Tag Archives: life

Bonus Video- The Hello Kitty Suite at the Hai-Lai: Taiwan

I was going to keep this under wraps, but I couldn’t help sharing the ridiculous walk-through of the Hello Kitty Suite in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, previously mentioned in Hello Kitty Vs. Barbie – An All Out Brawl. I was hot and delirious from all the pink, but it still gives you a good look into this crazy world!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRDKBRm_asc

Feel free to check out the other great travel videos that are starting to pop up on the CrookedFlight YouTube page too.

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One crazy night in Taipei, Taiwan

Every single trip taken should include at least one evening where you forget the rules and throw caution to the wind.

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Taipei, the absolutely batshit crazy capital city of Taiwan, is the perfect breeding ground for such an evening. We hopped into a cab corralled for us by The Regent Hotel, which brought us just in time to the Barbie Cafe. This needs a post in itself, so check back soon for that. After our fill of all things pink, it was time for the nitty gritty.

We had a tip about a speakeasy in Taipei that could not be missed, but was often missed due to it’s secrecy. We were dropped off at an address and spent a large amount of time entering buildings, leaving, asking directions and being blown off by coffee drinkers. But, determined to get in on this, we kept trying until we did eventually succeed, most after putting ears to the wall and being driven mad by the sound of martini shakers on the other side – so close, yet so far.

That is guerilla reporting at it’s finest. I debated putting up the other video that offers the solution to our dilemma, and I think I am going to keep it all to myself. So if you ever do stumble upon Ounce you’ll have to suffer just like I did.

Anyways once the adorable Swiss 20-year-old sadly told us we’d have to wait an hour to get in, we wandered down to Trio for a pre-game drink to our speakeasy experience. That turned into a couple of drinks and some complimentary shots from the very welcoming tender who struggled through his alright English just to bemuse us.

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Heading back to Ounce (I’ll give you a hint – it IS inside that coffee shop, you aren’t lost!) I slipped into a barstool and watched, fascinated, as Frenchie the mixologist burned a barrel wood chunk under a glass to create a smoky base flavor for a drink he was making. The others were shaking and swirling like their lives depended on it, adding to a serious, yet lively environment.

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Aaron is in charge these days at Ounce and is constantly putting on the ritz. A Charlestown, Massachusetts transplant, Aaron has trained under some greats in Boston and brings his own flair to Taipei through a bartender exchange program. He mostly sources the extensive selection from his loyal clients who bring liquor from all over the planet for the bar, which is a genius business plan. Alongside his trusty French counterpart, Aaron says all of his drinks are made with “clean sugars, fresh ingredients and love”.

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Nosh: Really anywhere that doesn’t look completely sketchy. The bartenders over at Ounce took us to have some Taiwanese street food about 10 minutes from their establishment, complete with steamy dumplings, egg pancake rolls and hot sauce. We sat in plastic chairs and waxed poetic over how hard chopsticks can be after a few fruity cocktails then made our way to the next bar. Ask a local where the best stands are or simply follow your nose.

Crash: Those who like old school accommodations can book a room at the classic Howard Hotel. It has your pool, your lounge, cozy rooms and a killer breakfast buffet with fresh watermelon juice. The Regent is near all the action and quite the classy establishment – with upper floors that have amazing views of the city below. Downstairs is a connected high-end shopping center as well. Backpackers should pull up a bunk at Homey Hostel Downtown, right near the train station

Imbibe: We had only three and a half seconds in the city, but managed to have our hotel write down the Chinese address of Ounce. While waiting for a spot in the tiny bar, we strolled right around the corner to Trio. They offer cocktails as well and a comfortable vibe.

Get crazy: You are in luck, because Taipei is the land of five dollar taxis, or less! So use that cheap thrill to get adventurous and explore every corner of the urban sprawl. It’s an extra dollar late-night, but well worth a safe ride home.


The Taiwanese aboriginal lifestyle

I hear the word aboriginal and I automatically think Australia. But that’s a little naive, because obviously there are ancestral all roots all over the world. We had many things like hiking and food on the itinerary, but I did not think I would also get a glimpse into the world of aboriginal life in Taiwan.

Spanning over 7,000 years, of history the aboriginal people of timeline are a proud and complex society. Roughly 2% of the population today can claim aboriginal roots. Many live in the area of Hulien, specifically near Taroko National Park.

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There are about 14 different tribes in Taiwan, some that only have a few hundred representatives left. One of their most distinctive traditions is facial tattoos. These days the kids don’t often take part, but many older members of the tribe have long lines and blacked out jaws, representing housekeeping achievements for women and enemy slayings for men.

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The food too was some of the best I’ve had in the country. The Lantern Hotel located in Taroko National Park has a working aboriginal restaurant, serving either barbecued pig, lamb or vegetables. The hotel itself has cabins surrounded by mountains, and a few recreated, classic aboriginal homes for guests to take a peek in.

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To learn about the aboriginal livelihood in theory was wonderful but of course I wanted to really get a feel for this type of life. I was told after dinner there would be an opportunity to listen to some live music performed by local aboriginals but I was so dead tired. By practically dragging myself up a few flights of stairs I was delighted to discover two young men on guitars playing a sad and powerful song. It can be amazing how music transcends the spoken word and can evoke emotion in people all over the world no matter what the lyrics say. It was as if I was transported to another place and time through this intense performance. I thought sleep as long as I could but only was able to enjoy a few songs.

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More things to come after I nurse this awful cold and enjoy the last few days here in Taiwan. We’re heading south for more biking today, then venturing back to Taipei via high-speed train!

-CrookedFlight


Where else can I find you online talking about travel?

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Although I’m lacking in sleep, my time in Texas has been absolutely fantastic. It’s true what they say though – most of Texas wine is drunk in state, and I am certainly the one drinking it all. I can’t keep up, there’s so many delicious varieties! Besides wine, there’s art galleries, Texas nouveau cuisine, cozy accommodations and really, truly, the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

But that’s all I can say for now, because our days are jam packed with things to do! I’m on call in 20 minutes and haven’t showered yet!

While I wander around, I thought I’d just offer all the other places on the web I’m actively chatting about my adventures. I’d love to find you there too and interact!

Twitter

Instagram

Foursquare

ViviTrip: A fun little site that acts like Facebook for travelers – allowing you to post pics, comments and track your trip on a world map alongside others.

Quilt: This primarily is a smartphone app where you can hook up with other travelers and “stitch” together the story of your trip through posts, tips, photos and whatever else you like to share.

Even LinkedIn!

Look forward to connecting on all platforms and I’ll be back soon with details from this Texas trip!


A Jersey Hidden Gem: The Bernards Inn Review

I don’t know where the time goes…it flew by and now it’s almost April! or so says the calendar, because I’m still freezing and walking through slush in New England. Hurumpf.

Luckily, last week I was able to drive south a few hundred miles to at least escape the snow and have a little break. It as a quick business trip to Northern New Jersey and I wasn’t expecting many surprises – a bit of shmoozing, some dinner and back on the road. However, I was invited to stay at The Bernards Inn for my evening in the state and couldn’t have been more thrilled to have such a memorable time at this charming, elegant and hidden-gem worthy of a place. There’s nothing I love more than accommodations with character, and the inn was bursting with stylish decor and amenities that were truly one of a kind.

In the small town of Bernardsville, about a 1/2 hour west of Newark, is a destination steeped in history that takes pride in it’s past stories of settlement, wealth and success. On a hill are some beautiful mansions once own by several notable investors, which mirror the class and style of the inn located in the center of town.

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Rooms are frilly, yet sophisticated, and each have their own decor, which exudes a grace and mimics a time long forgotten when attention was paid to the details – from dark wood, four poster beds to plenty of storage space tucked into practical, yet masterful furniture. I love how I was welcomed with a beautiful note and treats whipped up in the restaurant downstairs – these things are standard at an inn with outstanding hospitality. Bathrooms are perfectly suited to the space as well, with plenty of toiletries branded with their signature, shiny silver “B” stickers.  Not only are the rooms gorgeous, this theme was carried through the entire property- right down to the roaring fireplace in the spacious, comfortable lobby.

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I’m trying to figure out how I can justify a future wedding in the middle of New Jersey, because the property was that lovely, especially its event spaces. The massive reception room adorned with chandeliers, ideal for an unforgettable ceremony, was my favorite. Downstairs are cozy rooms and parlor-style areas that boast original stonework from the stables that adjoined the space a century ago. Style carries through to the wine cellar as well, paring each meal upstairs perfectly with a flavorful libation.

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By the way, the cuisine alone should have it’s own post. Whether you’re passing through the area or staying a few nights, make time for a sit-down luncheon, dinner or at least a cocktail in their stunning restaurant. I was thrilled to have lunch there, complete with towering, fresh salad, lobster pot pie and a tangy blueberry sorbet. There’s space for a quiet meal as well as a large bar, complete with grand piano that has live music on the regular to set the tone.

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Bacon/radish mega salad with homemade dressing

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Giant chunks of lobster buried under a puffy, flaky crust (food is seasonal though, check the menu!)

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So many blueberries in this sorbet!

Absolutely blown away by this hotel. Hands down one of the best and most hospitable places I’ve stayed in my travels so far. These are the spots that keep me going when I don’t want to drive one more hour or get aboard another plane – it’s the people who are eager to show off their accomplishments and reflect this mantra in their amazing passion for tourism, accommodation and unwavering hospitality. Kudos to the staff, owner and whole team at The Bernards Inn for making my road trip to Jersey an easy one. The full report will be live on In The Know Traveler soon, so keep an eye out!

After a predicted hectic Easter weekend, I’ll be off to Fredericksburg, Texas for a (hopefully) relaxing week of wine, hiking, art, history and anything else I can cram into my first experience in this state. Next time though, I’ll update you on my unplanned 24-hours in Philly that I took as a detour on my New Jersey journey.

Freelancer Tip #4: Reach out to everyone and anyone. It can be easy to feel isolated, so when the opportunity to meet clients in person arises, jump at it. Forming a face-to-face bond is often longer lasting then something online as well. Even a quick Skype date comes in handy to forge those professional relationships!


Top 3 travel things to do in Greenwich, England

My boyfriend (we’ll call him X) moved to the US from England when he was young, but always has been strongly drawn “back home”. When a business opportunity for him to train in the UK for three weeks came up, I immediately bought a ticket to join him.

Obviously London is just one of the coolest places on the planet, but X was itching for a day trip to Greenwich. This is where he was born and where he spent many summers exploring the town with Mom, Dad and his brothers. I was thrilled to experience it too, as I heard it was soaked in nautical history. I’m not crazy about the past, let’s be honest, but having X show me around was like hiring an expert tour guide without the price tag.

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After getting off the tube, we walked a few minutes through the streets of town and made it to the banks of the Thames. Here is the massive Cutty Sark ship, now encased in a display structure made of glass around its base. It’s the last surviving tea clipper ship and still looks magnificent as I’m sure it did decades ago.

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Honestly, I completely forget where we wandered after that, but X brought me to a museum in a massive columned white building. Maybe the Queen’s House? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because they had KNIGHT STUFF. Move over 8-year-olds, I have some imagination to do.

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Next stop was the Maritime Museum, full of shiny things and interactive exhibits. The highlight for me was the temporary Ansel Adams display, who was the reason I got into writing and snapping photos. Funnily enough the pictures were curated by a museum back home in Massachusetts and transported to Greenwich. I did love this place but started to glaze over a little when X went on a giant diatribe about the British hero, Horatio Lord Nelson.

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It was pretty unbelievable to see the actual jacket worn by this vice-admiral – the same one he was shot in while doing battle. You can easily see the bullet holes.

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Before wandering around the observatory, we waged a battle of our own to stand on either side of the Prime Meridian, which was established in the 1800s to help ships navigate the nearby waters.

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This is just a beautiful area. You hike up some stairs or come through the park at a gentler slope and are rewarded with a vista of the city below. Alongside the prime meridian is the observatory, with London’s only planetarium.

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I have a French macaron problem/addiction/obsession. This is only exacerbated because there’s none to be found in Boston. So when I’m anywhere else I drop everything at the sight, including buying one of these blue ones at an outdoor market that cost 7 DOLLARS, but I digress. Totally worth it.

When you make it out to Greenwich and have a sunny day to spare, don’t miss these three spots:

1. Cutty Sark

2. National Maritime Museum

3. Royal Observatory

It’s a charming detour for its marketplaces, museums and pubs off the beaten path. It’s not the suburbs, but it’s a lot slower paced and offers stunning views of the greenery below when you stroll through the hilly parks. I’m a little jealous X comes from such an amazing little place.

Have you ventured outside central London on your trips? Find anything cool?

Next week I’m taking a little road trip to New Jersey. Let me say, I can’t get enough of my car and the open road. PS, his name is Jose, he’s a little black coupe, Latin and bisexual. Which suits me perfectly for a quality, reliable road trip partner.


Going with the flow at Seville, Spain’s “Feria” celebration

Although I am thousands of miles away, every April my heart goes right back to the dirt streets of Feria, where horses are ridden down temporary paths, skirts swish and drinks are poured by the dozen. I’ve never seen anything like it in person before – in the middle of nowhere on a massive abandoned lot in Seville, Spain, a pop-up tent city is erected and filled with traditional dancing, meals, music and lights that flicker until dawn.

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Every year the massive archway, that is dozens of feet high, marks the entrance to the temporary chaos of Feria day and night (seen on the bottom right of the photo). The design is changed every year to highlight some of man’s accomplishments – when I was there in 2010, there was a nod to the birth of aviation.

The whole thing goes on for a week, with months to prepare. Women wear traditional flamenco-style dresses and the males often dress as horsemen. Families have their spot carved out for years and each clan owns a tent with a wooden platform to create their very own bar/restaurant/dance floor that’s invite-only. Everyone does the Sevillana, which is a kind of flamenco line dance that locals have mastered since birth, done in partners or in groups (usually just the girls). There are larger public tents for the common folk and tourists to enjoy, plus food vendors, live music, drinks and anything else you might need to throw a giant outdoor party. Not to mention the actual carnival for kids attached, complete with rides and coasters and plenty of bad 80s music to go around.

Who knew I would acquire a taste for “rebujito“, a supposedly cold drink almost always served warm, made of sherry and lemon-lime soda. After the third or seventeenth shooter though, it wasn’t so awful. It certainly helped get me on the dance floor more often than I would sans rebujito!

I had a dream that I was going to make a mini documentary about being an au pair in Seville someday and the wonders of Feria. It might still happen, but for now I think it’s time to unearth some of the footage I took while in the city.

For example, see below. Raquel, out faithful dance teacher, did the impossible – this poor girl took a room full of bumbling foreigners from a half-dozen different countries and turned us into passable Sevillana dancers. Here she is demonstrating how to use a shawl while moving to the rhythm.

The work paid off, as my friends and I were invited to a couple of private tents, allowing us to see how the locals do it and do it flawlessly. I later crashed my way through the steps in the public areas, but for that evening I simply watched in awe and wished I could absorb this infectious Spirit, or as they call it, “duende”.

With all this tradition floating around, making you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, it’s refreshing to be a little progress among the polka-dot ruffles and shots of sherry. These handsome gentlemen took the stage in one of the public tents and showed everyone up. Work. Bravo.

If you want to even dream about hitting Feria one of these days, plan way, way in advance. Unless you have an in or some friends who live in the city, accommodations are booked months in advance. I would suggest couch surfing or even a home swap/stay around that time, unless you have the cash to drop on an inflated hotel price. I was lucky to be an au pair living downtown at the time, sporting prime real estate near all the action.

In an upcoming post I’ll highlight the Holy Week too, which happens before Feria for the seven days leading up to Easter. Sevillanos do holidays right and shut down their entire city for parades, processions, food, partying and dancing until dawn. This is all BEFORE Feria too! Then I took off to Lagos, Portugal, for another party, but that’s another story.

Freelancer Tip #3: Listen, you are on the job even when you are not on the job. Of course enjoy your trips and live free, but don’t miss the chance to jot down some notes about a potential article angle or spend some time snapping well-composed landscape photos. Stay curious, even when home – you never know who will contact you about a lead or image request, so be constantly collecting and learning.


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