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Oh the places I’ve been…My favorite travel photos from 2010 – today!

I’ve never been much of a photographer. During college, most of my photos were of my friends and I holding various alcoholic beverages and smiling or making some crazy faces at a most likely tilted camera. Or even worse was in high school, when we used to hold the camera above our heads and take the dreaded “MySpace” selfies or make a tilted “gangsta” peace sign with weird duck faces.  Yeah…a few girls in dresses at a high school, classy New Years party holding drinks with Raspberry Smirnoff and Sprite are super “gangsta.” Although the photos are a little more than slightly embarrassing, they did capture some fun memories, and I would never delete them. I am glad, though, that over the past three years I’ve had the chance to travel to a few amazing destinations and photograph those experiences.

While I was in Aruba a few weeks ago, my memory card that I bought at the start of the second semester of my senior year at BU finally filled up. With no space left on the card, I uploaded all the photos onto my semi-new computer (actually my sister’s old computer that was given to me last year to replace my IBM Thinkpad from 2006) and began to look through them. I realized that there are actually some pretty nice pictures. Take a look at some of my favorites from my travels to Florida, Cape Cod, New Jersey, Las Vegas, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vermont, Aruba, Tokyo, and Hong Kong over the past 3.5 years. Keep in mind these are in no particular order and were taken mostly on auto settings with my 2010 Canon 10 megapixel point and shoot camera and weren’t edited. Enjoy!

Hong Kong island at night. Taken from Kowloon in July, 2012.

Hong Kong island at night. Taken from Kowloon in July, 2012.

Jan 2010 - Aug 2013 1689 - Copy

A sunset and bottle of wine at Passions on the Beach in Aruba. Taken in August, 2013.

Tokyo, Japan. Taken in July, 2012.

Tokyo, Japan. Taken in July, 2012.

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Goals for 2013

2012 was a pretty good year. I traveled to a few amazing places that I’d never been before (Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Aruba), tried some interesting food (blowfish and raw octopus), gained a new hobby (running), and just enjoyed life. As this year ends, and 2013 begins, I’ve been thinking about what to do to make 2013 an even better year. I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions.  Lose 10 pounds, give up ice cream, spend less money…I would probably give up all three by January 4th or 5th when I’ll inevitably step into JP Licks, spend more unnecessary money, and stuff myself with a sundae. Now, goals for fun, that should be something that I  can handle.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. Snowboard. With this week’s snow storm, I’m hopeful that this winter will bring more snow than last year. I’ll be heading to Mount Snow tomorrow, and already have plans to go to Okemo, Gunstock, and possibly Killington this season.

2. Run a 10k, or maybe even a half marathon,  if I’m motivated enough. I started running (well technically it was jogging with periods of walking) outside this spring, and was instantly hooked. A long run on a cool spring or fall afternoon is now my favorite stress reliever.  This year, I conquered my first 5k, and now I’m ready for more.  Since I’m up to a little over 6 miles now, I’d love to finish a 10k this year and work towards my goal of a half marathon.

3. Go back to Europe.  More specifically Italy and Spain.  Both countries seem to have such great food, culture, and places to visit. So far, I’ve only been to London, Paris, and Amsterdam in Europe, and I can’t wait to see more!

4. Build up my savings. I know this kind of contradicts my last goal, but I’m confident that I can travel and still put more money into savings. I’ll just have to give up some of my dinners out, ice cream runs, and weekend getaway trips.

5. And, as always, maximize my vacation days.  Maybe I’ll even be able to squeeze in another trip to Aruba.

 

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Why I’m starting to love the season I used to hate

Pumpkin Spice Latte, http://www.starbucks.com

For as long as I can remember, summer has been my favorite season.  Sun, warm weather, no school, vacations, ice cream, swimming, longer days, the beach…the list goes on and on.  Also, for as long as I can remember, fall has always been my least favorite season.  School, homework, busier work days, colder weather, sunsets at getting earlier and earlier…blahh Of course, the main reason for my dislike was school.  Now that I’ve been out of school for a while, though, fall is beginning to grow on me. Here’s why:

1. Apple picking: It’s always been one of my favorite fall activities.  For years, my family and I would go to Marshall farm in Fitchburg, but sadly, it’s now closed. Last year, I went to Sholan in Leominster, but it just wasn’t the same.  This year, I hope to try a new apple picking location, preferably one with a little shop that sells caramel apples, apple crisp, apple cider, etc.

2. Hiking: This is the first fall since junior year of high school where I haven’t had to work on the weekends.  I’m trying to spend my weekends outside, doing fun activities like hiking. Last weekend, I hiked to the top of Wachusett with some friends. It was definitely more of a workout than I remembered!

3. Apple crisp and apple crisp ice cream. One of the best fall treats.  J.P. Licks has a great apple crisp flavor this September; head there before the end of the month to try it out.  I also enjoy homemade apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.

4. Pumpkin Spice lattes at Starbucks. Delicious.

5. Shipyard Pumpkin beer. Definitely one of my favorite beers, especially when they put cinnamon sugar on the rim!

6. Thanksgiving. Food, food, and more food. Enough said.

7. Biking. Another perfect fall, outdoor activity! I’m doing a 30 mile bike ride this Sunday morning, so fingers crossed for no rain.

8. I’m going to Europe for the first time in October! My friend and I are visiting, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Can’t wait!

And…I can’t even make it to 10.  All in all, though, fall is beginning to grow on me and I appreciate the season more and more as I get older.  Now that I’m not writing papers, working doubles every Sunday during football season at a sports bar, or wasting my time at a second job at Friendly’s, my fall weekends are actually turning out to be pretty nice.   And, like usual, I’m sure winter will be here before we know it.

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A sunset on the beach

Beginnings of sunset- Rock Harbor

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sunset at the beach, and if I have I don’t remember.  I always knew that there would be places on the bay side of the cape where you can see the sunset, but I never knew which beach or where to go exactly, until a couple of days before my trip.  I just thought, why not google it, what’s the first result say: Rock Harbor in Orleans.  Hmmm, I think, that’s right down the street from Skaket Beach.  The same beach that I’ve gone to countless times my entire life.

How did I miss that one?

Anyways, we headed over to Rock Harbor and Skaket one evening for the sunset.  It was pretty, although the millons of swarming bugs were not.  Bugs don’t usually bother me, or try to bite me.  I rarely get any bug bites. But these bugs, they were vicious. We were only able to stay outside for a few minutes.

 

Sunset at Skaket Beach

Skaket Beach

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Happy 2nd Birthday to Vacation Dreams…and thoughts on summer

As I sit here, writing this post, Boston is suffering through another cold, rainy, dreary day. I can’t help thinking that this spring/summer is off to the same start as the one two years ago, when I started this blog.  I remember looking at the 10 day forecast, and every day showed another depressing cloud with rain drops coming out of it.  I’m hoping that we’re not in for another 26 days of rain in June.  Fingers crossed.

Each year, as summer draws closer, I like to think about my plans for the season.  Although summer doesn’t have the same meaning now as it used to, when it meant working a few days a week at a restaurant, planning Wednesday trips to the beach, laying by my pool on a daily basis, and sleeping in, it’s still my favorite season.  I recently quit my second job so that I can have weekends off (probably not a good financial decision), and I’m ready for some sun.  It better come out of hiding soon because I have some major…well not too major…plans.

1. Go to the Cape. I know I’ve been many times before, but a trip to Cape Cod will be the perfect weekend getaway, especially when I can’t afford to go any farther.  Maybe I’ll try staying in a different town.  Hyannis and Orleans are always my go-to spots, but it will be fun to try something new.

2. Hike a mountain…or maybe a just a large hill.  I’m probably too out of shape for an actual mountain, but it would be nice to hike to the top of Mt. Wachusett or Mt. Monadnock.  It’s been years since I’ve tried, and it would be a fun day trip.

3. Ride a bike.  I’m thinking along the Cape Cod canal or on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which follows former railroad tracks through 22 miles of Cape Cod towns.

4. Find the best ice cream Massachusetts.  When it comes to ice cream, I’m pretty much the biggest addict around. Last summer, I stuck to my local Coolidge Corner J.P. Licks, Berry Freeze, and Friendly’s, making almost daily trips.  Although I love those three spots, this summer I plan to focus on quality over quantity and venture out to try some new spots.  Here’s a few I’m thinking of: Cabot’s, Crescent Ridge, and Bubbling Brook, as well as my old Leominster favorites Meola’s and Cherry Hill.

5. Go back to the Jersey Shore…Sea Isle, not Seaside Heights.  I’m not planning a trip to check out Snooki and team’s favorite bars, but rather a trip to calmer Sea Isle City in southern New Jersey.  One of my roommate’s parents have a beautiful house there, just a few minutes from the beach.  We visited last summer, and I’m hoping her parents will let us go down there one weekend this summer.

6. Eat some great seafood. As I’ve written before, my favorite is Markey’s at Hampton Beach, but I plan on finding some new places to try this year.

7. Visit at least 4 of the beaches from Boston.com’s “Your perfect beach” slide show.  I’m thinking I’ll try: the best beach for walking (Nauset on the Cape which stretches 10 miles from Orleans to Chatham), best sunset (Menemsha Beach on Martha’s vineyard), and best for rail travelers (Rockport).   Hampton Beach is also featured as “best old time good time,” but I figured that it couldn’t count towards my list since I’ve been there multiple times every summer of my entire life.

8. Go to Water Country.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been to this New Hampshire water park, and I’m ready to go back.

9. Learn how to run.  This may seem like a crazy goal for someone like me who can barely run over a mile, but someday I’d like to run a half marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon to be exact.

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My Vegas Top 10

Walking down the strip

Unlike Disney World, where I’ve been way too many times to keep count, Vegas is new to me.  I may not be an expert, but that’s not going to stop me from creating my own “Top 10 things to see and do in Las Vegas” list.

1. The Jabbawockeez show at the Monte Carlo. When we purchased the tickets to this show, my first thoughts were “how entertaining could one hip hop  group be?”  Well, was I wrong.  The Jabbawockeez, the winners of season one of America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV, kept my full attention for the entire time they were on stage and left me wanting to watch them preform more.  The show had the perfect mix of comedy, music, tricks, and technical skill. Each likable masked guy’s moves were perfectly choreographed to each and every song.

Picture made of flowers!

2. The classic elegance of the indoor flower garden at the Bellagio.  As soon as you step into the lobby of the Bellagio, you know that you’ve entered a classier world.  A man is playing the piano, and you feel as if you’ve been transported into the past.  As you walk in further, while gazing at the colorful blown glass on the ceilings, you’re quickly overcome by the scent of fresh flowers.  The garden is gorgeous.  Flowers of every color, size, and type fill the room.  One section has a fake Ferris wheel, another has a carousel, and another has a large “painting” made only out of flowers. I couldn’t stop staring.

3. The Forum shops at Caesar’s.  I definitely cannot afford most of the stores here, but I enjoyed looking around at the designer items and their steep price tags.  I also loved the elaborate fountains and statues, and how the ceiling was made to look like the sky.  Another plus was the 4 floor H&M.  I’m always a fan of their affordable clothing.

At the Bellagio

4. The fountains at the Bellagio.  Unfortunately we did not get to see the fountain show at night, but we did catch one before sunset.  I love how the water shoots up in tune to the music, and since the sun was still out during the show we saw, we were able to see numerous rainbows in the water.

5. LAX at the Luxor.  We visited this club at the Luxor twice, and had fun both times.  It’s a typical club with a dance floor, seating for only those who can drop $1,000s on table service and bottles of booze, $10 drinks, and standard club music.  The highlight of our experience at LAX was when a group of Egyptian guys in Vegas for a bachelor party invited us to their table in the VIP section.  It was nice having the perspective from behind the ropes.  More room to stand around and dance, and most importantly: some place to sit when your feet start hurting from the heels that you despise.  I don’t know how some girls can where heels all of the time. I always wear flip flops or flats in Boston, but decided that I had to wear heels in Vegas, and my feet continuously hurt. It was nice having some place to sit!

6. Bank at the Bellagio. We hadn’t planned on visiting this club, but when we were stopped by a promoter while shopping that day and were told that the Far East Movement was performing at Bank and we could get in for free, have free drinks before midnight (usual price $15 for liquor, $10 for Bud Light), and would be on the list so we could “cut the line,” we were hooked.  He told us to show up before 10 pm to get checked in and get our free drinks.  We arrived around 9:30 and spent most of the time between then and 11:00 confused about where to go and then standing in line.  Once we got into the club, we made the most of it, but I was extremely tired by the time the Far East Movement stepped out to perform at 2 am.  Overall, since I didn’t spend any money to get in, had a free drink, got to dance AND saw “Like a G6” and “Rockateer” preformed live, I’d classify it as a good night.

7. The Ross store on the strip. I’d never been to this discount store before, and Ross is like a better, even cheaper version of Marshalls and T.J. Maxx.

8. Roulette.  I’m not a big gambler. I probably spent $60 gambling the entire trip. I’m also not a huge fan of slots, although I wasted most $1 and $5 bills that I had on them, and although I won $35 on one.  I like Roulette because you have a 50/50 chance of winning when you bet on red, black, even or odd.

9. Walking down the strip in general.  We didn’t have nice weather for laying out in the sun, but we had perfect weather for walking.  It was also my only form of exercise, and the perfect opportunity to people watch.  There’s always something to see when people are allowed to walk on the street carrying giant drinks!

10. Losing your sense of time.  I’m used to last call at 1:40.  I don’t even know how late the clubs closed, we always left way before that happened, and some casino bars stayed open 24 hours.  No matter how late we were up, there were always tons of people around.  By the time I arrived at work Monday morning after the weekend, my sense of time was completely messed up.

I didn’t see and do everything that Las Vegas has to offer, and I hope to return some day.  Until then, I’ll have to remember this list as my Vegas top 10.

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Free Ben & Jerry’s in Boston starting July 28!

Taken from Ben & Jerry's website

An ice cream addict’s dream is coming true on Wednesday!  Ben & Jerry’s will be driving around Boston with free ice cream for the next month. Ice cream fans are encouraged to follow Ben & Jerry’s on Twitter and on Facebook to tell the truck where to go and find out where it will be.

I definitely plan on following @BenJerrysTruck on Twitter and finding this free ice cream during my lunch break as many times as possible.  I mean, I haven’t eaten ice cream for lunch since the Scooper Bowl. So it’s been awhile.  Also, maybe if I can get more free ice cream, I won’t have to make my nightly trips to the J.P. Licks, Berry Freeze, or Friendly’s in my neighborhood, saving me some money.  My favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors are Everything but the…, Karmel Sutra, Americone Dream, and New York Super Fudge Chunk.  Maybe they’ll have a few of those flavors on the truck.

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