled with a sweet ricotta cream) are tasty testaments to the kind of culinary culture which evolves only over the course of centuries. Artichokes, harvested in winter and spring, are thought to be native to Sicily, while lamb and swordfish are so popular that they might almost be considered “national” dishes. Everything dish is perfection.

Must See / Excursions:

  • The Mafia (means hostility to the law) is an international organization founded in Sicily. It developed against a background of a cruel state, exploitative nobility and severe poverty. By the late 19th century it had become a criminal organization thriving on property speculation and drug trafficking.

  • Vucciria Market: Dating back 700 years, this spirited open air market is filled with more fresh food than you can imagine, Chinese imports, toys/junk, and hidden gems that are squeezed into the maze-like streets. The market has lost its tenuous links with its mafia past.

  • The Crypts

  • Teatro Massimo: Beautiful opera house located in the Piazza Verdi
  • The Casa Professa: Stunning baroque church
  • Quattro Canti Quarter (Baroque Square)

Chapter 8: Where I Still Need to Go

Milan, Naples, Sardinia, Capri – I’m coming for you!!!! #stayinspired

Ciao for now!

20 Signs You Are Succeeding in Life from Lifehack

Well, another year ended and in classic human form, we re-evaluated what we did and didn’t do, trying to get closure, creating new goals/resolutions and having faith that the best is yet to come.

For many years, I viewed success through my career, love life, financial situation, tangible goods, travel… It probably sounds like all the ‘Enlightenment’ stories… but in the end, it didn’t satisfy me and was never enough. I didn’t feel successful even though I was fortunate enough to have what I did. Something was missing.

I came across this beautiful list that re-defined success in such a wholesome, balanced way and wanted to share. Seems that we are all probably much more successful than we give ourselves credit for. I bet most of us are starting 2017 on the right foot!

This was posted on the lifehack.org site.

Enjoy and #stayinspired.

  1. Your relationships are less dramatic than they used to be.

Drama is not maturity. As we age, we should develop maturity. So maybe your relationships were drama-filled in your past, but if you have moved beyond that, then you are successful.

  1. You are not afraid to ask for help and support any more.

Asking for help does not equal weakness. In fact, it is a strength. No person has ever succeeded in isolation. It takes teamwork to accomplish goals. Asking or help is a sign that you have grown as a person.

  1. You have raised your standards.

You don’t tolerate bad behavior any more – from other people, or even yourself. You hold people accountable for their actions. You don’t spend time with the “energy vampires” in your life anymore.

  1. You let go of things that don’t make you feel good.

No, this is not narcissistic even though it might seem like it. Self-love is success. Love yourself enough to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t make you happy, doesn’t serve your purpose, or drags you down.

  1. You have moments where you appreciate who you see in the mirror.

Ideally, you should appreciate who you see in the mirror at every moment. But even if that doesn’t happen, if you do it more than you used to, then that is success. Love yourself. You are awesome.

  1. You have learned that setbacks and failure are part of self-growth.

Not everyone can have success 100% of the time. That’s just not realistic. Life is about victories and losses. So look at your setbacks as stepping stones to something better. In reality, there really is no such thing as as setback. It’s all just part of a wondrous journey.

  1. You have a support system that includes people who would do anything for you.

If you have figured out the people who “have your back” and recognized the ones who only pretend that they do, then you have succeeded. This is a painful realization, but once you learn to see the signs of betrayal, you can stay away from those people.

  1. You don’t complain much.

Because you know there really is nothing to complain about. Unless you really have gone through some horrific life experience and had unimaginable losses, most of what we all experience on a day-to-day basis is just mundane. And successful people know that. And they live in a space of gratitude.

  1. You can celebrate others’ successes.

Just because other people succeed, that doesn’t make you a failure. Applaud the people who rise to the top. The more positive energy you give to other people’s victories, the more you will create your own.

  1. You have passions that you pursue.

You are not stagnant. You know you have something wonderful to contribute to the world. You have unique talents and gifts. Not only do you know that, you pursue it.

  1. You have things to look forward to.

If you don’t have exciting things going on in your life that you are eagerly anticipating, then you are slowly dying inside. Successful people create goals that they are passionate about pursuing. They let this excitement drive their life.

  1. You have goals that have come true.

Even though “failures” are a part of life, you have stuck to your goals and dreams long enough to make them come to fruition. You have some tastes of victory. It fuels you.

  1. You have empathy for others.

A person without empathy is dead inside. Empathy equals spreading love and positive energy into the world. Successful people know this. They love others as if they are family.

  1. You love deeply and open yourself up to be loved by others.

Love is risky, and sometimes scary for people. It’s the one thing we all strive for, but it’s also intimately tied to the one thing we fear the most – rejection. If you open your heart enough to love and be loved, then you are successful.

  1. You refuse to be a victim.

You know that life doesn’t always happen to you. Many times, you are a co-creator of your life experiences. Successful people know this and refuse to be kept down by life experiences. The rise up and conquer anyway.

  1. You don’t care what other people think.

You know you can’t please everyone. You know that the standards with which society judges people is many times unrealistic. So you just keep true to yourself and love the person you are.

  1. You always look on the bright side.

Life can be full of disappointments – if you choose to see them that way. Otherwise, they are learning opportunities. No negative experience is ever wasted as long as you learn from it.

  1. You accept what you can’t change.

Let’s face it – there many things you can’t change in life. All you can change is how you view what happens. If you can change your negative perspective on situations to a positive one, then you are successful.

  1. You change what you can.

And let’s face it again – there are many things you can change in life. Successful people don’t sit around accepting the negatives that are changeable. They get out there and do something about it!!

  1. You are happy.

To me, this list is the ultimate definition of success. It doesn’t matter what the balance is in your bank account, how big your house is, or how many fancy vacations you take. If you are happy, then you are succeeding in life.

Even if you don’t see yourself in many of these 20 things, don’t fret. It’s okay. Be happy that you see yourself in just a few. In time, the rest will come. You just need to keep moving onward and upward.