Places to Visit »Tyddyn Llan, Llangollen, Wales

Llandrillo, NR, Corwen, Denbighshire, North Wales LL21 0St UK, Guest Written by Dana:

Stephen surprised me with a weekend trip away to Wales. The hotel he chose was a “restaurant with rooms” called Tyddn Llan, run by a married couple. I only met the very charming wife, Susan,  who is the hostess at the front of the house, taking meal orders and offering tourist information during the day. Stephen did get a peek at Bryan, the husband, who is the chef.

This all takes place in the beautiful welsh countryside town of Llangollen in a  Georgian house with big gardens home to rabbits, a maze and tadpoles in the pond.

It was a fixed price menu and the food was creative but honest. Cooked perfectly, nice portions, you knew that you could order anything on the menu and you would get it the way it was meant to be served. It’s supposed to be the best restaurant in North Wales and has received many awards including a Michelin star.

We were invited to have drinks in the sitting room where Susan took our order and was able to explain every part of the menu. This seemed like grown up dining and at times we weren’t sure if we should have brought our 3 year old. The staff was very accommodating though, making sure they had homemade pasta/gnocchi for Bea in case she didn’t want another exotic choice (although, Bea did eat MY pate and Stephen’s lamb AND crab.. we usually tell her everything is “sausages”).

My favorite meal was breakfast though when I ordered Laverbread (seaweed mince) in an oat jacket on toast with scrambled eggs. Bea’s favorite meal was  a scotch egg, which is basically a hard boiled egg inside a sausage. I cant even bring myself to try it.

The staff was swift and kind and helpful, not words id use to ever describe customer service in the UK. The room was sweet. I was sad to go, but i couldnt imagine eating that well for more than 2 days in a row. We will definitely go back.

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Posted on June 7, 2011

Places to Visit »Liberty of London

218 St. John Street, London, Written by Dana

** All this week I’ll be featuring some great Picks by my dear friend Dana who will clue us in on London’s greatest offerings. Thanks so much Dana!!**

Styled like a bazaar, Liberty of London is one of the most beautifully and uniquely curated spaces. The store started in 1850, to sell Asian imports and in the 1920s, the Tudor revival building was created (from the timbers of ships!), and stock was extended. (I learned this all from a booklet they sell at the store).

It now carries small collections of high-end designers and its always been known to showcase new designers. Arthur Liberty helped develop the Art Nouveau movement by sponsoring the contemporary designers of that time.

Most people recognise the name LIBERTY for its traditional fabrics and prints, which could be described as prim English country florals, though today their are many more new prints by contemporary designers.
Oh and there’s a champagne bar downstairs!

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Posted on June 6, 2011

Places to Visit »Tattered Cover Book Store

1628 16th Street, Denver

Lately I’ve been sentimental about the places I grew up with, maybe because I’d like to take Van to them some day but sadly so many classic Colorado Springs shops are closed now:

Levine’s – a gorgeous old department store turned toy heaven, Michelle’s – the local old fashioned ice cream parlor, Bryan and Scott – the high class antique treasure trove where the charming, dapper owner Roberto would make us kids as comfortable around African sculptures and decorative vases as we would be in our own home (and where I got my lovely wedding ring), and Chinook Book Shop, where Dick Noyes looms as prominent in my childhood memories as Mr. Rogers.

Some how, Zeezo’s Magic Castle, Repeat Performance, and Barney’s Diner still hold on (though I was not too happy to hear Barney’s moved from a trailer to a brick and mortar spot).

So, long story short, I wanted to recommend at least one of my childhood loves that still exists. This one a couple hours north in Denver – The Tattered Cover Book Store. It will probably be a while until I set foot in the mammoth, multi floor book store, but you totally have to if you find yourself in the area, if only because bookstores like this are a dying breed.

I pretty much grew up in book stores – either crawling around during my dad’s book signings or as a family in our free time, accumulating large stacks of new books to read (even now my biggest splurge is on dozens of used books). Tattered Cover is one of the most memorable book shops of them all – and I can vividly recall details from my time spent there. The winding stair cases, the magazine corner on the first floor which was the only place on the planet (or so it seemed at the time) to see forgeign Vogues and stuff even more exotic.

I can almost exactly remember the layout of the fiction floor, the large nook with the art books, the back area where shelves of tween fiction enticed me (the Sweet Valley Highs, which I secretly wanted but was to embarrassed to ask for lined the bottom shelf) as well as the science fiction and mystery sections around the corner. There was even a well stocked paper doll section, which is where I learned about Erte, Dior and Poiret (thanks Tom Tierney). Every corner offered a well worn seat to relax and read in. Even with the most ernest attempts, a new spot could never feel this lived in and cozy and would never match the ambiance of this place.

This site offers an odd little video tour and takes credit for the lovely photo below.

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Posted on March 13, 2011

Places to Visit »Cedar Point

Written by Mike

Cedar Point started off in the late 1800s like many amusement parks of the day.  It was a boardwalk on a scenic waterfront complete with picnic grounds, an amusement arcade and even a ballroom.  While some of this past is visible in the park still (the ballroom still stands), Cedar Point is now known better for one thing, it’s “America’s Roller Coast”.  That may be their slogan, but it’s pretty accurate.  With some 14 roller coasters, including some big firsts of their day and the second tallest and fastest coaster in the world as of this writing, its got a pretty good reputation among coaster lovers across the world.

When I knew i wanted to book a trip there, I started looking around for local hotel options.  To my surprise, some of the best places to stay in the area were in the park itself.  This includes some serene log cabins that can hold up to 10 people (which if split among some friends or a family turns out to be a pretty decent deal).  The food in the park is comparatively good for amusement parks, but staying in the cabins allowed for us to do some BBQing at night while taking a coaster break before one last evening push.  Staying in the resort also lets you into the park an hour early, plus when else can you say you slept in a cabin at the foot of a giant wooden coaster?

The park is really clean and has plenty of family entertainment including an old frontier town section that does glass blowing and blacksmithing.  The Gemini is a wooden/metal racing coaster hybrid that was one of my favorites there, as well as a newer magnetic launched coaster called the Maverick.  A day pass includes a trip to the water park, which is a nice break especially on a really hot day like it was when we were there.  If you get sick of the 13 or so coasters, they also have a great arcade with some classic games, and some lesser known old ones with some awesome cabinet art.

All in all it was one of the most pleasant amusement park trips I have ever had and a great trip for roller coaster lovers and fun lovers alike.

On a side note, if your looking for an interesting place to eat one night outside of the park or on your way home, I would recommend local Czech favorite, Old Prague Restaurant in Vermilion OH.  We actually found this place thanks to the use of a “where to eat nearby” iphone app and were not disappointed.  Not only was there an older lady playing standards on a Casio, but they had good beer and even better Sauerkraut balls.

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Posted on February 24, 2011

Places to Visit »Best of 2010 Places to Visit

Great Vacations

As you can tell, our Barcelona trip was amazing.. but me took in some fantastic sites closer to home too:

1. Park Guell

2. Mercat Boqueria

3. Figueres

4. Museum of Jurassic Technology

5. Ludlow Lakeside Rental

6. Mummer’s Museum

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Posted on January 4, 2011

Places to Visit »Hollywood Wax Museum

6767 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

No one really goes to the Hollywood Wax Museum. But Jim and I are suckers for this kind of thing and the grimier the better. There are plenty of opportunities to ham it up with all your favorite celebrities like a frightening Jim Carrey, the Crypt Keeper, and a demented Will Farrell. The wax sculptors are not always generous to the famous people they’re creating – if I were Gwyneth or Toby Maguire I’d develop some serious issues after one visit (the former with the idea of inhuman all-body cellulite, the later with a completely dimwitted expression). If I remember correctly, it’s a bit expensive (as to be expected from a tourist trap) but so worth it to show our child photos of us hanging out with Austin Powers and Samuel L Jackson – he’ll think we are sooo cool.

There are lots, maybe too many, photos below/after the jump including an up shell shot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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Posted on October 15, 2010

Places to Visit »Pharmacia Millionaire

301 S Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write up Pharmacia Millionaire with you guys. It was definitely one of the more unusual spots we visited in LA earlier this year. A treasure trove of magic candles, potions, elixirs and voodoo dolls, the crowded pharmacy sits across the street from the more traditional tourist spot, The Bradbury Building. We walked away with a candle for home cleansing, which once burned to the end offered some charms that we were instructed to put under our mattress. We skipped on the vagina candle and anything black magic related but might be back one day for the bat’s hearts if I can figure out a way to use them. Even if you have no plans to purchase, the iconography and design for the products are worth a peek in this surprisingly friendly shop.

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Posted on August 29, 2010

Places to Visit »Nettle Meadow Farm

Thurman, NY – Guest Written by Mike Stermer

Hidden away on a rural route in the Adirondacks, Nettle Meadow is an idealist goat farm.  Founded 5 years ago by a couple in the midst of mid life crisis, Nettle Meadow is farming at it’s best.  Not only do each of their 300 goats have names, but Lorraine, one of the co-owners who gave us a free tour, knows each and every one of their names.  The goats, along with their sheep neighbors, all lend their milk to their artisan cheeses made on the farm.  They make several varieties.  The flavored chevres that we tasted were only two days old, fresh from the goats.  They even have 3 varieties of ages cheeses, aged in the 200 year old stone basement of the farm house.  Their “Kunik” is a not to be missed semi-aged cheese with a super creamy texture.

It’s really nice to see a small family owned farm doing things with care, and worrying about quality and not quantity.  The goats are all treated quiet well.  Unlike many other farms they allow their goats to naturally grow their horns out. In the back of the farm they have 7 acres of free range roughage to roam through.  The largest and oldest of the barns they use as a sanctuary for rescue animals including a thoroughbred horse with an injured leg, cow calves, chickens, roosters, ducks and even a peacock. They even use llamas as sheep dogs to help the keep away the wilds.
Of course their cheeses can be found at local restaurants in the Lake George, but they also venture out much future than that.  NYC’s Murray’s cheese as well as many local eateries carry lines of their cheese as well.  So if you can’t make it up there for a Saturday or Sunday free tour at noon, be sure to search out some of their cheese and taste farm food done right.

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Posted on August 8, 2010

Places to Visit »Jacob Riis Beach

Rockaway Beach Blvd. at Channel Dr.

Jacob Riis was a fearless photographer who used muckraking tactics and his camera to enact major changes in the slums of New York City. The beach named for him is a lovely stretch of south shore sand in the Gateway National Recreation Area that is a quick drive out of the city. It’s popular with families, boom box toting kids, and an eclectic crowd of sunbathers.

One of the parks most popular attractions are the barbecue fields that were absolutely swarming with grilling sausages, bananas (what a great idea!), and burgers and large extended families making the best of the hot summer. Come early if you want to claim a spot.

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Posted on July 25, 2010

Places to Visit »Ludlow Lakeside Rental

Vermont Tranquility

As native Vermonter and dear friend Stacy told me, being in Vermont is all about a state of mind, not doing things. Considering that we were game for a full week of peaceful, pre-baby relaxation, nothing could have been better. Sure there are places to explore and activities to partake in (such as the Shelburne Farms, where we bought some incredible cloth bound cheese but were too late for tours) but mostly, with a view like the one we had, it was all about lounging lake side, taking in the trees and the breeze. Our rental house was on Rescue Lake in the town of Ludlow. It’s a tiny town, but there’s a Shaw’s for all you need to make your own meals, a cute spot for breakfast called The Hatchery, and, while we were not happy to have to find out, an extremely friendly Chevy dealership that was able to fix our car after it freaked out within hours.

The house itself, which we found on cyberrentals was clean, well appointment, comfy and perfectly located with a private dock and hot tub that we took full advantage of. It’s large enough to share with another couple with a second bedroom and the owners, who live next door are un-invasive but there to help if you need them. We spent full days on the dock, making friends with an adorable family of ducks. It was such a simple joy and one I could never experience in the city. As another reminder that we were far from the streets of Brooklyn, as if we needed one, the local paper declared the city’s biggest wedding – between a teddy bear and a rag doll.

While the house, with it’s view and amenities offered so much relaxation, we did venture out sometimes. Nearby are the gorgeous Buttermilk Falls, a winding park featuring several swimming holes and falls under green shade. It was empty early in the morning, but later in the season – when you can actually go into the water, it’s a favorite local attraction. We also took the scenic drive up Okemo Mountain, the nearby ski resort that looks like a 1960s abandoned space station in the summertime. I am a tad embarassed to say I was too lazy (and pregnant) to take the trail to the top, but am sure the views would have been worth it otherwise.

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Posted on July 18, 2010

Places to Visit »Grand Canyon

In The Northwest Corner of Arizona

It was one a road trip from Las Vegas to Texas when Jim, Stacy and I saw the epic natural National Park, The Grand Canyon. It was not a clear, technicolor dream day like the one in the photo, but a chilly, foggy day that didn’t make the stunning site any less amazing and memorable. Unfortunately, I can’t currently find my photos from the day, but I plan to return as there is nothing parallel to the view.

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Posted on June 27, 2010

Places to Visit »Clarence Fahnestock State Park

Rte 301, Carmel NY 10512

While Jim and I wimped out and only opted for day camping (a four month pregnant belly and ground sleeping don’t equal happiness), I must say the Clarence Fahnestock State Park is a lovely spot to get in tune with nature, build a comforting and perfect smelling wood fire, throw hot dogs (in this case, incredible ones from Schaller and Weber) on the grill, laugh with friends, and roast some mega sized marshmallows.

While eating and relaxing under a canopy of high trees plus a few games of bocce ball was about all we took part in, the nearby State Park (only about an hour and twenty minute drive in regular traffic) offers lots of hiking trails, and ponds for canoeing. Our camp mates even found some caves on a short hike nearby the camp site. Unlike the better known Bear Mountain across the river, here beer is welcome (of course so long as you are respectful and clean up after yourself). Once I am in more rugged mode, this would be a great place to return to for a couple nights of real, if not too tough (other campers are within shouting distance, the highway’s only a short ride away and running water bathrooms are available nearby) nights of roughing it in the kind-of wild.

Stop by Stew Leonards on the way up for provisions, make sure to bring along someone as handy with a tiny stove and a dutch oven as our friend Mike (who made a kicked up chicken chili verde and a blueberry cobbler with little more than a knife and ingredients) and make sure to pack some seats (which was the one of the only comforts we forgot).

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Posted on May 23, 2010

Places to Visit »Mummer’s Museum

1100 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA

The Mummers Parade is an age-old institution that is alive (if not exactly well) in Philadelphia; posters on the walls of the South Philly Mummer’s Museum dedicated to the traditional New Year’s Day event scream “Save the Mummers Museum!” and the unkempt, slightly decaying exhibits give the place a quality not unlike Mrs. Havisham’s home…

Unusually quiet, with only a few volunteers and one other couple present, the museum is as eerie as it is fascinating. As the social clubs that were the backbone of Mummers’ communities fade away, and the museum itself become more run down, spending the afternoon among so many dusty memories is a wonderful way to pass a couple of hours.

The first display of Terminator-meets-He-Man-like costumes are winners of a recent parade and videos show the costumes in action during the annual celebration. The intricacy of the ritual and the costumes themselves make me want to attend the next year’s event and the crumbling but stunning museum (which calls to mind the images of Kubrick) do indeed make me want to help save the Mummers.

So why don’t you all start by visiting? Admission is only $3.50 and more than worth it!

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Posted on April 25, 2010

Places to Visit »Natural History Museum, LA

900 Exposition Blvd. Los Angeles, CA

It’s taken me awhile to get this entry together because I took so many photos at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, about 50 or so can be seen below/after the jump. Since a photo is worth a thousand words, I’ll keep it brief.

The museum, even though it may not rank as a must-see among locals (none have ever mention it to me), boasts the best of the museum world: A. animal dioramas; B. dinosaur bones; and C. a killer gem room (mmmm gem rooms….).

If you find yourself in the city on a rainy day – and every time I go I get at least one of those – this is a prefect distraction.

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Posted on April 18, 2010

Places to Visit »Griffith Park Observatory

Los Angeles, CA

Last time I visited the Griffith Observatory (years ago) it was in the middle of major renovation. Now, along the throngs of tourists (the is a very popular spot to catch views of the city), you can venture back inside again. And while we missed a show in the planetarium, we did get to see Foucault’s Pendulum and lighting manufactured by Tesla’s coil.

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Posted on March 21, 2010

Places to Visit »The Museum of Jurassic Technology

9341 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is by far the strangest museum I’ve ever been to and was the top thing on my to-do list after missing out on it on my last visit to LA. It’s so unusual that I can’t really explain it to you but I can tell you that it’s got nothing to do with dinosaur machines. Dark and winding, the quiet two floor space contains everything from Hagop Sandaldjian‘s Goofy sculpture the size of a needle head to a collection of Decaying Dice from Ricky Jay.

My favorite section may have been the one about various old wives tales and superstitions complete with dioramas of mice on toast, children’s hand growing hair and a man kissing a goose. I was also pretty taken with Athanasius Kircher‘s confounding but beautiful creations and where else can you walk into a velvet room and be confronted with large oil portraits of Soviet Space Dogs. There are trailer park models, more art that needs to be viewed through a microscope (the pretty but pretty insane work of Henry Dalton) and a myriad of other things that I could barely even wrap my head around. It was tough to get too many photos with the low light, but there’s enough below/after the jump to intrigue you to make your own visit.

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Posted on February 28, 2010

Places to Visit »Mercat Boqueria

in Barcelona

If you’re ever in Barcelona, you absolutely must – must – visit the Mercat Boqueria. Even if, like me, you’ve spent the previous night like a scene from the Exorcist with food poisoning, you’ll want to man up, drag yourself out of bed and go.

It’s vibrant, bustling and everywhere you look is a photograph waiting to be taken. Food nerds will wander around in wonder and shiver with excitement at the wild world of edible crustaceans, the rainbow of (in my case, life saving) fruits and juices, the parade of candies and chocolates, and the miles of sweet, sweet Iberian ham.

There are spots to sit and eat at, which you might be familiar with if you watched Andrew Zimmern chow down on bull testicles during his trip, but sadly I was not quite well enough for such adventures. I could not resist the ham, though, cut straight from the leg, a culinary treat that is unparalleled. The market has, at least in some form, been around since 1217 (!) and the official structure was built in 1853.

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Posted on January 24, 2010