Tag Archives: writing

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.


Smack Dab in the Middle of Texas, Part Three: History & the Kitchen Sink

When this mini-series was started, I thought Texas might be my last stop on a line of trips I had been taking, so there’d be a slew of time to really dig into it. Wrong. But I still want to do it proper justice and wrap this up right.

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Fredericksburg has a big German history. Apparently a ton of German settlers made their way to Texas in the 1800s and left their mark.

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This might be the best tour guide ever, and of course I can’t remember his name. He brought us through the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch, complete with house, stables, museum, schoolhouse, cemetery and tons of land.

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Former president Johnson’s house has been perfectly preserved with almost all of its original furnishings. I loved Lady Bird’s touches as well, like this pillow on the presidential chair that said “This is my ranch and I’ll do as I damn please”.

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Not only did they have the “Texas White House” and school on the ranch, they had LITTLE FARM ANIMAL BABIES. There’s a whole section just for them as well as period homes to reflect what Johnson’s childhood would have been like.

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Ranch hand at the farm overlooking everything.

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I think I mentioned the Hangar Hotel before, but it was a real treat to stay here. Everything looks like it’s been frozen in the 1940s. My favorite part was the swanky cocktail lounge. I wish I had some slinky dress to wear in there while I sipped my martini.

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I’m not crazy about history, but the brand new WWII museum in town really kept me riveted  They have these great bomber jackets and memorabilia on display. There’s a reenactment type exhbiit on Pearl harbor with a massive tank that made me tear up, it was so moving and amazing.

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These two weren’t on the itinerary, but they hung around the Hangar Hotel and offered rides in this 1929 airplane. Winston was the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen and I fell in love the moment I saw his unfortunate mutt.

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Right?!


Where is time going?!

Honestly. This is the shortest blog post ever from me by far, but I wanted to bookmark this moment so I don’t let time slip by again! I can’t believe it’s been days since my last update, for shame. With trips and networking and life, it’s been a bit nutty. But back on track next week for some more interesting stuff, promise.

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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.


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.


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 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?


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