San Francisco: Sweet Spot of California

One of the highest populated cities in California, San Francisco is a beautiful city with many fantastic attractions.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco twice, so I attest to that sentiment.

San Francisco is a beautiful city on the bay which has great food, cool temps, and is one of the few cities lined with staircases on its streets.

Assuming you have a chance to travel to San Francisco, here are a few attractions you won’t want to miss:

1) Golden Gate bridge (a bright orange, suspension bridge that crosses the Golden Gate which connects the bay to the Ocean)

2) Alcatraz (infamous, island prison where super g-men such as Al Capone were housed)

3) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (home to masterpieces from artists such as Jackson Pollack and Paul Klee)

4) Fisherman’s Wharf (a major tourist attraction on the San Francisco waterfront that has Ghirardelli Square, a wax museum, fresh seafood, and much more)

5) Chinatown (California and San Francisco in general have large Asian populations so it’s no surprise they have great Chinese food. You can find tasty dim sum and other Asian delicacies)

What about traveling to San Francisco?  I live in Miami and researched flight/hotel info using Expedia.  I was able to find a deal for less than $650 per person which included airfare and a three-night stay in a mid-level hotel.  Considering the high cost of flying to the West Coast, that’s a relatively good deal.  If you have the means, I would certainly consider flying there for your next vacation.

San Francisco is a great city, with wonderful weather, that will amaze you at every turn.  The hilly streets and cable cars help to define this unique city in California.

Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman

I came across this video of Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman and was left speechless.  Joaquin seems almost despondent and his appearance leaves something to be desired.  He’s a relatively skilled actor, but his segment on Letterman left viewers feeling confused and wishing they could offer him a comb and perhaps a razor.

Phoenix is visibly perturbed during his interview with Letterman and at one point slaps his gum onto Dave’s desk after a complaint is made about it.  Granted Letterman is not being gentle to Phoenix, but he’s also not exactly Katie Couric.  Phoenix should know better than to expect to be treated with respect when he looks like a hobo.

Could Joaquin Phoenix’s appearance on Letterman be an elaborate hoax?  TMZ seems to agree with that assessment.  They claim that his aspirations of becoming a rapper are part of his “phony stony act”.

Assuming this is a prank, I’m not sure it’s useful to his career, but it does get his story in papers across the country.  If Joaquin Phoenix wants to degrade himself on Letterman, more power to him. Free PR, anyone?

Orlando, FL: Theme Park Heaven

Repost of trip to Orlando, FL:

Several months ago, my girlfriend and I spent the weekend in Orlando, FL. Thanks to a great online vacation package deal, I was able to find round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for a very low price (less than $160).Our flight arrived late Friday night, so we went straight to bed in an effort to wake up early the next day.We stayed at the Howard Johnson Maingate East Hotel in Kissimmee which was very basic and didn’t include breakfast. But it was only 15 minutes from Disney and 25 minutes from Universal. Unfortunately, the free shuttle to Disney, which should have taken about 15 minutes door-to-door, took an hour as the the driver made several stops. The only shuttle to Universal was not free via Caesar’s Transportation, but it was much more efficient and only $18 round-trip for a 25-minute ride. It’s also a great option for the airport at about $7 less than a cab.

Saturday, we took a shuttle to Universal and went to both theme parks there. Because the parks were swamped, we decided to get Express Passes which are about $60 each for the two-park passes. If you don’t want to wait in line, I highly recommend these passes because you can make your way through any line in 15 minutes or less versus 60 – 90 minutes for some of the more popular rides. A few times, we practically walked right on to the rides! Gotta love Orlando.

Sunday, we took the shuttle to Epcot where we spent most of the day drinking and sampling different cuisine from the World Showcase which is a collection of mock, international cities. It was enjoyable to see France, Japan, England, etc., but there really aren’t too many other attractions. Besides Mission Space, every ride had an hour wait with no Express Passes available for them. Instead, Disney uses free, Fast Passes which basically allow you to come back to do a ride at a specific time, but they were completely gone by the time we arrived at the park. The moral here is get to the park early if you can.

Overall, the trip was lots of fun in Orlando, even if we were exhausted afterward, but in retrospect I would have done things differently. If I were booking this trip today, I would have picked a set of theme parks (probably Universal over Disney) and stayed at one of the hotels at that park. That way we wouldn’t need to take 15 – 45 minute shuttle rides to the parks and if you stay at a Universal hotel it entitles you to free Express Passes. The only caveat is that this option is more expensive. But some deal sleuthing on travel sites may yield deals.

Visit Louisiana: New Orleans (NoLa)

Repost of a trip I took to New Orleans, Louisiana:

About a month or so before the Labor holiday (September 2007), I decided to take a vacation with my lovely girlfriend. Originally, I wasn’t planning to travel, as I had recently been to St. Lucia for Memorial Day, but I was between jobs and needed an escape.

My good friend suggested I travel to New Orleans (NoLa), but my first reaction was that hurricane-demolished, Crescent City was still in ruins. However, after some research I learned that Louisiana, and NoLa in general, was in full-swing and that areas such as the French Quarter, the very neighborhood I would visit, were almost fully restored.A few days later, I booked the trip using Expedia.com and found a great deal: $700 for non-stop, round-trip airfare for two and a three-night hotel stay at the Sheraton (in the French Quarter).We had a lot of fun on the trip. Some of our outings included:

-Going to Valley Oak Plantation (very cool to see how people lived hundreds of years ago)

-Exploring the French Quarter (New Orleans famous neighborhood)

-Dining at Dominque’s and NoLa (Can’t visit NoLa with out dining here)

-Drinking/clubbing on Frenchman Street (much more chic than Bourbon Street and the Mardi Gras scene Louisiana is known for)

-Eating creole/cajun food until we couldn’t stand up!New Orleans was a lot of fun, and I would definitely recommend visiting if you can.

At any rate, if you have not been to New Orleans, it’s a good time at reasonable prices.

Trip to Manhattan: New York, NY

Back in December of ’07, I traveled to New York back in December of with my girlfriend for the Christmas season.  We spent 5 days and 4 nights on the Upper Westside of the city at my parents time share.  Manhattan is a great city and there’s plenty to do.  Some of our activities included:

-Going to Chinatown (the days of quality and fake purses are over for good!)

-Visiting the MoMa (it’s free on Fridays after 4pm)

-Visited Soho/The Village (Great areas of New York)

-Seeing “Is He Dead” a hysterical, Mark Twain Play (a late 19th century, French artist fakes his own death in order to sell his work at a premium)

New York in December, believe it or not, isn’t that cold. I chalk it up to global warming.  Manhattan is a mysterious city full of wonder and excitement, and as I result it’s no surprise that each time I visit I see or learn something new. Also, because I’m a foodie at heart, I always appreciate the new restaurants I discover which seem to be in endless supply. If you haven’t been to Manhattan; it’s time to visit. And even if you have, you should plan a return visit.

Tales of Washington, DC and Newseum

This is a useful repost of my recent trip to Washington, DC:

I need to doubleup on this blog as I didn’t write anything about Sunday night. Here’s goes nothing.

Yesterday, after a quick lunch at the apartment, we headed to Tyson’s Corner, a mall in McLean VA, where we did some holiday shopping. There were some great deals at Macy’s, so I didn’t have to spend too much money on gifts. After several hours of shopping, we dined at Sandia, a mexican restaurant, that was moderately priced, and moderately tasty. Once we finished, we headed home as some of the gang had to work today and much of this week.

Today, I got off to a late start. I was a little bit tired (and preoccupied about my girlfriend’s visit to Colombia). But I eventually dragged myself out of the apartment into the twenty-four-degree weather of DC. I headed to Chinatown to get some dim sum, but I couldn’t find the restaurant on my iPhone (and the 80mph wind gusts were freezing my ears), so I stumbled into an inexpensive Chinese eatery where I had a quick meal. It wasn’t anything to blog home about, but it did the job. Next, I found my way to the Newseum. It’s completely dedicated to the historic moments of America’s past. There, I watched a short film in 4-D about innovations in reporting and saw a 9-11 exhibit. It was quite interesting. I may go back tomorrow as I didn’t have much time to spend there.

I met my friends for dinner at Raku, one of the first restaurants at which I dined when I came here for college almost seven years ago. I had the fried calamari, a spicy tuna roll, and a miso soup. Very low-carb for sure. We topped-off the night by seeing Frost/Nixon (they stole the title styling from Nip/Tuck). It was very well-done and Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost) gave superb performances. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend it.

Madrid: The Center of Spain

Gran Via, Madrid

Ah, Madrid. It’s one of my favorite European cities. And definitely one of the top destinations in Spain.

If you have a chance to visit, here are some places to see and things to do:

1) El Museo Prado (one of the best museums in Madrid)

2) Retiro park (a gorgeous park with trees, fountains, a lake, and much more)

3) Any cafeteria (or small restaurant/bar) which serves tapas

4) Day trip to Granada to see La Alhambra (Spanish castle)

5) Day trip to Toledo

6) El Rastro (outdoor market)

7) Go to Plaza de toros for a bullfight (not for the faint of heart!)

These are my suggestions. But check out this more comprehensive list of almost 300 Madrid attractions for more ideas.

Last Night’s Nip/Tuck: Episode 5.19

Last night’s Nip/Tuck, episode 5.19, was full of surprises. The show is certainly employs a soap opera style which puts the viewer on the edge of his seat.

I couldn’t believe that Kimber would even entertain the notion of injecting collagen into Jenna’s mouth. And that Christian eventually buckled under the pressure as well.  Typical Nip/Tuck morals I suppose.

And did anyone else find it ironic the Sean hired that new anesthesiologist after his directive that he/she not just be another “piece”?

The best part of episode 5.19 has to be the man who could “pleasure himself”. It was highly amusing that someone would actually get that sort of reduction surgery.

Equally shocking was Liz’s departure. Could a main character of the show be leaving for good? We all sort of expected this day would eventually arrive, but Liz can’t really leave, can she?

Finally, it appears that Christian is dying! There must be some caveat to this, but we’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

Stay tuned for more Nip/Tuck episode posts.

SNL Cooper Bradley Episode

I’m watching last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live and am really enjoy it a lot more than the previous SNL episode. The digital short featuring T-Pain is hysterical and I loved the “I’m Gonna Sleep with Your Wife” game show.

Cooper Bradley is a great host who brings a certain energy to the show.  He’s also great on Nip/Tuck as Aidan Stone.

Perhaps SNL is like the stock market: volatile and unexpected.  You never know when a clever digital short will pop-up.

Chicago, My Kind of Town

I returned from a four-day trip to Chicago yesterday, and despite the somewhat frigid weather, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Chicago is a wonderful city and has much to offer its visitors.

Thursday night we had a late lunch at Noodles and Company, a chain-restaurant that serves up tasty stir-fried noodle dishes, salads, and homemade soups, before walking to Millennium Park.  Millennium Park is a compact, grass-covered area downtown with video sculptures, an amphitheater, and a view of the lake.  Later that night, we headed to NV Lounge, a chic, top-floor lounge with a nice bar and secluded balcony.

Friday we went to the Shedd Aquarium, a large indoor-aquarium, and the Field Museum, a history/science museum, located downtown.  There was a school field trip which made the museum and aquarium quite busy.  This may be an indication that Friday is not the ideal day to visit.  The aquarium had a great 4-D IMAX movie about sea creatures and an enormous selection of fish, sharks, and stingrays.  Over at the Field Museum we saw Egyptian tombs and an underground exhibit on subterranean insects.  At night, we headed to Navy Pier, where we explored the unfortunately, mostly dead area of shops, and then mistakenly dined at Billy Goat Tavern.  We ate paper-thin, chalky burgers which needed gallons of soda just to be swallowed.  Hey, not every meal can be perfect.

Saturday we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which had some exquisite abstract pieces including video installations, photography, and furniture.  Next, my sister and I decided to leave the downtown area and metroed over to Division Street.  Division Street is a main thoroughfare lined with funky shops and restaurants.  There we found an authentic Mexican restaurant (sorry, I can’t remember the name but it’s across from a WaMu near the Division metro stop), where we dined on burritos with barbacoa and chicken-filled tacos.  Later that night, we had drinks at Kerryman Irish Bar, a cozy bar with wood floors, good beer, and a quite atmosphere.  For dinner, we ate at Rockit, a trendy restaurant with a nice variety of menu options.  The tuna burger was pretty good but needed wasabi and soy sauce.  But the sweet potato fries were superb.

Finally, Sunday we found our way to the Art Institute of Chicago.  The Art Institute houses impressionist masterpieces from the likes of Monet and Seurat, as well as Japanese prints, ancient artifacts, and sculptures.  On exhibition was the photography of Yousuf Karsh.  He essentially used innovative techniques to photograph nearly every  influential person of the 20th century including artists, celebrities, politicians, and philosophers.  The best part of this day, however, was hot dogs at The Weiner’s Circle.  Located in Lincoln Park, Weiner’s Circle offers up juicy, chargrilled hot dogs and sausages and delectable french fries.  If you have a chance, I recommend checking it out.

Overall, Chicago is a great city, and despite the harsh weather (at least on Thursday), it was definitely worth the visit.