Roman Holiday

The Roman leg of my tour was kicked off the Italian way.....on the back of a vintage Vespa hanging on for dear life as my tour guide/Italian firefighter, Georgio showed me the best of Rome.  For a few hours I was Audrey Hepburn and Georgio was Gregory Peck. Zipping in and out of Rome's traffic.....up to St Peter's Square, stopped by the Mouth of Truth, around and around the colosseum and even grabbed a quick bite in Trastevere! This was probably one of the best city tours I've been on as I was really part of the city and I got to experience so much more than I would on a hop on hop off bus or even a car. Traveling via Vespa allowed us to get up close and personal to all of the sights with little hassle. It amazes me how I basically entrusted my life to a complete stranger in a foreign country. Honestly, I felt a pang of guilt as I had a boyfriend back home and this felt kinda like a date. An exhilarating, spur of the moment hot date in a romantic city with a perfect stranger. Well as they say....."While in Rome......"Ahhhh la vita dolce! 

If you are preparing for your first journey to Roma, I'm sure you are planning to visit the Roman Greats such as the Colosseum, the ruins, the Pantheon and the Vatican. However, I have a  few additional suggestions for you to consider...

Accommodations: If you are going to be there longer than 3 days, I suggest renting an apartment. Having an apartment allows you to "travel like a local" a bit more and really immerse yourself in the culture. I rented an apartment in the Prati area walking distance from the Vatican. Renting an apartment really enhanced my experience. I rented my apartment via Homeaway.com. I suggest renting an apartment that has plenty of reviews. 

What to eat: Eat in the Jewish Quarters! I was lucky enough to be in Rome during artichoke season so I was able to experience fried artichokes. My favorite restaurant was located in "my neighborhood", Prati. It is called Cacio e Pepe and it is FANTASTIC! The carbonara was incredible! Good service, reasonable prices and a wonderful local vibe! Via Giuseppe Avezzana, 11, 00195 Roma, Italy

 

Where to shop: Tons of places to shop of course. I enjoyed the selection of shops near the Spanish steps.

Must do tour: If you are staying in Rome more than a few days I suggest taking a break from the big city and booking a "Day Trip to Tuscany". I booked my tour through Viator but I'm sure there are other options. On this tour we took a plush coach to the Tuscany countryside. We had walking tours in at least two small Tuscan towns, visited a church where we were lucky enough to witness the monks doing their afternoon prayers and finally we had lunch and wine tasting on a Tuscan farm. This tour was another highlight on my Italian tour. I even ordered wine to be shipped after the tasting. It's pricey but worth it and makes great gifts for people back home. 

Coffee Culture: When you are leaving the Pantheon, you may want a little caffeinated pick me up. I suggest caffé Tazza D'oro! Best espresso I had in Roma!

 Beware: I didn't have any issues with being a victim of crime but keep your wits about you like you would in any large metropolitan city. 

Ciao!

La Boca Della Verita` (the mouth of truth)

Welcome to New York Pt. 2- Hellloooooo Brooklyn!!!!

It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean-Michel, surrounded by Warhols my whole team ball!
— Jay Z- Picasso Baby
Outside the Jean-Michel Basquiat "Lost Notebooks" exhibit at Brooklyn Museum

Outside the Jean-Michel Basquiat "Lost Notebooks" exhibit at Brooklyn Museum

Where were we? Oh I just finished telling you about my first two days in NYC. This is part II of my "Welcome to New York City" blog post. So as I said in part 1, the highlight of my Birthday trip was Day 3 when we left Manhattan for Brooklyn. Brooklyn stand up!!! Brooklyn Go Hard! I was just having a hip-hop moment......I digress.

Day 3

Visited the Brooklyn Museum to see two fantastic exhibits! My life and this blog is about collecting experiences.  I am not an art expert and can probably be considered an art novice but I do LOVE art. As such my goal is to see with my own two eyes the best art in the world. I've visited the Louvre, D'Orsay, Vatican Museum and the British Museum to name a few and I must say Brooklyn Museum is one of my favorites. If I lived in New York, I would definitely be a member and visit several times a year. 

Cost:  Suggested cost $16. I love what they are doing and I was visiting from out of town so I paid the suggested price but I could have just as easily paid $1. 

Exhibits:

Kehinde Wiley’s: A New Republic-

I was first introduced to Wiley’s work a couple of years ago at the Minneapolis Institute of Art where I was mesmerized by Wiley's painting, Santos Dumont. Well, Santos Dumont was included with the 60 paintings and sculptures featured in this incredible exhibit. Wiley, known for his paintings which feature black men in positions of grander inspired by the European Masters took things to the next level by including art work featuring black women! His work questions our thoughts about gender, race and politics. This exhibit is totally worth the time. I love how accessible his work is. I invited a friend of mine who is a Brooklyn native and swore she was only at the museum because me “her pretentious California girlfriend” insisted she go was also inspired and impressed by Wiley’s art. Bottom line…..his work speaks to people! You don’t need to be an MFA to “get it”.

 

Santos Dumont

Santos Dumont

 Jean-Michel Basquiat- The Unknown Notebooks #basquiatnotebooks

This Brand new exhibit at Brooklyn Museum  features pages from Brooklyn’s own Jean-Michel Basquiat. Exhibit go-ers had an opportunity to read cryptic excerpts from journals which included themes like race, politics, history and class as well as related art works. A must see to contemporary art lovers, hip-hop heads and culture enthusiast .

 I was so impressed with both exhibits and just the overall cool vibe of the museum. They also have upcoming exhibits like the Rise of Sneaker Culture (July 10th- October 4, 2015) and FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds also July 10th-October 4, 2015. If you happen to be in Brooklyn, check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

Welcome to New York City

Yeah I’m out that Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca..Right next to DeNiro, but I’ll be hood forever. I’m the new Sinatra and since I made it here I can make it anywhere,yeah they love me everywhere. I used to cop in Harlem, hola Domincanos.
— Empire State of Mind- Jay Z

This year I spent my birthday in the Big Apple! It wasn't my first trip but it was definitely a whirlwind where I jumped from Harlem, SoHo, Chelsea to Brooklyn. Here is my fantastic itinerary.

Accommodations: Hosted by my bestie and his sweet boxer, Chloe in Harlem World New York: Cost: Free Ninety-Nine!

Day 1

Double Dutch Espresso Cafe- Harlem, New York: Great local gem, rustic and just a cool sea of MacBooks. I love to visit local coffee shops when I visit different cities. No pics though! I guess I slammed my cappuccino down in seconds. 

Apollo Theatre Amateur Night- Harlem, New York- Dream come true the legendary Apollo Theatre! I watched Showtime at the Apollo  as kid and enjoyed joining in with the boos and jeers when amaetuers weren’t up to par. Unfortunately, I went on the wrong amateur night. There was no booing allowed as the “amateurs” were doing a tribute to Broadway. Sadly all the acts were talented and hardly amateurs so no one would have deserved to be boo’d even if it were allowed that night.  There's always next time.

Cost: Around $40/ person for second row seats

The Legendary Apollo Theatre

The Legendary Apollo Theatre

Barawine: Local Harlem winebar…Nothing to write home about as I can’t think of anything remarkable to write about this place, Nice decor?? Sort of reminds me of Adesso in Piedmont (Oakland, CA). If you are in Oakland, check out Adesso.....Note to self "consider writing post about Adesso."

Day 2 (My Birthday)

Subway over to “The New Museum”. Worth a visit as it’s Manhattan’s only museum dedicated to contemporary art.   Neighborhood: Lower East Side Cost: $16

Laduree- Famous French Luxury Bakery

Neighborhood: SoHo 

Who needs birthday cake when you can have macaroons!!

Who needs birthday cake when you can have macaroons!!

Walked the high line- NYC  had some annoying weather. It was freezing the day I arrived but luckily on my big day the weather was beautiful and spring-like. As such, it was a lovely day for walking the High Line (Highline Park). Highland park is an elevated park which runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District and I believe it ends somewhere around the West side Yard. Excuse me if that’s not completely accurate. 

Cost $ Free Ninety Nine!!!

After lunch and an early evening workout we headed over to the Comedy Cellar for the 8pm show. The comics were funny enough but nothing that had me in stitches enough where I care to go into great detail here. However, I would say this is a traditional “throw-back” comedy club and definitely a great way to spend an evening.  It’s best to make a reservation ahead of time. Reservations are freeCost: Thursday night $14 + 2 drink minimum. 

We left the Comedy Cellar and went to  The Spotted Pig for my birthday dinner.  Warnings: They do not take reservations and there is a long wait (estimate we received was hour and a half but it didn’t seem that long). However, there are wine bars in the area where you can wait it out  and they will call you when they are ready for you. 

I ordered the Seared Mackerel with Sweet Potato Mash & House Pancetta and Shoestring fries as a starter! I was very pleased!

I loved the unique, eclectic decor. Great food and great vibe! Definitely worth a visit. 

Neighborhood: West Village

Cost: Free Ninety Nine!!! My bestie treated me as it was my bday!

Michelin stars: 1

Day 3

On my third day in NYC we took the subway to Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Museum. This was the highlight of the trip! Stay tuned for Welcome to New York Part 2. Hellooooo Brooklyn!