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Beijing – Off the “Restored” Path

25 Sep

Quick: When I say “China” what is the first thing that pops into your mind? No, I’m not talking about fried rice inside a little white to-go box (although that would be the second thing I would think about), The Great Wall of course! We had the amazing opportunity to come across a “Off the Beaten Path” tour group in Beijing that takes tourists to a less visited, not restored, (actually) peaceful part of the wall with some exciting hikes and steep “rock climbing”. I’m not gonna lie, I got to feel like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible…. sometimes!

The company (cause I know you are interested) is called Back Country Beijing and they offer a very exciting 2 day trip. The most common place on the wall to visit is called Badaling, and although its grandeur is breathtaking and true to history (there has been quite a bit of restoration to this part), it is jam-packed every single day of the year. Plus, you don’t get the exciting Tom Cruise-friendly ups and downs, literally.

To keep it short and simple, we drove to a small village at the base of the mountain, had lunch at a local Chinese Farmer’s house, then hiked up for about 2 hours to the Wall. Two of the guides set up camp and started on dinner, while the other took us around the distance of 3 Guard Watch Houses. We were back after a few hours, had dinner and camped out ON THE WALL!!

That’s the Stairway to Heaven behind us!! 🙂

We got up really early to watch the sun rise, had a hearty oatmeal and coffee, then off to a very famous point popularly known as “Stairway to Heaven”…. mostly because its to steep but if you feel off or missed a step…. I’m just sayin’.

Enjoying a beautiful sun rise, freezing my butt at the same time!

Local Buzz – Boston: What’s that in the water? It’s CODZILLA!

7 Sep

Last night my company had its annual summer staff outing, and it was a blast! As a quick tip for a fun thing to do on a sunny day, I introduce “CODZILLA!”

It’s a high-speed boat that fits about 130 passengers, and once you’re on-board they take you on a semi-informative / semi-silly (think a handful of history and a heap of corny jokes) ride through the Boston Harbor and beyond. Once you get out far enough, “Codzilla” goes super fast and pulls lots of fun turns, meaning almost everyone on board gets soaked! Don’t worry, they’ll give you ponchos if you ask!

It was about a 45-minute ride overall, with about 15 minutes of high-speed flipping around in the middle. For a large group, this was the perfect not-too-long adventure before heading to the bar. There were lots of children on board, too, but the little ones all ended up crying, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the younger crowd.

Cheers,

Nicole

Boston Harbor Cruises

1.877.SEE.WHALE (733.9425) or 617.227.4321

Meatballs Anyone?

31 Aug

Looking for a good place to eat in New York this weekend?

Here goes a tip from my days in the Big Apple–>The Meatball Shop!

Sunday night and my boyfriend starts browsing through Timeout New York’s cheap eats. Sounds promising, right? As the word ‘meatball’ catches his attention, I cringe.

This is what I pictured…tempting to some, not so much to others…

I unwillingly make my way down from the Upper East Side to Stanton Street picturing a grimy joint with greasy meatball subs. As we get to the place, the hostess informs us it will take 45 minutes or more to get us seated which, in this case, was a pleasant surprise as I was not expecting a coveted place. As I walk in, I am immediately drawn by the welcoming atmosphere, the funky decoration and the upbeat tunes.

Great atmosphere!

We decide to ditch the wait and sit at the bar area, where a cheerful waitress explains us the menu. After deciding on our combination of meatballs, sauces and sides (there are so many possibilities, we took about 20 minutes!) we sit back and enjoy our drinks.  Shortly after, my vegetarian meatball arrives with my side of the chef’s greens topped with a spicy meat sauce—beyond delicious. We finish off our meal with an exquisite green apple sorbet. We learn they make everything in loco, from the meatballs to the ice-cream, adding to the place’s uniqueness.

Some of the dishes served at The Meatball Shop

It turned out to be a great experience that I recommend to friends looking for New York tips! So if you’re looking for a cheap eat in a trendy new York spot, this should be on your list!

Going for seconds when out of town friends visit!

-Flavia

A Place to Visit in Our Own Campinas!

28 Aug

I love public spaces. Great public spaces are equalizers of society, places where socio-economic classes races, ethnicities, cultures, converge and interact in one space, where people can express themselves, meet friends, exercise, and have a good time. Public spaces, like Manhattan’s Central Park, can also provide a necessary escape from bustling city life. I just got back from a relaxing time at home in Brazil and want to boast about an underrated yet wonderful public space in Campinas: Parque Portugal.

An aerial view of Parque Portugal, courtesy of http://diegopintojn.blogspot.com/

Located around a beautiful lake, Lagoa do Taquaral, this park has everything.  A dirt track circles around the lake, passing by paddle boats shaped like swans, stretching areas, a children’s playground, an outdoor concert venue, a bird sanctuary, a mini-bamboo forest, and much more. Parque Portugal also features a swimming pool, a planetarium, a gymnasium, and much more!

Swan-shaped paddle boats, photo courtesy of http://diegopintojn.blogspot.com/

Fellow blogger Mandy and I went for a brisk walk around Parque Portugal last week and it was great. It is a great place to exercise. There are two tracks, one that circles around the outside of the park and one that circles the lake inside. Every hundred meters, there is a sign tracking how much you’ve walked. Inside the park, there are several areas to stretch, cool off, and lift weights (if you are so inspired).

There are always people walking around Parque Portugal, known to Campineiros as Taquaral, but the place really comes alive on weekends, when the paddle boats are out, the restaurants around the park are crowded, and Campineiros are out and about enjoying one of the great spaces in our city!
-Anne

 

The Simple Life

23 Aug

My sister, aunt, and I all load up in the car on our way to the Virginia countryside. As we nostalgically sing along with our Disney Vol. 1CD (“A Whole New World” and “Hakuna Matata” amongst our favorites), the towering buildings of the busy city dwindle, as the rolling hills become more prominent.

I love our days in the country. Especially during the peach season! We stop at Hartland Orchard where they give us a white paper bag with a convenient handle on it to go pick peaches to our hearts content.

The peaches stand out from their green foliage backdrop,welcoming us to pluck one off the low hanging branch. Of course a couple of taste tests need to be made before taking all these peaches home. As my aunt bites into the first peach we share, she said it was like “a religious experience,” the peach representing all that is pure and beautiful in this world – a little exaggerated comment for a mere peach, but it was THAT good. So juicy and succulent that it’s one of those foods that you would rather eat alone so you don’t have to be under the tight constraints of proper eating manners, letting all the juices run down your arm until it drips off your elbow.

When our bag is full, we dilly-dally for a while, absorbing our surrounding, posing on a nearby tractor pretending to be bona fide countrygirls. A part of us probably wished we were – enjoying the simplicity of life rather than complicating the uncomplicated like we tend do.

Full on peaches, having probably eaten as many as are in the bag, we get back in the car, this time singing a more fitting country tune by the Dixie Chicks, and drove back the hour and a half that takes us from simplicity to commotion.

-Mandy

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