Monday 31 December 2012

The Donkey Show - New Years Eve in Boston

Yes, you read the title of my blog correctly.  I spent this past New Years Eve at the Donkey Show!

The Donkey Show can be best described as a combination of two facets: 1) a disco party full of glitter, confetti, and dancing and 2) a modern-day theatrical adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream!

Beginning as an off-Broadway show by Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, the American Repertory Theater now runs the disco hit at the Oberon Theater in Cambridge, Massachusettes. Every Saturday night a magical performance plays into the night!

For this last night of 2012, we walked in with mardi gras masks, top hats, and make up in tow.  The performance began with not a theatrical show, but with disco dancing! The classic hits from Aretha Franklin and other 70s stars played while performers skated around and audience members danced.   

In the middle of dancing, the lights went low, music stopped, and all of a sudden, the drama began!  The complicated plot line was full of love, laughter, jealously, and many melodies along the way.  With the formal performance ending a few minutes before midnight, the dancing started back up again while we counted down to the New Year (with complimentary champagne of course!).

Here's to 2013 and another Donkey Show soon!

Thursday 27 December 2012

Disney on Ice!

I like cheesiness.  I like deals. I'm also a sucker for good promotional ads!  The lastest ValPak mailed to my home had a $15 holiday coupon for Disney on Ice.  With the TD Garden being across from my work, how could a girl resist?

The two-hour showed went through the main Disney classics like Aladdin to more contemporary works like The Incredibles (how old I felt for not knowing the latter!).  Though we were mostly surrounded by primary school-aged children and younger, it was still an enjoyable performance for kids of all ages!

My only advice, Disney?  Show more Stitch! :)

Saturday 10 November 2012

Think You Can Rampage? NLP's Rampage Team Fitness Challenge!

Coming across a LivingSocial deal, I somehow roped three of my semi-athletic male friends to join me in one of the toughest fitness competitions in the nation: The Rampage Fitness Challenge!

The NLP Rampage is a team fitness competition in Manchester, New Hampshire that benefits the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Comprised of 12 events, participants compete in teams of four to push and pull cars, roll monster truck tires, and carry teammates on stretchers across parking lots (this was my favorite event as I was the petite one relaxing on the stretcher which ultimately led to a win in the event).

 Pushing Monster Truck tires - not for the weak!

Competing on a team, each member will bring strengths and weaknesses to each event.  In our case, it was clear to see that John led us in rock climbing, Max won the sprints, Dan quickly chugged the beer (yes, that's the final event!), and we all failed in weightlifting!

 I rock climb while Max outlasts the other sprinters!

What I enjoyed was that this race provided a strong sense of cameraderie as the four of us would sometimes compete shoulder-to-shoulder, and in other events, we'd compete individually allowing the others to cheer on.  This setup also let us get to know the other teams through friendly banter.

Fearing we'd come in last, it turns out we tied for fifth place out of ten!  Mission accomplished and sore bodies to be had!

Enjoying post-race drinks at Milly's Tavern, the only brewery in Manchester!

Saturday 3 November 2012

Newport, Rhode Island's Restaurant Week

If it's one thing I love, it's visiting small towns all over America. With the New England autumn weather in full swing, Kevin Bradbury and I headed to the resort city of Newport, Rhode Island for its Restaurant Week.  

A port town from the 18th century, Newport has the most number of colonial buildings still in existence.  Former presidents such as JFK and Eisenhower held properties in the area which others dubbed the "Summer White Houses." 

Thus, when in Newport, one must visit "The Mansions." Equivalent of touring Beverly Hills' homes, these "summer cottages" are some of the largest and most opulent homes from the 19th and early 20th century. We drove up and down the streets, but for the more inclined, tours of the interior of ten houses can be made through The Preservation Society of Newport County.

The most famous mansion of them all, the Breakers, the former residence of the Vanderbilt family.

Every car that passes by (including ours) reversed to make sure that the camel wasn't real!

In the midst of the mansions lies Newport's Cliff Walk!  A 3.5-mile walk, the road winds behind the homes alongside the shoreline. We entered at Narragansett Avenue (at Ochre Poing Avenue) for a quick photoshoot before moving on.

Cliffwalk View from Narragansett Avenue

Unfortunately, though we wanted to go wine tasting at Greenvale Vineyards (live jazz on Saturdays!), Kevin's car wouldn't start!  Long story short, it has this problem where when the ignition key is put in, the car alarm sounds off, and the only way to stop the alarm is to use the key to unlock the trunk. Usually, the ignition will act up a couple times and then start, but this time, zilch! Stranded on a Saturday afternoon, we decided to walk (whew, small town!) to the restaurant where we had reservations, The Grill at Forty 1 North.

For Restaurant Week, Forty 1 North offered a special menu of a three-course lunch for $16 (money-saving tip: Restaurant Week lunches are usually 50% the dinner price!).  Located on the harbor waterfront, the chic restaurant is a must-stop for anyone in the area with welcoming customer service, quality food, and good views! 

Quote on a mirror outside of Forty 1 North

So excited for the wedge salad at Forty 1 North

Like magic, after we walked back to the car, it started to our surprise!  We were able to bring it back to the hotel and walked over to the Newport Grand Casino for dinner and attend a tribute concert to Zed Leppelin.

Sold-out tribute to Zed Leppelin at the Newport Grand

Kevin's 1997 Jetta. That is the interior (or lack) of the passenger door.  And he wondered why his car wouldn't start...

Luckily the car started again the next morning, but not wanting to take our chances, we headed back to Boston instead of spending the day in Providence.  We'll save that city for another day!

Sunday 28 October 2012

Chunky's Movie Theater, Pelham, New Hampshire

An impromptu trip led me to the small town of Pelham, New Hampshire for the night.  Kevin Bradbury, worked as a "boom guy" (film language that I still don't understand after years of living in Los Angeles) for a short movie and off we went to the premiere!

Chunky's Cinema & Pub is much more than a movie theater.  In my opinion, it's what every movie night should be: an experience.  Here, clientele sit and socialize at tables while eating dinner before the film even begins.  Ice cream sundaes while relaxing in larger-than-life-and-comfortable recliner chairs from Lincoln Town Cars?  Yes!

The admission prices of this small-town theater stay low at $5.75/matinee and $7.50/evenings (half the price of Manhattan ticket prices!).  It was the premiere of Thirty Minutes to Salvation, a short about "breaking generational curses and choosing your destiny."  I was never a movie critic, but I'll just say that the room was packed and the director's wife discussed the parallelism of the movie to their own lives; that for me was the deal breaker as once things become real, I become interested!

An hour outside of Boston, the Chunky's experience is well worth it and the first trip to New Hampshire was a thumbs up!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Boston Chic! The Charlesmark Hotel and the Longwood Symphony

Though Boston is infamous for its dive bars and collegiate atmosphere, don't be alarmed! There is a very trendy and chic scene for the working professionals out there.

Located across from the Boston Public Library in Back Bay, the Charlesmark Hotel was originally a private residence from the 19th century.  The hotel features a classic modern look with an elegant lounge and outdoor patio. It is in this lounge where the Charlesmark sits famously - its design was concepted Dennis Duffy and the bar is managed by Jefferson Ryder, both of whom are award-winners in their fields (yes, Ryder is an award-winning bartender!).

Tip: One Thursday a month from 6-8pm, the Charlesmark holds martini tastings with all-you-can-eat appetizers for $20 which includes a $12 coupon for the next visit. The main reason one should come though? The famous "Dancing Gummy Bear Martini!"

Jolly good friends at the Charlesmark Hotel and Lounge

The Charlesmark Hotel's signature drink: The Dancing Gummy Bear Martini!

Afterwards, we ran off (yes, we ran because we were late) to the New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall to watch the Longwood Symphony Orchestra. Since 1991, the orchestra has raised money at each concert for a different community organization. The musicians are mostly healthcare professionals and to date, have raised over $1,000,000 for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, the Sharewood Project, the Japan Disaster Relief Fund-Boston, and the Rachel Molly Markoff Foundation.

They believe that music and heal and have shown that yes, it can!

Longwood Symphony Orchestra, New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall

Saturday 15 September 2012

September 11 Memorial By Day, Occupy Wall Street By Night

The Mission Statement of the National September 11 Memorial could not have been more perfectly written to pay homage to the forever sacred events at the World Trade Center:

"Remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women, and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.

Respect this place made sacred through tragic loss.

Recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours.

May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance."
National September 11 Memorial, New York City

The Memorial is currently under construction and will be for the next few years, but the North and South pools (pictured) sit readily available for viewing by the public.  These pools, the footprints of the former Twin Towers, stand below a bold backdrop of nothing else, but a stronger World Trade Center and a powerful New York City.


Interestingly enough, the night brought us to Zuccotti Park, home of the birth of the infamous Occupy Wall Street protest.  NYPD cops were everywhere and as luck would have it, within minutes of our arrival, the OWS protestors showed up as it was the one year anniversary of the movement.  The best line of the night?

NYPD Cop: Oh, man. I forgot my granola bars.

Oh, New York!

One-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Zuccotti Park

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Whale Watching, Orange County, California

The Pacific Ocean on a sunny day with a cool, breeze and whale watching.  What more can make a girl smile? 

My buddy, Tiana Dorneman, and I spent a morning in Dana Point checking off an item on my bucket list with Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching.  Founded in 1958, the small business is still family-owned and operated. Being a Tuesday, it was a 1/2 price ticket of only $22.50/person to spend two hours searching for dolphins and blue whales.  

What'd we find?  Plenty of dolphins jumping and playing around and a very large blue whale!  If you have kids or are looking for a fun date, go whale watching!

Monday 13 August 2012

Pirate's Dinner Adventure, Orange County, California

I wasn't ever really into pirates as a kid.  Even for a pirate-themed dance in high school, I simply wrapped a pink bandanna on my head and wore boots with a cut-up skirt.  However, I am a sucker for a good deal.  So while browsing through my parent's Entertainment Coupon Book, I came across a two-for-one deal with the Pirate's Dinner Adventure!

Located in Orange County, California across from the Knott's Berry Farm theme park, the musical theater features daily spectacles including acrobatic moves, comedy, and sword-fighting! The interactive show will place the audience into color groups to participate in two hours of competition and entertainment.  And of course, there's a lavish dinner feast that will easily quench one's mighty h-argh-er (hunger, get the pun?!).

The show itself starts with a guide and her Up-character-like sidekick accidentally finding themselves on a treasure ship.  They are soon taken as prisoners of the ship and the only way to escape the ship and save it from an evil dictator pirate?  I won't give away the ending, but let's just say love and a different heroic pirate is involved!  

The show always features deals, so be on the lookout!

Saturday 4 August 2012

A Beautiful Wedding at the Descanso Gardens

One of my closest friends, Kate Alapizco, got married to her high school/college sweetheart today and I was lucky enough to come back from the Peace Corps just in time to attend!

With 160 acres of forest, Descanso Gardens serves as a scenic hidden woodland in Southern California.  For 50+ years, locals and tourists have come to the internationally renowned gardens to explore its botanical collection and enjoy its year-round programming (gourmet cooking or fitness class anyone?). Thus, it made a lovely backdrop for a summer wedding!

It was a classy night catching up with old friends and making new ones.  My favorite part of the evening?  In true USC fashion, the two alumni couple played the official Trojan "Fight Song" as they made their way down the aisle. Congrats Kate and Kris!

 Nick Kump, my plus one, and me waiting for the ceremony to begin

 The Priest and Groomsmen

Old USC friends and wedding party members, James Miao and Sarah Robinson

The beautiful bride!


 Descanso Gardens

 Yes, that would be my awkward and colorful Cameroonian bag amongst the wedding gifts!

Fight on!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Doing Dusseldorf in a Day (Or Rather a Few Hours)

It was much cheaper for me to fly to Los Angeles from Dusseldorf, Germany than Brussels, Belgium, so Adam and I headed out to the train station.  He gets a good friend award as he carried a big chunk of my 100lb. luggage in and out of train! With only a few hours in Dusseldorf, we dropped off our suitcases at the Grand City Hotel Dusseldorf Konigsallee (formerly Four Points) before exploring the city.  The hotel was classy enough in itself, but the complimentary sodas and waters put it on the great hotels list (four free drinks!). 

An international financial center, Dusseldorf often gets looked over by tourists for more popular cities such as Munich or Berlin.  However, I feel that its smaller charm with its fairs to nightlife is one of the reasons it's an attractive destination! 

 Town Hall Place Near City Hall

We walked towards the Rhine River to stroll down the Promenade (a highly recommended walk during sunset!) and get a quick glimpse of the Rhine Tower.  The tallest building in Dusseldorf at 170m, the tower also holds the largest digital clock in the world.  If we had more time, I would have loved to explore it, but our current mission?  Find a fancy place to eat that's close!

We soon made our way to Old Town and settled on Santiago Bistro.  Sitting on the cafe tables outside, we were able to people watch while enjoying the German sun.  Our waiter only spoke Spanish and German and we only spoke English and French, so it made ordering our meal very interesting!  A big hand to Dusseldorf; however, as a Wednesday night can bring out everyone in the city to enjoy a night out!

Enjoying Spanish food and people watching at Santiago Bistro

 The week-long layover in Europe on my way back from Africa was indeed a good trip, but tomorrow? Time for this girl to go back to the US after twenty-five months away from home!

Sunset from my plane ride home!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Things to Do in Luxurious Luxembourg

Not realizing that Luxemboug was actually three hours away from Brussels, we began our day-trip out of the country.  Would I recommend spending a night in Luxembourg?  Yes. Though would I also recommend the day-trip for those that want to stay in their cheap hotel with Brussels as their home point?  Yes.

Luxembourg's architecture was extremely unique relative to the types I've observed across Europe.  It's a mix of old versus new as the city's architecture includes the Treveri Celtic tribe works from 1st century BC, Roman ruins, castles, churches, and modern-day financial buildings. 

Luxembourg's unique architure

A tourist office (with free map!) was located right at the train station making our travel planning convenient.  Before eating a caprice salad, we walked across The Passerelle (a.k.a. The Viaduct Bridge) which connects the city center to the train station.  Be sure to take in the view of the Petrusse Valley!

View of Petrusse Valley from The Passerelle Bridge

A visit to Luxembourg City would not be complete without seeing the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Casemates!  Located in the old historical district, one finds a rocky castle-like cliff tower sitting over the River Alzette. In 963, Count Siegfried built a grand castle to protect his property.  The casemates, underground tunnels below the castles, were created and modernized by the Spaniards in 1644.  Here, one can explore a life-size human cave full of twists and turns. The lighting especially makes the Casemates into a surreal neon glow space.  

Standing above and walking within the tunnel galleries of the Casemates

We soon hopped on a bus to St. Martin's Winery in Remich. The peaceful city sits on a port and holds a certain still charm.  Perhaps I will have a summer house here one day!

Remich, Luxembourg

The wine tour brought us through 1km of traditional and modern wine cellars and ended with a champagne tasting.  Great deal for only 5euros!

Winery tour and champagne tasting at St. Martins

 Train ride view from Luxembourg back to Belgium

I unfortunately left my leftover pizza slices (the only food option that we could afford in Remich) at the local bus station, but it just gave me all the more reason to order McDonald's for the third time this week.  Delicious!