Friday, November 23, 2018

Boston; Do or Do Not.

Boston is a heck of a city!

Pretty much avoid anything, Boston is terrible.

Just joking. Mostly. On the whole, really, it's just another big city but it smells like seafood and smoke. The whole city is overpriced. Perspective: a bagel sammy and a drink in Detroit at Dunkin' $5+ but in Boston for the same is $8+ and it's only a .5% higher sales tax! Extreme.

The first time I was there I walked all over town, got lost a little, walked more, and so on. I visited Copps Hill Burial Ground, Old North Church, The Tea Party Museum and a few other small things since it was raining and I was only passing through town for about seven hours. Keep reading to find out an outsider's perspective on what's fun in Boston and what's cliche, overpriced or just plan not worth it.

Now, I'm not a total hater, because I did enjoy a few things whilst in Boston both times. For instance, the food is pretty ok if you find something far away from the constant scent of clam chowder. Mostly the pizza is good. I did just hear recently that Boston became the number one pizza eating city in the US- so that's something! Plus, every other block here is pretty photogenic- landmarks, historic buildings, modern buildings with nice copper accents, Leo DiCapio in the wax museum window! Gotta love that!

I understand that Boston is really proud of it's sealife and foodlife. There are lobstahs everywhere. And clams. And cream sauces- which I do like. The restaurants pretty much all serve clam chowder, which I get because it's their thing, but every single one can't be the best, you guys. And none are cheap. Pro Tip: Pretty good rule of thumb is that if they have a menu outside in a case for your convenience- it will not be a cheap date. We did go to Benveneto's on Boston's North End and had a really great meal. I got the spinach crepes and it was delightful and filling. A tad overindulgent, but totally worth it. The bill was nearly $100 for two people after tip, though. A fun night out but not a habitual thing.

The Boston Tea Party Museum: Pretty cool if you're really into Boston history and things. It cost $28 and was def not worth it. But, since the price is not listed anywhere when you walk up, by time you order your ticket in and they're handing it over to you, you're kind of harangued into the price (sneaky), lest you look like a jackass saying "nevermind" as you run away. It was good visual learning and the actors were a lot of fun and very helpful. I got to participate and shout about windows in a court room, throw some tea into the harbor and commit treason. Unless you have money to burn, there's almost no real point in coming here because it's an expensive 4th grade history book reenactment.

Copps Hill Burial Grounds: I loved this. It's a free activity, and you can see some really old grave stones. The Mather's family tomb, which, for any Salem Witch Trial know-it-all, is something worth seeing. Chump. What's really neat is the explanations of the old stones, and their symbols.  Death's Head on your stone represents mortality (as if you need it to represent it- you're dead. It's obvious.) as do skeletons. They later evolved into winged skulls to add religious influence. Other winged beings came later, like cherubs, which are scarier looking than a skull, but what can ya do? Urns are prevalent, as well, to symbolize death (again, see the words burial ground) and weeping willows were, you guessed it, a symbol of death but being sad about it. Those came about in the American Revolution. Coats of arms and family crests are also seen, but a touch more uncommon since they cost more money and skill and not everyone could afford it. Those are the only style that don't seem to redundantly scream "Here lyes such and such- he's really dead and wants you to know about it".
The epitaph on Captain Daniel Malcolm’s tombstone at Copp’s Hill is riddled with the marks of British bullets- I wish I would have known that while I was there. How festive! I really like old cemeteries and grounds, and especially ones like this that are historical, decayed and broken.  So, naturally I would recommend it. It's right down the road from the Old North Church. The uphill walk will kick your butt, too, but it has a nice view of the Charles River and the dynamics of the city.
South Station is beautiful. I love me some architecture and 1898 really knew how to show off. Fun Fact about me- my pub trivia team name is Michael Dukakis and the Cultural Warriors. And this is the Michael Dukakis Transpo Center. Fitting.

Good: The best part of Boston? THE PRIMARK STORE!!! Ok, not the best part, but it's pretty cool. My Dutch friends have been sending me gifts from Primark Holland for years, so to see the size of the Boston Harry Potter section was a treat! Some other nice spots: Chinatown is typical but it has some beautiful graffiti! When I was there in May everything was surrounded by cherry blossoms so that made it feel pretty dreamy, but the art is really cool and they seem to really love cats. I really like the North End neighborhoods and apartment buildings. Everything is really close together, but in a way that when you look at it it almost feels like you're on a sitcom set. Plus, the little pockets of restaurants is nice, like the area where Benveneto's is located.
Walking around aimlessly can be fun but everyone seems like they're in such a rush, no matter the time of day. The beer flows freely, as well, which Chris liked. He did say the Sam Adams tastes better actually in Boston. Also, there seems to always be a fruit market going on with some sort of musical, dance or kids act going on by the Sephora. We also strayed in Dorchester one night and walked to a Korean Cafe called CoCo Leaf, and I had a lovely chocolate cake that took me two days to eat. They're also very proud of Ray Bolger in Dorchester. You'd think he was the only person to come out of Dorchester. Which he very well may be.

The bad: Boston is expensive. Can't repeat myself enough there. And, oddly, there are small convenience stores (party store for us Michiganders) that are still cash only BUT it's not posted any place, they just tell everyone as they get to the register! Old North Church isn't necessarily bad, but it wasn't really anything worth seeing. Yes, it's old. But the whole city is old. Sure, Paul Revere went there. But it's still a pretty empty church and after walking for 25 minutes to find it, I spent about two minutes inside, a little disappointed, because there's almost nothing to see, and I think I even had to donate a buck just to go inside. I couldn't even light a candle. Not to besmirch a good church, as I am sure some people love it, but really, I felt like I had walked two miles in the rain to see the church only to go "oh, that's a big hill, I wonder what's there" and it was Copps Hill. That's the nicest thing I can say about it. Sorry. As for easy food, you saw my bit above there about how Dunkin' Donuts is almost twice as expensive. Walking around downtown, if you only want to spend a few bucks on something quick there are almost no options unless you just want snack bars. A bagel and drink, oi, I tell ya! I was constantly sticker shocked in May because it was my pit stop to get to my destination, so I wasn't ready to drop a bunch of cash just to eat in my pit stop town! I still had a week ahead of me. So, if you're using Boston as a layover, bring your lunchbox and thermos.

The Ugly: Another not great thing is that in city center there's a troupe of dancers like there is in any major tourist city that use kids, grown men and women and dancers from "all over the world". Its legit a 20 minute show, filled with great movements and content, but they talk a lot of shit and make people feel badly or stupid for not donating a $20 spot or more. I'm a sucker for street performers, really I am, but these guys were all dicks. I get it's their shtick, but, it comes off greedy, arrogant and offensive. Fuckin bros. Get a handle on your panhandlers, Boston! They rude! Good dancers, though. Also, people don't want you to pet their dogs.

Now, you should know that this opinion piece is coming directly from a Detroit Red Wings fan and has everything to do with my opinions on each of our respected NHL teams and locations. Also chiming in are my bank account, my boredom factor and my want and ability to wander around aimlessly with about 25,000 other people at any given street corner. I don't hate Boston, but I also wouldn't go there unless there's a reason or layover.

I'm sure everyone has something to say about this historic city, let me know your thoughts on places to visit in Boston, places to eat,  and things to do in the comments below and maybe I'll check out your suggestions!

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dublin Tourism For Outsiders

I had a short conversation with the staff at Abbey Court Hostel via Facebook the other day over a Conde Nast list of "Top 10 Things in Dublin" for tourism or something close to that and was impressed with the list because I love Dublin, but also felt it lacking- so, mixed reviews. It had the usual stuff you would expect to find on a tourism list- things I loved too, traditional tourist spots and then the list was done. That was it! It lacked was heart, tradition, history, reason and whimsy. It didn't mention music at all, bites to eat, nothing. It came down to Abbey Court inspiring to write my own list.
I had a middle seat and basically left a face imprint on the window

I loved this country from the absolute moment my eyes came across her scenery from the Aer Lingus window. Hubby and I went together last October to fulfill a dream of mine to go. I went solo for my second trip, did everything on foot, slept a total of 7 hours in 3.5 days (no joke) and had the time of my life. So as someone who fell in absolute love with Dublin and visited twice in 7 months, here is a list of my personal faves in the city; something for the new tourists and something for locals who forget how amazing their city is, repeat vacationers and people out and about. Aside from just walking around the city and seeing the sights, the bustle and the architecture of Dublin, this is my list of must-do items for any Dubliner-in-training:
Samuel Beckett Bridge on a wander

The Guinness Storehouse- Even if you're from Dublin and know the stories, I think it would still be a greatly festive tour once and again. To me, a brewery tour is something rad to do when guests come over; it's like showing off a little bit because it'd be a piece of your town's history- or state, or country- that only this place can delight them with. I personally enjoy the history of it all, like the glimpse of the 9000 years lease Arthur Guinness negotiated, or the Nitrogen display in the brewery tour. The Gravity Bar though, a definite must do!
You can see for miles!

Anne's Lane- Every Instagrammer's dream, right here. Zozimus seems like a pretty cool bar and all, but I think people really peek out for the installation. I did.

Abbey Court Hostel- highly recommend staying here if you're looking for an affordable stay and don't mind light sleep. Probably best for solo travel or friends.You can read my full  review here. I would definitely stay here again. If you're not staying, the block it's on is sensationally located- right between Ha'Penny and O'Connell Bridge on Bachelor's Walk. I miss it already.

Backpacker Pub Crawl- I'm not a beer drinker nor a pub crawler and even I had a blast. For 12 Euro you get 5 bars and a nightclub, free shots and a Guinness. We bought the tickets at our Hostel, met at the Mercantile and hoofed it all over from there. We saw a really great back at BadBob's and I wish I could recall their name for you, but it was the star of the night for me.
Naturally my gals and I took center stage for the photo

Ha'Penny Bridge- For whatever reason, the first time I was here I didn't stop at the bridge at all. In all of its glorious history, the locks and meaning to the city, I somehow didn't think of it. So when I went back it was my second stop. I stopped on the bridge and took in the scene, the people and took a photo every time I could, which was a lot because my Hostel was directly across the bridge. It's a must do, really, because if you look at Dublin hashtags and don't have even one memory of Ha'Penny you will feel left out. Trust me. 
Photo by Eliza

Trinity College- This campus is incredible. Truth be told, I looked into their Masters Film program last year. People talk about the writers who went here and may or may not have leaned against a tree, but really, it' the beauty of the architecture that I love. It's already on everyone's list of Dublin things to do, so I'll just say this; take a look around and don't let the fact that actual students will judge you for being a tourist at their school stop you. It's worth it! Pro Tip: On campus is the Book of Kells tour. It costs around 17 Euro for the tour but it ends in the Long Room, which, to me, was the only reason to take the tour in the first place, so it's kind of a butt kicker to pay that much to see one room. But still do it. 
Outside Berkeley Library on Trinity Campus

There are many, many more things to see and do in this city. I couldn't list everything obviously, but I tried to put in places that you might feel sad about missing, like I had felt after my first trip.
A few participation awards go out to Christophe's mashed potatoes right on Bow Street, Bubble Waffle Factory on Merchant's Arch, Marsh's Library, Grafton Street for musicians and street performers, Molly Malone's rack, St. Patrick's Cathedral (I like it more than Christchurch but both have unbelievable stories), St. Stephen's Green where only the sassiest of magpie birds walk, and basically all of the city's graffiti. I love you. 

Did I leave anything out that you feel passionate about in Dublin? Let me know in the comments!

As always, be kind to one another. Tschuss!

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Werk it, Sass!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Salem Witch Museum

Going to the Salem Witch Museum has been a goal of mine since I was 16 (in 2000) and first got really into the Salem Witch Trials. My mom told me stories about when she went and let me use some of her photos for a class project (she went in the mid-80s so I assumed it would be renovated since but they were good visuals anyhow). So to be able to go to Salem during Halloween festivities like Salem Horror Fest and Haunted Happenings was an incredible dream come true! More on that later, I'm sure!

We went to the Museum after taking in a few sites and hanging out with my new best friends Andre and Henry from Wolfman's Got Nards, a doc about the Cult Classic film Monster Squad for the Salem Horror Fest. Anyhoo, Andre Gower said that this was the one must do in Salem, since it's the biggest historical element and classic Salem tour stop. We were already planning on going, but it's still nice to feel validated with someone else's thoughts on a place of interest. *I'll just go ahead and pick up those names I dropped up there*
Happy Birthday, Hocus Pocus!

We had to wait in a long line just to buy tickets, but it wasn't the worst, just cold. That can hardly be the museum's fault, though, right? Witches... There were decorations to take photos of and with, and all kind of Hocus Pocus fans to meet. Legit. I was bummed that there were white tents up to block the museum from any photographic glory I may have achieved, but honestly, you see one photo of the outside, you've seen most. We get it, Roger Conant, you were the first baby born to Salem. Here's your statue.

Once inside we were ushered into a large darkened room with a red glowing floor. That part was cool, and we learned from slightly interactive displays about the events specific to Salem 1692 and how basically Cotton Mather was a garbage person and teenage girls are not to be trusted at their word. A few of the heroes and "heroes" of this story:

  • Rebecca Nurse was too old and deaf to really care about the trials after a series of examinations, so her lack of continued pleading was proof she was a witch. 
  • Sarah Good didn't donate money to the church because she said she couldn't afford it- so, yeah, witch. 
  • Tituba, the Parris slave/babysitter who used to watch over the kids and make witch cakes with John, their other slave/ Native to point out who afflicted the girls- you guessed it, a witch (could be true). 
  • John Proctor called the girls out on their bullshit, so, believe it or not, witch. 
  • Reverend George Burroughs was pointed out by crotchety old congregation members in Salem who wanted his money and land. His crime was that he was strong and surely no man can lift a gun without the Devil's aid, so... Witch. (Never a warlock for men, as that term is deemed foul, evil and tainted by the devil. Like mudblood, I suppose.)
  • Martha Corey was a God-fearing and pias woman who reportedly said that the girls were liars, as well. She believed that telling the truth would exonerate her and stated that witchcraft does not exist. Then Ann Putnam said that Martha had a yellow bird sucking on her head.... so, yeah, totally a witch. She was strung up like everyone else. 
  • Giles Corey, everyone's favorite Salem martyr, had his very own display and explanation, and despite him initially being tried for murder of a farmhand years ahead, AND turning on HIS OWN WIFE to witch hunters before they grabbed him for being an associate of hers, the beloved man's story will be forever remembered as saying "more weight" when he would not confess to being a witch. What a hero! What a loaded run on sentence that was! For those not in the know; pressed to death=crushed by giant stones piled on until you die terribly. 
More weight! To cover my shame for essentially signing my wife's death warrant!- Giles, probably.
He doesn't deserve a clear photo. Still not sorry, Giles. 
The hanging of George Burroughs. Not Martha Corey.

After the talking display ended (talking displays? Witchcraft!) we were ushered past the giftshop to a non-interactive timeline of the history of witches. We saw examples of herbs and dried flowers used in medicines thought to be of witches and witch doctor types, learned the more brief history of American witch trials compared to Europe (everyone was a heretic back in those days) to the more modern Hollywood takes on witchdom and some Wicca history of Europe and North America.
I stole this shot (without flash) while not even looking at my screen

The museum showcased the term "Witch Hunt" as more than specific to witches; it's the center of a campaign direction to a person or group holding unpopular practices or opinions. It poses a very political question of Fear+Trigger=Scapegoat. It means that the fear combined with a trigger, which can be a person, an action, an epidemic, equals out to be the "fault" of the scapegoat-person, group or blamed party. People become mouthpieces for radical events, genocides, Kafkaesque oppression, as a means to fuel fear or panic and target with their self-righteousness, hate and confusion. Ya with me? It sucks. Be your own mind.
The devil made us all do it.

The Museum itself, for all of it's displays, could seem downright terrifying. Spoiler alert- it does not appear to have been renovated since my mom visited 30 years ago. The gaunt waxy statues symbolic of the people hopefully resting in peace are kind of nightmarish if you really stop to look at them. Some seem to have marble eyes that peer right through you, which, admittedly, was part of the fun for me. Some of them brought out an involuntary "OH GOD" when seeing them lit up in person, but hey, that just makes it more fun to look at and makes the horrors of these atrocities all the more memorable. This, aesthetically, was right up my creepy alley. Imagine if they came to life. Scarier than a wax museum for sure!
RIP Rebecca Nurse

The Salem Witch Museum is more than just a diorama of terrifying and /or harmless witches from 300+ years ago and so on. It's a constant beacon for political activism in the way that it teaches you part of the why and how of the times, and how it's something we are still subject to today. It seems hokey inside, but when you leave it really causes (or should cause) one to think about the everyday injustices we see, even minutely. I think it would give pause to anyone who ever felt bullied, cheated or misunderstood (and so on). It made me reflect some, personally, and hopefully can reach more people this way in the future.
So eerie.

Though I'm not sure I would go again the next time I'm in Salem, it's worth seeing once. You learn a little bit, have some fun, buy a book. A good day and well worth the $12 admission price.
Hey, best friend!

Have you been to Salem or have an opinion to share? Let me know below!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Can't Find That Hotel Stay Yet? These Apps May Help!?

In an effort to try to save money, as I had mentioned previously, I waited to book a room for our Salem trip next month.

So far no good has come from it! I really wanted to stay in Salem proper for one night just to catch up on the urban legends of all things ookey and Hocus Pocus going on around town. But everything is booked!

So, here I am looking for new and interesting ways to find a room. A few new apps to break down, a few more shots to take.

OneTwoTrip: Seems really neat and easy to use if you're looking for major international cities like NYC, Paris, Istanbul....Salem isn't even registering AS a city in the app, Boston has only 4 options for under $200 and some of them are actually not in Boston, they're an hour out. So probably a cool app for outside of the US, considering the distance is in KM and offered to send me to Salem, India first. May keep it for Summer travel plans because some spots actually look like good deals.

These aren't even the most expensive options??

Trivago: Everyone tells me to try it, but I can't see why. I tried it, basically it's just an app to take you to I can just get the direct app for that instead. Trivago listed as the world's leading hotel deal finder, but honestly, it's the same as everyone else. Plus, what's the dillio with these hotel prices? How is paying over $350 for ONE NIGHT a deal? Saving $15 might be great for a sweater but on a $400 hotel it's really shitty. Why do people do this?
I'll delete this app since it's basically just
I did not book this room.

So far it's safe to say that my luck is not going well. But, I know we will be fine. These apps did NOT help because I refuse to pay ore for one night's sleep than I did for a round trip flight. Anyone who does that is wasteful.
Unless it's a really good flight deal!

All in all, I deleted Trivago and I will hold on to One Two Trip because I have no idea what my summer vacation plans hold! If you have any apps you think my help, let me know in the comments!

As always, stay kind out there! Follow me in Insta and Facebook 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Timing Is Everything When Booking A Room

A lesson in working backwards.
Hello, Boston!

Whether it be well in advance, or leaving it for the day before, it's important to take timing into consideration when making travel plans. Most people go well in advance and just pay the asking price no matter how high, without a thought. Some, like me, pick and choose! Sometimes timing doesn't matter as much like if you're staying in a hostel for cheap. Sometimes it does- recently I booked an expensive LA hotel a few weeks out and then day of I saw it decreased in price by $70. Also I got a hotel on Groupon for a good deal in Vegas, but saw and even better one a few weeks later on accident! Oi! So, sometimes it's ok to wait until the night before to book a room because that's when their panic sets in about not filling up. Why not take advantage of their eagerness to be at capacity and score a deal? No shame in that game! 

Unless, as it is here, you've missed out on ANY rooms.

Alas, as I am finding out, it's super difficult to plan a slightly distant trip to one of the country's biggest seasonal events- Salem, Mass in October ON a weekend! Everyone's trying to get their witch on!

It's important to be smart about your planning, unlike me this time. I got so set in my ways of researching and waiting for deals to drop that I wasn't thinking that this entire half of the state fills up for all of October for a Salem Witch Halloween time. And when you forget something so vital to the trip as that- you're outta luck sometimes!

As mentioned previously, Chris and I were hoping to stay in Boston one night and Salem the next, just so we were close to the things we wanted to do each day. We found a spectacular looking place in Dorchester (Boston) on Airbnb, and I thought I would reconvene my search for a Salem pad that night but got bored. (I KNOW)  And now it seems more like work.


That seems to be where the luck is ending. Because our second night is looking like we're about to be sleeping on park benches in Boston's Financial District with the squirrels and bunnies. It's hard to keep the mentality of "people will cancel" or last minute openings or deals can be found when even the bigger hotels are booked up for $200+ a night! Usually you know you'll be ok if those are still available because it means fewer desperate people and their price will even drop significantly a few days ahead. So part of me wants to just play it cool and the other half is already in a panic because if Airbnb is not lying, then only 5% of the rentals in and around Boston/Salem are still available- but keep in mind we won't have a car so it limits us even more.

So, lesson learned. Work backwards sometimes. It's not just picking a trip and moving forward all the time, sometimes you need to start IN the city and work on flight deals after. We're three weeks away and nowhere to go. But, all in all, it will work out because it's one night and if we must pay more, then I guess we will because I can't picture Chris sleeping in a park like a hobo.

Until next time, be kind! Do something nice for someone!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Heading to Salem in October means...

A lot of tough luck, really!

Turns out that for us fear finders out there, Salem, Mass in October books up about ten months ahead of time!

I know everything will be jammed with crowds in Salem, and Chris will hate that but we're going for Salem Horror Fest so I can meet a childhood hero and see Wolfman's Got Nards- a doc based on the canonization of my fave childhood movie, Monster Squad.

The flights to and fro were cheap enough (for most but not cheap enough for me!) and I figured we would wait on booking a hotel because you tend to get screwed the earlier you book! (Case: I booked an LA hotel for $179 because is looked DOPE and then when it came to a day before check in I saw the price went down almost $70! AND it wasn't that dope.) But now I may be rethinking that because of how fast I hear the festival is booking! Whoops.

I usually check out, of course, because I find good deals AND because I've got 9 of 10 bookings on my account and so my second night in Salem should be free BUT I just recently learned about another hotel deal app from a fellow blogger that I'd like to check out; HotelTonight.

So, let's compare, shall we?

HotelTonight: It is cool, but it is just what it sounds like- a very last second booking site. So I can find deals for tonight, but the deals aren't a'plenty for booking ahead. It's cashing in on the last minute cancellations and empty rooms, which I love! (However, I'm finding that it's a bit of a panic right now trying to find a room to stay in. Chris is not the fly by the seat of his pants kind of guy and since he's indulging me in going on this trip, I feel I should at least have it booked!)
Eyeball those prices- WHAT? Site promises -$235 hotels on average? 

One of the main issues with this specific hunt is that there are ZERO hotel locations open in Boston Proper, for which I was looking. They're all in the outskirts, which, for someone planning to Uber the whole trip, isn't as convenient because it's spending money on top of money. Also their pop ups seem full of bologna. If you just ignore what it's trying to tell you about other people you'll be fine.

So, this app seems cool and I will def keep it around BUT mayhaps not for this particular tourist trap. Typical stuff- Boston hotels start at their advertised special of Marriott for a low, low price of $399 a night. I'm not seeing a lot of actual deals on this one that are worth a damn. May keep it as a last minute attempt, but again, for this trip, I will most likely pass despite it being my tenth night. We'll see.

Airbnb: This seems to be the best bet, even though most of the homes are out of Boston proper. But luckily they are close enough to walk to buses and trains and what not, so spending $60 to be out of the direct area is better than paying $150 at a hotel in the same area of Dorchester or Lynn. Plus, the homes are Victorian in a lot of neighborhoods, which is bad ass, and run the risk of old crotchety Irish ghosts who have forgotten everything but the grudges! (Irish Alzheimer's joke)
This is our likely candidate, which is LESS panicky and more affordable than waiting on a hotel to open up. Plus, I actually trust Airbnb to clean their sheets.
Update: Booked!
And they have a doggo!

All in all, if you're planning a hefty weekender like this, it's best to plan ahead. For things like Salem, MA in October it's not always feasible to wait because things will book without you and you may be stuck paying that $399 a night price. Best advice- do your homework here. If you know it's something that an entire tri-county area will be a part of then don't expect much in the realm of last minute deals because there may not be anything offered. In general, sure, by all means improv it. Go with the flow. But for something major in the holiday way in a touristy destination already- PLAN!

As always, be kind! Look out for one another and follow me in Insta

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Choose Your Own Adventure- West Coast Never Agains

While visiting friends and SoCal a few weeks ago, Derek and Ivette, we did a lot of things. A ton of things! Derek insisted we see and do some things, and Ivette had a few ideas herself- like the Donut Bar where I want to live.  But San Diego's Little Italy was meh, Mamba-Con (the candy) was rad and I realized that San Diego proper is just another city.

Ivette and I later were discussing a list of things that she always recommends as a resident versus stuff that is built for tourism. I found I mostly agreed with her side of it, and would rather spend time doing normal things than wasting time driving here and there, overpaying for food and getting the stereotypical California experiences. (I expanded into all of the vacation spots we hit)

So, on to the BEEF!

Some California stuff that costs a lot that you can probably just skip:
  • Some of the more touristy trap stuff like LegoLand or SeaWorld are not necessary. Especially if you don't have kids because over 50% of the Lego park is kids only stuff so you'll feel creepy and walk around aimlessly a lot. 
  • In'N'Out Burger, Carl's Jr and Jack in the Box- If you're a vegetarian you won't die of starvation (vegan maybe because who knows what's in their stuff), and I GUESS these are what Californians call a staple, but it's fast food garbage. At In'N'Out I got a grilled cheese which was literally just one slice of melted cheese on a not toasted at all bun. It cost me $2.60 and about 6 minutes of wait time. Not worth it. Better to go to a real restaurant for your meal if you're looking to eat out at a true CA place, not a chain. I don't know why people ask if we've gone there when we get home instead of actual places worth going and talking about like Miguel's in Chula Vista where we watched them make masa. Way more fun.
  • Derek insisted that we need to see Balboa Park in SD because it's "what to do in town for tourists." It had some cool views but nothing that you couldn't see in almost any other area. Plus, seeing a botanical garden in late July in 95* heat- everything's dead or dying. So, not as pretty.  Not a waste of time, but I think it wouldn't have mattered if I saw it or not. Did catch some Pokemon, though, and pet a tiny dog. 
  • Wonderspaces art installation at the Port of San Diego. Pretty cool stuff, and Ivette had gotten us tickets on the encouragement of a work friend. It was really clever but not for the price and the time spent waiting just to get in. I think it's so popular because it's more exclusive- they have an allotment of tickets each day and that's it, unlike a regular gallery. So that exclusivity is the trendy must-have thing, not the art itself. Sorry.
  • Speaking of, Port of San Diego is something I guess everyone is "supposed to do" while in town. It's nice and all, and the ocean is always magical and some of the street artists rule, but meh. We stopped at Buster's Beach House for lunch and I had horrible and overpriced soggy cheese pizza but pretty good overpriced iced tea. The rest of the area was almost as bad as the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood for trying to get photos of anything worth a damn. 
  • Julian- as mentioned, we went and it was nice but touristy. I know it's a real small town where real small town people live and bake pies and all that, but seriously, not ALL pies can be "THE BEST" like they all say. Everything there was the best of whatever it was according to many wooden signs posted in font of everything. It took us longer to get to Julian from Chula Vista than it did to actually walk Julian, because it's tiny- about a block and a half front and back. The cliffs were really cool, but again, you could see similar views from almost anywhere on that side of Cali. 
  • Santa Monica food: Pretty much anything in LA traffic is a bust. We attempted to park a few times for the US Bank tower and just wound up driving all the way to Santa Monica instead, where I fell in love with Venice Beach for no real reason! The Ice cream at the pier was delish but almost all the other food was a bust. Chris and I went to Seaside for some chow (I got the overly salted spinach dip and he got a pizza with the largest pepperoni I have ever seen in my life). We met up with an online friend Kiyoko on the pier, walked the boardwalk and got some dry-ass macarons together. It was an expensive day in food but I still liked it at the piers. I'm just saying- if you can avoid restaurants, do it.
  • Most of LA stinks, really. If you're not working in LA and you're there on a weekday it's strange. Everyone around you is walking about during their work errands (but there's something fun to be said about being able to do work errands that require walking in the sunshine with headphones on while in business casj) but really, you'll stick out as a tourist AND feel like one no matter what you do, and that will get you some nasty glances and eye rolls. Also Hollywood is kind of disgusting. The Hollywood you see at awards is cleaned up and roped off for special occasions like the time Detroit hosted the SuperBowl and they cleaned up the litter and shuffled the homeless into distant shelters for a few weeks. That Hollywood is not real and the real one is trashy. Worth seeing once, but not a place to live or visit again. 
Grand Canyon stuff worth mentioning:
  • Grand Canyon Destinations bus tour: I'd recommend the tour but only if you're in Vegas for quite a while, not just a few days. Also if you're a vegetarian or vegan- bring your own lunch. The salad option you're given on the tour will not only not fill you up, but the injustice of it compared to the carnivore's lunch will annoy you all day. (I got a half salad and tortilla chips while my meat-eating hub got a full turkey sandwich, cookies, apple and chips) Then we stopped at In'N'Out for dinner- which again, vegetarians- not the best. So I was hungry almost all day and super grumpy about it. So, plan ahead. 
  • At the Canyon itself there is a hotel and diner- but it's so expensive (and busy) that it's almost worth the money and time saved to just eat a snack and be hungry for a while. We did get ice cream, though! 
Vegas stuff that's fun in theory but just a disappointment once you're there:
  • Casinos- they're packed with everyone. I expected them to be packed but not like high school hallways. Or kids. So many kids and teens! It's 2am, why is your baby out on the street holding hands with a toddler?? Plus they no longer supply free alcohol to keep you there. So if you don't care to gamble much more than a few bucks there's nothing worth staying for unless you want second-hand smokers cough from the ladies at the slots next to you.
  • Freemont Street Experience- really cool stuff but almost too much. I love kitch stores with dollar shot glasses and 13 cent postcards BUT it's hard getting there (and around once inside) because everyone moves like molasses here and the "band" on the loud speaker is just a bunch of pop covers sung off key. If you hate crowds like Chris does, you will hate this place. Some of the artists here are great, like the bucket drummers or authentic looking superheroes but you will also see a lot of scantily clad females shaking things for dollars, which works for them but is also kind of sad that they do it and that people pay for a photo with a girl in a bra or a guy in a banana hammock. Like Hollywood, saw it once, marveled at a few things, never have to go again. 
  • Circus Circus Hotel- fun in theory and in photos, and marketed well but when you get there- the room is nice but there are too many kids, too many people who don't understand elevators (what?) and the shows they promote having in their midway are 25 minutes of waiting for a 4 minute show. Really good customer service, though. 
  • The Flagship Taco Bell Cantina: As I had mentioned- it's a disappointment.  If you've seen their posts on it, they make it seem like the ultimate TBell experience with merchandise, retired menu items and booze parties. But in reality it's a regular TB Cantina, the merchandise is just the stuff from Forever 21 last year and some towels, the music was too loud and the menu is the same at home. But the patio is nice. And filled with drunk girls in rompers. So many rompers.

Boston; Do or Do Not.

Boston is a heck of a city! Pretty much avoid anything, Boston is terrible. Just joking. Mostly. On the whole, really, it's just ano...