Tag Archives: life

I keep running away to New York! – Affinia Manhattan hotel review

It really is a shame that one of the greatest cities in the world is only a few short hours from Boston – a shame for my wallet that is. Luckily this ‘biz has a couple perks and I was able to return last weekend for a quick little romp. I brought the boyfriend this time and was planning on some serious sightseeing and only having the laptop open for a couple of hours. We enjoyed wine-ing, dining, an off-Broadway play and my first trip to the strange yet fascinating Guggenheim Museum.

Before all that though, let me sing some high praises for the Affinia Manhattan Hotel. While I wasn’t on official assignment, I till was looking at this place with a writer’s eye and was totally satisfied with what I observed.

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Right off the bat the lobby is insanely impressive, if not a little daunting. What better way to a girl’s inner Audrey Hepburn though than chandeliers, right? The front desk staff were top notch and super helpful in getting me all settled in. I took the old school elevator up to the 23rd floor and was met with massive hallways and dated carpets, but the room itself was fresh and fun.

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I like the idea of not feeling confined to the bed when staying in a hotel, especially when I have writing to do. There was copious amounts of space to stretch out, from the comfy chairs to the sectioned off office space with a desk and countertops. And a fridge! I loved London and all, but having a fridge is key, even for some chilled water to grab in the middle of the night. No silly mini bar either to shove over – just a big, cold space for my own snacks and drinks.

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My temporary home office came with indulgently soft pillows – a few picked from their famous pillow bar, where you can choose the right style to best suit your needs (from hypoallergenic to pillow iPod docks!). Two big windows open up to the streets below, letting in plenty of light. Each wall had pretty gray, black and white flowers and accents to give the space a unique touch of style.

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Yes, the bathroom was super tiny. But hey, welcome to New York. To compensate for lack of elbow room, there was plenty of other superb amenities -including full size bottles of their bath products. For someone like me with a lion’s mane of hair, this was crazy appreciated, as I often have to hound the poor housekeepers for extra conditioner.

Overall I only have a few little gripes about the Affinia, which makes me fear I’m getting snotty and spoiled, but I digress. One, it was LOUD. There was a fire station below is I think that constantly had trucks raging in and out. A necessary evil of course, but it did make me think twice about staying in the dead center of Manhattan (in contrast, the Hotel Americano in Chelsea was much quieter, but a totally different and modern scene). Two, it was tough finding some cute bars and restaurants within quick walking distance. This really is not the Affinia’s fault, because it’s right next to Madison Square Garden, making it a high traffic and commercial area I suppose.

No real complaints, though – I adored Affinia Manhattan and was happy to lay my head to rest there for the long weekend. These short trips to NYC are getting a little addictive – I might have to reign it in and wait a few months until the next venture to repair my broken bank account.

Have a favorite hotel in Manhattan? Or just a really memorable stay anywhere in the world? I’m always up for future recommendations!

Freelancer Tip #2: Have no shame when starting out. Of course be smart and try to avoid those shady online projects without a contract just for the dollar signs, but also be willing to put in the work when opportunities arise. I literally fell over myself when I thought I had met a legit editor, and ever since I’ve been handsomely rewarded. Yes I had a few sleepless nights, but it was well worth this NYC trip and all the future adventures I’m bound to have. Don’t make traveling the goal – building a good reputation and portfolio should be the aim, and the trips will eventually fall into place.

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San Francisco on the Blogs

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Pondering a trip to San Francisco in the near future? Absorb some inspiration from fellow bloggers. They have you covered when it comes to picking what to experience in this crazy seaside city. Read up on my synopsis of the best City by the Bay posts so far for the New Year:

San Francisco on the Blogs on SF Travel.com

This weekend I’ll be making my way back to NYC, this time for a little relaxation instead of a chaotic press trip. HOWEVER, I am always on the lookout for fantastic story inspiration so I’ll be sure to snag some stories while on the road. Any advice on the best eats and things to see there? I’ve been a zillion times but always try to experience something new every adventure!


A joyful journey to the end of the world – travel in Lagos, Portugal

I have a lot to see on this planet, which often deters me from stepping in the same place twice. But when the chance to go back to Lagos, Portugal, I couldn’t resist the crazy perfect beaches, cliffside views and vibrant nightlife that pulses through the cobblestone streets. Historically it’s been a busy port city, and now it’s a hub of Portuguese culture, food and fun. Last time I was there I was 21 years old and out of my mind, so this round was a little more subdued. But let’s be honest, it was still a carnival ride of hazy colors, breezy shores and the friendliest people around. I went for a long weekend with the party boys at Discover Sevilla and my new au pair friends from the U.S. and Denmark.

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If you find yourself in this southwestern corner of Europe, you have to see the sunset at “The End of the World” in nearby Sangres. The wind is so strong you can barely hear yourself think but it adds to the excitement of being hundreds of feet off the ocean floor. If you are going to jump an let the wind catch you like these two are doing, for the love of God, do it far away from the cliff.

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Photo fans can’t miss the chance to capture this endless view of sea and sky and some memories with their friends. Everyone was keeping it pretty classy here, but I certainly saw people let loose later on. A definite stop on your nighttime magical mystery tour should be Joe’s Garage downtown. It has a spring break vibe but it small enough to feel personal. Either get ready to take shots on fire and dance on the bar throughout the weekend, or grab a calmer cocktail during the week when the crowds usually head home.

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A lighthouse marks the cliffs to avoid some serious damage.

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Beach all day, dance all night. Some of the areas are a little run down with abandoned buildings. But everything is clean and sunny, so you barely notice. I personally think it distinguishes it from some of the other resort towns. This image was on the way to the beach where we swam and played volleyball all day in the heavenly weather. Plenty of restaurants are located along the ocean as well, stocked with seafood specials and drinks to help handle the heat. If you speak a little Spanish or Portuguese it’s helpful, but you’ll be more than fine getting by without it – pointing and smiling is pretty universal.

PS – Happy Valentine’s Day all you crazy lovebirds! I’m going to partake in the madness and enjoy some lovey gushy stuff myself, but you do you today and own that bowl of ice cream or hot date, whichever it may be. In fact, I am going to indulge both.


Top 5 things to occupy yourself during a ridiculous blizzard

After several hours of shoveling the white stuff out of our massive driveway, I still wouldn’t trade it for anything. People might be terrified of New England in the winter, but when it snows and the sun shines after the apocalyptic aftermath, it’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world. OK I might sell out for a pina colada and a beach in Fiji, but that’s not the point. For now, some hot chocolate and a warm roof over my head is just perfect.

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Whether you reside in a freezing climate or plan on heading north soon, take advantage of the snowy environment and find out how these hearty people roll on the regular.

Get a hot drink in a cozy bar – I’m a little biased, and but this by far is my fave. I miss living near the city for this very reason; I’m so jealous of my friends who can pop into a pub for a cold one and some blizzard camaraderie. L Street Tavern in South Boston is a perfect place to start with a hard cider before digging your way out downtown. Or, carbo load at Mike’s Food and Spirits In Davis Square, Somerville (right off the Red Line subway) with drinks and homemade pastas before braving the cold again.

Find where all the locals are enjoying the snow – Want to grab a sled and crash onto a nearby hill? If in the US try sledriding.com to find the best hills around. Otherwise, check local websites and Facebook pages for high schools, parks and more that have the scariest slopes to conquer. It’ll be worth it to challenge all those little punks who think they can beat you to the bottom.

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Make some snow treats – Now before you go all nuts, you can easily grab some clean and fluffy stuff to whip up fun little snacks just like when you were a kid. I mean, why not? Saves you some time filling the ice tray. Mix some fruity drinks using snow, or blend it with a little cream, sugar and flavoring for instant ice cream.

Learn a new winter sport – If you’re from somewhere that has palm trees, you might not get many chances to master skiing, snowboarding or ice skating. I can only speak for New England, but all of our ski resorts are super friendly and great places to take a lesson or two. They often offer student discounts or special rates in the evening, during the week and the off-season.

Catch a hockey game – Canadians might think they dominate is this sport, but New Englanders certainly hold their own too. Despite having epic, historic snowfall in the last 24 hours, 17,000 people are still expected to make the pilgrimage to Boston to watch the Bruins play tonight. You can easily grab a ticket or two to one of the farm league games, pro matches or local brawls, depending on your budget and time frame. Heck, kids will be playing on any patch of ice throughout the area, so keep your eyes peeled for young talent too.

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So I used to offer unemployment tips, I think now I’ll try to instill some wisdom on the freelancing world, especially travel. Feel free to ask me any questions and offer your thoughts on the industry too! It can be a singular job in nature, but there’s definitely strength in numbers when it comes to figuring it all out and being great at it.

Freelancer Tip #1 : In the beginning, even if you’re not sure, pick a couple of topics or industries to focus on. It can be tempting to dive into anything that comes your way, but that can leave you feeling lost or overwhelmed Choose just travel and lifestyle, or photography and website design. Play into your strengths first then branch out from there!


A look back on a fall travel tradition – Amesbury, Massachusetts

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It’s just so cold and blustery and blah here that all I can accomplish today is hiding under blankets and reflecting on warmer days of the past. While I do get great joy out of stick my freezing feet onto unsuspecting passer-by that can only get me so far. Instead, I look back to cheery fall and remember the encounter I had in northern Massachusetts on a kitschy and charming farm.

Apple picking is so. New. England. That is, if you’re a girlfriend who spends too much time on Pinterest and feel you NEED to drag your poor boyfriend to an orchard. Or, if you are a parent with easily amused children (what child ISN’T easily amused?) that have slight ADHD tendencies who want to blow off some steam by running around an orchard.

But why can’t just a couple of twenty-something gals also grab a cider donut and haul home a hundred pounds of apples?! We decided to break through the stereotypes and have a mini trip adventure to Cider Hill Farms in Amesbury last October after a Zorbing plan went awry. No worries, we went with plan B and ended up at this apple picking paradise, complete with bee hives for honey, flowers, a corn field, general store and even a few strawberries left over from the summer. Oh and those crack donuts, AKA fresh and hot cider donuts from heaven.

Is is proper to spell donut like that, or must it be doughnuts?! Has Dunkin’ Donuts ruined my spelling so bad that I think this is grammatically acceptable? Anyway I digress.

This farm had every type of apple under the sun, which we sampled (for science!) until I thought I might go into a diabetic coma. Yes we did get a few odd stares on the hayride from families and couples wondering if we were in some weird lesbian polygamous situation, but other than that it was a blast.

I was high on apple hunting and didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but here’s a few of the scenery. I love visiting farms in general, so I think I’m going to make an effort to experience more nature next time I get to Europe, South America, wherever. Is apple picking only a thing in the northeast? Can you do this elsewhere in the world?

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A clueless walk around London’s art scene

I don’t know the difference between a Monet and Matisse. Alright I do a little, but go with it.

While in London I was on complete sensory overload and was trying to keep my mind distracted from the bitter cold. Of course I visited the museum and got an eye-full of naked marble statues, but right out on the streets is where some of the city’s hidden creative jewels lie. Sometimes I didn’t know what I was looking for, others popped right out of the scenery like magic. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and it can be seen all day, everyday, especially when in a fresh location.

This isn’t exactly the “scene”, but from an untrained, unhipster viewpoint this is what drew me in at a glance.

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Throughout Box Park there are posters and installations up for the visual taking. Not only is this entire complex in Shoreditch made of old shipping containers, the restaurants, shops and consumers themselves are all canvases. This print in particular really did make me snort aloud, as it’s a deer wearing a tiger onesie proclaiming “Thanks Mum!” Hoot.

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Art students sketching fashion inside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. I wish I could draw myself, but I’ll leave it to the experts.

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Statues are obviously a staple in cities, but they can often be overlooked. These horses were running through Piccadilly Circus. How a sculptor can catch movement in stone and metal is beyond me. I could have stared at the details for hours, but tourists were climbing all over them so I moved along quickly.

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Of all the things to see at the Wellcome Collection museum and exhibit, the visitor made mini-drawings were my favorite. The entire wall was lined with these, stored behind two white tables filled with colored pencils, as twenty-somethings furiously scribbled away to add to the installation. I’m not sure there was a rhythm or reason, but I found them to be a small, small window into the mind on a whim.

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Some more highlights from the visitor installation and the Wellcome Center in Camden.

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And yes, here you go. A marble man from the V&A museum, bits covered for the young viewers. All the same, London’s streets, museums, people, food, dirt, performers, lights, sounds – all of it is art. It all adds to the city equally and nothing would be the same without each part playing a role. Cities like London are the best, because no matter how many times I return, things will change and it will be new, as I venture to alleyways, exhibits and into the night.

Who else has been to London? I adore the idea that we all take in things completely differently. What caught your eye?


Preview of my dream coming true: Mazatlan, Mexico

I can’t believe it took me this long to visit our neighbors south of the border. Being an East Coast native I assumed I’d be visiting Cancun or Playa del Carmen on my first adventure, but instead I was assigned to Mazatlan. Located in Sinaloa, this city is hugged by a fantastic, warm ocean and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. They had a field day making fun of my Spain accent, yes ha ha laugh it up I know I sound like I have marbles in my mouth.

Besides that though, like seriously, Mexico is wonderful. All those rumors were laid to rest the second I met my insanely sweet driver for the week and the super helpful hotel staff who calmed me down after my luggage was lost. I met a woman from Bolivia who took charge as tour guide because she had already been there, and we were able to see a side of this city I’m sure many don’t experience. I had a lot of moments, like the time I was the only ‘gringa’ in a sea of a thousand locals at a beach-side Halloween party at 3AM, where I just though wow, oh wow, it’s all happening.

The full story will be featured in the winter issue of Canadian World Traveller, so here’s a sneek peak. The photos are out of order because, well, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Special festivities to honor the dead Part IV

Knocked this one off of the bucket list – witness Dia De Los Muertos first hand. They really went all out and had a massive party in the historical plaza, plus a parade with crazy Banda music. It’s a cross between Mexican Mariachi and German marching music – I know right?

Walking through the Osuna Distillery Part IITequila, except it’s not tequila. Only certain areas of Mexico are allowed to call it that, so this was Mezcal  Same thing though, don’t let the advertisers fool you!

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Dia De Los Muertos again. Many businesses and homes had altars covered in skeletons, tortillas and pictures. Even the duty free shop in the airport had an altar.

Ocean and island views

When I first threw open the drapes in my hotel room I saw this and squealed like a kid at Disney World. It was just starting to get cold at home, so it was perfect timing. The resort is the Royal Villas Hotel and it was the best base for exploring Mazatlan – airy rooms, tasty breakfast and located really close to everything.

Sun goes down, stars come out

Some people stayed at the golf course, while I got this view. NO complaints.

Margaritas

Mango margaritas. At every meal. That is all.

Living like a local

This kid, rockstar. He was running around his parent’s salon and noticed I had a camera. We had an impromptu photo shoot with him checking every shot in between to make sure he looked good. “Otra vez! Otra vez!” “Again! Again!” We were in stitches, he is a born entertainer.

Hiking up to El Faro

He had tags but was all alone at the top of El Faro. Super friendly puppy, wish I could have spared a bit of my water, but it was like Satan’s bedroom up there and I thought I was going to pass out.

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Being a guest at one of the swankiest gigs in town was definitely an experience. I wish I brought a prettier dress. The tourism board really outdid themselves and has everyone wear white to complete the look. We arrived and were greeted with a mango margarita and a boat ride across the harbor to this massive tent for more drinks, of course, and a four course meal.

A parasailing perspective

Parasailing was terrifying.  I HATE heights. But just like the kid egged on to lick that freezing pole by his peers, I couldn’t very well let the other writers show me up. So I did it and was rewarded with some of the most ridiculous views ever. Gliding along felt awesome, until I had to figure out how the hell to get down. Glad I still have all my limbs.

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Adios Mazatlan, un beso!

In the near future I’ll share my London trip and maybe do a throwback to Spain, since it’s my fave. I got my press pass for the upcoming Boston Globe Travel Show in February, which will hopefully create more leads and more adventure! Here we go!


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