WTF? (Where’s The (cheap) Fruit?)

Shopping on any given day  quickly reminds me of the small things I took for granted back home. Just today, my cravings for any summertime delights were stifled when I stumbled across this barrel of Watermelons. Fresh produce are considered precious commodities on an island, I have to keep reminding myself that. Just in case I forget, the hot pink stamps will make sure the price is highly visible! To have to spend this amount of money to indulge, your truly “0ne in a Melon”! 

Footprints in the Pink Sand

It’s been a year since I moved to Bermuda, an experience that has changed my perspectives on life, education and culture.  While I can easily adapt to new environments, being a newbie to the island lifestyle can pose a huge challenge for a city dweller.

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For instance, my introduction to the island culture was quite brief while living in Asia I toured Thailand.  A very tourist and popular destination with a host events to keep you entertained during your stay.  While I haven’t had a chance yet to tour the Caribbean, I was fortunate to land a job on the beautiful North Atlantic gem to get me started.img_6528-1

Bermuda sits just east of Florida and only a couple of hours away from the mainland.  A beautiful relaxing paradise that ironically never comes up in international conversations.  During my research, I learned of the expensive urbanity, everything from the six-dollar loaves of bread, to the one dollar apples and fifteen hundred-dollar studio apartment rentals were mind boggling. I learned very quickly, networking here is mandatory and not optional especially if your seeking to land a job and are contracted to stay for a while. While on the tailend of settling, I struggled with the stagnated and snaillike demeanor which can easily be misunderstood for laziness.  I learned the greatest  asset this country have is the warm invitation from the local community.  I was able to make connections via social media and email quickly and soon found a cheap apartment, furniture and learned of the best places to shop for food. Visitings websites such as www.nothingtodoinbermuda.com and www.emoo.bm and the The People’s List  page on Facebook opened the door to monthly calendar events which provided more of social life as the environment is very family oriented.

While quite beautiful, it’s very small, 22 miles long to be exact!  In most cases in the US it would be considered a neighborhood. The island consists of nine parishes (or communities) all are easily accessible by boat, bike, car or bus.  There’s a railroad trail converted into a walking path, great for late evening and afternoon cool downs.

In my short time, I complete The End 2 End Marathon, (for which I walked), attended my first Carnival and Soca Parade and  the international sailing competition the America’s Cup, for which America lost. In total, the experience was priceless.

While I  have yet to find a great eatery, I have sampled their signature dishes, which are the The Traditional Fish Sandwich and Fish Chowder and was given more suggestions about others spots that I plan to write about in later posts.

With so much more to unravel about this gem and the infamous “Bermuda Triangle”, I can honestly state that my time thus far has been notable.  I plan to continue to stroll the shoreline of these pink sand beaches to explore more about this unique peninsular otherwise known as Bermuda. 

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On top of the rocks at Horseshoe Bay! Have a Bermudaful Day!!

 

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 highest of Highs

One of the greatest perks of traveling the US is the ability to cross state lines without the hassle of  having to obtain a visa or border stamp to get permission to explore other cities or towns. Living in the Midwest, many weekend getaways can be enjoyed just a few hours away from your front door by car or less than an hour away by flight.  However when planning to  travel further West, I would highly recommend visiting the State of Colorado.

I love hiking and the mountains in Denver defiantly didn’t disappoint this urban wanderer.  There are many hills as far as the eyes can see and I had the privilege to take a take a forty-five minute train ride 14,114 ft. to Pikes Peak.  When riding up, I completely forgot to pack my jacket and by the time we reached the top, I was literally frozen and stuck to my seat. The greatest benefit to that debacle was the opportunity to view some of mother’s nature most breath-taking creation.  The State of Colorado has also made news as being one of the first States to legalize recreational cannabis.

Being a city dweller, I’m no stranger to the substance but to I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit the many weed shops while exploring all of what Denver had to offer.  It was quite interesting to walk out of the grocery store and go next door, not to the beauty supply but the Weed Supply. Choosing a souvenir for this trip was quite tricky but I was fortunate to receive help from many merry and jovial locals who had no problem with suggest choosing a gift from “The Green Solution”. The shop sold everything from the actual leaves of many potencies to drinks, edibles, candles, tee shirts, and cannabis coloring books.  Souvenir shopping in Denver is on a higher level, literally!

 

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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