Travel

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A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to go on a hedonistic vacation where I could shop, dance, and just plain enjoy my life for at least three nights. So, I booked a South Beach vacation package with my partner. We ended up staying at an art deco hotel called “The Century” on Ocean Boulevard (Where all the action is supposed to be). century hotel miami

On the day of our arrival everything went smoothly. We took a taxi from the airport to Ocean Drive and arrived at the Century hotel. The hotel was a compact slice of the 1930′s Deco genre and was recently remodeled. The concierge was reasonably friendly and our room was small but comfortable. The room was a little shop worn but acceptable with hardwood floors and modern furniture. Everything was within walking distance including the beach, but more importantly there was a Starbucks directly across the street!

That night we walked down the bustling Ocean drive and I must say I have never seen more Bentley’s, Mercedes’, and Ferrari’s in one place. As we were walking, we were frequently accosted by cheesy sales people trying to get us to eat at their restaurant..not cool.

We stopped for a drink at Diesel’s Pelican Hotel. The waitstaff were flat and my pricey dirty martini had way too much olive juice and was just plain awful. Using City Search we found a Zagat rated “inexpensive” 24hr Mexican restaurant called Loco Taqueria. To make a long story short.. the food was terrible and cost us over $30.00 for Mexican fast food. However, at that moment, I set my intention to have a good time in South Beach and was not going let anything spoil that goal.

The next day we headed for the beaches which were absolutely gorgeous blue-green water (though not as clear as Destin, FL). South Beach Miami The water was warm and we spent the day swimming. My partner had a craving for barbecue(!!) and we actually found a delicious restaurant called Barbecue Beach(!!!) where much to my surprise, we had some delicious tender ribs with cornbread and greens in South Beach!!.

Later we walked over to Madonna’s hotel (The Delano) designed by Philippe Starck and strolled through the lavish lobby to the pool. Wow.. It was truly a sight to see with beautiful sheers everywhere with spartan but stylish interiors.

For lunch the next day,  we stopped at a corner pizza joint called Pizza Rustica and ordered three super large pizza slices which were incredible. Very reminiscent of a good NY Pizza.

We  then walked over to Lincoln Road where most of the high end stores are located and stopped at a cool men’s clothing store called Base. They had some great music and clothing. I was drawn to their Nooma watches… I’m a watch freak.

Anyway, we left the store and I noticed the word Chakra on a store sign across the way. My heart filled with excitement as we entered the store called the 9th Chakra. I wound up buying Sandalwood Mala beads and my partner bought some Nag Champa Oil that he likes to wear as an alternative to cologne.delano.jpg

As we were leaving we stopped at bar called Score (yeah, cheesy name). We decided to have a drink and ordered frozen margaritas which where very strong (for a gay bar).

As we were sitting there in midst of all the loud music and rush of human activity, I found myself feeling good and embracing the fun, playful side of my personality which often gets damped by my seriousness and hyper focusing. Perhaps cutting loose and letting go every once in a while is just what I need to help me see my life more clearly and focus on what I want to be doing as opposed to what I should be doing.

Life is strange, sometimes you find what you are looking for in highly unlikely places. We departed the next day and I was happy-sad as we boarded the plane back to Charlotte. And so it was.

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Last weekend was my four year anniversary with my partner so I decided we should go to Charleston, SC for a quick get away. I found a decent hotel called the North Charleston Inn which had the best rates but was about 5 miles from downtown.  The price was right and the rooms were clean and even had WiFi.

The skies were sunny and the historic downtown was bustling with stylish, friendly people.  It was almost like a slice of SOHO NYC with art galleries and high end shopping everywhere. We walked on the waterfront and stopped at an Irish pub for a beer and a snack. 

Before we left for Charleston,  I booked a graveyard ghost tour with Bulldog Tours which began at 9:30 pm. The ghost tour took us through some old cemeteries with our guide providing spooky, entertaining and informative histories about the ghosts and cemeteries. 

The ghost tour ended at 12 midnight so we scrambled to find a place to eat and surprisingly found a bar/restaurant called Marcato on Market street.  The restaurant had a cool, stylish feel with a female jazz singer crooning  in the background . I ordered pasta bolognese and  my partner decided on a pepperoni pizza. Both of the dishes were excellent probably due to their choice of aged cheeses in the recipe plus I had the  best dirty martini ever. I will definitely be back.

After dinner we stopped  by a dessert bar called Kaminsky’s  and ordered a big slice of chocolate cake with coffee. Even though I was quite full from our tasty dinner I still managed to eat the rich, chocolate saturated cake with a big smile on my face.

The next day we drove up to Folly beach walking through the brisk winds and admiring the blues skies .  Later, we drove back to Charleston for a delicious lunch at Jim and Nicks barbecue on Kings street ending our anniversary in Charleston. 

To sum it up. Great atmosphere, decent hotel, excellent food in Charleston SC.  This is a short video I shot at Folly Beach.


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This Christmas my partner and I decided to rent a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Our cabin was appropriately named Heavenly Vision because of the spectacular panoramic view of downtown Gatlinburg.

My partner’s 7 year old daughter was there with us and we were very active. The first day we walked through downtown with Maya (our 10 week old Malamute). We were unable to walk very far because people kept stopping us to pet and inquire about our dog. One man from Miami (apparently there were plenty of people vacationing from Florida) repeatedly offered to buy the dog from us even after we told him it was not for sale. There was a strange mix of people from New York and Miami peppered with rednecks here and there.

It is amazing how a dog can bring out smiles and goodwill from strangers and people who you would never expect to “baby talk” to a dog.

Downtown GatlinburgAt night, downtown Gatlinburg looks like the perfect little Christmas town with colorful snowflake lights on the lamp posts. During our stay we went horseback riding, hiking,sledding,and managed to visit the Ripley aquarium petting stingrays and horseshoe crabs.

We ate at several restaurants but my favorite was Cherokee grill which has a modern Americana menu and was reasonably priced. The interior has a  Frank Loyd Wright arts and crafts feel.  The food was good to very good. My partner ordered a steak which was a little dry but the acorn squash with butter was delicious.

The Ober Gatlinburg Ski resort was OK as there was not much man made snow and only two slopes were open. However, we managed to get on the ski lift and bob sled down a couple of times.

Overall, a great Christmas Vacation.


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It was my partner’s parents anniversary and they were vacationing in Gatlinburg. We decided to to go to Gatlinburg for the weekend to celebrate with them. The weather was beautiful, slightly cool with clear blues skies and some of the leaves were already changing color.  

We stayed at a hotel called the Gillette, a hotel leftover from the 50′s with decor to match.  The room was OK and the view was great because we had an end room with windows on the side and front. Anyway, we were right in downtown Gatlinburg where all the activity was.

We met his parents for dinner at  a trendy restaurant called Cherokee Grill. The wait was over 2 hours but we managed to whittle away some of that time trying to find a parking space.  I ordered rotisserie chicken, my partner and his father ordered steak and his mother a plate full of ribs. My chicken was excellent being tender and moist with good flavor. However, the steaks were a different story. They were overcooked and not very flavorful- It did not pass the Outback test.

We went horseback riding in the mountains. My horse kept stopping to get quick little grass treats. Going down the mountain made me nervous since the horse kept straying too close to the edge with a drop off that seemed to go on forever. A little nudge with my feet and a slight “click” set him back on track.

On our way home we stopped off at Cherokee to check out the Harrah’s casino and were disappointed. The minimum amount the nickel slot machines would take was $5.00. Needless to say, we didn’t win anything. In Las Vegas, I always wind up winning something on the slots. I guess they didn’t feel the need to draw people into the casino by tempting them with easy win slot machines. This was the only casino in Cherokee.


 

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Rather than fixating on my high blood pressure, I decided to have fun this weekend. So my partner and I went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where we rented a cabin overlooking the Smoky mountains. The knotty pine wood cabin had an incredible view which included a steaming hot tub facing the Smokies. We drove into town and wandered through the national park where my partner decided to go swimming in the frigid clear streams diffusing down the mountain. A mossy green smell filled the air while a smoky mist was rising above the rocks to the canopy of lush trees overhead. There was life everywhere.

The final part of our trip involved a white water rafting ride down the Pigeon river. We were a little nervous never having done this before, but the experience was incredible. We were on a small inflatable raft with three other people and our rafting guide. We held on with a death grip as we traversed the swirling frothy class 3-4 waters. We hit a big rapid and one of the people tumbled in the churning waters but my partner quickly held on to her and pulled her in. The 2 hour ride ended with slow peaceful ride back to our starting point leaving me feeling refreshed and alive.

Sometimes we need to focus outward and away from our internal problems… to see the beauty in nature and all that is life. We drove home shortly after that stopping at a Cracker Barrel(Gasp!)for dinner ( I ate a chicken tender salad with low fat dressing).