colorful hue, vietnam

DSC_2542.jpg

Love a good pun.  Pronounced hway (not really exactly right don’t @ me) not hugh like the color or Grant, this very proud city was the former Imperial capital of Vietnam until the end of the Nguyen dynasty in 1945. I’m sure you’re familiar with what happened next.  Vietnam has three regions, and this is the largest city in the central region (see previous posts on Hanoi and Saigon/HCM).

Hue was the stop after Hoi An, my favorite on the Vietnam itinerary, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had I NOT GOTTEN SICK on the way there.  I made a rookie travel mistake that you will read all about after the jump.  Hot tip: don’t drink foreign beverages.

right hue, wrong hue

Continue reading

All’s Mayahual in Costa Maya

IMG_9848.jpeg

Quintana Roo is an eastern Mexican state on the Yucatan peninsula and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. From Cancun to Cozumel, you will find resort towns dotting the entire length of the Caribbean coast. It’s not all sandy beaches, there’s a ton of historical Mayan settlements and various ecosystems.

Costa Maya is basically a Disney-fied version of a Mexican port. Legit, it literally looks like the same developers who build the attractions at Disney built it – from the colorful plaster/stucco walls to the just-so perfect vibrant décor. El nombre real de esta area en del este de Mexico es Mahahual. I guess they figure that’s a little harder to pronounce than the more Anglicized Costa Maya. It is basically the southern most point of the Mexican seaboard and is a stone’s throw away from Belize.

My oh Mayans…

Continue reading

row, row, roatan

IMG_9533.jpeg

Honduras.

Not a region of Mexico.

There’s been plenty of news out of this country in regards to the dangerous conditions and crime, but what doesn’t get as much press is that it is a culturally rich country abutting the Caribbean sea that has white sandy beaches, temperate surf and colorful, friendly people.

Tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free, this is where I long to be…

Continue reading

3 days in Toronto: NBA Finals edition

IMG_8572.jpg

A year ago, I literally posted that about the move that sent Kawhi up north. Well, apparently that trade certainly paid off as the Toronto Raptors will be playing the GS Warriors (yawn) in the NBA Finals.  No hate towards the Warriors, but aren’t we all sort of rooting for some new blood to take the Larry O’Brien?

Here’s a throwback post all about the great white north:

Oh Canada…

Continue reading

taipei getaway

Picture 960.jpg

Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, the large island formerly known as Formosa, just off the coast of China.  Officially, this commonwealth is currently a part of the PROC, but it has had a very tumultuous history due to its location between Japan and China.

Because of its location as a gateway to the East, it is a very popular stopover destination.  I have used it as such twice and found it to be every bit as exciting as some of my final destinations.

Perhaps the most well known feature of this city is its bounty of night markets and food.  The origin of your milk teas and soup dumplings, Taiwan is a food lover’s fever dream.

boba fete…

Continue reading

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

IMG_9139.JPG

In honor of the new Amy Poehler directed movie, Wine Country, that hit Netflix last week, here’s to celebrating some of the best Sonoma Valley has to offer.

Visiting Napa during Memorial Day weekend is a must for my all time festival love, Bottlerock, but I actually almost prefer the less crowded, easy going nature of the Sonoma Valley.   They’re both great.  This is how you know you’re old, by how much you enjoy wine country.

Continue reading

half of my heart is in havana

IMG_0640.jpg

Cuba has always been a mysterious destination to me, an off limits locale due to the long standing US embargo.  And what they say is true, you often want what you can’t have.  Thus, when the travel ban was eased in 2015, Havana shot to the top of my list of places to travel, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit.

Growing up in the US, there was not much information about this large Caribbean nation other than what was very briefly covered in history books, so I didn’t know what to expect.

This turned out to be a good thing because Havana was the best surprise.  I was stricken by its je ne sais quois (or no se que in Spanish…doesn’t really translate ;).  I mean, it’s an incredibly culturally rich and beautiful city.  It is both quaint and cosmopolitan, architecturally divine with its expansive boulevards and thoughtful city planning.  But there’s more to it than that because a lot of cities have those things and they’re not quite as fascinating.

Historically speaking, from pirates to American gangsters, you’re not going to find as interesting a place in these parts.  The country’s rise to immense power due to the sugar trade was astounding and its revolutionary history with its colorful figures is even more intriguing.  And being closed off to American travel for so long?  Maybe that adds to the allure.  Whatever it is, Havana is a really wonderful destination.

As Camila Cabello says, take me back, back, back…

Continue reading

day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

IMG_7089.JPG

My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

IMG_7078.JPG

There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

IMG_7082.JPG

It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

IMG_7077.JPG

The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

IMG_7098.JPG

Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

IMG_7130.JPG

This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?