My visit to Martha’s Vineyard

I’ve always wanted to visit Martha’s Vineyard, an island known to be the relaxation retreat for the rich, powerful and upper echelon in the US.  I figured since I was only a ferry ride away with some time to explore, why not embark on the opportunity! I had recently visited the Smithsonian African-American History Museum in Washington D.C. and learned of the first black family to settle in the Oak’s Bluff community, which later became the summer haven for the African-American elite.  I found the stone that honored the indentured servants and later the home that was surprisingly still intent well enough for a quick photo.  I traveled down tree-lined roads of bright-colored homes with unique designs, sampled chocolate at a local home-made make shift kitchen, visited the lighthouses that happened to be closed for the season and was fortunate to  catch the sunset on the beach.  My dinner for the evening consist of a freshly caught thirty pound lobster  and  a warm fixing of Barack Obama’s favorite dessert, the homemade straight out of the oven baked apple fritter!!  Martha’s Vineyard is defiantly an island worth visiting if you have a few hours to spare!!

 

 

 

Why didn’t anyone tell me about Kentucky?

A brief debate about boxing with my nephews combine with an urge to education led to a fun fact trip to Louisville, Kentucky. Just a few hours away from Chicago, a day trip to Kentucky is a must! One of the first item on my agenda was to expose and explore the brilliance of Muhammad Ali.

It’s safe to say that both Marcell and Tre enjoyed their time at the center as well as left with a different perspective of true champion and leader.

Just around around the corner from the center, we toured the Louisville Slugger Museum.

We got the opportunity to explore the slugger making process in the factory as well as explore the different selection of game winning bats from many historical baseball figures. While the trip was a success, I plan to do much more on my next visit!

Historic Town of St. George’s B & W Photo Diary

St. George’s was the original capital of Bermuda and is one of the few communities on the island that cater to residents and tourists interested in learning more about the island’s history. Stories about Bermuda’s early years can be heard around lunch tables, during short chats in the souvenir shops and most famously, in a reenactment of 18th Century Trial by the St, Georges Town Crier in King’s Square. To explore more about the latter years of the culture requires several bus rides across the island, where on any given day you will discover chunks of its culture hidden behind the beautiful pastels homes and picturesque walking trails.  Since I’m still at the start of my cultural quest, I learned the best place to start should be on the North side of the island.  I thought to snap some pictures of St. Georges during a time and day when the community seemed to be at peace.

 

New Orleans at a glance

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On of my favorite US cities to visit anytime of the year is New Orleans, Louisiana.  Best known for having the most loyal football fans and home to the most delicious Cajun cuisines ever prepared, I sought off to explore more of what this place has to offer.   Many high ticketed events take place in New Orleans such as the Mardi Gras, the Essence Music festival, the Superbowl, a host of marathons and the list can go, but even without attending those events, you can still make the most of your visit here

Most hotels offer brochures for Swamp Tours for the brave heart explorers and I would recommend taking a drift along the Bayou just once. The drive to the site is just 30 minutes out the city and the tour is about an hour.  It took fifteen minutes to reach the middle of the swamp on a turbo speed boat and less than five before the alligators began poking their eyes above the water lines. We were told by our guides that we were visiting the friendliest batch of alligators in the batch, of course its part of the pitch and to my surprise many spectators on the boat wanted to reach down and pat one on the head. On this one I will pass! Holding the new baby gator being prepared for the wild was as far as was willing to ventured.

Strolling through the French Quarters is common for the new city tourist and just off the paths nearby you will discover  a number of Voodoo and Occult shops, selling everything form oils, to candles, dolls and Tarot Reading Spiritual Leaders.  On a whim, I wanted to have my palm read( for fun of course)  and learned that most shops were full and being adding to a waitlist was the norm. In some cases, it seems that this ritual has become very commercialized, but after speaking with some of the locals the “VooDoo Culture” is very real in New Orleans. So real in fact there is a museum, spiritual tours and rituals all created to foster and maintain their lifestyle and spiritual movement.

Since traveling and dining go hand in hand, I love to ask about the best local spots to check out. While sampling  jambalaya and dirty rice is so traditional and popular amongst tourists, I decided to try something different and send my tastes bud bustling.

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Oysters Slessinger and Homemade Crab Cakes at Katies’s Restaurant.
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The famous Chargrilled Oysters at Neyow’s Cafe.

The final stretch of my foodie excursion is the to the Cafe Du Monde French Market Coffee Stand for a freshly prepared warm Benyas.  A square piece of dough, fried and covered in powered sugar and serve with a small cup French Java.

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I got my Benyas!

Unlike the traditional tourist, I go searching for the local talents in many artistic forms and New Orleans never disappoint. While in the past few weeks there has been reports of robbery and attacks on tourists, a level of caution must be taken when wandering in unfamiliar tourist spots. While it’s a fact that many urban cities are being gentrified, this city managed to protect and market their local artists in the “Back of the Yards” community near the French Quarters.

A visit to the Bayou state is a trip worth making.

A Pilgrimage to Paisley Park

Like many fair-weather Prince fans, I was shock when his death flash across the television as “Breaking News”.  I had just missed the opportunity to see him perform at the 2014 Essence Music Festival due to the untimely passing of my father.  However, memories of being introduced to royal one relished in my mind as my mother was one of the most loyal Prince fan’s I had ever come to know.  As a matter of fact, she was so loyal she even named our first family pet, a Doberman Pinscher after him.  I can remember going to see Purple Rain in elementary school, covering our eyes to the naughty parts, but watching as she jammed in her seat and later down the aisles as he electrified the screen with his awesome dance moves and signature splits in gem-studded four-inch heels.  Throughout the years, she would retreat to her red crates to play his albums and tapes on a boombox in the living room.  A few years ago she learned of an all Prince radio station on Pandora which was later downloaded and enjoyed from IPOD sound system.  It’s moments like these and my own personal love for his music, performances and persons, I fell in love with “The Artist”.  I watched on television as many began to crowd his property and placed items on a gate surrounding his home.  I wanted to be apart of that commemoration.

Not soon after viewing and listening to fans all over the world pay their last respects, I took the five-hour drive up to Minnesota, vowing to return, once his home became a museum. To my dismay, the decision to transform and open as a tourist attraction came six months later and in keeping with my promise, I set off on my pilgrimage to Paisley Park.

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Paisley Park is located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, surrounded by factories and industrial offices.  On the outside, the building looks like a marble pearl correctional facility, adding to the fact that Prince was truly original or just weird.  The museum offers four packages, ranging from $39.00 Standard to $160.00 VIP and can only be purchased online.  I scheduled my tour for the next day and decided to spend the rest of the evening exploring the city Prince had grown to love and refused to leave.

One of the first stops on my journey was to the legendary “1st Avenue” nightclub, 45 minutes away Chanhassen.  The area where the club is located just around the corner from the Minnesota Twins stadium.  There were countless sports bars, coffee shops and chic boutiques enough to satisfy the common tourist.

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Next stop was to two of the many eateries Prince loved to frequent, “World Street Kitchen”. An Asian fused vegan cafe primarily, but does accommodate non-vegans on special request.  The average check for two ranges between $27.00-$40.00, depending on which dish you choose. Just across the dining room, adjacent to WSK is Milk Jam Creamy. They actually offer a special “Raspberry Beret “ topping for sundaes, I opted for the deep down cocoa cone  instead.

The next day, I arrived for my tour, being greeted by a guard who lead me to a cue with the rest of the patrons waiting to start the excursion that last 90 minutes.  One of the greatest displeasure of this experience were the NO PHOTOS OR PHONES policy,  The clerks actually ask to remove any recording devices and have you placed them in a sealed security pouch until the end of the tour.

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Just through the foyer your greeted with the loving sounds of white doves accompany by Prince Ballads streaming through the surround sound system.  Our tour guide was awesome, she silenced the room as we were informed of Prince ashes encased just above our heads in an urn designed in a replica of his home.  This was very awkward for me, rarely had I ever came close to a celebrity alive or dead, but to pay respect to Prince ashes in his home was surreal.  Afterwards, we were led through picturesque rooms showcasing his artistic abilities and photogenic stances, all we’ve seen before if you followed his career.  What was not shown, at least not now, was memories of  his personal or home life.  Even in death, that part my remain a mystery to the masses.  All of his awards, costumes and instruments were encased and his restaurant styled kitchen glass doors were locked.  The upper living quarters were off-limits for viewing and the elevator where he died is closed off and covered up.  There is a huge face mural just across from the kitchen where two candles are resting on a holders, many on the tour suspected it to be the lift, of course the topic was never mentioned.  Approaching the leg of  the tour, I got a chance to stand in one of four recording studios and listen to an unnamed unreleased Jazz track Prince was working on before he died. Towards the end, we were walked briefly through his night club, where the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Madonna had once shared that space with him for midnight performances and lastly to the “WOW” room. This room consists of everything relating to Prince’s automobiles, clothing, theme staged setting and even the last piano he played before he passed away.  Although the gift shop offered very little for souvenir collecting, I managed to purchased a couple of bits before leaving the compound.  I enjoyed my journey to Minneapolis and my visit to Paisley Park.  I planned to return later on when his estate his finally settled and more items can become accessible so the public can learn more about the “Artist” we had all grown to love.

Urban Eatery: Batter & Berries

One of my favorite pastime when traveling is the opportunity to dine-out at some of the popular hot spots in that City.  Yesterday a friend and I decided to have brunch at the popular Batter & Berries restaurant. Occasionally, I will visit local eateries provided if I felt it was safe to do so and in many cities across the globe there are a few.   This restaurant received so many rave reviews that I had to give it a try. It’s located right in heart of Lincoln Park and just short two miles from Old Town. We were seated rather quickly, although I read from many blogs that the wait could easily stretch past an hour. The dining area is small, but I’ve experience dining a restaurants that seated less than twenty.  I ordered the Shrimp & Scampi Omelet (an odd combination but one nonetheless) and my friend a BLT.  Our waiter was extremely nice and the service was good.  We were seated next to a large party having a B & B fest, consist of those famous French Toasts that I would most defiantly try on my next visit there.

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While I didn’t care much for the loud music so early in the morning, the vibe around the restaurant was real. Everyone there seem like frequent visitors, I was probably the only newbie taking on the experience for the first time.  I’m guilty of taking food pics because I’ve and seen some strange and yet delicious dishes in my travels.  This day, I dove in before taking a photo, just to see what the hype was all about. While my friend complained about his sandwich, I on the other hand  sampled my omelet which was good.  We both agreed that on our next visit we will start off with the fan favorite, The French Toast Flight!

The End 2 End Challenge

Each year many locals and brave ex-pats take to streets of Bermuda to walk, run and bike from one end of the island to other all in the name of charity and the perfect excuse to come out and have fun with family and friends.  The island of Bermuda stretches just short of 22 miles, so of course one would think it wouldn’t be that long of journey to complete. While very few decided to go the long haul, I decided to stay within the majority and start my journey from the middle of island.

The course travels on the old railroad trail along the sea, where you soon discover beauty defiantly have an address here on the island!  Many local businesses are stationed throughout the route giving away food, small gifts and words of encouragement.  The locals were very supportive and the music in Somerset Parish, a community towards the end, took me back to the crate and record days in high school.  I really enjoy this event and discovered that a fourteen mile hike on a Saturday morning was not so bad.

House of Amouage

The pillowing clouds of fresh peppercorn laced with vanilla hits your senses upon entry into the “Amouage” perfumery, located in a suburban neighborhood just 20 minutes outside of Muscat, Oman. (amouage meaning “wave” in Arabic). I wanted to venture into this establishment just to get an inside look at how perfumes are created from natural resources. Also, I wanted to chat with the tour guide on Arab women’s love for special made fragrances. I learned that the Middle Eastern culture is known to have the most fragrance obsessed individuals in the world, so it may not be uncommon to find a place like this in your neighborhood.  The history of the factory’s first scent was interesting, as the sweet smells was created by burning old date leaves in the hot desert sun and were later carried to the villagers homes to linger throughout the day. How refreshing!!

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Jebel Akhdar

A short scenic visit to the beautiful green mountains in Oman.

There are many parts of Oman that I have yet to be explored but I was told that I must take a short road trip to visit the highest point of this country’s origin and the whole Eastern Arabia.  I reached the top of the Green Mountains and I have to say that the view was breathtaking!