Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Weekend in Port Jefferson Village

Photo courtesy of Port Jefferson

Photo courtesy of Port Jefferson Village

I’ve been to Port Jefferson twice, having taken the ferry from Bridgeport, Connecticut. For a day trip or a weekend stay, this spot on Long Island’s North Shore – about sixty miles from New York City – offers activities from dining to shopping to outdoor exploring that suit any visitor. Upon arriving in Port Jeff, your feet will become your best mode of transportation. Many attractions are within walking distance from the harbor, particularly along the village’s Main and East Main streets.

Upon arrival, your feet will become your best mode of transportation. Port Jeff has a number of activities and options ranging from shopping and dining around the Village Center to even exploring the park and harbor facing Long Island Sound. Chandler Square walking has a mixture of boutiques and stores that sell everything from clothing to gift items to even some quirky tokens.

Here are some ideas for a day trip or weekend getaway:

Toast Coffeehouse 2

Grab lunch at Toast Coffeehouse. If you’re hungry for a fun and filling meal, head right to this eclectic eclectic eatery with an artistic vibe on East Main Street. While its walls serve as a rotating gallery display of local works, its inventive menus provide a canvas for well-portioned meals. Morning choices include assortment of omelets, burritos, French toast, and scrambled eggs. For lunch, find wraps, salads, and burgers alongside in-house originals like The Bad Larry, a grilled turkey/avocado combo on toasted flat bread. Dinnertime is still fun with fondue, taps, and other evening meals.

Port Jeff Brewing Company 1

Go for a beer tasting at Port Jefferson Brewery. Within the Chandler Square Walking Mall, this small-batch brewery uses a seven-barrel nano system to produce seasonal suds like its malty Starboard Oatmeal stout. Year-round porters and IPAs round out the list. Its tasting room serves up five flights of beers or a taste them all flight option, which can include as many as 12 beers. Tours are conducted on Saturday afternoons; call to confirm availability.

Cest Cheese 2

Try pairings at C’est Cheese. This artisanal cheese shop on Main Street puts together an assortment of cheese tastings in more than one type of whey. Find a varied sampling of seven staff-selected cheeses or opt to have three small portions ‑ paired with beer or wine – with a mild, moderate or intense flavor.

Graceful Rose 2

Enjoy fine dining at Graceful Rose. Named for this family-owned restaurant’s two culinary matriarchs, this West Broadway establishment has a lovely harbor front view with table and bar menus to match, featuring prime Italian, meat and seafood dishes. The wine list is quite extensive as well. From Tuesday through Friday evenings, there is a $19.99 pre-fixe Sunset Menu featuring two courses and dessert.

Take a stroll around Harborfront Park. Built on the site of a former shipyard, this ongoing construction project is creating a multi-purpose park designed to give public access to the waterfront. Visitors can walk on a 350-feet pier or a promenade graced with a sea-grass landscape. At the western end of the park, there is a playground/picnic area where families can sit and enjoy a meal and the younger set can have a good time.

Want to spend the night or stay the weekend? Danfords Hotel & Marina on East Broadway has the best spot in being right next Long Island Sound. This luxury, 86-room boutique property contains high-end amenities with features including spa-inspired showers. The waterfront hotel also has an on-site spa and salon, gift shop and a 24-hour business service and fitness center. With dining, its signature restaurant Wave Seafood Kitchen highlights New American fare that is driven by a “farm to table” concept with local produce and regional catches from the sea. Every Sunday, their buffet brunch with two seating times (11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) gets a full house.

Editor’s Note: I was invited on a press trip to Port Jefferson as a guest at Graceful Rose and Danfords. All the places listed in this article are ones that I dined at and do recommend based on my experience.

A Night with Texas Tourism

photo 1(2)Being a native Texan, it was fun to get an invite from Texas Tourism for their media night in New York City earlier this week. At Lightbox Studios, representatives from the tourism offices of Galveston, Houston, El Paso, Midland, Amarillo, San Antonio, and Rio Grande were on hand to share latest news about their destinations.

photo 1(1)Along with them, staff members from Texas’ Wine regions, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country, Hotel Emma in San Antonio, and restaurants The Granary ‘Cue Brew in San Antonio and Prohibition Supper Club & Bar in Houston.

photo 5(1)

Delicious pork sandwich with Vietnamese-style slaw from Houston’s Prohibition Supper Club & Bar.

Here are some highlights from what’s happening with tourism throughout Texas:

In Houston
Downtown Houston’s Historic District and Market Square is experiencing an ongoing major revival that is ushering in new restaurants and bar openings to turn it into a happening area again.
Other news for Houston involves public transportation. An expansion of METRORail includes three rail lines recently completed or under construction to give the city 22.7 miles of rail so that locals and visitors can head by train to neighborhoods including Downtown, Midtown, the Museum District, East End, East Downtown (EaDo), Third Ward and the Texas Medical Center.

photo 3(1)

A Texas take on pastrami from the Granary ‘Cue Brew, San Antonio.

In San Antonio
San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions have been nominated for inclusion as a site on the World Heritage List organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). If you’re not familiar with it, the World Heritage List recognizes the most significant cultural and national sites in the world. If awarded, San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions would be the first World Heritage Site in Texas and only the 23rd in the U.S.

Another reason to consider a visit to San Antonio are festivals. Especially for foodies, Culinaria – A Culinary Arts & Wine Festival, happens this year from May 13 through May 17. Culinaria will feature internationally renowned vintners, top Texas wine producers and the hottest San Antonio chefs. Another fun one is the Fiesta Noche Del Rio, running May through August, a 50-year musical tradition that features the songs and dances of Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Texas. Performances are at the River Walk’s Arneson River Theatre.

Historic Grapevine
Did you that Texas has a Wine Trail? It’s is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the U.S., and a way to learn and taste its offerings is to head to Historic Grapevine region, which centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Its Urban Wine Trail contains eight wineries offering different varietals or blends and holding tastings regularly.

As for me, I’m hoping to make a trek back to Texas soon!

Helpful Tips for New Travelers

736221_10203015057150083_7684945168442220415_oWhen I started out traveling more on my own – as part of an escorted tour or now going by myself – I read a lot of guidebooks and sought a ton of personal advice from people I trusted.

Now, thanks to travel blogs, community forums and pretty much the World Wide Web, you can find information on just about any travel-related question you have. Yet there are still a few lessons you learn from traveling itself. Here are eight tips that are helpful for new travelers.


Photo by Jasleen Kaur via

Don’t bring more than you really need.
I’m still a bit guilty of over packing but lugging around my bags has taught me to lighten my load. Depending on where you’re going, chances are that you will at least once have to carry your bags up a flight of stairs. So make it easier on you. With clothes, I bring clothing that are mainly conservative (in the case of going into a sacred place) and can be worn at least twice (think jeans/pants) and can be layered or removed easily. And that one or two pieces that could pass for semi-formal attire. For shoes, I mostly wear flats. With luggage, I prefer using nylon bags since they seem to handle getting tossed around and can also be easier to stack or maneuver into spots.


Photo by via

Get familiar with first aid.
Accidents can happen, and it can be tricky to get to a pharmacy. It’s good to pack a small all-purpose safety kit with you for any small scrapes or cuts you might encounter. Having over the counter medicine like pain relievers or stomach aids is good too. Plus, it saves you money. When I was in Switzerland last summer, I had to buy ibuprofen for a throbbing toothache. The price of the smallest bottle I could find: Nine Francs. That’s roughly $9.30 US Dollars. And teach yourself a thing or two about first aid. I badly banged up my ankle during a trip to New Orleans in 2011 and thankfully I had someone with me who could tie a bandage on it the right way.

photo 1-2Grab a brochure or business card from where you’re staying.
In the excitement of being in your new destination, it can be easily to blank out on where you’re staying. Though you should still print out all of your info like with your accommodations, grab their business card or brochure when you get there. Put it in your pocket or purse. Personally, I’m terrible with names so it helps me to do this. Plus, after I get settled in my room, I often head out the door right away and can forget to take a mental note of where I started from. And as more people are using non-hotel accommodations through sites like AirBnb, keep a Google Maps printout of your digs with you.

photo 1Pace yourself.
There’s a term floating around now called “slow travel” and it means staying in one place longer to enjoy it. If your trip is limited, focus on spending time (perhaps a half or full day) in one particular area of your destination. Maybe it’s a museum or a national park or street market or a people watching public space. Typically, Americans only get a limited amount of vacation time, so it’s understandable to feel the need to “jam-pack” your itinerary or schedule. I’m just as guilty. But then, if you’re rushed to get through a place like a museum, focus on one wing. Or if you have only one day, let’s say in New York City, focus on one district. And adopt a “go with the flow” attitude.


Photo by gosheshe via

Be mindful of your money.
As a saver or a spender, you should be financially flexible with your money when you travel.  If there’s one thing, you should allow some wiggle room in your budget to not miss out on sudden discoveries like a walking tour or impromptu plan changes. Also, don’t carry all your cash and cards in one place in the case that you might be robbed like I was. I don’t mind using a money belt, but I also try to be creative in using hidden compartments like an empty trial-size bottle for keeping extra bills from getting lost.

Shop locally.
Another way to delve more into the local culture is to go to the nearest grocery store. If in need of anything like a drink or a snack, it’s also a good source to get an item at a reasonable price. On the last day I was in Jamaica, our guide took us to a nearby supermarket where I was able to get a few items I could bring home (there are some foods you can’t due to US Customs laws) for much less than buying the same items at the airport gift shop. Even just browsing at the different shelves is neat. Food markets are a neat way to see what products are part of the local diet.

270297_423430587766911_1575752810_nLearn Your Way Around.
It’s easy nowadays to pull up your iPhone ask Suri for help or use an app to get directions. But having a good sense of direction is important. Get your bearings by picking a local map from your hotel or even tourist office (which are also great resources). Another way to get better at getting around is to use public transportation. Often you will find ticket options such as daily/weekly/monthly passes, which can also help in getting a layout of your destination – even if it’s underneath or on a set of wheels.  Or brush up before you go by looking up information on sections or neighborhoods.

What tips would you offer a new traveler?