Category Archives: Personal Interests

Taking a Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic

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All images courtesy of Fathom Travel

I’ve got some exciting news to share! Next week (May 8-15) I will be a media guest on a Fathom Travel cruise to the Dominican Republic, leaving from Miami and docking in Puerto Plata.

Having launched its ship, the Adonia, in April 2016, Fathom Travel currently offers separate round-trip voyages from Miami to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Belonging to the Carnival brand, Fathom takes a different approach to ocean voyaging with a “travel with purpose” mission. While each destination differs on this aspect, passengers will either become involved in immersive cultural experiences or participate in various community projects.

Student-English-Learning

For their Dominican Republic cruises, Fathom’s choices of impact activities may extend to:

  • Visiting a women’s cooperative that produces chocolate (it’s chocolate; how could you say no to doing that!);
  • Interacting with students and adults through helping them learn English;
  • Planting trees through a reforestation and nursery program;
  • Turning recycled paper into craft projects;
  • Building projects involving the installation of water filtration systems and concrete flooring in community homes.

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While impact travel is central to Fathom’s mission, cruise excursion options also extend to tours of certain areas and popular activities such as ziplining or snorkeling. As for their Cuba cruises, Fathom broke serious ground in making history as the first cruise to sail from the U.S. to Cuba (setting off on May 1) in 50-plus years. That’s big!

On my Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic, I will be posting as continuously as I can through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And putting a trip recap on here too. So please do follow along!

 

EscapeMaker Opens Farm Escape Pop Up Shop

Escapemaker

 

Have you heard of the term “agritourism”? Find out more by heading to South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan. EscapeMaker, a company that offers ideas for local and regional trips, has opened a pop-up shop promoting agri-tourism (travel inspired by working farms or other agricultural sties) now until April 24 inside the seaport’s historic Fulton Stall Market on 207A Front Street.

Presented by Amtrak, the EscapeMaker Pop Up Shop will be open to the public Thursdays and Fridays, from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors will find information for planning vacays that will get them out into countryside areas. Details will include ideas for farm escapes, wine and craft beer trails, apple picking locations, and local getaway packages.

Along with the shop, EscapeMaker will hold three Sunday tastings of various food and wine samples inside the market and onto Front Street. They are free and run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The schedule includes:

April 10th – Local Craft Beer, Cider & More
April 17th – Local Wine, Cheese & More
April 24th – Local Farms & Family Getaways

For more info, visit this link.

Exploring Fort Worth, Texas

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Recently I traveled to Fort Worth, Texas for two work assignments. For three days, I ventured about its different districts, exploring its culinary, historic, and cultural offerings. Although I’m going to leave most of what I did out – I’ll post the published articles once they’re online – here are some places to consider seeing or dining at.

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Horseshoe Hill Café
In the Stockyards National Historic District, this restaurant is all about cowboy cuisine – Texas food influenced by ethnicities and ingredients found in the state’s various regions – and serves up Western favorites. Its specialty is chicken fried steak. You can order the traditional version with peppered gravy to inventive twists like chili con carne and queso blanco or chili gravy and a fried egg. There are also other offerings like sides of red chile cheese enchiladas and a nice 16 oz. dry aged ribeye.

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Guided Tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards
Fort Worth’s history with the cattle industry began as being the last stop for cowboys and their steers en route to Kansas’ railheads around the mid-1860s through 1880s. Although the industry has changed much over time, the Stockyards are still a visual reminder of this period. One way to learn more about the Stockyards is through Stockyards Historic Walking Tours. Starting from the visitor center, a guide takes you along specific spots throughout the Stockyards and gives the backstory on these buildings. Tours happen daily. While at the Stockyards, see the twice a day Fort Worth Herd parade. At 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., a small set of longhorns and their handlers walk down East Exchange Avenue.

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Esperanza’s Mexican Cafe and Bakery
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to sit down and eat here. However, I kept hearing from locals about how good this place is. So I decided to a quick run over and see what I could grab. There are two locations, but I went to its site near the Stockyards. This venue gets a lot of nods for its breakfast and lunch, but it also has a side bakery in the front featuring Mexican pastries. I grabbed what I could say a version of a jelly-filled, powder sugared donut. It was messy but tasty!

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National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
Based in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, this museum is unique in that it solely is about cowgirls and pioneering women who promote Western heritage on many different levels. And it pays tribute to them. Some of them are known, while some might be surprises. On the lower level, there are a number of displays dedicated to Annie Oakley. A holographic Annie speaks about her days as a gunslinger, and her clothes and other items are on view. Upstairs, the hall of fame features photos of various American women of the West.

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Dine out on Near Southside’s West Magnolia Street
This section in Near Southside is a place to go for dinner or after drinks. Coffee shops, cocktail bars, and restaurants are lined along here. One night, I just walked up and down this street, and going into places that looked appealing. Desserts will always get my attention, so I went inside Stir Crazy Baked Goods, a cozy bakery along this district. Inside, there are cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and muffins in different flavors good sizes, but with prices that are easy on the wallet. Another venue that was recommended to me for more of a meal was The Bearded Lady. It has more of a pub atmosphere, with a full board of craft beers (including Texas suds). Apps are interesting like fried cactus strips, fried leek rings, and whole fried okra. Sandwiches and burgers have their say on the menu. There’s a fancy grilled cheese selection and a Build Your Own Damn ½ Lb Burger (I opted for the former; it was good.).

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Acre Distillery LLC
A recent newcomer to Fort Worth’s Downtown area, this venue is a combination of an espresso bar and distillery. In the morning hours, this place serves up caffeinated brews and light breakfast orders, particularly to nearby Texas A & M students. At night, the scene changes to more of a cocktail environment featuring in-house made gin, vodka, and two types of bourbon. These distilled spirits also get mixed up as cocktails paired with flavored moonshine infusions such as a cinnamon and can be served alongside charcuterie boards.

What 2015 Taught Me About Travel

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Photo credit: Whatleydude via Flickr

This year I got to branch out more as a traveler and a travel writer. I also learned a few new lessons for myself. Here are three of them.

 

There’s a lot to see in your home country – more than you realize.
As someone who tries to get to as many “must-see before I die” international destinations as I can, I find it’s easier to forget that my native United States has many unique finds. An April visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea introduced me to its quirky history – no stoplights or street signs – and souvenirs like a permit to wear high heels. During summertime, I got to experience artistic and culinary growth in Detroit, where a relationship between old buildings and new purposes seems to be bridging together nicely. Cheyenne showed me more about what life was and is like on the Western frontier, and how rodeo remains its legacy. And Reno has its charms too. So hopefully in 2016 I’ll do some more sightseeing of the U.S. of A.

Expand your travel options. It’s easy to consider just one option for getting from A to B, but consider looking at alternative methods of everything from transportation to dates to make traveling more efficient. With the hope that I’ll be doing more flying in the future, I decided to sign up for TSA’s Pre-Check and applied for enrolling in TSA’s Global Entry. They are security clearance programs in which once you complete a background screening, you’ll be given a special traveler’s number that you’ll be associated with you. It means you go through a different airport security line in which your screening will be conducted separately. The same goes for driving. Also as someone that tends to avoid being behind a wheel on trips, especially on my own, I made a stride in changing that by heading to Maine last November.

Learn more by doing. There’s no other time that I could think of which gives people the opportunity to travel more with websites, apps, forums and other resources providing tips and deals. The same goes with travel writing. Whether you want to post about your travels as a diary, or develop your skills as a blogger, there are hosting sites that can give you the knowledge to gradually develop your site. It does take time to flourish – I’ve been at if for three years as a blogger, close to 20 as a professional writer – but either way you’ll learn a lot. Even if you don’t make a living from travel media, you learn about self-promotion, marketing, social media, SEO, and networking. Starting out? Don’t be alone. I suggest connecting with travel-minded Meetup and Facebook groups and signing up for Travel Massive, a global networking exchange of individuals connected to the travel sector.

 

 

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Visiting Kennebunk/Kennebunkport, Maine

photo 2(90)Recently, a work assignment brought me up to southern Maine, specifically to Kennebunk and its neighbor, Kennebunkport. Typically, Maine gets many visitors during the summer months, but I discovered that these two towns offer day-to-day attractions to see, do, and dine at year-round. In fact, Kennebunkport puts on a holiday celebration called Christmas Prelude every December.

Though some shops and restaurants may change their hours (or shut down completely) during the colder seasons, your chances of exploring much of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are pretty good.

Here are my recommendations:

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Get a culinary lesson through Table Maine. Started by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection in February 2015, Table Maine is a weekend culinary program of classes led by local chefs and offering kitchen techniques on food/beverage subjects such as mixology or preparing meat or seafood dishes. Coursework extends to viewing demonstrations, hands-on lessons, and even local restaurants putting on “pop up” dinners. Depending on the subjects, pricing for classes and events usually start at $35 and go as high as $105.

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Go bike riding. By the water, through town, or even on a nature trail, Kennebunkport has places to trek to on your bike. One recommended route is on the scenic Ocean Avenue. This road leads on a route with views of the sea, beaches, restaurants, and the presidential Bush family’s compound at Walker’s Point (but don’t go too far there). Mountain bikers can try  the trails at the Edwin L. Smith Preserve of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which has acquired and preserved various natural areas. If you don’t have — or didn’t bring — a bike, consider renting a set of wheels from Kennebunkport Bicycle.

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Find nature at protected reserves. Just over a 10-minute ride from Kennebunkport, the town of Wells has two nature reserves that can be seen on foot. I spent some time at The Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which has a network of trails that you can walk along and notice the different habitats in this protected coastal ecosystem. The trails stay open year-round, range from easy to moderate, and are mainly self-guided. An admission fee is charged from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day. Not far from Wells Reserve, consider stopping by the Rachel Carlson Wildlife Refuge. This reserve has designated visitor use areas that enable the public to do activities such as kayaking or viewing wildlife.

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Do some antiquing along Route 1. Known as the Maine Antique Trail, this road doubles as a map for 42 miles of over 50 antique stores. Kennebunk contains a few, including Armada Antiques & Collectibles. The shelves and display cases inside this two-level building must get a lot of looks. Merchandise from dinnerware, to books and periodicals, to sports memorabilia, to even relics from another era can be browsed through.

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Stop at the Wedding Cake House. Said to be the most photographed house in Maine, this Gothic style home off of Route 35 in Kennebunk is literally eye candy. Supposedly, this bright yellow house with white trim was built by a sea captain as a wedding gift for his bride. Today this place is privately owned, but most people might stop to get a glimpse or photo.

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Learn about Kennebunk’s history at the Brick Store Museum. Although this museum was closed on the days that I was town, I think it’s worth a visit. Said to be one of the few U.S. museums to open during the Great Depression, this venue serves as part arts institution, part historic site, and part archives center. Its three buildings date back to the 1800s, but inside, rotating exhibitions highlight the town’s overall legacy through its people and objects.

Where to Eat and Drink

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Get local and seasonal flavor at Salt & Honey. In Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, this restaurant has been dishing out comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner since opening in May 2014. Its changing menu offer staple dishes and New England favorites, particularly with ingredients like Maine blueberries and lobster. Consider the fish and chips combo with a finely breaded North Atlantic haddock.

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Order breakfast at Boulangerie. In Kennebunk, this village bakery produces artisanal breads, croissants, baguettes, focaccia, sticky buns, meat pies, and other flour-based delights. The location is very rustic – a barn dating back to the 1900s – with indoor and outdoor seating for plopping down and savoring a breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Get  their chicken meat pie and monkey bread!

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Grab some lunch at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill. With one location in Kennebunk’s historic Lafayette Center, this family-friendly place has good pub fare. The venue serves up American food for patrons of all ages – burgers, salads, apps, and wings plus gluten-free options – and the scene is pretty casual.

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Do dinner at The Ramp Bar & Grill. Under Pier 77, in Kennebunkport’s Porpoise Harbor, the tiny yet lively waterside venue has both a local and tourist following. What you’ll first notice are the football helmets hanging above the bar, but the lunch and dinner servings run the gamut from New England seafood favorites, finger foods, to more fork-required dishes like traditional penne Bolognese and a Greek meze.

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Shop at H.B. Provisions. At this general store and deli, also in Kennebunk, pick up a souvenir or order a sandwich, specialty wrap, burger, or panini. There’s table space for sitting down and just watching the shop work, and you can also get some groceries while you’re at it. While eating, take a good look at the walls and see photos of some famous shoppers.

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Tour the Shipyard Brewing Company at Federal Jack’s. At this eatery in Kennebunkport Harbor, Shipyard first brewed its craft beer in 1992. Although its main plant is now in Portland, visitors can still see and learn more about Shipyard on tours at its location in the same building as Federal Jack’s. A seven-barrel system uses state of the art technology to produce house and seasonal ales, plus stouts and IPAs, and keeps its upstairs pub neighbor supplied with continuous suds.

Editor’s Note: My visit and itinerary was scheduled through the Chamber of Commerce for Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. However, the list is all based on my suggestions and experiences.

 

Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel Present ‘Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine’ in Flushing

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This October, discover Taiwanese dishes like fish congee at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” in Flushing.

Taiwan has been making some headlines lately, as a rising culinary destination. Recently CNN featured stories about 40 must-try Taiwanese foods and especially on street food in the city of Tainan. But don’t worry if you can’t get to Taiwan right away. This month, you can get a taste of the country’s cuisine in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens.

From Friday, October 16 through Tuesday, October 20, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing are presenting “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine,” a five-day culinary extravaganza, inside the hotel’s Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant. It’s open to the public, so they can learn more about Taiwan through a fun way – the food! “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will feature daily lunch and dinner servings with a choice of different types of Taiwanese street food prepared in partnership with award-winning Taiwanese chefs.

Chefs from Chou's Shrimp Rolls

Well-respected Taiwanese chefs will prepare an elaborate menu at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine.”

Wondering what you’ll find on your plate? Here’s a cooking lesson about Taiwanese food.

This cuisine is a melting pot of China’s regional culinary styles mixed with foreign influences served establishments ranging from fine restaurants to night markets. Another big and tasty aspect of Taiwanese culture is what’s known as snacking. Often happening at night markets, snacking centers on handheld bites, sips of a beverage, or a plate that just needs an accompanying fork or spoon.

Common snack or street foods in Taiwan include bubble (or pearl) milk tea; danzai noodles; oyster omelets; meat rice dumplings; coffin bread; and a sweetly flavored crushed ice. Other local specialties include candied fruits, Taiwanese style meatballs, rice noodles, and various breads and cakes.

Chou's Shrimp Rolls

Guests at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will get to try the popular Chou’s Shrimp Rolls.

As for the “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” event, a must-have will be the main entrée: Chou’s Shrimp Rolls. Chef Chou, who was from Tainan, created his specialty shrimp rolls in 1965. This dish quickly earned him fame throughout his home country. In the 1980s, Chef Chou updated his recipe by making the rolls out of fresh and juicy shrimp. Now made mixed with high-quality ground pork, fish paste, celery and green onion, the shrimp rolls have won over the taste buds of gourmands from all over Taiwan and the world.

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Taiwanese cuisine has embraced flavors and traditions from China and foreign influences.

The menu for “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” is as follows:

A Welcome Drink
Ancient Plum Juice, made with roselle, preserved plum, osmanthus, umezuke, and prunus mume.

Hors D’oeuvres
Preserved Fruit or Chou’s Shrimp Crisps

Soup
Handmade Milkfish and Shrimp Balls in Bone Soup

Appetizers
Grilled Mullet Roe, served with radishes and great garlic, or Tainan Coffin Toast, filled with seafood chowder.

Entrees
Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, made with fire shrimp, celery, scallions, onion, fish paste, minced pork, and pig stomach membrane.
Stir Fried Shredded Eel Noodles

Milkfish Congee, made with milkfish, oyster, celery, congee with bone soup, and topped with crisp fried garlic.
Danzai Noodles, made with minced pork, fire shrimp, and noodles in a bone soup.

Dessert
Almond Tofu Pudding or Fresh Fruit

The cost of admission to “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” gives you a memorable experience without needing a passport or airfare. It is at $39.95 per person, with an added 15% service charge and 8.875% sales tax. There is an 18% service charge for parties of six or more. Lunch will be served from noon to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 718-670-7400 or through Open Table (Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant). The Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel is located at 135-20 39th Avenue in Flushing. Visit the hotel’s website or the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s website here.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was brought to you by Taiwan Tourism Bureau via Cooperatize.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/Cooperatize/scripts/page_time_5.js?cookieDomain=sheisgoingplaces.com;page=91241-31701;title=91241-31701;brand=http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002026;

Experience Macau in Grand Central Terminal

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Do you know where Macau is geographically based? Or have you even heard of this destination? If your answer to both questions is no, don’t fret. If you’re near New York City from Thursday through Sunday, October 1-4, go to Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall to learn about this small peninsula in mainland China.

A four-day event called “Experience Macau” will showcase the destination’s cuisine, customs, and history through ongoing or scheduled presentations. One fact to get you started is that Macau was governed by Portugal for over 400 years (It was a Portuguese territory until 1999).

At Grand Central Terminal, “Experience Macau” will feature daily hands-on activities. These ongoing offerings include:

Lantern Painting
Learn more about Macau’s art of traditional lantern decoration by creating your own souvenir.

Head into a Photobooth
Snap a photo with Macau backdrops and accessories, then have it sent straight to your phone.

Macau Gallery
Take in Macau’s culture and beauty, as depicted in fine artworks displayed in an exhibit.

Trading Post
Discover spices and other cooking essentials while learning about Macau’s history of maritime trade.

Design an Azulejo
Create your very own azulejo — a Portuguese tile — to take home.

Each day of “Experience Macau” will feature various dance performances and cultural presentations. For more information, visit this website. The event is free and open to the public during these hours:

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, noon – 7 p.m.

Portuguese Dancers Performance from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 2, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Macanese Drummers Performance from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Portuguese Dancers Performance from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dragon Dancers Performance at noon
Portuguese Dancers Performance at 2 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 4, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dragon Dancers Performance at noon
Portuguese Dancers at 2 p.m.

http://www.visitmacauchina.com/grandcentral/