Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ummm.... Where did Mark Go?

Well... it has been some time since I last posted anything on this blog.  So where the hell did I go? Well I was on a trip around the world for the last 180 days and I have seen all the places in the 1,000 places books. So time to catch up right? Wrong!!!! Wishful thinking. What I would give to do a trip around the world. Someday, hopefully.

So really, what have I been doing? Well for one, being lazy!!! Shame on me. I should be writing on my blog on a regular basis. So this is my promise to my readers to get more posts on a regular basis. It appears that my last post was in September and let me catch you up on where I have been since and where I plan to go in the near future.  I will post more details on these visits over the next few weeks.

One of my goals was to visit Fenway Park in it's 100th year of operation. I did not get the chance to attend a game during that year, but I did have the opportunity to get a guided tour of the park, which was much more fun for me rather than sitting through a game.

100 years of Fenway Park (1912-2012)

The famous "Green Monster"

October brought a chance to make a quick weekend visit to New York City. The hotel that we were staying at has a view right into the construction site for the new World Trade Center and access to the 9/11 Memorial.

9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pool

 In November I visited one of my favorite cities, Chicago. What can I say about Chicago other than fun, fun, fun. Where else can you get great food and on the cheap?  Chicago is home to the original Pizzeria Uno, for which I still have yet to try. One should never miss the Art Institute of Chicago, located near Grant and Millennium Parks.  Some of the most famous works of art are housed there, not to mention that you need a week to see the entire museum.

American Gothic at The Art Institute of Chicago

Don't forget to get a great view from atop the world famous Willis Tower. Wait, you say you have never heard of the Willis Tower? Well perhaps you may know it better as its former name, The Sears Tower.

Views from 103 floors up The Sears er... Willis Tower

January is where things get crazy, or rather "Goofy." Yes it is official, you can call me Goofy, I completed the Goofy Challenge which is an event held annually at Walt Disney World near Orlando, FL.  The "Goofy" combines a 1/2 Marathon run on a Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles combined. But really, who can say that they have been to all four Walt Disney World theme parks in about than 6 hours time including a quick ride on Expedition Everest. (To those die hard Disney fans, I know you have.)

That is one Goofy fella!!!

So after I go to Disney in January what would my next trip in March be....? You guessed it, another trip to Walt Disney World he he he.  This time to enjoy all that the parks have to offer, and not to just run through them.

How many times has this boy been to Disney? Lost count.
In May, Stu and I took a last minute trip for Memorial Day weekend. But where too? Our options were 1. Las Vegas (Could not find an affordable flight.) 2. Montreal (Could not find an important document to cross international borders.) 3. Just get in the car and drive!!! We went with the third option. Sadly it rained almost all weekend long during our trip, but we still made the trip worth it. We ended up in North Conway, New Hampshire; Burlington, Vermont; Lake George, New York; and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Our last day on the road included a drive down Route 2 which is part of the Mohawk Trail. The highlight was a hike up part of the Appalachian Trail to Massachusetts' highest peak Mt. Greylock.

Top of Mt. Greylock, that white stuff is snow in May!!!
I had a bit of free time to myself after our road trip, so I decided to do some Boston touristy things and walked along the Freedom Trail. Have to say, it's a good way to learn about the city that I live in.

Follow the red brick road.

What future trips do you have to look forward? July will be my company trip to Mount Washington, New Hampshire and August will be my trip to California for the Disneyland Half Marathon.

Still have a lot of places to go.  Stay tuned for more details on the above trips, some of my past trips, and those to come.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cruisin' to the Vineyard

One of the things that I love about where I work is that that the company has held three different retreats since I have started working there in June. I have hit 2 different places from the 1000 places book on these retreats.

On the day that I was headed out to San Diego in the evening our department had a small retreat to the island of Martha's Vineyard. Talk about quite a travel day, Boston to Falmouth, Falmouth to Martha's Vineyard, Martha's Vineyard to Falmouth, Falmouth to Boston, Boston to Phoenix, Phoenix to San Diego (It was 3AM EST when I got to San Diego)

Got up early in the morning to drive all the way to Falmouth, MA near Woods Hole (Famous for it's oceanographic institute) to hop on a boat that would take my co-workers and myself to Martha's Vineyard.

The boat that took us to Martha's Vineyard
The boat was great, the back had a seating area and tables set up with a light breakfast of pastries and fruit. It was a smooth ride to the island and I was surprised that we were in Vineyard Haven within 20 minutes. There is not much to see in Vineyard Haven, however there are sometimes huge yachts there. We happen to come across one yacht "The VanGo."

The VanGo, Is there a helicopter with a sweater on there?

All of us on our tiny boat were googling on our phones to figure out who the owner is. Although we could not come up with a definitive answer it is a strong possibility that the owner is Ms. OWN herself Oprah Winfrey.

After a tour of Vineyard Haven we strolled right into Oak Bluffs Harbor and moored the boat to a buoy. Time to take a tour of Oak Bluffs, so um... how do I get there? We were sitting in the middle of the harbor, not being a boater, I was not sure how to do this, perhaps we swim to the docks? LOL  The owners of the boat call the launch service over the radio to have a boat pick us up and drop us off at the dock. So that's how that works!!!
Oak Bluffs Harbor
On the island there is the typical souvenir shops that sell t-shirts and hats, candy shops, but there also happens to one of the countries oldest carousels too, you one of those that you have to reach for the brass ring. Martha's Vineyard is also the home of the famous Black Dog Tavern, they are more famous for their t-shirts now-a-days. There was only really one thing that I wanted on Martha's Vineyard and only because my co-worker made it sound sooooo good, was to have a dirty banana at Nancy's. Located right at the harbor, Nancy's serves the typical clam chowdah and fried seafood at the snack bar and fresh seafood upstairs in the dining room. The clam chowdah is great but the dirty banana is soooo good, just take a banana and blend it in with a mudslide, what a perfect way to spend a Thursday afternoon (was it afternoon yet, it might have been 11:30am.)

There was not much time to spend on the island, so two dirty bananas later it was time for lunch on the boat. I could not think of a better way to eat lunch then to sit right on the bow of the ship and soak in some rays.

Co-worker and I lounging on the job.
After lunch and some time to relax in the harbor it was time to head back to the mainland. The seas were a bit rougher on the way back and that made for quite a ride back. A few times I swear the boat was off of the water, the boat was getting some air time. The spray from the ocean was getting us quite wet too, but that really did feel refreshing for the ride.

A short ride to the island but also a short time to spend there too. I will have to come back to Martha's Vineyard to enjoy a little more time for some r&r at another time. 998 places to go...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Do I Go First? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The big question is where do I start from in the book 1000 Places to See? While running a half marathon this past Saturday I came up with many ideas about this blog (your mind tends to wonder while running long distances). This half marathon was called the Race to the Rock in Plymouth, MA and the race finish was at Plymouth Rock. I knew right away what my first blog entry would be, Plymouth Rock.

Plymouth Rock

I get home and thumb through the book and realize Plymouth Rock is not in the book, however Plymouth Plantation at Thanksgiving, is. Well that will have be a future blog post.

So I decided to talk about a place that I have been to many, many times and has a great historical connection to Plymouth, Provincetown, MA

Some who have been to Provincetown may notice a big tower in the middle of the town, but what does that tower represent? Well that is Pilgrim Monument to honor the arrival of the pilgrims on the Mayflower. I bet you did not know that the pilgrims did not first make land in Plymouth, but in Provincetown in 1620.

My family had been going to the cape since I was young and we never went to Provincetown. Maybe because it takes soo long to get there down Route 6. By the way Route 6 starts in Provincetown and stretches 3205 miles to Bishop, California, now that is a long drive.

In my adult life I have been to Provincetown at least a dozen times, including completing a 10K there. I find P-town so accepting.  P-town is one of America's top gay vacation places, and I always feel comfortable there. One of my favorite times that I visited P-town was when I was still living in Florida and my partner and I were visiting Boston.  We took the ferry from Boston to P-town and were there only 90 minutes later.

Arrival in Provincetown
 One could spend the entire day in P-town just visiting all the shops and restaurants down Commercial Street. I just love strolling up and down Commercial Street stopping in t-shirt and souvenir shops, candy stores, coffee shops, and more....

View of Commercial Street from Pilgrim Monument

One of my favorite places to eat is Bayside Betsy's. Betsy's I must say has the best clam chowdah that I have ever had. They have great service and what a nice view of the harbor as well, don't forget to say hello to Betsy herself as she seats you to your table.

You must have the Chowdah at Betsy's

After a fantastic meal find a nice quiet spot up on the hill at Pilgrim Monument in the grassy area right outside the tower sitting in an adirondack chair and enjoy the view. Perhaps take a nap there as well, just as I did, just don't miss the ferry back to Boston.

Nice place to take in a nap
If it is more than a nap that you need, may I suggest the Harbor Hotel. This hotel at first glance looks nothing more than a cheap motel but the Harbor Hotel is far from that. The rooms are modern, but have that retro 1960's Holiday Inn look to them with bright, pastel colors.  If you can get a room with a view of the harbor, what a view to begin and end each day.

Wake up views like this at Harbor Hotel
 I will be going to Provincetown over and over and over again, perhaps towards the end of the month. 

I started off this project with 1000 places to see, so where does that leave me now? Ah yes, 999 places to go...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

1,000 Things to Do Before I Die

Sometimes I ponder to myself what should I do with my life?  I am not talking about what should I do for work or what not, I am very happy where I am with work now. I mean what is my passion? What is the one thing that would make me complete?

I can remember the days when I was much younger and said that I want to visit every state in the United States and collect one of those silly souvenir spoons from each state, or ride every roller coaster that I can and get a shot glass from every amusement park that I had visited, or even cook every item from Julia Child's cookbook.

I loved, loved, loved the film Julie and Julia, go figure a movie about a blogger. Here is Meryl Streep playing the role of Julia Child (and did a fantastic job may I say, perhaps better than Julia Child herself) where she is asking her husband Paul after arriving in Paris "What should I do, you think?" Here I am asking the same very question. After watching that film I was very inspired to start cooking, I signed up for online cooking classes, *ahem* started a blog, got a magazine subscription to the Food Network Magazine, bought Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and started to cook. Hell, I was about to quit my job and attend culinary school.  Was this really my passion? I love cooking, but I think what I like about cooking is that I enjoy cooking for others, and making them happy with food. So I feel that I am not doing this for myself but for others. My partner started to eat healthier and eventually went vegan *sigh*,  So I cannot exactly cook from Julia Child's book for him, lol. Oh and did I mention I hate the clean up. So eventually I gave up the whole cooking passion thing. I did after all make some very tasty meals during this period in my life (and will probably make some more.)

Croque Madame
Including this incredible croque madame (ham, egg, cheese, bread, bechamel sauce) Yum!!! 

Braised Short Ribs

Not to mention Julia Child's braised short ribs (pictured) and boeuf bourguignon.  Speaking of boeuf bourguignon if you saw Julia and Julia you noticed that Julie attempted to make the boeuf bourguignon and overcooked it after falling asleep, I had my Julia moment making that dish as well I did not overcook the dish, but seemed to forget to turn the oven on. So the meal was only delayed by a day, no big deal!!! It was still very, very good.

Recently I purchased the book "1,000 Places To See in the United States & Canada Before You Die" by Patricia Schultz on my Kindle and started to check off the places that I have been to and hoping to visit the places that I have not jet been to.  So that is what inspired me to make sure that I have a chance to check of each and every item in the book to say that I did it. It looks like I went right back to where I started to see every state in the country. I don't want people to think that I am starting a bucket list, I am for too young for that. :-) I have already completed a marathon, I have gone sky diving, so there will be time for me to fine some other things to put on a bucket list some day.  

Just last weekend I went to San Diego, California to visit a friend and found some items in the book that I should have gone to while there. I felt this feeling that I should have done that. That made me remember what my true passion is traveling, this is exactly what I went to college for to study about hotels and travel. So I decided that starting in 2013 I will travel the country to insure that I visit items from Before You Die.

So here I am starting a blog, why you may ask? Well it gives me a chance to to ensure that I complete this task, and I can share my experiences from places all over the country. Here is what I plan to do with this blog: On a daily basis, I plan to write about the places that I have been to, planning to go to, and places that I am currently visiting. I figure a doable goal to complete this book is about 5 years. So starting tomorrow I will post in no particular order places that I have been to.

At a young age already visiting places from the book, Walt Disney World. 

St. Augustine, Florida

For those of you listening I hope to see you in my travels and perhaps get some traveling companions and friends along the way.

Happy Travels,