Cannes, France

This 7.6 square mile beachside town on the French Riviera is truly magnificent. Most people associate it with the glamorous Cannes Film Festival, but there is so much more to this city than yachts, decadence and glitterati.

The beauty of Cannes, when you think of it, is that it’s a small town that welcomes the world. Yes, there are ridiculous, opulent options but there is also a quaint, humble side.

One of my trips there was for the Cannes Film Festival and it was truly an unforgettable experience. I have never had a bad time!

Cannes IXbc dancing copyIMG_0032lots of booze

*The Belvedere IX launch – oh those memories. And seeing one of my favorite punk rock artists, Blondie*

To Stay:

– InterContinental Carlton Cannes: Within walking distance from everything and overlooking the Bay of Cannes.

– Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc: Truly a luxury landmark hotel – one of the most beautiful hotels in the world.

Hotel Du Cap

– Hotel Splendid Cannes: It’s practically acorss the street from the Palais des Festivals et des Congres. It’s also a few minutes from the beach.

– Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso Cannes: Stunning rooftop view of the Old Port.

360-hotel-radisson-blu-cannes-68940-3_w1000

Restaurants:

– Tetou: Although $$$, the bouillabaisse is outstanding.

– Le Baoli: Asian fusion and best for late night food.

– L’Ondine Plage: Locally sourced grilled fish.

fISH AT PLAGE L ONDINE

– La Table du Chef: Different menu everyday so you never know what you’re going to get. Chef gets the ingredients from the market that day.

– Astoux ed Brun: Not fancy but the seafood is so fresh.

SEAFOOD

 

Nightclubs:

– Gotha Nightclub: Big bottles of champagne, girls dancing around them, great DJs, and glitter everywhere. It’s pretty fabulous.

the lions

– Le Baoli: A staple.

cANNES Party

To Do:

– Visit Le Suquet (Old Town): This represents the old fishing village. With it’s old world charm, there is a watchtower, gourmet boutiques, shopping, and quaint old streets.

– The Marche Forville market: Local produce, cheese, wine and flowers all by local folks. This is the heart of the city.

– Cave Riviera: Amazing wine shop. Think wine, salami and cheese as you shop.

– Boulevard de la Croisette: One of the most fashionable streets on the French Riviera. The boulevard extends from the new Palais des Festivals along the rade de Cannes with its sandy beach.

– If you can swing it, attend the Festival de Cannes (Film Festival) in May. If you can’t, settle for a visit to The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. It’s the venue of the Festival. It’s used for events, conferences and festivals year round. There is also an on-site restaurant..

– The Beaches: there are public and private. The Meditteranean waters are ideal for sunbathing!

cannes_beach_france

Miami – 2016

Ahhh, the Magic City. I am probably in Miami 4x a year. My first adventure was in my early 20’s (I’m dating myself)….and each trip truly gets better.

BRI MIAMI

*Bienvenido a Miami*

Miami is always changing. There is so much more than lounging on the beach – although it is absolutely stunning.

SOBE

You have a cultural scene, a growing food community and new districts popping up. It’s full of vibrancy, decadence, art, music, and literature. Because of this, I will definitely be updating this guide. But for now, these are my favorites.  Enjoy!

MIAMI BAR COCKTAILS

*One of our first BNB Trips*

To Stay:

South Beach

  • Faena Hotel is the place to be right now.

faena

Everything about this hotel is superb. They have two exquisite restaurants: Los Fuegos (South American live fire cooking!) and Pao (French, Spanish, Japanese and Filipino!) The bar is stunning. They also have an old Hollywood theater where they do cabaret performance. Very old-school and super sexy.

faena food

*Steak at Los Fuegos – it was as close to my Buenos Aires steak experience in the U.S.*
  • The Edition is the other fabulous hotel. Basement is the underground lounge with a bowling alley and ice rink. My best friend, Linda, and I had a very good night here…

brielle bowl

*Rocking the gutter ball*
  • 1 Hotel is a stunning hotel with such a chill, beautiful vibe. Get up to the roof for dinner/cocktails. Also had a great time here with a few lovely ladies.

one hotel roof

Belle Isle

  • The Standard (spa is awesome and so are amenities – they have outside tubs!) I try to stay here if I don’t need to be on South Beach. I call it my retreat. The food is healthy and delicious, also.

Brickell

  • Viceroy is beautiful and the spa is beyond amazing.

To Eat:

Steakhouse

  • Red Steakhouse – Ridiculous steak and the veal parm is phenomenal.

red

*Flintstone style meat*
  • Prime 112 – the beautiful people/see and be seen steak house. Sexy vibe. Good steaks. Great meatballs. The Rock was there filming Ballers – I would love to dine with him 🙂

PRIME 112

Asian

  • Juvia (French/Japanese) – On the top of a parking garage. Very cool atmosphere and food.
  • Baoli – just a trendy cool spot.

Farm To Table

  • Michael’s Genuine is healthier classic contemporary American in the Design District.

Fried Food

  • Yardbird Southern Table and Bar – FRIED CHICKEN!

Gastro

  • The Bazaar by Jose Andres – very interesting, unique dishes and pairings that are unexpected but super delicious.

Simple Fun

  • Cecconi’s (in SOHO Beach House) – Mediterranean / Italian. Because it’s in SOHO house you have a lot of industry people there. Chill vibe.

Classic

  • The Forge – old world Miami steak. It still has an 1822 Château Lafite Rothschild worth $165,000.
  • The Restaurant @ the Setai is stunning. A beautiful overall experience.
  • Joe’s Stone Crab – if in season, best crabs around. I could eat a plate myself.

Italian

  • Il Gabbiano is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the world. Chicken and Veal parm are outstanding. All pastas are divine and the wine list is extensive. Very beautiful atmosphere, too. Gino Masci is one of the owners. Sweetest guy.

IL GABBIANO

*Hello Veal!*

Brunch

  • Zuma Downtown is a very fun Sunday brunch.
  • 27 hands down. Brunch is overwhelmingly delicious.

27

Best Cubans

  • Versailles or Havana 1957

Chinese

  • MR CHOW is always a fun Americanized Chinese restaurant. Chow’s Peking duck is ridiculous.

Spanish

  • Matador Room is Jean George’s new spot in The Edition Hotel. They took his ABC Cocina menu and revitalized it for a little more upscale experience.

Greek

  • Milos Greek is high concept Greek. The seafood is delicious.

Cocktails:

  • 1 Hotel rooftop

One hotel cocktail

  • Anywhere in the EDITION or Faena Hotel
  • Rec Room
  • Delano Hotel by pool (classic)

WHITE PARTY

*Headed to the Delano for the all white party…*
  • Broken Shaker
  • Honorable mention: Ted’s Hideaway – dive bar with a jukebox – need I say more?

JukeboxTeds

To See/Do:

  • Design District is fun to walk around in. Great boutique shops.
  • Bal Harbour Shops – high end shops. Fun people watching, too.
  • Sky Diving
  • Lincoln Road Mall
  • Experience Cuba in Little Havana

Exercise Spots:

  • Barry’s Boot Camp (right by The Standard Hotel)
  • Soul Cycle (in 1 Hotel)
  • Cross Fit outside

The Nightlife:

  • I stay away from clubs these days. That was my jam in my 20’s…BUT if you go this route, LIV, Cameo and Story are the big ones.
  • Honorable mention: E11even – the 24 hour club/bar/rooftop/eatery – pretty much everything you want or need at 4am. Wound up here by accident (long story) but it was an epic night. It’s across the street from Club Space…

11

*Rooftop of E11even*

 

Los Angeles – 2016

Los Angeles – I hate to love you so much…seeing that I’m from the East Coast 🙂

The weather is perfect. The traffic is a nightmare. The culture is laid back, yet trend-setting.

You are a global metropolis with an extraordinary history and a rich cultural heritage. You are the Entertainment Capital of the World and have miles of sunny coastline. Your multicultural neighborhoods are eclectic, progressive, trendy, laid back and retro. There is something for everyone.

I have made countless trips to LA and felt it was time to just consolidate my list of places to go and things to do since people ask me all the time. This city guide will definitely get updates as things are ever-changing.

Downtown LA

Hotels:

I haven’t stayed here – just visited the neighborhood.

Restaurants/ Drinks:

-Philippe the Original: This is where the French dip sandwich was invented a century ago. Cash only.

Philipe

– Daikokuya: Best Ramen in Little Tokyo – they even have cold ramen (yum!).

– Cana Rum Bar: Feels like a speakeasy (in the back of a parking garage). Tiny and very chill – crafted cocktails where rum is the superstar.

To Do:

Disney Concert Hall

– Staples Center: Sporting events (Cana is across the street)

– Museum of Contemporary Art

Silver Lake

Hotels:

I haven’t stayed here. Just visited for a lunch or dinner and walked around. Very bohemian.

Restaurants/ Drinks:

Cliff’s Edge: One of the most beautiful dining experiences. Food is out of this world – esp. if they have the tasting menu available (check in advance). The cocktails at this bar are top notch.

CLIFF'S EDGE

– Café Stella: Wine and jazz…pretty much a classic French bistro.

– 4100 Bar: Jukebox heavy and very unpretentious crowd.

– Thirsty Crow: Saloon style setting, tons of whiskey and a laid back atmosphere.

– Little Dom’s: Best kale salad, fried oyster po’ boy and Italian deli sandwiches.

little doms

To Do:

–  Griffith Park: Observatory and Hollywood Sign – they equate this to LA’s ‘Central Park’.

GRIFFITH

– Greek Theatre

West Hollywood / Hollywood / Beverly Hills

Hotels:

The Standard: Great location – Sunset Strip – walking distance to adorable boutique stores.

– The Roosevelt: Great location and simply one of the coolest hotels in LA – across from Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, Star Walk of Fame, great valet service, In and Out Burger is down the street…I stay here when I’m in Hollywood.

hotel roose

– Chateau Marmont: Where all the movie stars stay and do very bad things – hehe… If anything, have a drink at the Bar Marmont or lunch on the beautiful terrace. You feel like you’re in Europe.

chateu

Restaurants/ Drinks:

Spare Room (in Roosevelt): Game parlor/cocktail lounge. Has its own bowling alley.

– La Descarga: Sexy, awesome rum and cigar lounge bar. They even have spicy salsa act!

– Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles: The name says it all.

– Jitlada: Fantastic Thai food. Try the spicy papaya salad.

– Life Food Organic: Raw powered fast food!

– Writer’s Room: Hidden in an ally, this classic joint – Hemmingway and Fitzgerald mingled with starlets here – is a classic vintage-inspired cocktail bar.

– Coolhaus: Ice cream sandwiches that are bigger, bolder and more imaginative than you could imagine – think Whiskey-Lucky Charms, Pastrami and Fried Chicken and Waffles.

coolhause

-A.O.C.: Simply excellent with a glorious courtyard, lovely wine list and a dark, roasted chicken that is unforgettable.

– The Bazaar by Jose Andres (SLS Hotel): Modernist ode to Spain. Go with an open mind and try everything. The Philly Cheesesteak is a standout.

bazaar

-Rao’s: The famed NY stalwart made its way to the West Coast in 2013. All I can say is baked clams, oversized meatless and Sunday gravy. Absolutely classic.

– All About the Bread: The Godfather sandwich is a memorable experience. The bread is absolutely delicious.

– Pizzeria Mozza: The flour is King Arthur Sir Galahad and it’s baked for a minimum of 8 minutes at 600 degrees. It’s a one of a kind recipe that is life changing.

– Osteria Mozza: Red Sauce Dinner nights include a Sinatra soundtrack. The Puglian burrata purse, chickpea pop in the soffritto-laced parmigiana and the linguine with clams between the grilled octopus and the braised veal breast staccato are stand outs. To note – the kitchen will happily split an order into perfect small bites if you’re willing to share.

– Janes’ on 3rd: Amazing breakfast spot. Closer to mid-city area so a drive.

– Spago: Wolfgang Puck’s Classic – a seasonal menu in a stunning space with classic delicious dishes (smoked salmon pizza).

– Mel’s Diner: Anyone who has seen the 1973 film “American Graffiti” remembers the neon sign at the gang’s favorite hangout spot buzzing in the background. For late night grub, this is my go-to spot.

Mels

– Son of a Gun: Great seafood. Menu changes daily.

– Terrine: It’s a playground of flavor at this French hot spot. Foie gras with sweet and sour prunes…frog legs?! The charcuterie plate does not disappoint.

– Maude: This restaurant pays homage to California farmers by selecting ingredients that typify California (think: avocado, fits, artichokes). Their menu is a creation of delicious, interesting plates of food. Each month the menu spotlights one ingredient either as the star of the dish or as an accoutrement. Prix fixe only.

– The Ivy: The quintessential alfresco lunch spot in L.A. It feels like a French country cottage with a yard. The Maine lobster ravioli is delicious.

the ivy

– Madeo: Unassuming Italian with an off the menu black truffle pasta that is out of this world.

– Bouchon: Legendary chef Thomas Keller’s casual French brasserie serving classic long lunches. The seafood platters are a must and the burger with truffle fries is heavenly.

– Honorable mention *Victor’s Cafe*: Closed in 2015 but was a community clubhouse for those that just loved staple deli food. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Gotti a few years ago. His blintzes and bagels were NY worthy, and his matzo ball soup with chunks of carrots, celery and chicken was life-changing. He was born in the Bronx, raised in Brooklyn and the younger brother of the late Mafia boss John Gotti. His cafe will always remain in my heart.

To Do:

– Kodak Theater (Oscars)

– Grauman’s Chinese Theater

– Walk of Fame

– Rodeo Drive J = Treat Yo Self!

– Mulholland Drive

– Hike up Runyon Canyon – 130 acres Public Park. Beautiful especially at sunset.

Santa Monica

Hotels:

Viceroy: Cool, hip, modern.

– The Huntley: Classic, beautiful and great location to everything (this is my favorite hotel to stay in – 1 block from Soul Cycle, the beach and the 3rd St Promenade).

hUNTLEY

Restaurants/Drinks:

– Rustic Tavern: Local organic producers and menu shifts with availability.

– Real Food Daily Santa Monica Location: New world vegan cooking (currently closed – with plans to re-open soon).

– Basement Tavern: Craftsman cocktails and live music.

– Tender Greens: Healthy food – counter service; sit and eat.

– Goji Juice + Vitamins: Great green juices and acai bowls.

– A Votre Sante: Light, natural, healthy fare. It’s no-guilt dining!

To Do:

– Santa Monica Pier and Beach

SANTA MONICA

– 3rd St. Promenade: carefree and car-free strolling and shopping

Venice

Hotels:

I would stay in Santa Monica – Venice is next door.

Restaurants/Drinks:

Intelligentsia: BEST coffee ever!

– Joe’s: Cali-French.

– Abbot’s Pizza Co: Seriously good pizza – especially for the West Coast!

– Venice Beach Wines: Wine and charcuterie.

– Cafe Gratitude: Very healthy (We have a Café Grumpy in NY, haha).

– Dudley Market: Farm to table eatery. Low key vibe during the day, but transforms into an intimate 20 seat restaurant at night. The Orata fish with salsa verde is very good.

To Do:

– Boardwalk/Muscle Beach: Such characters.

muscle beach

– Abbot Kinney Shopping District: AMAZING BOUTIQUE STORES and restaurants/bars.

Malibu

Hotels:

Malibu Inn OR just drive up Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) for a lovely afternoon and have a late lunch/early dinner.

Restaurants/Drinks:

Café Habana: The NY dining scene hits Malibu with this retro-hip Havana styled eatery. The spacious patio is glorious on a beautiful day (ever day in Malibu). Chicken Tinga Tacos are unreal. The Cuban sandwich is a hit too. Habana hosts a Taco Tuesday and Karaoke Wednesday. Habana is also located in Malibu Lumberyard which has a ton of great shops!

– Paradise Cove: Classic Malibu establishment. Portions are HUGE. Sit outside. Take a stroll on the beach after and admire the Malibu cliffs.

paradise cove

– Nobu: Imagine the beauty of the NY restaurant on the Pacific – absolutely stunning. If anything, have a cocktail at the bar. Apps are terrific and the food is sumptuous.

To Do:

Malibu Lumber Yard shopping.

Other Stuff

– Rose Bowl in Pasadena: Classic landmark. Was lucky enough to see a USC – UCLA Game!

– Universal Studios in Burbank: Fun for a day trip.

– Mexican Food Trucks are AWESOME late night!

– LA is the worst for traffic. Prepare yourself.

la traffic

– LA thinks it’s known for their burgers. Try for yourself – Unami and In and Out are the fast food leaders.

– Take a Rise Nation Fitness class. It specializes in a killer 30-minute full body cardio climb (rise-nation.com). Alternatively, you always have Tracy Anderson, Barry’s and Soul Cycle.

– Sip a classic Bellini at Beverly Hill’s Mr. C Hotel – owned by the Cipriani family. Every guest receives one upon arrival (kids get a virgin version). Naturally, check-in takes place at the lobby bar.

 

How To Travel On A Budget

It’s no secret. I live to travel. I will go anywhere, at any time given the chance. I find it to be the most educational & rewarding experience – even more so than food! (Gasp!). Every place, like every person you encounter, is a teacher. Just open your eyes and take it in. Let go of your ego and be open to something new, uncomfortable, challenging and absolutely life-changing.

travel-the-world

Over the years, I’ve visited some extraordinary places and many people have bombarded me with the questions –  “How did you pay for it? That must’ve been expensive…” “You must make a lot of money.” Gotta love everyone’s assumptions. First of all, I’m not a millionaire but I’m a damn independent and resourceful adult.

nOTRE

To be honest, my paycheck is more like a reality check. People say find the courage to take a leap of faith and do what you love. Well, I love writing (hence the birth of this blog). I love sharing ideas, giving advice on daily tips, food, travel, motivating my loved ones, talking about how cute my dog Rambo is 🙂 and finding a way to document my life so I don’t forget the adventures and can hopefully share with future loved ones. They say if you know a writer you will never die. That’s pretty amazing to think about.

I also have to pay bills, so after years of hemming and hawing, and dabbling here and there, I officially launched my consulting company, BLC Communications. That’s a whole other post. But it’s really awesome being your own boss! OK, back to this post…

Trips are affordable and don’t have to put you in debt but you have PLAN. Listen folks, we all have bills, rent/mortgages, student loans and other obligations. It’s easy to put off those dream trips, but when is the time really right? Never and now!

ticking now on check boxes

  • Rack up credit card rewards: Almost every card has a point system or a cash-back clause. This means every time you make a purchase you’re automatically earning redeemable extras on the side.
  • Apply for airline and hotel points: Get those loyalty rewards! Signing up for an airline / hotel membership is almost always free, so why not collect miles with each flight / hotel you book for no cost? Remember you can sign up for multiple carriers and hotel chains, or if you prefer one airline / hotel chain, look into their credit card affiliates.
  • There are always travel deals: I have never paid for a first class/business flight. I’ve used points or been upgraded because of my flying status. If you do not have either, then I suggest you dig through a bargain bin when it comes to airfare.
    1. Good sites: The Flight Deal, Sky ScannerAir Fare Watchdog
    2. Apps: Hopper and DealRay (not free but great finding price ‘mistakes’)
    3. Check your airline websites – they offer some great deals
    4. I love perusing Jetsetter, Living Social Deals and Groupon
  • Search for affordable destinations: Look for countries within your budget. While I am dying to go to New Zealand + Australia that trip is going to have to wait. This year Keith and I are going to China + Southeast Asia. Points for flights + hotels, and when you land the US dollar is strong! There are also a ton of affordable European and South American countries thanks to the low exchange rates and discounted flight routes (see #3 and the sites for carriers).
  • Consider low-cost lodging: I, personally, have never done a youth hostel, although it’s an option. You don’t have the stay at the Ritz (unless you have points, of course!). Really consider other options like chic boutique hotels or AirBNB!
  • Save small for a big returns: We all have daily habits that can add up. I love trashy gossip magazines and the food bar at Whole Foods. By cutting back on these ‘vices’ for a month you could save a bunch.
  • Be open to when you travel: Sadly, it’s almost impossible to find cheap summer fares to Europe or inexpensive winter flights to South America. Your best bet? Go in the spring or fall when there’s still good weather, but no crowds or high prices.
  • Save your personal time off days: Tack your vacation on to a holiday (Memorial Day in May, Labor Day in September, and Columbus Day in October). Since these are domestic days off, traveling outside the country won’t be as crazy as New Years, Christmas or Easter.
  • Use inconveniences to your advantage: Things don’t always go according to plan. In these cases, it never hurts to ask for a refund or at least an upgrade. For example, on a recent trip, Keith and I had just checked into our villa. It was around midnight and a drunk guy tapped on our patio window. It was not a dangerous situation, but could have been. We called security and the staff handled everything professionally and comped that night. Although it was a slight frustration, a free night is a free night! Cha ching!

Travel Tips: How To Look Good After A Flight

My 2016 travel season has begun so many of my posts will now be centered around travel tips and destinations (past and current).

I love travel. I live for the long flights, meeting new people, immersing myself in new cultures and shoveling as much food as possible into my mouth.

travel everywhere

I can do it alone (Buenos Aires), with my husband, Keith (Around the World Trip), with my best friend, Linda (Eat Pray Love Trip), or a group of friends – you know who you are (Miami, NOLA, LA…). The truth is, for me, travel represents risk and that’s living! If you’re not a little scared or uncomfortable, then you’re not living life. I fear missing opportunities by merely existing in my comfort zone.

Because of this mentality, I forced myself to travel anyplace I could get to in my early 20’s and the bug hasn’t stopped. If anything, the urge has gotten stronger. I find it my best educator and one worth the investment.

So to kick off these weekly 2016 summer posts on travel, I am going to start with some of my favorite ‘tips.’

Enjoy, stay inspired, and remember, we are always ¾ There….

Tips For How To Look Good After A Flight

I am an ugly flyer. For me, its more about comfort at this point and not looking like too much of a train wreck when I land. I know I will never look like a million bucks when I walk off a plane, but there are some very good tips to keep it together.

SLEEP

It’s a universal fact that flying wreaks havoc on your appearance. Can we say under-eye bags, wrinkled clothes, dry, lifeless skin, and don’t get me started on the hair.

Before the Flight:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Stay away from caffeine and alcohol
  • I am a huge fan of alkaline water, which balances your PH levels. I carry the drops everywhere. You can put them in your bottled water, coffee/tea, soups, etc.
  • I see people get so jiggy and it only makes the airport / boarding situation worse. I always tell my companions, “In airports, move slower and you’ll go faster.”
  • No make up! This is important for +5 hour flight because make up gets trapped under the dehydrated top layer of skin. This translates into blotchiness and breakouts.
  • If anything, where SPF moisturizer. Yes, you may be inside but the UVA light is still there. Trust me on the sunscreen.

During the Flight:

  • Say no to alcohol! Unless you’re flying first/business class where they serve premium liquor, I’d recommend steering clear of alcohol. Cheap booze causes puffy face syndrome as well as fatigue.
  • Did I say hydrate? I always position myself on the aisle seat for bathroom breaks. I chug water with my alkaline drops. Try and stay away from caffeine, but if you need it, opt for matcha green tea because it contains 1/3 less caffeine than coffee but also contains antioxidants that help fight free radicals.
  • Bring an eye mask and noise cancellation headphones to sleep. To top off this attractive look, I usually wear a hoodie. With all this gear, how could I not pass out?
  • No salt! Say no to the cookies and pretzels. Not only do salty, spicy and greasy foods cause disturbances in your gut balance, they will also cause facial puffiness and bloodshot eyes.

Almost Time to Land:

  • Give yourself a mini-facial: grab one of those pre-moisturized cleaning towels and wipe all that airplane grime away. Moisturize with an SPF moisturizer and pat on some lip balm.
  • I take my pill pack very seriously. No matter where I go, these bad boys come with me. Take your vitamins!!!!! During a flight, the most essential ones are: Vitamins C, D and the Omega 3s with a glass of alkaline water. You can also just add lemon or lime to water and this will give the same result.
  • I love aromatherapy so will take a sniff of either a lavender or frankincense scent to chill me out.
  • I always look like a fraggle rock character when it comes to my airplane hair. My solution? My DogPound Hat. But of course, feel free to use whatever hat works best for you. Add some sunglasses to the mix and you walk off looking refreshed, yet mysterious.

DP

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Welcome to Nicaragua, a country of volcanic landscapes, pristine beaches, colonial architecture and sensational history. There is this youthful, vibrant energy and enough main stream activities balanced out with off the beaten path experiences.

S Map

Keith and I visited San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in 2015 on a recommendation from our friend, Terry: ‘It’s a hidden beach gem / lazy sleeping village town – you must go’.

s4

Well… we went and loved it so much, we wound up buying property. We were also thinking about early retirement – never too early to plan, right?

s 3

This post is dedicated to the town of San Juan del Sur in Southwestern Nicaragua. It’s a regional hub known for its amazing surf culture and laid back attitude on the Pacific. The town itself with its clapboard Victorian houses and steady influx of toned and tanned folks, families, and ex pats is quite fun.

s 2

Getting There

-Leaving from NY, the easiest way is to fly into either Fort Lauderdale / Miami and then taking a plane to Managua.

-Transport from Managua – use Adelante Express (http://www.adelanteexpress.com) or work with your hotel to provide a shuttle. Taxis are also available but drivers mainly speak Spanish. It takes about 2.5 hours from airport.

Things to Do/See
1- Beach (Surfing and Chilling out beaches)

surf 2surf
2- Christ of Mercy Statue (we nicknamed him Buddy Christ). Entrance at Pacific Marlin Development.

buddy christ
3- Whale Watching
4- Zen Yoga (by church)

zen yoga
5- Central Market (closed Sunday and @ 5pm) Avenida Central by church. Go to Dona Angelites to eat

san jaun market

6- Turtle Watching between July-December

7- Spanish Language Immersion Classes at APC Spanish School or Spanish Corner School

Two tour companies in town that are fantastic are: Casa Oro Hostel (http://casaeloro.com) and Da Flying Frog (http://www.daflyingfrog.com)

casa ora

Restaurants & Bars
1- *Chicken Ladies – Asados Juanita. Past 5pm
2- Big Wave Dave’s – expat Bar (Sunday live music): http://sanjuandelsur.org/big-wave-daves/

big wave daves
3- *El Timon – great seafood
4- Iguana Bar next to El Timon
5- Dancing @ Crazy Crab Disco
6- Lago Azul for karaoke
7- La Terraza Pizza near church
8- Howler Bar for popper shot and adult swing. The quesadillas are also fantastic.

howler bar
9- Grato Negro – fresh coconut water
10- Arribas Bar (near El Timon – late night 2am)

guns

Hotels:
1- *Hotel Victoriano (Somoza family retreat and Mark Twain stayed there)
2- Pelican Eyes (most romantic)

victoriano

3- Hotel Alcazar (in the middle of town and can get loud at night)

Notable Things
1- Sanchez Pilperia Cigars will rock your world
2- Macuas with orange or guava juice (national drink); Pina Coladas!

colada
3- Tona (national beer)
4- Cordorba currency / $10 entry fee / check about onward ticket
5- Foods: cerviche, totones con queso, gallo pinto (rice and beans), carne asada, pescado entero (whole fish with al ajillo – garlic – or entometado – tomatoes), nacatamal (corn tamale with chicken or pork). Everything is so fresh and delicious!

late night

6- Language: Spanish
7- Time is CST
8- Electricity is same as US
9- Communication is using your lip to point

10- High Season is Dec-Apr / Shoulder is Nov / Low Season is May-Oct

sunset

If you wind up visting and fall in love with San Juan del Sur the best lady in town to buy property from is Natalie Sullivan.

Natalie Sullivan Real Estate Advisor San Juan del Sur – Discover Real Estate (discovernica.com) / Phone: (505) 8803-2037 / Email: natalie.sullivan@discovernica.com

And once you buy and want to build, reach out to Jeffrey Cassel at Las Brisas del Pacifico: Brisasdelpacifico.net

The view from our land. I’ve always wanted to be by the water… 🙂

our land

We return in July 2016 and will definitely post from that trip.

 

 

Mardis Gras: Have a Purple Drink!

I’ve drank all around the world, but one of my favorites is the purple drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.

Purple Drink

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com/Homepage.html

As the story goes, Jean Lafitte was a man that just did what he wanted – I love it!

Warming: the purple drink may taste like a grape slushie, but it is no kids drink. It’s the only drink that has knocked me on my you know what, and inspired the category for my blog: Party Past the Plane – which I did after having 2 of these… It truly was an epic night.

Happy Mardis Gras!

Christmas in The Villages, Florida

When my in-laws, Henry and Diane Witek, told me they were moving to the The Villages, Florida my mind immediately went to the M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, The Village.

Demons? A freaky little community? Supernatural situations? What could this place be?

the village village again

Henry, was quick to explain that it was an active retirement community located in sunny central Florida. According to the website https://www.thevillages.com the purpose was “To create a retirement community where people’s dreams could come true.” It boasted a redefinition of retirement living: great, affordable homes with lifestyle and amenities for every cycle of retirement life.

villages sign

That’s a tall order! My idea of retirement would be in the Amalfi Coast, Italy with Cristiano Ronaldo (age now) serving me Krug Rose champagne in his CR7’s, Mario Batali cooking my meals, DogPound still training me and Keith, Rambo and I just chilling in our infinity pool looking at the beautiful clear blue sea.

amalfi cristiano_ronaldo_real_madrid_wallpaper_2014-wallpaper-1366x768 mario batali_2

Well, I have been there twice now and while it’s not my vision of retirement, I could see how it’s a paradise for the people who have chosen to end their lives there.

Imagine a Disney Land for over-55 year-olds. It holds more than 100k residents in an area bigger than the island of Manhattan. And… everyone gets around via golf cart. I’m not going to lie, the first time I visited, I couldn’t believe it. There were designated parking areas for golf carts at all the businesses. There were golf-cart tracks. There were golf-cart tunnels and even a golf-cart bridges to cross the major highways. I can’t make this up.

ACG_Golf_Cartsweb.jpg.w560h150 Villages-Golf-carts-2

Why golf carts do you ask? The Villages is really a village. Within those gates you have everything you need: Town Squares, Theaters, Shopping + Dining, Grocery Stores, Doctors, Schools…

Here’s the kicker, those carts can cost upwards of $25k and you can pimp them out with rims, make them look like a hummer or race car, add custom detail, etc. I guess when you retire and you have extra dough to spend, why wouldn’t you do it with a custom golf cart?

The Villages is also known for its extensive amount of golf courses – I think there are over 3 dozen. I am not going to pretend to know anything about golf. I went to a Nike Golf School and own my own clubs. I wound up perfecting my flask swig vs. my golf swing and I have used my clubs once. Golfing is just not my thing.

Henry is The Village’s golf course expert. He knows every course name, clubhouse, trail, the animals that inhabit the courses…trust me, he has educated me so well on these topics even I know my way around at this point. The man has his own bench on the first hole of one of the courses. I finally saw it live on this Christmas Trip.

IMG_3250

There are additional “distinctions” about The Villages. In 2009, the New York Post labeled it “ground zero for geriatrics who are seriously getting it on.” The story reported that couples had been caught having quickies in the golf carts and noted there was a thriving black market for Viagra. These facts make me chuckle.

villages Cart

My favorite thing about The Villages is that they forbid children. Kids can of course visit briefly, but that’s about it. They have to get visitor passes, haha! The place is truly a +55 adult playground.

No-kids-Allowed-from-Picnik1

 

So that’s the summary of the Villages, Florida. Here’s the detail on the Christmas Visit and how I spent 4.5 days there.

Day 1:

  • The earliest flight from Newark to Orlando. Children galore!

Airport

  • Diane makes the best bacon. I’ll give the woman that! She made me a BLT with a garnish of bacon.

Bacon Breakfast

  • Keith, Henry and his brother Steven go golfing. Diane and I get more groceries (need food!) and do some shopping in one of the Towne Squares. I discover The Villages makes its own wine.

Villages Wine

  • Dinner at Cody’s – check out these Happy Hour Specials and prices! How do they make money? As soon as I sat down, I ordered the 2 for 1 special: red wine baby! Oh, and the grilled wings were actually delicious. The young chef, Cory, came out and I gave him a hug.

CodysWine Codys

Day 2 – Christmas Day:

  • Since the plan was to golf in the morning, there was no formal breakfast. I made myself a roast beef sandwich on a whole wheat pita with my morning supplements.

Christmas BreakfastHappy Easter

  • Golfing – you can see how engaged I was in this activity.

Bri Golf Phone

  • Seeing the bench.

Witeks on Bench

  • Nicknaming The Witek Family the Buttertons because I have never seen so much butter used in my life.

Buttertons

  • 4pm Christmas dinner – The Witek’s Christmas Tradition is to serve a prime rib for dinner. See my 2015 Summary post for more detail. It’s a very simple Christmas meal.

Prime Rib Christmas Dinner Table

  • Seeing the holiday lights on the houses.

Holiday Lights

Day 3:

  • Took a side trip to see my Aunt and Uncle, and cousins in Palm Coast. Food frenzy and fun times.

Ross' spread

  • When I returned to The Villages, before dinner, we sat and watched a concert in one of the Towne Squares. 55+ folks were moving and shaking. It was definitely a sight to see.

Town Square Concert

Day 4:

  • Had a lovely brunch at one of the golf course clubhouses. Mimosas! Pancakes! Bacon! Omelets! I ate everything.

Brunch

  • Star Wars 3-D – the force was with me for sure!
  • Killed 2 bottles of Caliche Rum and Don Q Limon at Las Tapas. Sara, our bartender was terrific and created some special on the spot cocktails for the guests. Diane and her 12 girlfriends have become mini ambassadors and visit the account once a month for Caliche/Don Q Cocktails.

las taps

Day 5:

  • Time to go home. We had to deal with this security nightmare in the Orlando airport. I have never seen so many wheelchairs and carriages under one roof. It was like the circle of life condensed.

Orlando Airport

2015 Highlights

While this is not all about travel, it falls under merry-making + travel + partying. Here are few fun highlights from 2015 – Enjoy and hope it makes you laugh as much as I did while writing it.

January

  • Set the intentions of kicking ass this year

2015 Jan Reso

  • Seeing my godson, Jacob Thomas

Jan Jacob

February

  • Keith and I bought international property in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Feb Mr Nica Feb Nica Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb BK NicaFeb Nica Land

March

  • Planning the 2015 Summer Travel

Mar Travel Planning

  • Celebrating Easter

Easter

  • My 34th Birthday

Mar Bday BK Mar Bday BT   Mar Bday BNBsMar Bday Group

April

  • Got to see 2 of my oldest friends, Justin Leffler and Matt Ciantar. It was Matt’s wedding. We’ve all known each other since 3rd grade!

April Matt and Justin April Matt Wedding

  • The DogPound Appreciation Party

April DP Party

  • Learning to enjoy Caliche Rum with cigars. Thanks Shendi Lu! Thanks Felicia and Dan for joining the craziness!

April Cigars

May

  • Ran a 10k

May 10K

  • Visiting Jerusalem (check out my Jerusalem post for the actual city guide)

May Jeru City May Jeru BC

June

  • The Pilgrimage Tour with my best friend, Linda Gomes. We hit Paris, Ibiza (we made it!) and Lisbon

May praying May Paris May IbizaJPG May Ibiza 2

  • Best Dominican brunch with the DogPound Crew

June Brunch with DP

  • Swan’s Birthday Extraganza

June Swan Bday

  • Lunch with former Rutger’s coach Kyle Flood. He liked Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur!

June Coach Flood

  • Bi-annual Hennessy Crew reunion over…surprise, surprise…Italian Food and wine/champagne

June Henny Crew

  • Lauren’s Engagement Party – the Bad News Bitches Crew and our men

June Lauren Engagement

July

  • I work for the coolest company, Serralles, USA. Company meeting was in NOLA

July Company meeting

  • Helicopter ride with Keith

July HelicpoterJuly Helicopter

  • The annual Shitek’s Summer Series Mets Game: Keith and Brian make it on the Met’s jumbo tron

July Mets Beer and Brian July Mets Game

  • U2 Concert

July U2

August

  • Keith’s 35th Birthday

August K Bday Frances August K Bday Del

  • The 10-day Scotland + Ireland Trip with my in-laws (I will be posting this story in the next month – stay tuned!)

August St Andrews August Scotland August Mead August Ireland

  • Trish Mannion’s “Sensational” Miami Birthday

August Trish 40 August Trish 40 2

  • Keith and I felt grown up. We bought a new washer and dryer

August Washer

September

  • Global Citizen with the DogPound

Sept Global Citizen DP w. Hugh Sept Global Citizen

  • Joy Luck Club gals (Swan + Mel) hit Wo Hop (my dad’s old chinatown haunt)

Sept JLC Wo Hop

  • Swan and my Brooklyn / Queens pizza tour

Sept Pizza Tour

  • I bought sparkle sneaks!

Sept sparkle shoes

  • Caliche Rum made it on the Times Square Billboard with Instapour

Sept Times Square

October

  • METS Playoffs + World Series. Thrilled we saw Game 3 – Home field and they won

Oct Mets 1 Oct Mets Citifield

  • Rutgers vs. Wisconsin – Halloween in Madison with the RU Crew – rained all weekend!

Oct WI 2 Oct WI 1

November

  • LA Adoption Ball with Domenic Venneri. I won 2 nights at the Bangkok Peninsula hotel and a baby bag…what does that mean?!

Nov Baby Ball

  • Keith in Dodgeball Playoffs

Nov Dodgeball

  • John Santos’ epic Birthday

Nov John Bday

December

  • Dec 1st: Launch of Three Quarters There and celebrating the life of my beautiful sister, Nicole Caruso, with her favorite wine

Dec Blog Launch Dec 1 Nicole and Blog Launch

  • Decided if I ever own a home, this will be my Holiday Front Lawn Decor – always wanted a Griswold Family Christmas 🙂

Dec Griswald Christmas

  • Melissa Mao and Chris Cedeno’s Fabulous Holiday/Housewarming Party with the original Rutgers Matia Crew

Dec Mel's Holiday Party

  • Bi – annual Hennessy crew dinner (aka: Bad News Big Shots as Keith named us)

Dec Henny Crew last dinner

  • Leaf Cookies – my favorite cookie (thanks Mom)

Dec Leaf Cookies

  • My favorite ornament (thanks Adam Ponsi)

Dec Merry XMas

  • The Guest Bartender Series at Piora featuring Caliche Rum and Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur, and bringing together some of the finest bartenders in Manhattan. The cocktail creations = AMAZING.

Dec Piora Caliche Series

  • Christmas @ The Caruso Household: hanging with Rambo and my brother, Paulie Walnuts

Dec Rambo and Paulie

  • STAR WARS

Dec STAR WARS

  • Keith and my holiday ritual: Tree, lighting candles for our families, Broadway and champagne at the Palace Hotel

Dec TreeDec Allegiance

  • Spending Christmas in The Villages, Florida with my in-laws. Can’t you tell I love golf, and the bench is real! Stay tuned for the detailed post on this later in January

Dec Villages Bench Dec Villages BC golf

This had to have it’s own category. The different Christmas Food Spreads I experienced.

Small: The Witek Family (Keith’s parents)

Party of 5 (all big eaters): Prime rib, croissants, 3 rolls and butter from Christmas Eve dinner at Cody’s Restaurant, caprese salad, 4 baked potatoes, string beans

Witek Prime Rib Witek Spread

Large: The Ross Family (my Uncle Frank and Aunt Evelyn) 

Party of 5 adults and 3 small children who ate already: Ham, 2 Chicken dishes, 3 veggie dishes, macaroni salad, baked potatoes

Not shown: beef stroganoff, antipasto plate

Ross' spread

XXL: Mom and Dad Caruso (no one does it better than my parents who have no concept of portion control or assortment of trays)

Party of 4: There are no hunger games at my house – Salad, Mom’s Famous pepperoni bread + meatballs, sausage and peppers, meatloaf wrapped in bacon, potatoes and onions, raviolis, fresh bread and she always gets me my leaf cookies. Check out the leftovers picture. That’s what we took home!

*I fell in love with Keith even more knowing he was comfortable enough to constructively criticize her pepperoni bread: “You have to go back to semolina. The bread dough you used doesn’t have the structural integrity to hold all the fillings.”

Caruso 2nd Course Caruso Apps Caruso Bread  Caruso SnacksCaruso Leftovers

And another that deserves its own category

Epic Rutgers Tailgates – Holy food! Awesome friends! Overdosing on fun! We now have babies at the tailgates. Crap, we’re getting old. Will the team ever win?

IMG_1994 IMG_2322 IMG_2484 IMG_2961 IMG_2969 IMG_3134 IMG_3481 IMG_3636 IMG_3658

Cheers to a memorable 2015!

 

Cheese Love in Madison, WI

I’ve had a love affair with cheese all my life. Growing up in an Italian household there was never a shortage of it. In my travels, I’ve had the good fortune of eating amazing cheese in Paris and Italy (can I say pure heavenly bliss!). Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d find artisan cheeses in…Wisconsin.

I have visited Madison, WI 3x in my life and have loved every trip. The people are friendly, the food is outstanding and it’s a chill, healthy, active city. But the stand out is truly the cheese – from old favorites to new gems – try them all.

I won’t bore you with cheese education, but highly recommend visiting (if you’re in town) or going on the website of the remarkable Fromagination: http://fromagination.com. It’s a cheese-lover’s paradise. They will break it down by Sheep’s Milk, Mixed/Various Milk, Cow’s Milk, Goat’s Milk and Other Selections.

Wisconsin-Cheese-Wedge

Before I begin my guide, I must thank the following people for their insight’s and recommendations on this wonderful town: John Kinder, Zachary Correa and Grant Hurless.

 Where to Stay:

  • The Edgewater: luxury hotel on Lake Mendota (Dalai Lama stayed there!) and walking distance to State Capital https://www.theedgewater.com

Edgewater

Where to Eat:

  • The Merchant: what’s not to like about a farm to table restaurant, craft cocktails and a grocery store on site? The sausages and corn fritters are a stand out. The Buffalo style cheese curds are fantastic. Wash it all down with The Regret (I prefer with Death’s Door Vodka). Comes in cocktail or pitcher style. Sharing is caring. http://www.merchantmadison.com
  • Dotty Dumpling’s Dowery: They call themselves the World Hamburger Headquarters. They do not disappoint. You seriously cannot go wrong with any burger. There is a style for everyone…or just build your own. Get the deep fried pickles and poutine fries for sides. A heart attack is also included in this meal. http://www.dottydumplingsdowry.com

dottys

  • Heritage Tavern: the brunch is exceptional. For dinner, the tempura bacon wrapped cheese curds, sumac blackened chicken and peanut oil fried whitefish (sorry folks with peanut allergies, you’re missing out!) are stand outs. http://heritagetavern.com
  • Nostrano: super fresh and simple. The salumi board is fantastic and although I normally don’t order this dish, the roasted quail is lovely. http://nostranomadison.com
  • The Boathouse at The Edgewater Hotel: cheese plate is great and cheese curds come with siracha sauce

cheese curds old

  • The Old Fashioned: CHEESE curds at their finest. http://www.theoldfashioned.com
  • Salvatore’s Tomato Pies: My mom turned me onto this type of pie. It’s all about the sauce. Enjoy building your own pie. Delicious… http://salvatorestomatopies.com
  • Rare Steakhouse: if you are in need of a classic dry-aged steak with a view of the capitol, this is your spot. It’s a classic steakhouse with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. http://rareonthesquare.com
  • Teddywedgers: A little hole in the wall serving everything in pastries. The chicken pot pie is like mom’s. The traditional is like hearty stew and the Big Cheese? No words. I wanted to take a pic of the food but ate it so fast I forgot. http://www.teddywedgers.com

Teddy

What to Do:

  • Dane County Farms Market
  • Anything outdoorsy is available (hiking, fishing, etc)
  • Eat cheese

cheese head more cheese