A couple of “Firsts” in China

20 Apr img_4770-1

Can you believe I “had to” go all the way to China to pick strawberries?

Yup, I’m back from another work trip to the Orient but luckily we always manage to squeeze in some fun.

This time after one of our meetings, the factory owner escorted us to a Strawberry field and we all got to fill multiple baskets with big, beautiful, perfectly red, delicious strawberries.  This was my first time doing it, and it was fun sharing the experience with my China office colleagues and suppliers.  We helped each other pick the best ones, until all our baskets (and bellies) were completely full.



Another fun night, was also after a meeting.  To end the night, they invited us to their beautiful cellar, and we got to do a “private” wine tasting with a really nice view of the HK skyline.  This was (I think) my first time drinking Bordeaux wine, in a private cellar with over 4K bottles of wine. 

Walking the gardens of one of the hotels in the morning, was the most relaxing way to start our day.  Happy birds singing and beautiful flowers all around, overlooking the water.  This was my first time seeing blossoms too. 
I went to a little market where, they told me, I had to try the Vietnamese street lamb.  Very tasty!    

And I saw my very first (Ginseng) Buddha fruit


Learned a new “drinking game” called Big Liar at a pub in Ningbo, and shared many laughs with everyone playing.
Also tried a new hotel (Shangri-La), in HK, after many years staying at the same one, and was a very nice change.  Club level, beautiful view of the bay & HK skyline, and excellent service.  VIP treatment all the way. 
No matter how many times I make this (work) trip, we always mange to enjoy ourselves, do something new, and look forward to the next.

As I’ve said before, it’s all how you see things.  May we never lose the sense of wonder and excitement, even in the “little” things.  This will make life so more enjoyable, happier, and give you many wonderful and memorable experiences.  Happy Journey to All!

Vegas here I come! 

8 Mar

Ah, Vegas! Bright lights, late nights, party and drinks. Sleep an hour or two and repeat…

Yeah, this wasn’t that kind of trip.   :p

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done Vegas the “right way” and it’s one of the best trips I’ve ever had but, this time, I went for work… by myself.

Stayed off the strip to be close to the convention, up early to work. A lot of walking and networking for 4 days straight.

Still, it would be a sin to go and not have a little fun. So, off I went.  Instead of having dinner by myself in the hotel room, I decided to go out and try some new places.

I’m usually shy but, have noticed that the more I push myself to break out of that, the more opportunities and experiences I get.

For example:

First night I wondered around the strip, at a slow pace, taking everything in. Had time to see a couple of the Bellagio Fountains show (still one of my favorite attractions in Vegas), also got to see their Garden, which this time was dedicated to the Chinese New Year of the Monkey.


I treated the hotels like they were museums, admiring their displays, stores, decorations. When you are not worrying of getting dressed and getting to clubs or pool parties you have more time to enjoy these things.

While walking I saw a place called Beer Bar. It has kind of a balcony seating, perfect for solo dining. I found a spot and enjoyed a really good burger while watching another show of the Bellagio Fountains.

Second night, I decided to go out again. This time went to FireFly. Place was packed, and wait time was approximately one hour. The hostess immediately directed me to their sister restaurant Imperial Tacos & Beer. There I found a seat at the bar and ordered. Bartenders were so friendly I didn’t feel like I was by myself at all. Very attentive, making conversation and jokes. Eventually a guy sat next to me, who happened to be in town for the same convention I was attending. We started talking and, being that I’ve been in the business longer was able to give him some tips on how to grow his business. I felt really good being able to help someone, and very grateful for the fun company that night. I enjoyed it so much I almost lost track of time… I had bought a ticket to see Cique du Soleil: Zarkana.


The show is amazing! And, because I needed only 1 ticket, the seat was great, with excellent view.

Third night, of course, I went out again. This time I got to try FireFly. I had it bookmarked since I knew I was going to Vegas, and so glad I didn’t leave without trying it. First because food and drinks were amazing! Service equally great, and second, because again I had the chance to talk with new people and laugh with them.

I sat at the bar, and not too much later two guys sat near me. Again, because of my shy nature I focused on my food and didn’t pay much attention to them, trying to not call attention to myself but their conversation was funny and could not help but laugh. That’s all it took. They immediately included me in their conversation and it was so entertaining, light and fun. Just like the night before, conversation turned to work.   One of the guys is a dancer. He danced at the show Jubilee, and now that the show is over he’s looking for new opportunities… his dream, Broadway! As is in my nature, I offered some advice and a sincere wish of him making it and hoping to see him again, on stage next time, doing what he loves. I didn’t get their names, but the moment we shared sitting at that bar was enough to make me smile and earned me a hug goodbye.

After this, because of my first Cirque visit, they gave me a discount for a second show and I took advantage of it. Went to see Mystère at the Treasure Island Hotel. Smaller theater so even closer seats. The show is entertaining and funny. And so ended my Vegas trip.

 

Morning came, early wakeup to make it in time to the airport, beautiful sunrise view form my window and, even though my main focus for the trip was work, I came out of it, as I usually do, with some great food finds, amazing people, sights and photos to share, and the desire to travel more, to experience more, to see more.

Weather traveling alone, with coworkers, family and/ or friend, traveling is always an adventure… It all depends on you and what you make of it.

Don’t close yourself in a hotel room, go and explore!

 

Florida Renaissance Festival

23 Feb img_3584-1

I love this Festival!

Every year Quiet Waters Park transforms into a land seen a long time ago and far away.

I’ve been going regularly for years now and it never gets old.  It is one of my happy places.  It’s even become an “annual tradition” for some friends and I, who also make this event so much fun to go to.

The Ren-Fest transports you, not to a different era but, to a whole different world, where everyone is happy to see you, they’re joyful, and entertain you with funny shows, where you are guaranteed to laugh.  There’s pirates, there’s wenches, fairies, pixie dust, wings, world travelers, Vikings, and so much more.  Pick a weekend and you can be any one of those, if you chose to dress up.  I started doing this several years ago and the festival became a whole new experience to me.

When you dress up, it’s like you’re part of their world.  They’re always nice there but, now they appreciate the effort you put into it and your excitement to be there.  Patrons also get excited to see you and some even ask to take pictures with you, giving you the opportunity to meet new people.

There’s duels, tight rope walkers, fire eaters, washing well wenches, a mud show, jousting tournaments, all these to be enjoyed by everyone at the fest.   If you want a more interactive experience, sit up front and maybe you’ll be picked to be part of their show.  There’s also giant chess boards, knife throwing, and bow and arrow games, a “spooky” maze, you can throw tomatoes at one of the fest characters, they even have big bubbles to “walk on water” on the lake, and they added zip lining last year too.  There is something for everyone!

I personally enjoy the shows, and love seeing all the vendors, like the wing maker, with beautiful handmade wings in every size and color (one of my favorites there); the moon necklaces, where they show you what moon you were born under and what it means, with a glow in the dark moon charm; all the swords (some showing really nice craftsmanship), knives, and beautiful big dresses with amazing corsets, kilts, leather…  the list goes on and on.  Oh, and the music…  I had the pleasure of listening guy playing bells that were enchanting, and there’s also a lady playing the harp by the water.

Of course there’s food like the traditional turkey leg (imagine a strong man in a kilt eating this…  makes you feel like you’re back in time), gyros, funnel cakes, ribbon fries (these are addictive), and to wash it all down, cider, beer, mead, and some other drinks.  This also will make the fest better and more realistic (hey, wine was thought to be good for health, and Beer and ales were very popular drinks during that era), plus all that walking and laughing works up a thirst  ;)

If for nothing else, it’s a great place to people watch…  See the creativity everyone has put in their costumes, makeup, etc. To some, this might be all weird and eccentric but, to me it’s fun, creative, whimsical, playful,  and full of great imagination.

Go, step back in time, and leave the “real world” behind, let the fairies show you the way, and enjoy your day at the Ren-Fest.

Jousting Tournament (to the death)

 

Steampunk/ Time Travelers Weekend 

Pirates Weekend 

Vikings & Valkyries Weekend 

Favorite Beer Tent 

img_3589-1   

Favorite Wing- Maker

Some of the great shows: Iris & Rose



Broon  & Moonie

  

 

Cu Dubh

 

 

Long Weekend in Boston

4 Feb

My latest trip was a long weekend in Boston.  Yes, even a city like this, full of history, sites, and activities, is possible to do in a couple of days if you plan it right.  I’ll show you how…

Arrived on a Thursday morning and stayed until Sunday night.  That way I could have 4 full days to explore and enjoy what this city has to offer.

As soon as I landed, I hopped on an Uber to Salem.  Just a one hour drive (with some traffic) and spent the day sightseeing.  Even the rain and cold weather would not stop me from appreciating this cute and picturesque place. It’s full of magic and crafts stores, some cozy restaurants and quite a few museums.

Day 1:  Salem


I started at the House of the Seven Gables.  I love places that transport you to a different time and place.  It is incredible to see how this house is still standing, and in good condition, even after being literally moved from its original location and all the years that have passed.  Hearing the story of the families that lived there and being in all the rooms, including secret passages, is like being inside a book.

The gardens, even in the winter, were beautiful.  Can’t imagine how lovely it must be during Spring and Summer, with all the trees and flowers blooming and the water view.

Of course I had to visit the Witch Museum.  Salem is famous for their witch hunt days…  The Museum, I must admit, is nothing outstanding.  It does give you some history, which you can find in books, and the “exhibition” on the second room is very simple.  Now, the one part I did enjoy was seeing the list of herbs with their medicinal and magical powers, and the history line showing how witchcraft can be interpreted in many different ways and ends with the formula of what caused the witch hunt:  “Fear + Trigger = Scapegoat”.  It then gives the following examples:

Salem 1692:  God/ Devil (Fear) + Dr. Griggs (Trigger) = 150 townspeople found guilty of witchcraft (scapegoat)

Aids Epidemic Outbreak 1980’s: Infection (fear) + HIV Virus/ Aid (Trigger) = gay community (scapegoat)

It also mentioned Hitler…  to me this was a hit of reality when visiting the past.  If anything the museum helps you remember these things in hopes that we don’t keep making the same mistakes.

After that a visit to their burial grounds was a must and, in this rainy gray day, it added a little bit of romanticism and charm to it.  It was beautiful, peaceful, and classic.


Day 2:  Boston!

If you are a beer lover, or starting to enjoy it as I am, Boston is a great place to taste many different styles.

They have many breweries open to the public or by tour.  I opted for a tour:  Boston Brew Tours.  The booking is effortless and the tour guide was knowledgeable, funny and entertaining.

First stop was Samuel Adams – of course this is a must when in Boston.  Formal tour that ends at their tasting room with 3 different beers to try.


Second stop was Downeast – this is a cider brewery.  I was very pleasantly   surprised I liked a couple of the ones I tasted… I usually find them too sweet but these were really good.


Lunch is included in the tour, of course, with beer included.

And, our last stop, and probably my favorite:  Night Shift.  They had a nice variety of beers being offered, including some sours (my favorite).


This tour takes pretty much all day.  Started at 10am and we were back around 4:30pm – 5pm.

This is a great day to buy tickets to a game.  Celtics were playing so, basketball, hotdogs and beers it was to end the second day of this trip.


Day 3:  Sightseeing

No need to wake up super early.  There’s plenty to see but also plenty of time.

Freedom Trail – plan was to do a self-guided tour.  I mean, how hard is it to follow the red bricks but turned the wrong way and got to the end before it even started.  So, decided to do the guided tour and happy I did.  The stories and information the tour guide gives you would not know if doing this on our own.  Tour also takes you to some places off the red brick line giving extra insight on the events that took place.


Tour ends near Quincy Market so, take the time to walk a bit and cross it off your list.


Cheers (the bar) is a must.  Ok, it is not the greatest bar you’ll ever go to but, who doesn’t know the TV Show, the song, the characters…  it’s just a “tourist thing” to do, and great for social media pictures.  Plus they offer the Sam Adams Brick Red (which you can only find in Boston – I was told).  So, go, sit at the bar, enjoy a beer in one of their signature cold pints, and snap some pics just for the fun of it.


Take a walk through the park, enjoy the view and the squirrels.  There are some street vendors, and during the winter the Christmas lights are a beautiful sight.

Boston Tea Party was the last spot for the day.  If you are lucky (or plan right) you might get to see when they do the reenactment.  We missed it by 1 day.  Still it was fun to do. The tour is interactive, some even have a line or two to say during the “town’s meeting”.  you get to go on board the ship, throw the tea, take picture and tour the rest of the ship.  Very informative and a good way to refresh those history classes.

Now, here you can either got to Harvard or MIT campus, and enjoy more sightseeing but, I had dinner plans so left that for the next day.

After dinner, I went to the Hawthorne bar.  Located at The Commonwealth Hotel.  Don’t be turned off by it being a “basement” bar,  it is very stylish, romantic, and very popular.  Great seating area for dates, there are some high tables, bar seating, etc.  Servers come to you, drinks are strong and they have a good selection of craft drinks as well as wines, plus full bar.  Ambiance is everything here.  It’s one I will keep recommending to everyone visiting Boston and one I keep hoping I get the chance to visit again soon.


Last Day:  Brunch and… What did we miss?

Sunday is Brunch day, and it’s the most important meal of the weekend.  :p

The bartenders at the hotel (The Charlesmark Hotel – good place to stay!) recommended Stephanie’s on Newbury.  They don’t have unlimited mimosas but they have a great “make your own” Bloody Mary card, where you get to pick all the ingredients you want in yours and the end product is amazing (I mean, you created it, of course it is!).  Service was great and food, delicious!


With that I was ready to face the day and went to see the Harvard campus.  Started at the Museum of Natural History and spent some time walking the grounds and looking around.


Since my flight was at night, I still had time to see more of Boston so, I went to Tub Of The Hub.  Bar/ Restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Prudential building.  Advice, skip it!  Just get off on the 50th floor and pay the ticket for the observatory deck.  You’ll get better pictures here, are not rushed to finish your meal or drink for others to sit, plus it’s less expensive than what you’ll spend in the restaurant.

Some more walking around, taking pictures of some of the amazing churches and architecture these offer, and before I knew it, my trip had come to an end and time to head back to the airport.


Like I said, Boston is a city with a lot to see and do.  I’m sure there’s much I still have yet to experience but in a long weekend I was able to do ALL this and thought I share with you in hopes to help you plan your visit to this great city.

Hope you have as much fun as I did.  Bon Voyage!

 

This is life… 2016

31 Dec

This is life… it kicks us down and then helps us get back up. There’s ups and there’s downs.

This year was a bit tough for me. I lost people I cared about, I’ve felt alone, I’ve felt what seemed like inconsolable sadness, I’ve been heartbroken. 

To lose someone you love is one of the hardest things this life can throw at you. Yes, it’s part of life but you are never prepared. I still feel very deeply the loss of those I don’t have with me anymore. My tears may not come as often and uncontrollable as when they left but, they are missed, and it always hurts.

The loneliness, thankfully, was temporary, and probably even “mental”. Sometimes we close ourselves in our feelings so tight that we isolate ourselves and dwell in it more than we should, but at that moment, that feeling is so real, and so wrenching, it’s painful. 

Heartbreak is out of your hands, really. You go into things/ situations hoping for the best, hoping they last but it not always works out that way.  Sometimes loss is not physical, and these hurt just as much. But, as I said, life also helps you back up, and it’s always good to see things in a “glass half full” kind of way. So, maybe that heartbreak wasn’t the end of it, maybe it’s a needed break and life gives you a second chance, to reconnect, try again, or start something completely new. It always finds a way to help mend your heart.

When you feel alone, turn to your family and friends. They, in my case, and I’m sure in many of yours, are a blessing and always there to support you at all times. When I see how loving an amazing my circle is, I have to really think, why and how did I ever feel that way? Thanks to them is that I am able to say that feeling was just temporary.

And, as is a law of life, with death comes life. Not that the ones who come can ever replace the ones we’ve lost but, the birth of my niece was definitely a reason to dry the tears and smile and celebrate. Her smile lights up any room, and any nostalgic thought that may cross our minds. 

Yes, life throws some punches… As you can see 2015 was no exception but, it did come with a lot of great moments as well, lots of laughter, new and old friends, love, beautiful memories, new and unforgettable experiences, and my amazing family, and for all these I am so grateful.

So, as we ring in the new year:

* take time to remember those no longer with us

* thank those who are and remain with you through thick and thin

* let go of any grudges, and open yourself to forgive, and apologize as well 

* think of last year and learn from it, work to make yourself better

* live each day, enjoy it. Don’t waste it on the past, or what’s yet to come

* be grateful, and hope for the best. 

Again, the “glass is always half full”, we just have to adjust our view.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2016!

  

A wedding…  From a big sisters eyes

1 Dec

As an older sibling, I assume we all feel this, we are very protective of our younger brothers and/or sisters.We’ve seen them grow and have so many memories of them that makes us feel like they are ours and hard to “share” them.

The idea of them falling in love and “leaving the nest” is a little scary and sad because you are used to having them around, and there’s a concern of losing them to that new person and family.

In my case, my brother and sisters are my best friends, confidants, shoulder to lean on, and source of happiness and laughter, so yes, that concern has always been there for every one of them. You would think that with one already married this feeling would be less but, no, it’s still there for each of them. Weather you show it or not, you care and protect them in every way possible.

This past month my “baby” brother got married. A lot of emotions were flowing though me that day… 

I have always been so proud of him, the responsible and caring boy, of the man he’s become, and the wonderful husband and father I know he will be.

Even though he’s all grown up, and a lot taller than me, he will always be “mi hermanito” and nostalgia came over me. Yes, I shed some tears thinking of all the memories I have of him, from his birth all the way to him telling us he had found “the one”.   

But the thing I felt most was love and happiness. Happy that he found such an amazing person to share his life with, and a wonderful addition to our family. The concern I talk about above was never there with her, instead she became my friend and now (officially) my sister.   And love, because that’s what they’ve shown each other since they met, what they both have shown us, and what each family feels for them and each other.

This truly was a beautiful day.

What I wrote when my sister got married, I’ll say it again… I did not lose a brother, I gained a wonderful sister and, with her, a loving extended family, and many wonderful moments and memories to come.

So, not only are my siblings my best friends, they are also a reason to keep believing in love, and that there is someone out there who makes you happy, and moves you to take the courageous step of sharing the rest of your life with them. May theirs be a lovely “happily ever after”.

  

 

Heart vs Brain

11 Nov

We do all sorts of things to ourselves in this life… 

We scare ourselves by watching scary movies, skydiving, rollercoaster, etc.

We go through pain and invest long hours to look and feel better by plastic surgery, laser, hair & nail appointments. 

We submit our head and heart to war when liking or falling for someone that (usually the brain knows) is not right for us.

We go into that “relationship” knowing that it’s meant to break or die but still we are stubborn and “cautiously” give it a try.  We say we’ve prepared ourselves for the outcome, that we know it’s not forever, but in reality we are never prepared for the end.

You see, while you are with someone you create an attachment, feelings grow stronger, and that cautiousness fades. You become comfortable with that person, they make you happy, and you believe the relationship is possible. But the brain keeps saying “be careful!” while the heart keeps being hopeful, and there starts the war.

Unfortunately when those are at war, you are not at peace, and if you are not at peace, the “relationship” suffers, we suffer. We hurt, we cry, we miss the other person… So why put ourselves through it? Because we’re human, and it’s human nature to want to be with someone, to feel loved and needed, because there’s the attraction and (sometimes, if you’re lucky) amazing chemistry. Because it is wonderful to feel like you mean the world to someone, and feel like they need you and want you. Because we’re stubborn and think we can be the one to change that outcome. 

We do this probably more than once in our lives… so, are we masochists? Ha! Maybe… but I’d like to think we’re hopeful instead. That we keep believing that there is one that will “change”, one that will want us and love us enough to stop the battle between the heart and the brain. Those should work together, not be at war. The brain is too rational, and the heart too emotional. I read once (and we may feel like) “sometimes the heart sees what the eyes can’t”. As true as this may be, the balance between them two is what we need. 

I know it’s easier said than done but, hopefully we all find where the two meet soon, and stop suffering the effects of that war.

  

 

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