Category Archives: travel

Another Trip. Another Beer. Another Stamp. Part 1

Just what the title of this post implies, Kit and I went on our 9th trip so far this year. The destinations this time? The beautiful and lush landscapes of Cleveland, Ohio and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Maybe Cleveland wasn’t as beautiful or as lush as Bora Bora, but maybe just as interesting.

I didn’t actually accomplish any list items during the trip per se. What I did do though is work closer to my goals of filling up my passport and having a beer in every state. And both places are interesting enough to merit their own postings. So, here is part 1. My travel guide to Cleveland.

Cleveland ROCKS!!!!… Kinda.


Driving through Pennsylvania on a major highway is a test of one’s ability to cope with an insane amount of utter boredom. The scenery, rest stops and almost endless amounts of exits defy all that is great about road trips. Go ahead and picture yourself and your closest friends out on the open road, listening to great music, the wind in your hair. Picture the endless fun you and your friends are having on this road trip.

I can almost guarantee interstate 80 was not part of your idea about what a fun road trip is. But it’s not interstate 80’s fault. It’s not even the good people of Pennsylvania’s fault. It’s not even your fault. I blame the monotonous drive on truckers. Maybe not truckers so much, but the corporations that need trucks and roads to get products quickly to other places.

Kit and I spent the entire trip out to Ohio looking for the worlds’ largest ball of twine, or the worlds’ largest ham sandwich. Or any other horrible roadside tourist trap. But, they don’t exist on I-80. Nothing but Pilot truck stops or nothingness that is rural Pennsylvania. Our dreams of experiencing the wonder that is a piece of toast with the image of Jesus next to the petrified forest will have to wait til the next road trip.

Arriving in Ohio was nothing short of exhilarating compared to Pennsylvania. A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view. Even though at first glance it looks remarkably similar to Pennsylvania’s landscape, Ohio has a 65 mph speed limit and encourages slower traffic to get the hell out-of-the-way of faster and more manly speeding cars.

After 11 hours of driving and a few close calls of running out of gas trying to find a rural towns one and only gas station (BTW Newton Falls, Ohio is a nice town. Build another gas station please. One that is not 13 miles away from the highway. Thank you, Danny.) we arrived safely and exhausted in Cleveland’s downtown district only to find out the Cleveland Indians had just finished a game and had told all of their fans in attendance to leave at the same time as we were driving down Prospect street. Thank you very much members of the tribe! That’s why Jack Parkman was happy when he was traded to the White Sox.*

I know many of you are wondering what exactly is there to do in The Cleve. Well, according to tripadvisor.com, aside from visiting a museum or taking a small tour around the city not much. Well, not much compared to other big city like Sandusky, or Kalamazoo. But, a glimmer of hope is found when you learn that the same house that was used in the filming of  “A Christmas Story” still exist and is in fact a museum in present day Cleveland. So, that’s what we did. We went on a tour of the Christmas Story house.

And by pure luck, we visited the same time Ian Petrella was on hand to answer all of our Christmas story questions. (I know, I had no idea who Ian Petrella was either. He played Randy in the film. I would have much rather have met Ralphie, but an out of work actor gotta eat right? The highlight of the tour for me was about half way through “Randy’s” speech about working on the set of A Christmas story an elderly women stood up said,”ok, that’s enough” and walked away. The look on “Randy’s ” face was priceless, the look on the rest of tour groups face was even better and the look of embarrassment on the faces of the family members she was with was über-priceless.

The tour is definitely worth it. It’s cheaper than the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, which is a rip-off and visiting the house in the morning and then spending your afternoon in the Great Lakes science center is a fun-filled day for the entire family.

What I wanted to know about Cleveland was what’s the drinking scene like? Is it boring? Is it awesome? Will I meet some celebrity? What will the discoteca be like? Creepy? sleazy? Babe-o-licious?

Yes.

The drinking scene in The Cleve is a lot like the drinking scene around most of the country and maybe the world. It is what you make it out to be. If you like your drinks served in a dark neighborhood bar where no one is going to bother you, The Map room is the place for you. If you are a 20 something year old Romanian club rat and enjoy getting hit on by men 3 times your age wearing 6 times more perfume than yourself, The Velvet Dog is your oasis.

Kit and I partook in both scene. It’s worth it to step out of your own comfort zone every once and awhile even if it’s for some quick people watching in the latter bar.

This was my attempt at recreating a school portrait shot.

Highlights of the trip:

Christmas story house.

Meeting Greg Proops (Very nice guy, even after me badgering him for 20 minutes to admit/agree that Drew Carey ruined “Who’s Line is it Anyway”)**

Watching no less than 15 guys take turns hitting on the same 2 girls seated next to us in The velvet dog.

Meeting a few new friends out on the road. (Ola we promise we will send you the pictures of yourself and Greg. Luke I promise I will mail you the rugby shirt I stole.)

So, Cleveland might not rock as hard as some may thing, and the heart of rock and roll might not be beating as strongly as Huey Lewis might like you to think, but for all its worth, Cleveland is a chill city with some down to earth party people. Worth the trip.

*It’s a Major league 2 reference. Sadly that movie and all its baseball players are all I can tell you about a Cleveland sports team.

** Greg is too nice of a guy to even admit Wayne Brady sucks.

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Where would you like to see a wedding?

I created a new poll. Kit and I need some help picking a wedding destination spot. So, where would you like us to go? The pink sandy beaches of Bermuda? Or the black volcanic sand of Vic, Iceland? Where would you be willing to travel too? Here is the poll.

You can vote for up to three places. And you can revote once a week, just incase you change your mind or the BP oil spill ruins your top choice. Also, you can add your own answer. Get creative people!

The poll is now on the sidebar.

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What I learned in Curaçao…

Curaçao was an early addition to my list. I don’t know why, I don’t ever remember anyone talking about it, magazine generally don’t rave about the island. I guess I added visiting it just out of curiosity. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know where in the Caribbean it was. It just sounded so foreign and like a place I would never visit, same as Iceland. But, we all know now how I deal with places I never imagine I would travel to… I travel to them.

Curaçao, took all of about 10 minutes to grow on me. Just about as soon as we pulled away from Hato International Airport, did I come to really like this place. From that moment on the rest of the trip was just a confirmation of my good feelings towards the island.

I present to you now, what I had learned during my time in Curaçao…

  • To make the Ç hold down option(mac) or alt (pc) while typing C.
  • The Ç is called a cedilla (Wikipedia article on it)
  • For all intents and purposes, Curaçao is a Spanish-speaking country
  • You can get stranded on a bridge

  • Scuba Diving Magazine loves Curaçao cause the reefs are flawless

  • 8 oz Polar beer is a rip-off (Thanks for nothing Hugo Chavez)
  • Infinity Salt water pool = Awesome!

  • Danki means thank you in Papiamento (Pronounced = Donkey)
  • You can get a job as a Bridge Boat Driver
  • I love Arepitas
  • Iguanas are to Curaçao what squirrels are to North America
  • When jumping off a 40 ft cliff always try to land feet first ( Kit’s lesson)
  • 15% Service charge on restaurants tabs, means at some places you will have to double tip
  • Casinos are very depressing when there are no loud sounds of machines winning

Some other photos from the trip

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Bodies In the sand…

Visit all the places mentioned in the Beach Boy’s “Kokomo” 4 of 8

Aruba

The latest trip found Kit, Duck and myself on two of the three ABC islands. Aruba and Curaçao. Curaçao will be getting its own post shortly since visiting it was a stand-alone item on the list. I’m actually having a hard time writing about Aruba, not for lack of trying or for not enjoying myself while I was on the island, It’s just, I’m not sure what to write about. The perfect weather? Iguanas stealing food? Swimming in the crystal clear waters? The egyptian cotton like sand? I guess I just wrote about it all.

One thing I could write about Aruba is how accessible the island and the culture is. Which in my opinion is a double edge sword for the people of Aruba and it’s culture. Let me explain.

When one is looking for a vacation destination that is completely non-commercialized, non-americanized or remote. Aruba is not your place. If however, if one seeks after a 5 hour flight to find the same McDonald’s next to the same Senor frogs across from one of a dozen well-known resorts, then yes, Aruba might be your place.

Don’t get me wrong I love a good ol’ sloppy Big mac and a yard stick filled with a tropical drink like any other American tourist… sometimes. I get disappointed when I see an American chain on island after island that we visit. On one hand, tourism being the major income on the island, appeasing the masses might sound like the smart thing to do. But, when does it become detrimental to the island’s culture? After the 2nd or 10th hotel chain?

Nonetheless, you can’t  discount how transparently blue the water is, or how incredibly soft the sand on the beaches feel, or how orange the sunset becomes and lets not forget how good the constant cooling winds are. You can’t take any of that from Aruba. No matter how many Senor Frogs get erected up instead of real local restaurants.

Enough of my preaching, here are some of the pictures. I only have 4 more places to visit before I can complete this list item. Regardless of my feelings towards commercialism, I am having a wonderful time completing this item.

Mr. Starfish hanging out at Eagle Beach.

Fun Fact: Aruba is a desert Island, with on average 16 inches of rain a year. Next time someone asks  if you would like to be stranded on a desert island, You should probably opt for a Tropical/Rainforest-y type island instead.

Trekking to one of the “beaches” on the remote North coast of Aruba.

The natural Pool.

Stacking rocks is a way of saying “We were here” without using graffiti.

No caption needed.

Defying gravity at the natural Bridge.

You can’t say “Life sucks”, when this is your view.

And if you forgot how the song goes, or you need a little inspiration as you sit at work…

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I Have Made Fire!

The inner caveman in me spoke out when I added Have a bon fire on the beach to the list. Actually, it was because of a scene from Police Academy which included the notorious Blue Oyster Bar… Here is the video incase you needed reminding.

In almost the exact fashion as our boys in blue from police academy, my bonfire went just about the same way minus, the naked women, saxophone, crowd of people and being that Kit and I were in Montauk, the black guy. Minus all those things, it was exactly the same.

Danny’s Guide to a successful Beach Bonfire… The Guide.

Step 1) Pick a beach

Step 2) Gather all materials needed for creating fire. Most survival experts say get a couple of stones, or a bow made of wood and tinder to light. I say, hogwash. Duraflame and a lighter. Added benefit to the Duraflame, you can purchase one that imitates the sound of real wood burning, or if you are feeling artistic or autistic they also have a special log that emits festive colors while burning.

Step 3) Light it up, Drink it up and enjoy.

(Traveling Duck optional)

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My Top Five Most Favorite Places in the World…So far.

Number 5

Boston, Massachusetts

Since high school I have traveled to Boston almost once a year. Whenever I stepped off the Amtrak train onto the platform in Boston, my mood would instantly change. I am just happy whenever I go there or think about going into Boston. Maybe it’s the accents? Or, the Sam Adams brewery? The T? The Red Sox? I don’t know, possibly a combination of all those things. Whatever it is, Boston comes in as number 5 on my list.

Number 4

Bermuda

Holy Shit are Bermudians nice people! You would think being 2 hours from New York, that New Yorker attitudes would somehow rub off on the people of Bermuda, thankfully the attitudes and dispositions of Bermudians are worlds away from that of the people of NY. And Holy Shit the island is just gorgeous! Manicured everything! Even the waves were picture perfect. Landscape alone puts this place on the list. The prices keep it out of the top three,  but number four is just about right.

Number 3

Rincon, Puerto Rico

I have been to Puerto Rico countless times throughout my life. Mostly to visit family and whatnot. Up until last year I had never traveled to the west side of the Island. I am so glad I had waited until I was older and would be able to appreciate the beauty of the West coast. Rincon, is an amazing place. A place where time slows down enough for the simple pleasures of life catch up to you. Watching the sunset wading in the ocean, while small reef fish swim around your toes, it’s heavenly. And don’t get me started on the bread. Pan de agua (water bread) is proof that god loves Puerto Ricans.

Number 2

Reykjavík, Iceland

The top two spots where tough to decide. I knew from the start of writing this list Iceland would absolutely be in one of the top spots. This is a country that should be on everyone’s travel list. As long as you can get over the rotten egg smell that flows out of every water faucet. Looking through my Iphoto library, it was almost impossible deciding which pictures of Iceland to use for this post, the landscape was just so vast and awe-inspiring. It is very hard for me to express why Iceland and Reykjavík especially, is one of my top favorite places in the world, it’s not because of the food I can tell you that much. Nonetheless, just go there. Book your flight today (you shouldn’t go there right now, only because of a certain volcano eruption, but as soon as the scientist say it is safe, book it.) You won’t be disappointed. No fear the people of Iceland are nothing like they were depicted in the Mighty Ducks movie.

Number 1

Dublin County, Ireland

Intoxicating. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Dublin. The people, the Bacon and of course the beer all of it, just intoxicating. Being one of the most expensive cities in the world does not keep it from being my favorite place in the world… so far. If the city life isn’t for you, you can simply hop on a train or bus leaving the city centre and head for the country side or the beach. No matter where you head the charm of Ireland will be there. Sitting in a real Irish pub drinking a pint of Smithwicks or Guinness just seals the deal for me. Ireland gets top spot.

Where in the world would you consider your favorite? Leave your answer in the comments.

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The Pub crawl continues…

This past weekend Kit and I have added Delaware, D.C. and Virginia to the ever-growing list of states we have drunk in. I know D.C. isn’t a state but it makes up for how much Delaware sucks.

Sorry Delaware…

(Author’s note. I am not actually sorry. Delaware really does suck.)

Click Here for the link for all the drinking pictures and my beer map.

I’m also excited to announce that I will not be posting The Traveling Duck’s vacation photos here anymore. Kit has decided that Duck deserves his own blog and she is working on one as we speak. Stay tuned for updates on that.

On to the actual post…

The problem with the Travel Channel

I will start by saying I do enjoy watching the Travel Channel, I watch it often and I even Tivo-ed a few shows. Aside from a few great shows that the Travel Channel actually have, a lot of the shows on it are just plain crap.  Boring filler. Which seem written by the tourism office PR agent. No real content  or honest opinions, basically televised hotel brochure crap.

But, Thats not the real problem with the Travel Channel. Nope, I don’t care if the Travel Channel try to pass tourist propaganda as real television. Nope, I take all the 100 greatest hotels or the top 10 best restaurants shows with a large grain of salt.   The problem is when the Travel Channel feature a real special local spot on their shows.

Anytime a restaurant is given a considerable amount of  airtime or is given rave reviews by the likes of Samantha Brown or Anthony Bourdain, the chance of ever experiencing why they liked the places is lost.

Example, When Anthony Bourdain was shooting in Baltimore. He was taken by a real Baltimore native to Chaps’ Pit beef. A rough place that serves some great pit beef. The charm of this place, was that it was rough. It’s not in the greatest neighborhood, in fact the place is located in the parking lot of strip club. Fast forward a few months after Bourdain’s visit and the place is now packed with tourist. The line generally extending out the door. No more room for junkies or drug dealers, just your typical family of four visiting from Nebraska.

Looking at it from the point that the place is now cleaned up a bit might seem like a good thing, but that’s what made it fun. Judges and junkies sitting together enjoying good food. This was a place that real locals enjoyed. The food was good, and cheap. I didn’t need to be super nice and safe, it just needed to serve good food.

The same thing happened to Mexico’s sleepy beach villages and the majority of the Caribbean islands. Every guide-book wrote about the serenity of these places. The empty beaches, the small family owned restaurants. So, what happened? People flocked to those destinations… and with them came the super resorts, chain restaurants and commercialism. They lost their original appeal.

In all honesty, the only reason I’m writing this is because I really wanted a half smoked with chile at Ben’s Chili bowl, and the line was just way too long to wait. I am just as guilty as any other tourist but whatever, get the hell out of my way so I can eat.

So, please next time you travel please do not visit the following restaurants…

Ben’s Chili Bowl (DC)

Lombardi’s Pizza (NYC)

Chap’s Pit beef (Baltimore)

The Lazy Gecko (Key west)

Holla Batar (Reykjavík)

Just stay away from these restaurants… I’m hungry.

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