Travel to Cuba 101: “Yes, you can”…but…


Has Cuba been on your list of Need To Go spots? Curious what 50 years without US contact is like and the effects of Communism on an isolated State? If so, the time to go to Cuba is now and yes as Americans we can…there are caveats, but nothing you can’t handle. I will say if you’re looking for the next Caribbean island to hit and expect each and every convenience Cuba is not for you just yet. 

However if your looking for a unique experience and the opportunity to see a place living in the 60’s while going through transition before your eyes (primarily in the hospitality space) then this is the place. I thought it was great and I already want to go back. The following is how I went about booking a Solo trip following the current guidelines and some pointers. 

Plane Tickets, Medical Insurance and VISA’s. 

I choose JetBlue since they fly to Havana direct from JFK(Miami and LA as well). You need to choose from the 12 categories that permit Travel to Cuba. Most likely People to People (sometimes referred to as educational) will be what you fall under. Of note, fellow bloggers, you are not a Journalist, Real Estate Agents you are not doing professional research and if you’re looking for a husband or wife…it’s not a religious experience even if it felt like one at the time. You are going People to People and you will need to sign an affidavit (on line with JetBlue) confirming this to get your plane ticket. Print a hard copy of your ticket. In JFK you cannot use the electronic kiosk for Cuba, you need to go downstairs to get your boarding pass(and Visa). In Cuba, they do not have Electronic kiosks, they have lines(when I went checking in and out went smoother than I expected).

You need Medical insurance to get into Cuba. With JetBlue it was included in the price of the ticket. Print out a hard copy of it to have on hand just in case. Vaccines are not required. Check with the CDC to make sure there are no outbreaks or new requirements(you should do this every time you travel). Also, they don’t exactly have DReade’s and CVS stores on every corner so pack whatever prescription and over the counter meds you need and some extra’s. 

A Visa is required to enter and leave Cuba. You can get it at the airport($50) or via Cuba Travel Services($110 includes processing and FedEX shipping. I used their services and they were very professional and efficient. However, as it turned out going from JFK I should have just got it there). At JFK via JetBlue you get your Visa where you get your boarding pass thus getting it in advance was not necessary. I cannot speak for the process at other airports. The VISA is a single piece of card stock with two identical cards on it, one for entering and one for leaving. You cannot get out of Cuba without it. Thus, put in somewhere safe and do not misplace, lose or forget where you put it…unless you want to extend your stay. There used to be a 25 CUC fee to exist, it too was in the price of my plane ticket. 

You will need to fill out two forms to enter Cuba. One is a health document, the other the standard customs card. If you are American do not check Tourist. Check Other. While you can travel under People to People guidelines you still cannot go as a tourist. You currently are required to keep records of what you did for five years. Write a blog. 

Accommodations, Money and Transport


Casa Particulars are the way to go vs Hotels in Cuba. Hotels are overpriced, star rating are not US standards and known to frequently overbook. I used AirBnB for the first time and it worked out great. They had a great selection of places to choose from. Plus since you’re going for a People to People experience staying with a local is the ideal way to go. AirBNB had places that were single rooms in a home, an entire home, and some new B&B like homes. You need to book your accommodations 4-6 weeks in advance if you want to choose from a selection vs what they have left.  

US credit cards and ATM cards don’t work. Bring cash. You cannot get Cuban currency in advance. Expect a 45 min and up wait at the Cambio(money exchange). Of note, Cuba has two currencies. CUC’s(for Tourists, the one case you are a tourist) have monuments. Pesos(for Locals)have historical figures. You can only get CUC’s at the exchange. Make sure they give you CUC’s and make sure when you get change it’s always CUCs. A peso is only worth about 1/30th of a CUC. 

Taxis and your feet will be your best mode of transport. There are community cabs that are generally old beat up American Classic cars where your can try to jump in for 1 CUC, but they are primarily for locals. Govt yellow cabs for Tourists and they will hit you with the tourist rate(from the airport to Old Havana you should expect to pay 25-35CUC depending on your Spanish. From Vedado to Old Havana they state 10 CUC. Negotiate, I usually got them down to 8) and of course refurbished Classic American cars(rates vary). Additional options include their Cocotaxi’s (3 wheeled yellow coconut shaped vehicles) and Taxi-Bikes are all over Old Havana. 


As for getting around the county their Train system is known to be terrible. Renting cars is not advised since not only do you need to pay cash, but if they claim damages upon return, its cash and you have no legal recourse. You’re best bet is hiring a driver or the Viazul bus service(its in Nuevo Vedado).

Keep in mind most people don’t speak English so work on your Spanish and download the off line Google Translate  guide. I found the locals to be friendly and generally helpful. An important thing to note, especially in Havana, you are dealing with a well educated people that are paid next to nothing a month. Be careful when discussing the cost of things. Your 15 CUC lobster might be a steal…it’s half their monthly pay. Also be careful discussing politics, they can’t speak about their leaders the way we do. Respect that and take it seriously. 

Wi-Fi is rare so get used to living like it’s 1999. You will need to rely on paper maps and guide books to get around. Print them out in advance.

If you are not going with a group tour get a tour guide for at least some of your time there. I reached out to a Cuban local a friend referred me to.  I requested a tour of Old Havana with someone who knew the Art Galleries and maybe some artists and spoke English. She arranged a Tour Guide  for me that was a University Professor who was multi-lingual (fluent in English)and not only knew Artists that he introduced me to but was an accomplished professional Artist himself. Also a wealth of Historical knowledge and on what is happening in Cuba today.  


I don’t know where the hell “tourists” are going that they complain about the food. I’m sure there is mediocre food but that’s true of most places. I ate well and some places I literally stumbled upon. Don’t drink tap water, but ice in drinks is fine. I avoided raw veggies with the exception of fresh mint in my mojitos. I ate fresh fruit from fruits with skins i.e. Mango, pineapple, banana, etc every morning. 

Returning Home 

If you decide to pick up some Artwork while you are there…and there is some great stuff. Make sure you get the proper documentation or it could get confiscated. Get your Rum at the airport, Cigars as well unless you are looking for something particular. The Airport has limited choices for food, so either bring a sandwich from your Casa Particular or pack some Kind bars or the like. 

When you get back to the states you will hit an electronic kiosk requiring you to answer a number of questions, most as to the value of goods and their nature. Then you will speak with a Customs official(standard returning from anywhere outside the country) to check your Passport and ask questions Iike…
Where did you come from? Cuba is your answer, it’s where you went and what’s on your ticket, customs form and likely stamped in your Passport.

Why did you go? To experience the culture. Keep it short and sweet. 

What did you bring back? Rum, cigars and chocolate. All perfectly OK to bring back. (I believe the total max you can bring back is $800.00 a month). I was welcomed back and waived though. 

Now that you know what and how to do…what are you waiting for? 

#Havana #Cuba, What to Pack

Planning on a trip to Cuba? The most important thing to remember about packing for Cuba is if you’re American…stores will not take your Credit Cards and there are not a whole lot of stores to buy clothing, power bars, electronic accessories, suntan lotion, pain relievers etc…in the first place. So pack what you will need. Having said that, I would recommend packing light and do your best to bring your gear carry-on. It will save you plenty of time coming and going. 

Cuba is located in the Caribbean right off of Miami so wear light clothing. I generally travel with wool Polo and T-shirts from Icebreaker. They look great, breathe better than cotton, don’t absorb sweat, and you can throw them in the shower, hang dry then good to wear again. For the most part keep it causal, but not sloppy. Long pants are generally best at night. Even though you’re not supposed to spend the day at the beach or pool, Locals do go to them , thus engaging in People to People exchange. Pack a swimsuit. It does rain every now and then so pack a rain jacket and/or umbrella. 

Leave your loafers and high heels at home. Hiking shoes by day are highly recommended. The sidewalks here vary between well paved and completely broken up…often on the same street. The Malecon is fairly best up, but easy to walk on. Just pay attention. 

Leave the bling at home. Cubans don’t have bling, this is not the place to flash it. It’s a very safe country, let’s keep it that way. No need to promote temptation…

If you are on prescription medicine or require over the counter allergy, pain relievers, etc bring it and some extra. Illicit drugs are totally banned in Cuba. I don’t care if your state Legalized it, a joint could get you life if not executed. Drink their Rum…it’s very good. 

Pack suntan lotion, the sun is strong in Cuba. Since you will likely stay in a Cuban’s home bring your own toiletries, since it’s a coin toss to what they will have. I brought my own Toilet paper and packs of tissues just in case. My Casa Particular’s tp was fine so I left them mine. I packed Imodium which I did not need to use, but better safe than sorry. 

Bring your own snacks, again not something easy to come by there. I packed some chocolate and Kind bars just in case. I ended up leaving half of the bars with my host, though the others came in handy at the Airport. I washed them down with a Buccaneer Cerveza.  

Bring a book and or magazines. I don’t remember seeing any magazines there, but there are book stores with many, many great books on Fidel and Che.   

Bring your chargers, maybe a spare power cord. Your room will have outlets, but don’t expect to see them all over the place like we have here. So bring a battery recharger, I like the Fluxmob Bolt. 

Cuba is hyper-photogenic so bring a good camera, just keep it close. Of note, if you take a picture of some of the Locals in Old Havana they will expect to be paid a CUC or two. Some will even approach you asking if you would like to take their picture. This isn’t the average Local, but there are some who dress up for this specific purpose. I would suggest waiting until you get home to post your pics. First off Wi-Fi is less then common. Second, it’s likely Hermano Grande is monitoring what is being transmitted. 

Bring a gift. If your staying in someone’s home it’s the right thing to do…and again they don’t have much access to a lot of basics. I brought my hostess a bag of Jacques Torres dark chocolate. It’s my favorite chocolate and I consider it a basic life necessity…don’t you?

#Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tower, Shrines, Daimyo Gardens, up the Sumida River topped with Waygu Beef Bolognese 

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While I’m not big on taking tours sometimes they are a great way to see a lot if your time is limited. After spending a week walking around with paper maps trying to get around Japan it was high time for a guided tour. My hotel’s concierge recommended Grey Line who does a great full day tour that included…

Tokyo Tower– panoramic views from the bigger better Japanese version of a certain Parisian attraction…

Menji Shrine -Classic Shinto Shrine located in a huge beautiful man made forest. Frequently used for Wedding ceremonies.

Imperial Palace  Plaza, Bridge and Imperial Moat. Took pictures of the cute Mexican girl I flirted with from Mexico City…and her Mom…so they could post pics of their Asian adventure on Instagram.

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A traditional Japanese Lunch at a spot that didn’t have it’s name in English(not exactly uncommon). I found it odd that the very well traveled couple from Oz  I shared a table with were so unfamiliar with Japanese food. In NYC I eat this stuff and more weekly. The Tour Guide noted we were missing two as we gathered to leave. l remembered the  Italian couple followed me into the Coffee Bar…ran in to get them and of course there they were drinking their Espresso’s at the counter.

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Hama-Rikyu Park – a classic Daimyo (Japanese Feudal Lord) garden with a Tidal pool and Tea House.

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Teahouse

The trip finished with cruise up the Sumida River from the Port of Tokyo to the Asakusa Kannon Temple. We were greeted by Ninja that put on a cool little show. Walked to the Temple, took pics and then decided to eat some Tako Yaki(Octopus Balls). As in chopped up Octo deep fried which is the equivalent to Tacos or Pizza for the Japanese as a snack. Though I like Octopus, these didn’t do it for me. The Chocolate covered bananas on the other hand…yummy.

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After a long day it was great that the tour bus dropped us all off at our respective hotels(not all do this).Fairly beat I decided to have dinner at the Hotel Cafe where I enjoyed a Pizza with Parma ham to start and Waygu beef meat sauce with fettuccine for my entree. To drink, what else…a 12yr Harusku Whiskey High Ball.


If you enjoyed this and the previous posts, stay tuned, eventually I will get to my last pieces on Roppongi, riding around the Yamato Line and the world famous Tsukiji fish market

#Tokyo – The Menji Shrine, Harujuku and Octoberfest Ebisu Style


After receiving simple left then a left directions which turned out to be a bit more complex including down escalators on the street(yes, you read that correctly)and through a tunnel I made it to the subway and got off at the Harujuku Station and headed over to the Menji Shrine. The Shrine is located in a beautiful park full of huge trees. The gates to the Shrine are so big you would think giants guarded it. It is frequently used for weddings and I was lucky enough that both times I went I saw new blushing Brides. 


After the Park I headed up to the streets of Harujuku starving since I had not eaten yet. Too hungry to look around I saw a Doutor Coffee Shop which reminded me somewhat of a Pret a Manger, popped in and got a triple decker sandwich or Tuna, Egg Salad and Ham and Cheese along with a much needed cup of coffee.  


Re-energized I headed over to Omotesandoo Street a high end shopping street for some people watching and from there to Takeshita-dori which is known for its Kawaii(Cute) Culture where Tokyo’s Trendy youth gets all dressed up in Cosplay like costumes.


 The day I went it was just packed with lots of teenagers and tourists and very few in the costumes(see above) it is known for. I grabbed a Cold Stone grapefruit pop and headed to the train to hit Ebisu a neighborhood I heard good things about. 

After crossing the skyway full of restaurants I stumbled upon the Yebisu Beer Festival, a German style Octoberfest serving Japanese Beers. I saw a group of Kawaii girls at one of the beer hall tables with some room, asked if the space was available and found myself partying with Japanese Kindergarten Teachers(you just can’t make this stuff up). 


Along with being cute they were all very friendly, though they didn’t speak much English. This at times made things interesting since telling girls they are “good catches” because they teach young children and are very pretty while using hand gestures to communicate that would have made entertaining video…
I drank a Hop Sorachi, The Special Edition Wa No Houjun, and a Half and Half(what we would call a Black and Tan). As much as I wanted to stay it was time to move on. I went back towards the Train Station wandered around the streets of Ebisu and came upon Bagel and Bagel where I had a Veggie Bagel with Smoked Salmon, Avocado and Shrimp (when in Tokyo…) to soak up the beer with an Iced coffee. 



I actually managed to make it back to my hotel in Roppongi the Hotel S a nice little Boutique Hotel in a nicer and lower key section of this hood. More on Roppongi in my next piece. Of note, yes the blogs on my trip to Japan are not following a linear pattern…but since I was lost and jet lagged often I feel apropos for this trip…

Kyoto-Nara: of Bullet Trains and Buddha’s 

 

After a few days in Tokyo it was time for a break and I jumped on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train, about 2hr and 20 mins) to Kyoto for a few days (I highly recommend getting a JR Rail Pass for travel around Japan and the Yamonote line in Tokyo. Also get the Green Pass) and hit nearby Nara as well. I stayed at the Century Hotel  which is located just a 5 minute walk from Kyoto Station. There are plenty of restaurants nearby, the buses and subways are all right there to get to the major sites(some sites are within easy walking distance. It’s very fairly priced with nice rooms and a beautiful lobby and bar. The Staff is very professional and friendly but they could use more English language speakers.


On my first day I walked to the Higashi Honganji Temple escorted by a student of the local university I met on the street and then a short walk to the Kosho-ji Temple


Working up an appetite it was time for (a very late) lunch. I believe it was at Daiichi Asahi I dined. I say this because nothing was in English. Please note, this is common vs the exception. It is around the corner from the Century Hotel...thing is there are two Ramen joints right next to each other. I went to the one not in the corner but next to it. I started with some Goyza, followed by a bowl of Ramen large(extra noodles, the regular sized wouls have been enough) and a large well earned bottle of Ashai beer.


 For dinner I went nearby to Ganko. Most Japanese restaurants serve only one type of food i.e. sushi, ramen tempura, etc  Ganko was one of the few I went to that served a variety of cooked and the raw and also happens to be a large corporation with many locations throughout Japan . I stated with raw Waygu Beef sushi and and the Sushi deluxe for my entree. To drink a Lime Sochu cocktail. Is this a destination restaurant, not really, but for a very good, fairly priced meal right by Kyoto Station it is recommended.


 The next day in the morning I jumped on the bus to Nijo Castle. This is the former home of the Tokugawa Shoguns. The castle is known for it’s Nightingale floors that chirp and squeak acting as a security system against Ninja’s and the like.While it was very cool (pics of the inside are forbidden, and the Japanese take this very seriously, so don’t be a jerk with your camera-phone) it was the outer walls and especially the stunningly beautiful rock garden and pond that blew me away. While taking pics(and having a mystical Ninja moment) I got soaked in Typhoon level rains.


 

After finding my way through the maze of the pace in the pouring in sheets rain, I Jumped on the bus back to the hotel,  changed and went on a half day trip to Nara. What should have been a great day…well lets say it rained on my parade. I saw some of the famous Deer of Nara, the Todai-ja that houses the world’s largest(as in like in an Indy Jones, Lata Croft movie sized) Daibutsu, a giant Bronze Buddha…which is amazing and some Shrine while caught in Typhoon level rains. The pics speak for themselves, insofar as both some cool pics and the rain. 


Back at the hotel bar the Essex, a Whiskey Highball with Hakushu 12 year to chill and dry out.

 That night it was time for a change of pace cuisine wise so I went to Italian Bar Kyoto Kimuraya  a Japanese-Italian fusion spot. I started with their Tuna and Salmon tartar with avocado, for my main the Sea Urchin risotto with Salmon Roe Potato which was the definition of Umami. To drink, a Potato Sochu with Club Soda.


 On Wednesday, my last day in Kyoto I took the bus to Gion to wander around. I found the Yashuka shrine easy enough, thought could’nt find a spot for coffee(Kyoto is known for it). so I ended up eating Crab on O -stick for breakfast. 


After taking some pics of the shrine which is beautiful, I headed over to the Sukiyaki restaurant the hotel recommended and somehow found myself completely off where I thought I was(still can’t figure out how)said screw it, walked back  to where I knew the bus back was, grabbed some Waygu Beef Sushi on the way and jumped on the bus. 


I popped into Espessamente illy in Kyoto Station for a Green Macha Latte and a Shrimp Avocado Sandwich, finished that up, grabbed a dozen Gyoza(smallest size) at 551 Horai JR Kyototen for the ride back to Tokyo.



 Stay tuned for upcoming pieces on my experiences in Tokyo…until then Sayonara…

#Japan #Travel Do’s and Don’ts

Have you ever dreamed of going to the land of the rising sun? I recently returned from a trip to Japan, my first time there, though my third time in Asia. I spent most of my time in Tokyo, breaking the trip up with a ride on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto with a side trip to Nara. It’s a great county with an amazing people. Though not the easiest to get around. The following are my recommended Do’s and Don’ts while planning your trip and during your stay.

Do go, it’s an amazing county both historically and culturally

Don’t go in September, rains the whole damn time. Go in the Fall or better yet Spring for the Cherry Blossoms

Do use their Subway system and get a JR Rail Pass. You may want a Suica card as well

Don’t bother trying to figure out their Subway system, just ask people who work at the station. Show them the station on a map and ask which track. Of note, train lines are color coded

Don’t expect most people to speak English in Tokyo, most Japanese do not. Outside, even less

Do accept the fact you will either get lost or just feel lost…a good part of the time(unless you do it on an escorted tour)

Do get a plan for Japan set up with your carrier before you leave or get a pocket Wi-Fi there. Surprisingly, Wi-Fi is not quite as available as you would think accept in the Hotels. If not, walk around with a paper map and constantly ask random people for help as I did. Great way to meet the locals. Of note, the Japanese overall I found to be an amazing and gracious people

Do go on at least some tours if you don’t go packaged. I only did 1 full day and one half day and likely should have done more. It’s not easy getting around. Of note the Full Day Tokyo Gray Line tour was a great deal at approx $100. It goes to five major sites, includes a Sumida cruise and a very good traditional Japanese lunch! The guides were great and bus comfy. The Sunrise Tour of Nara was a rip-off at $75 with only two stops. Look for other options, but do go to see the Bronze Buddha


Don’t be intimidated to ask people for directions, I was amazed at how many people helped me. Some even left their place of business to help me, people on the street pulled out their phones and walked or pointed out where I wanted to go. Of note, I help Traveller’s and tourists all the…karma

Do eat non Japanese food while there. It’s very good…but eat mostly Japanese food. Of note, I didn’t eat a thing that wasn’t fresh and tasty


Don’t tip. They consider it rude, but don’t worry, some places have service charges and others cover fees. All the others just factor it in their pricing.

Do ride the Shinkansen(Bullet Train) to at least one major city. I went to Kyoto and hit Nara. Ride 1st class, not a huge price difference and the chairs are so big and comfy. Get the Green JR Rail Pass


Do buy sandwiches, Bento boxes, Sushi etc at the train stations for the rides, they are very, very good. I found their bread to be remarkably fresh.

Don’t get into a cab without the address of where you want to go written in Japanese. Most taxi drivers do not speak English. Hotel staff can help here…but at least once I was dropped off not sure where I was with the driver having a tough time communicating

Do go to Nara while in Kyoto. You can do it in a half day trip. The giant Bronze Buddha is right out of your Lara Croft/Indiana Jones fantasies.
Do respect the shrines. Wash your hands when entering, take off shoes when requested, don’t take pics where told not to


Do go to the parks. There are many, they are large, extremely well kept, and generally have ponds with rock gardens

Do drink Japanese Whiskey straight up and in Highballs. Hakushu was my fave. Add a sprig of Mint…it’s distilled by a forest.

Don’t get upset over how expensive it is, it’s very hard to find here and bottles here are overpriced

Do drink Sake and go to Buri in Ebisu and get the frozen Sake slushes.
Do try Waygu Beef Sushi. It’s very good.

Do eat Sea Urchin and Eel when you eat Sushi. These were the two things that stood out to me the most as being far superior to what we get here.


Don’t expect to see rolls, especially crazy combo rolls in Sushi restaurants. They are not big on them, though due to American tastes they are starting to show up on menus.

Do expect to find excellent restaurants in business buildings, both upper floors and lower as well as in Department stores. I even ate excellent Sushi in the upper floor of a Toy Store in Ginza.

Do expect hotel rooms to be small, though generally very well designed. Try to book in advance. I noticed a big difference just between booking three weeks vs two weeks out.

Don’t overpack, hotel rooms are small as is the closet space. Plus do you want to lug all your luggage on the Trains and Buses as you travel around?

Don’t freak if you hit the wrong button on the “Toilet” controller…just hit off to stop the warm bidet feature…it doesn’t stop on its own.

Do try to stay in Hotels within a 5-10 walk of subway stations, it will help with getting around.

Don’t believe anything is just a 7 minute walk. Every place states in its directions it’s just a 7 minute walk. They must have done a survey on what people will tolerate.

Don’t forget to watch Lost in Translation before or after the trip…

NJ Shore: Point Pleasant, Asbury Park + 

It was time for a long weekend and long overdue to catch up with some buds I used to work with. We started out BBQing and throwing down beers reminiscing over good times and sharing some new stories. In between firing up the BBQ and replenishing the beers we hit the following spots for food, drink and entertainment. 

For breakfast before the beach we hit Manhattan Bagel in Brick. Huge spot with a great selection of bagels, spreads and sandwiches. The Asiago bagel with tomatoes and cream cheese was great and word has it the Everything bagel and Lox with da works is pretty good as well.

702 NJ 70 Brick NJ 

For some sun, sand and surf Point Pleasant beach is a very nice sandy beach with cleaner than you would expect water. After a few hours it was time to hit Boardwalk and we grabbed some Beers at Jenkins right on the boardwalk with great views of the ocean while a pretty good live band played. 

300 Ocean Ave Point Pleasant NJ 

Afterwards we hit town for more beers at Amendment  21 a great spot with a very well curated selection of Craft beers in a very cool dark wood setting. Threw down New Belgium Ranger IPA’s and Boulevard Tripocals. The bartender really knew her stuff plus loved her Dali melting clock tattoo. Of note the food menu and cocktail menus looked great. 

521 Arnold Ave Point Pleasant NJ 

Craving coffee we popped into Green Planet Coffee. My bud went iced coffee, as was I until I asked what a Dreamcatcher was “Chai Tea with Peppermint…maybe the best non coffee drink I’ve ever had in a Coffee bar. Their pecan muffins and chocolate peanut butter cookies are pretty yummy as well. 

700 Arnold Ave Point Pleasant NJ  

Grilling of steaks and craft beers 

The next morning Elisa’s Bakery for breakfast. I had a chocolate shell canolli with a side order of rainbow cookie and a coffee for breakfast then on to 

1900 NJ-70 Lakewood NJ

Hit the AMC theaters in Brick for Star Trek Beyond in 3D(awesome flick). I mention this theater because they have the new huge red comfy reclining seats.

3 Brick Plaza, Brick NJ 

Asbury Park Fettehall and Bieegarten great huge spot with an awesome selection of craft and imported beers on draft and in bottles. Threw down Leipziger Gose and Kane Summer brews. Food is awesome, I had the Boar Jalapeno Wurst platter and my bud the house Halle’s Burger. I will be back…

527 Lake Avenue, Asbury Park NJ

Using NJ transit from NY Penn via 1970’s era trains takes 2hrs +, express trains under 2 hours. 

Summer 2016 Beach and Travel Skin Care 

Do you want soft, supple skin that she/he/they will want to touch or are you going for the leather lizard look? You need to take care of your skin, not abuse it(any more then you are). Here are my basics, nothing fancy, just high quality products to protect while in the Sun, Salt Water, etc and to renourish afterwards. 

Suntan lotion – Put away the damn oil and coat your bod with lotion to protect and nourish it. My fave Kiehl’s. Do it Brazilian style, apply while standing

Oatmeal Aloe Lotion – this is huge, after the beach, pool, etc apply after showering to nourish your skin. This too by Kiehl’s

Zinka – for the nose, mine goes Rudolph so I go blue or green 

Drink lots of water, especially Coconut water to hydrate. Then drink some more

Cherry Juice- Cherries are a Super Food and great for a lot of things that include your skin. Also a great natural inflammatory after hitting the waves or sand hard. 

Lip Balm – luckily I don’t suffer from chapped lips…but it happens at times to the worst of us…be prepared. I just found one that is Negroni flavored:) by Stewart and Clair

Soap – You need the stuff that nourishes the skin not dries it out. In gel I like Molten Browns Templtree,  for hard soaps I like Soap Chere’s Seaweed and Lush’s Sea Vegetable 

Shampoo – Along with skin, most of us have hair on our heads. I like all natural ones that you can use daily and that have some form of Mint in them for that morning Pop! Lush Rehab and Aesop Classic my current faves. 

Scrub – Yup tough guy, sometimes you need to scrub your face, bod or better yet hers. Lush’s Ocean Salt is my fave.  

Sunglasses not cheap ones, real ones with protective lens. Function before form first. Protect your eyes, though make sure you take them off for a time as well…unless you’re going for the Raccoon look. Still rocking my Warby Parker’s

TSA approved Zip Bag. If you travel you need one. Get one with travel sized 3oz tubes to pour your liquid lotions in. 

Find these products by playing Pokemon Go! Or better, yet just via Google for nearest locations to you:) 

#CapeTown Cape Point/Good Hope

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Cape Point

While I expected the beaches to be my favorite part of my Cape Town adventure it was actually the tour to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point that blew me away. These are places that you point to on a map and people are like WOW! The scenery was incredible, as long as you love Boulder strewn beaches and mountains with their own personalities. This part of the world is raw and elemental, what the world was like before the Industrial revolution ruined it(yes I sense the irony as I post this with digital pics off a blog).

From my Hotel the Hyde in Sea Point we headed to our first stop, Hout Bay Harbour for coffee (snorkeling with Seals is an option here) and photos, then jumped on the Chapman Peak Drive, one of the worlds most scenic roads. Chappie’s is literally cut into the mountain. We stopped at the very cool Scarborough Sculpture Garden and then did a drive by of some Ostrich.

Our first major stop was the Cape of Good Hope, one of the southern most points of Africa. It’s rocky, raw and in my eyes spectacular. Our next stop the Cape Point Lighthouse had my favorite views. You can walk to it or take the Dutchman Funicular(an uphill trolley). Of note, I didn’t go up to the Lighthouse, instead I headed left where I got my favorite pics if the trip (see above)…which of note you cannot see from the lighthouse.

On our way to Simon’s Town for lunch a troop of Baboons ran into the road halting traffic but creating a pretty good photo-op. In Simon’s Town we went to the Harbourview for fresh and tasty seafood and local beers. After, I grabbed a couple of scoops of ice cream at PJ’s. Then it was onto the Penguin Colony at Boulder Beach which was awesome, but I was bummed that you can’t get on the beach to go swimming with them.
Last but far from least the world famous

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which were absolutely amazing. What was more amazing is that during the summer it’s just lush and green with few flowers. I can’t even imagine what it must look like when it’s in bloom. This is an absolute must see and do trip while in South Africa. I booked it with African Eagle Day Tours via my hotel The Hyde.

 

#CapeTown Woodstock Craft Beer Crawl

Being that I was born in Brooklyn New York I just had to hit Cape Town’s Brooklyn, Woodstock. I started my adventure at the Exchange on Albert Street. After bouncing around some of the stores and picking up some Chocolate bars at Honest Chocolate I hit Superette a cool spot for breakfast, lunch and coffee filled with Hipsters that made me feel like was in Williamsburg (Brooklyn NY)for a late breakfast.

Having fueling myself up I started walking along Albert Street to check out the Street Art Woodstock is known for(check out pics). I eventually came upon Tribe Coffee that not only had great Coffee, a cool space and some very good looking women for their clientele, but an awesome alleyway full of very cool Street Art. Inquiring as to what else to see on my way to the Biscuit Mill I was told about the new Woodstock Tap and Grill where I decided to start a mini Craft Beer crawl. The first floor is a full on Brewery, upstairs a huge Steak House and bar. I tasted their Rhythm Stick, Californicator, Hazy Days, and the Afternoon Delight that I ordered up.

I went across the street to the Co-Op a space that had Clothing (old and new)kiosks, Art, Furniture and  the Three Feathers Diner…the Ultimate Man Cave where a I enjoyed another local Craft Brew, Drifter Coconut. After looking around some more of the stores I headed over to the Old Biscuit Mill, bounced around, broke down and purchased more chocolate bars at CocoAfair (Milk Chocolate with Licorice and a Dark with Coriander and Citrus which they were out of but they went back to the kitchen and got one that just came out of the oven for me:)

Now it was on to Devils Peak Brewery, a beautiful space and much bigger than I expected. Here I enjoyed the Devils Peak Tasting of five of their beers 5 that included the Lager, First Light,Pale Ale, Woodhead and the Blockhouse. 

Well sated after a fun day chatting it up with a mix of locals, transplants, staff and fellow Traveller’s I headed back to my hotel. I really liked this neighborhood and would have liked to have spent more time and a night out. While it was fine by day solo…it is still edgy and one needs to be careful and aware by night, likely best with a group.