2016: My Year in Travel

I try not to make New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of every year. I don’t enjoy putting pressure on myself to lose X amount of weight or eat less of this or that. I try to live my life day to day and while I do make conscious efforts to go to the gym, maintain a healthy weight and cook (mostly) balanced food, I do my best not to wait until January 1st rolls around to do so.

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New Years Eve 2015!

BUT, I knew 2016 was going to be a big year for me. Even before it started, I had quite a few travel plans lined up both work and wedding-related. So I made a secret resolution to try to escape from normalcy just once a month during 2016, whether it was by plane or car, just going somewhere different. Even if it was in my New Hampshire backyard or my home state of Massachusetts.

I’m happy to say I kicked that resolution’s butt.

I’m not a “travel blogger” by any means. In fact, I haven’t written much about my travel experiences, but I consider myself a traveler through and through. I love seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, foods, people. And if I’m being completely honest, I love the touristy crap as much as the next person (give me ALL the museums!)

I was very lucky growing up because my family traveled a lot. My dad worked for two international airlines during his life, benefiting my mom, sister and myself with European adventures most kids don’t get to have. I didn’t know it at the time, but those experiences would instill in me a travel bug that would only get stronger as I got older. And while it’s true that I would almost always rather fly than drive (and lots of whining ensues if we do drive), I’ve never turned down an opportunity to travel.

Back to 2016. It brought with it new a country, a few new states, and a vast amount of cities I had never seen before. While I could write a post that goes on forever about every single thing I did and probably bore you to tears, here are the highlights over the course of the year.

January. 2016 started with my first ever trip to California. I knew I’d be hooked the moment I got there. My husband, who was my fiance at the time, joked that we’d probably not get married because I’d fall in love with Cali and never come back. (Spoiler alert: I did come back.) I headed to LA just after the new year for a business trip to the Golden Globes where my company took on the title of Official Confection for the awards show/ (I know, I know… my job sucks.) Though we did work almost the entire time we were there, we did have 1 extra day after the awards before flying home to do some site-seeing (and eating…)

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    Breakfast at the Wanderlust Cafe in Los Angeles. It’s kind of out of the way, but trust me, it’s worth it.
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The Weinstein-Netflix Golden Globes After Party 2016

February. A low-key month. I surprised Sean with a quick trip down to Boston to have dinner at the Top of the Hub to celebrate his 30th birthday. It wasn’t exactly “jet-setting” off to a new place but later that month we also went back to Boston to attend the Boston Wine Expo, which many of you know, is one of my favorite local events of the entire year. We stayed at Aloft Boston, which was new last year (and has since gotten pricier) but it has a super modern vibe and comfy accommodations. Be sure to stay tuned next month here on the blog, as well as my Twitter and Instagram for chances to win tickets to the 2017 Boston Wine Expo February 18-19!

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The Top of the Hub is a great place for a special occasion, but if you’ve never been there, keep in mind it’s definitely high-end and on the expensive side.
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A snapshot of the 2016 Boston Wine Expo!

March. I boarded a flight for another first: Nashville. My boss (who also happens to be one of my closest friends) has family there so we spent a long weekend at her dad’s house and hit all of the typical Lower Broadway bars and hot spots during the trip. We also had breakfast at the famous Loveless Cafe which was every bit worth the 2 hour wait. They have super cute shops to pass the time and I brought home Tennessee-made products as souvenirs which is always something I strive to do when I’m in a new place. No offense to those “Made in Taiwan” trinkets, but those are less my style. Her dad even got us tickets to the Grand Ole Opry where we sang along to Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Rock Me.”

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April. Yet another first: Salt Lake City. This was a work trip but work trips when you do social media and event planning for a chocolate company are never boring. We sponsored a lounge at a blogger conference and also hosted a special dinner for local influencers. It was a hit! I love planning these types of events because it brings so many cool people together and not only are we able to bond over the world of social media but also chocolate. Always a win-win situation.

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Highly recommend Bambara if you find yourself in SLC. Fantastic food and a wonderful staff. Our Lindt Influencer Dinner could not have been better.

May. Two words: Bachelorette Party. Two more words: Portland, Maine. And not just any bachelorette party, MY bachelorette party. My sister (who was my Maid of Honor) and my bridesmaids threw me an EPIC weekend in Portland complete with a low-key sleepover night in with pizza and games, a full day of beer tasting and touring and other special things at Allagash Brewing Company, an amazing dinner at The Old Port Sea Grille and night out where I danced my shoes off at probably the diveiest but most fun bar we could find , and then even more amazing food the next day at DuckFat (get the poutine!!) before rounding out the weekend getting coffee and The Holy Donut for the ride home. Brides, if you are looking for a destination for your bachelorette party, Portland is a must!

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Myself and my beer-loving, bachelorette-partying friends at Allagash Brewing Company at the end of our tour.
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Half a dozen donuts = #WeddingDiet

June. Then I got married. Yup, crazy. They tell you it’s the best day of your life and also the fastest and it couldn’t have been more true. Our wedding took place in my hometown church where I grew up and then our reception was at a country club in a quaint Massachusetts north shore town. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

© Jillian Knight Photography 2016 www.jillianknight.com
Wedding Photography by Jillian Knight Photography

We chased the wedding with 11 days and 10 nights at the all-inclusive Couples Resort in Negril, Jamaica. The smaller of the two Couples Negril resorts, it was intimate without being too small or cramped and we had a ridiculous amount of fun. We splurged on a suite which I highly recommend for a honeymoon in paradise. It opened right out to the gardens, was just a short walk to the beach and had a deck complete with a hammock that we laid in to relax and read during a few afternoon rain showers.

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Hammock time!
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Stick your flag in the sand, get a drink. I could get used to this.

In between laying on the beach every morning (bottomless mimosas in hand) and sailing every afternoon, Sean and I also got to explore some of the beautiful island of Jamaica. We spent one morning ziplining and visiting a local mineral spring and another entire day on a special excursion:the Black River safari, rope swinging into the stunning YS Falls and touring the famous Appleton Estate Rum Factory. I couldn’t recommend that all day excursion enough if you ever find yourself in Jamaica. It was quite a drive from our resort but our driver was not only super friendly but pointed out lots of interesting things during the day.

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July. We headed down to Connecticut for a good friend’s wedding. I don’t get to Connecticut much even though it’s only a few hours and 1 state away, but we had a really fun time at the wedding and got to spend it with all of my wonderful dance friends, who by now, are more like family. Plus, we figured out that all of our dress colors made a rainbow. (Just missing the bride who would’ve been the perfect white cloud at the end of this rainbow!)

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August. Another trip, another first. Our good friends invited us to stay with them for a weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and Sean and I jumped on the chance right away. Neither of us had ever been to the Vineyard before but after spending a few days there, I couldn’t believe I waited 28 years of my life to visit. We spent a day at Long Point beach, visited local brewery Bad Martha (which I loved), and enjoyed dinner at The Port Hunter, where the host came over and de-boned my friend’s whole fish dinner in 10 seconds flat. We had snacks and beers at Offshore Ale, late-night drinks at 20byNine, and visited the lighthouse at Gay Head. All recommended for a wonderful weekend away.

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The most perfect day on the Vineyard.

September. This was a crazy month, but not in the travel sense. I took on TWO new dance jobs and got promoted at Lindt. My life went from full time wedding planning to somewhat on the quiet side during the 2 months following and then ramped right back up again into the high gear, fast-paced life that I’m much more used to. But before all of that craziness kicked in, Sean and I got the chance to go down to the Newburyport/Salisbury area of Massachusetts, which is just south of the New Hampshire border, to visit one of our favorite summer spots, The Deck, which also happens to belong to an old friend of mine. They’ve recently expanded their main deck overlooking the ocean and we enjoyed beers, calamari and homemade guac during one of the last really nice days of the season.

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Not a bad place to spend the last of summer.

October. Back to Salt Lake City for work yet again, this time to sponsor the Better Blog Retreat with some of the most influential bloggers in the food and lifestyle space. This conference is much smaller than the one we did earlier in the year in SLC and we hosted a LINDOR Hot Chocolate Bar. It was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up and it was fun to see everyone’s chocolate concoctions. Pro tip: the best hot cocoa is hot milk and 2-3 LINDOR truffles melted and mixed in. Bonus points if you splash in some whipped cream vodka, because why the hell not?

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Just another day at the office.

November. Once a year, Sean and I drive north to spend a few hours in Ogunquit, Maine. It’s a really special place to us for a number of reasons: it’s the spot Sean took me on our first date back in August 2012. The following summer we went back just to walk around and enjoy the ocean and the town. No surprise by now, but it’s where Sean got down on one knee in 2014 and asked me to marry him and where we took our engagement photos in 2015. 4 years later, we took our 5th trip to the Marginal Way walk in Perkins Cove and while it was way colder than year than the 68 degree day when he proposed, it was every bit as special.

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Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine
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The same walk we took on our first date, the day Sean proposed, and for our engagement photos.

This year was also the first time that I did not spend Thanksgiving in Maine with my family. Instead, we took a road trip down to Maryland with Sean’s parents to visit my sister-in-law and her husband. I’m not really a car person and  dreaded the 8-10 hour drive the week leading up to it but thanks to downloaded movies, a few books, and my friend Dramamine, the drives down and back weren’t bad at all!

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Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania and I didn’t even have to wear a winter coat!

We toured Washington D.C. two of the days were there, and had Thanksgiving itself in Pennsylvania with my brother-in-law’s family. We also stopped in PA on the way home to pick up my in-laws’ new Yorkie puppy, Tucker, so it was a multi-state trip and so much fun.

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The whole fam in the Library of Congress.

I got particularly excited about the Julia Child exhibit in the American History Museum. While the rest of my family explored the FOOD section, I hovered around the kitchen and all of the things that went along with it. Safe to say I was fangirling hardcore.

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Julia Child’s Kitchen!!!

December. Maine & Rhode Island both for friend/family/Christmas-related things. Quick ttips in both directions, and nothing particularly huge to write home about, but still a fun few weekends to round out what was probably the busiest (and best!) year of my life so far.

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Our 1st Christmas (Eve) as Mr. & Mrs!

The big question is… how do I top this in 2017? Well, I may not have as many trips on the calendar (yet) but I have a few ideas up my sleeve. I think it’s high time I make my way back to Europe; 5 years is too long to be away. So far, here’s the line-up:

January. California!! Back to the Golden Globes for the 2nd year (we leave this coming Wednesday!) for more fun in the celebrity backstage lounge, throwing an influencer event in West Hollywood, and ending the night at the Weinstein-Netflix after party. Then, when my team flies home the following Monday, Sean is flying in to spend the rest of the week exploring LA, Anaheim (including a Ducks game and DISNEY LAND!), and San Diego with me.

February. No major traveling, but we are spending a weekend in Boston for the 2017 Boston Wine Expo (more details to come!) Be sure to check back in January for a chance to win tickets to this year’s event – it’s going to be another awesome year. And if you just can’t wait for a chance to win tickets, use code BLOGGERTASTE17 at your ticket check out for a special discount.

March. 2 confirmed trips this month! Going back to Nashville for the second year in a row and taking my college dance team to nationals in Anaheim at the end of the month. (GO SNHU!)

April. A trip to Texas for work that may or may not include a quick stint in Waco to visit my favorite HGTV couple, but we’ll see…

May. Down to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding!

June. One weekend we’ll spend in the seaside town of Gloucester, Mass. for a childhood friend’s wedding and then another weekend down in Providence, Rhode Island for a fraternity friend’s wedding. All the love!

Summer. Potential trip to Kansas to see Sean’s grandparents for a long weekend. Maybe a road trip to Burlington, Vermont to celebrate my 29th birthday and our 1-year anniversary?? TBD.

Fall. England?? Paris?? Buy a house in New Hampshire?? I guess we’ll see what happens!

At this point, I think I’ll make another not-so-secret resolution for 2017 to once again escape the everyday once a month. Even if it’s just to another corner of New Hampshire, I don’t foresee this travel bug going away any time soon.

2016, you were amazing. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

If you have LA, Anaheim or San Diego recommendations for things to see, do, eat, please send them my way!

Follow my adventures on Twitter, Instagram, and of course, Snapchat (@marietorto)!

Brunch at the Beat Brasserie

I love brunch. Everything from pancakes, to french toast, omelets and even the occasional burrito. All topped off with a mimosa. I mean, what could be better on a Sunday morning?

In addition to loving brunch, I also love trying new places for brunch. When the Boston Brunchers had an upcoming event at the Beat Brasserie (aka Beat Hotel) in Cambridge, I jumped at the chance.

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I used to go to Boston Bruncher events pretty often. When I got a job and moved to New Hampshire, they became further between, mostly because getting to the city on a Sunday morning is usually on the tough side. But this particular Sunday, which also happened to be the same day as the Super Bowl, it was perfect timing. Fiance (I love calling him that…) slept in, while I got up and headed to Cambridge. As I drove down, I realized the last time I went to a Boston Bruncher brunch was 2 full years ago!  Definitely not letting that much time pass between these brunches again!

I was the first to arrive at the Beat Brasserie and took in the atmosphere. It had an eclectic, yet cozy feel that I immediately enjoyed. Chandeliers of merlot-colored beads hung draped around the restaurant providing a warm glow, and there was an empty band set up at the very back of the floor that would eventually have musicians behind it to play for us while we ate.

I sat at a table with Lianna, Taryn and Melissa. We decided to order a bunch of things for the table and share, starting with the Caramelized Apple and Cranberry Coffee Cake.

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This cake was everything I wanted in coffee cake and more. It was super decadent and rich, but the flavors of the apples and cranberries really came through. I could’ve eaten the entire piece by myself with no problem. It also came with a dollop of cinnamon honey butter which was like an added layer of crack onto this already addicting slice of heaven.

I also went with a traditional mimosa as my drink of choice. Normally, I try to order a specialty house drink when I am at a new brunch place but was feeling like a tried and true brunch staple that day. It did not disappoint. I had two. And maybe four cups of coffee. And a gallon of water. I don’t think my water glass was ever empty. Needless to say, I was hydrated and the staff was really conscious and helpful.

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It wasn’t long before we had an entire table covered in food.

pancakes

 Eggs Bene

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Everything from Wild Flower Honey and Lemon Pancakes to Braised Short Ribs Eggs Benedict to a Mushroom & Fontina omelet with steak frites and a side salad. There was even delicious lamb sausage that was surprisingly spicy (in a good way) and what they called the Bowl Azteca with Faroe Island Salmon that I did not try. The four of us took a little bit of each dish to sample (after snapping photos of course!)

The pancakes were light and airy, and came with a sweet berry compote that complimented the pancakes nicely. There was also a spoonful of the same cinnamon honey butter from earlier on top, but the pancakes were so flavorful and pillowy on their own, I didn’t think they really needed any extra butter. However, getting a bit of pancake and berry compote together in one bite was pancake heaven. The omelet was good; I’m always a sucker for fontina cheese, but slightly underwhelming compared to the pancakes. By far, my favorite was definitely the Eggs Bennie, and it was a hit among my co-brunchers as well. The braised short ribs were buttery and rich, the egg perfectly poached, and the side salad was dressed just enough (no one likes soggy salad.) It was an innovative take on one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods and certainly did not disappoint.

The entire morning was relaxing, not one bit rushed, and I left feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle my Sunday (which included making these De-Pudged Piggies in a Blanket, screaming way too loud at the TV during the Super Bowl, and crying when the Patriots won the whole thing.)

Have you tried the Beat Brasserie for brunch? What was your favorite thing on the menu?

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Disclaimer: Brunch was provided to me free of charge in return for my review. But, as always, all opinions are my own.

Brunching at Back Deck

As I walked into the Back Deck Restaurant on West Street in Boston on Sunday, I couldn’t believe that it had been over a year since I last attended a Boston Brunchers‘ event. It was also the first brunch where I got to use my new fancy camera!

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Since the Patriots were playing in the AFC Championship game later that day, I knew I had to work at 3pm, so when Renee sent a contest around to win a seat at this brunch from 12pm-2pm, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to enter. When I was selected, I was beyond excited.

When I sat down, I was greeted by a few familiar faces, like Erika, Meghan, Liz and Jess.  I wasted no time choosing a signature drink from their menu: an Orange Cooler, complete with OJ, orange vodka, Cointreau and lime juice. I loved it. If it was acceptable to have one of those every morning, I would. The alcohol was subtle, but present and the juice was fresh. Perfect start to brunch.

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Each bruncher got to choose an item off of the menu to try and we decided to start with some appetizers to share at the table: grilled zucchini with a garlic mayo, eggplant spread on pita, squash soup, chicken livers, hot wings with dipping sauce, and a honey-drizzled grilled grapefruit.  I wasn’t particularly fond of the chicken livers, and the grapefruit was difficult to eat, but everything else was delicious.

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As I perused the menu trying to decide what to order, I felt the brunch menu leaned more towards lunch than breakfast. Maybe I’m just strange, but even during “brunch”, I almost always choose a breakfast item. So that’s what I did, settling on Eggs Diablo. I must’ve been feeling a little adventurous since a) I almost never order egg-y breakfast items and b) this dish came complete with a habenero sauce (which I asked for on the side just in case…)

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I would say that the dish was good, but not mind-blowing. The eggs were perfectly cooked: fluffy, light and just runny enough, but I didn’t taste much spice on the “spicy” pork. The black beans and tortillas tasted as they should. I think I would’ve preferred toast to the tortillas under the beans. I didn’t really eat much of it. The crispy tortilla strips on top, however, were a textural element that I enjoyed. When I took taste of the habenero sauce, I was instantly thankful that I asked for it on the side. While tasty, even the smallest amount warmed my mouth and throat and any more would’ve overpowered the whole dish. When I was able to get everything on my fork all at once, I must say it was quite delicious. Separately, however, the elements on the plate were good, but not great.

The other menu item I was eyeing was the Challah French Toast, which the bruncher sitting next to me happened to order. The moment I took a bite, I knew it would’ve been more my style. It was crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and had a bourbon and caramelized banana sauce… Heaven. And, it was huge!

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But we weren’t done yet. Our server came over with a dessert menu and, like our appetizers, we got a few to share. The “Drunken 3 Musketeer” ice cream was by far my favorite.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this brunch and would recommend Back Deck for any Sunday. Heads up – they have a kiddie menu too so don’t be afraid to bring the kiddos along!  If you’re looking for a reasonably priced good time, try it out!

*The Back Deck provided brunch free of charge to the Boston Brunchers and I was asked to write a review of the meal and experience I had. ALL opinions stated here are my own.

Recapping 2012… A Year I Never Expected

I had much of this post written before December 17th. I am going to leave what was written originally as is but add a little something up here first to give a little more context to my 2012…. I feel this post is better late than never.

On December 17th, my grandmother passed away. It was sudden, unexpected, and devastating. Mere days before Christmas, a fatal heart attack that no one saw coming was ultimately to blame. Surprisingly, I managed to keep myself together for most of what followed, only breaking down in the hardest moments, trying with everything I had in me to keep my tears hidden.

My Nuna was the most generous person I’ve ever known. Anything I ever wanted, she was willing to supply. She was the reason our Christmas tree had unnecessary but always welcome mounds of presents under it on Christmas Day, why I always had an “emergency $20” in my wallet (that was almost ALWAYS spent on non-emergent things) and why I had a life-size princess Barbie doll (remember those things?!)

She was also stubborn, but in the kind of way that made you thankful for traditional things, like the exact right way to make a turkey on Thanksgiving and why, to this day, I sit closer to my steering wheel in the car than is really necessary because “it’ll protect me.” No, it will probably make things worse, but things stick when you’re a little kid.

I miss my Nuna more than I can possibly say. I am thankful that I had her for almost all of 2012, but 2013 and on will not be the same without her.

My little sister, Nuna and me... Little kid fro and all.
My little sister, Nuna and me… Little kid fro and all.

Now, onto what I had written before. Happy New Years everyone!

Remember when I wrote the post, “2012 Will be Great?”  Well, it was.

But not before it was absolutely horrible.

2012 became a year that I never expected. Last December, I had my whole life planned out. A special relationship to me ended and I thought things would never be the same.  They aren’t – they’re better. Things change, people change, and everything happens for a reason. I think I’ve finally grasped that concept.

But 2012 had many great things. Many amazing things. Allow me to tell you about them.

– I ran my first 5-miler.

First 5-miler on New Years Day 2012.
First 5-miler on New Years Day 2012.

– I ran my first 10K.

First 10K, March 2012.
First 10K, March 2012.

– I spent my summer at the London Olympics.

London2012... The best summer of my whole life.
London2012… The best summer of my whole life.

– I turned 24 on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Happy 24th Birthday to me!
Happy 24th Birthday to me!

– I watched two of my childhood friends get married.

Photo courtesy of the Groom's Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of the Groom’s Facebook page.

– I met a guy I would get to know while I was away for 7 weeks… and fall for him… hard.

This is my boyfriend, Sean. I suppose its time for all of you to be introduced.
This is my boyfriend, Sean. I suppose its time for all of you to be introduced.

– I was in 2 DanceWorks Boston shows and choreographed 2 routines for it.

My routine, "Deadly", featuring the 7 Deadly Sins.
My routine, “Deadly”, featuring the 7 Deadly Sins.

– I finished my Master’s Degree. (FINALLY!!!!!! Master Torto has a great ring to it.)

The face of a Master.
The face of a Master. You know you’re impressed.

– I got a part-time, paid internship as a Sports Web Producer at Boston.com.

I changed in a lot of ways.

When I look back on 2012, I realized how much my life has changed and I honestly don’t think I’d change a single second of it. Even though parts of it were incredibly difficult and there were times when I wanted to give everything up and just live in my own misery, I pulled through it. I am happier than I have been in a long time.

Here’s to 2013 and everything it brings. I haven’t really made any New Year’s resolutions but here’s one: blog more. Good plan.

My Summer in London: Off to Paris!

I can’t believe it’s been 12 days since my last post!! I’m currently working on one encompassing everything I’ve been up to since July 6th, but at the moment, I’m slightly preoccupied…

Tomorrow morning, at 3:20am, a bus will take me, Justin, Keesa and Matt to Luton airport.  I don’t know about you, but I only know what 3:20am looks like because I’m usually up on Skype or g-chat until 4am… But to actually have to be a functioning human being who is traveling to another country, I should probably take a nap or go to bed super early or something.

Not likely.

We’ll be spending the next 4 days in the beautiful city of Paris.  Think of it as a mini vacation in the midst of my program here.  We had spent the past 2ish weeks taking a special topics class on the Olympics, took our final this morning (aced it) and I have one package already done that should be posted on boston.com sometime next week.  We’ll be going nonstop for the 3 weeks after Paris in full-blown internship mode so after already being here for a little over 3 weeks, a getaway to France is more than perfect.

The last time I visited Paris, I was 9, and as much fun as I’m sure I had there being hauled around by Len & Shirl, I am bouncing-out-of-my-chair excited to get to experience it again in a different way.  The four of us are even considering a day trip to Versailles on Saturday.

And the best part?  It’ll be my birthday while I’m there… Oh hey, how did you spend your 24th birthday?  In Paris… no big deal.

So the next time you see me, I’ll be a little older, probably none the wiser and hopefully full of good French wine.  Always gotta have wine..

Look out Paris, not sure you’re ready for us…

Trouble? Not us…

…or them.

Paris is doomed.

My Summer in London Week 1: Family Vacation

Greetings from London, England!!!!  (Warning: Lengthy post ahead…)

It only took me a total of 15 hours to get here from the time I left my house at 2pm US time last Tuesday afternoon to when I arrived at my aunt’s place in London at 10:30am Wednesday England time (5:30am US time.)

Bye bye America! See you in 7 weeks…

All-in-all, the travel day wasn’t horrible.  6 hours from Boston to Frankfurt on Lufthansa’s business class is an extremely luxurious (cough cough SPOILED) way to travel.  My dad works for Lufthansa so it just makes sense and all….

We landed in Germany at 5:30am their time before boarding a much smaller airplane for the 1 and a half hours to London, where the time changed again, back 1 hour.

Hello business class.. thanks for the unlimited drinks for 6 hours.

Now, I’ve traveled abroad a lot in my life and jet lag isn’t something that normally hurts me too much, but this time around, it was BRUTAL.  I don’t know if it’s because we left the USA so late in the day or if it was the 3 hours getting from Heathrow to my aunt’s house because of a massive line at the UK border or the amount of luggage we had or the time on the tube but either way, I was dying for sleep by noon.

Happy to be in England, dying to get some sleep.

After taking the fastest hour-long nap of my life, we were back up and off to one of my favorite places in all of London…

Oh Harrod’s… I could live in you.

I proceeded to practically run around the store, buying things like Harrod’s brand red wine.  Don’t judge me.. this is good stuff.

What are the odds these bottles of amazingness make it back to the USA? Answer: Not very good.

The rest of my week looked a little something like this:

My family’s place where we stayed for our vacation… freakin’ massive and beautiful.

On Thursday, we visited Windsor and saw the castle where the Queen is currently residing.  We didn’t actually get to see her, but we did get to see her guards and their stellar hats.

The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle.

We tried some on just for fun.

Lookin’ awesome.

Friday….Stonehenge and Bath!

I like taking dance photos in front of historic landmarks… Sorry I’m not sorry.

Stonehenge was beautiful, albeit a bit chilly but by the time we got to Bath, the weather changed completely.

The Roman Baths in Bath…

We toured the Roman Baths and checked out Bath Abbey.  Bath is the setting of one of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, so it was incredible being there where the story takes place.

Bath… I could live here.

That night, my cousins took me and my sister out to experience the London nightlife.  Ever met an Irish kid you couldn’t understand because his accent was so thick?  Now I can say I have…

This is Gabrielle.. She’s an expert in what we like to call “photo bombing”….

One night club in particular looked slightly familiar..

O’Neills? I thought we left you back in Salem….

Later that night, I decided it would be smart to stay up until 2:45am thinking that I’d get to sleep in the next day.  My dad, however, had other plans, strolling into my room at a casual 7:00am to inform me that I needed to get up RIGHT THAT MINUTE because we were going to miss the 8:21 train to Oxford.  Fail sleeping in.

Oxford included a tour of the gorgeous Blenheim Palace and scoping out Oxford University’s campus.

Who’s moving in with me?

The rose garden of Blenheim was by far my favorite.

Reminds me of the Secret Garden.

By the way, I got a new camera…can you tell?  No more iPhone photos for me!

Did I mention how much I love roses?

100 British pounds to whoever can name what movie this courtyard was featured in…. Hint: It’s one of my favorites series of all time.

Oxford was the shooting location for……………..

After falling asleep on the train ride home, my family went to dinner at one of my favorite spots in London: Kandoo.  This hole-in-the-wall Persian place is BYOB and serves incredible food.  Even my mom, the pickiest eater in the entire world, loved it.

Best Persian food ever.

Today I finally got to sleep in and didn’t wake up until… noon.  With my parents out of the house (they decided to go back to Bath and spend a few more hours there), Melissa and I printed a map, got some tips from our cousin Ali and hit the streets of London for our own pub crawl.

I have a map and a beer. Go.

First up, The Beehive..

First stop.

Then, The Marylebone, which ended up being my favorite stop of the day.  I recommend the Passionfruit Bellini.

2 for 1 cocktails all day Sundays…. I will be back.

Third, The Prince Regent, where I had my first-ever glass of Zinfandel.  I usually stay away from this type of red because I’m biased towards Merlot, Cab and Malbec, but this one was surprisingly delicious.

Bar #3

Our last stop, the Barley Mow, was cute too.

Last stop…. NOT.

About three seconds after we left the Barley Mow, we got a call from Ali who told us to come to a bar called The Globe to watch the Italy-Spain “football” game with her, Gabby and bunch of their Embassy friends.

Fun place but super crowded for the game.

…And then Ali spilled her full beer all over the place and our new friend Derek laughed at her.

Whasamattawithyou????

All-in-all, a successful pub crawl around London and a great way to end my first week here.

Post-pub crawl success.

So that’s my trip to London up until this point.  Tomorrow I move to BU London at Courtfield Gardens in Kensington and have orientation before starting class on Tuesday!  Once I’m settled in, I promise more pictures and maybe a few more posts so they aren’t as long…

Cheers!

I want to know… Have you traveled or studied abroad?  What’s your best advice for getting around London and/or Europe?  I’m dying to get to Paris and Rome but I’m not sure of the best way to go about it… help!!

A Not-So-Normal Wednesday

If you haven’t heard by now, yesterday was Super Tuesday.  This is how I spent my day:

– 6:00am: Wake up.  Shower. Try to look decent.

– 7:30am: Drive to Vermont

– 9:30am: Keep driving to Vermont.

– 10:00am: Arrive in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Scope out election scene at the high school, drive around Smalltown, USA.  Shoot lots of video.  Buy a shot glass and a stick of maple syrup.

Welcome to Smalltown, USA.

– 10:45am: Ask some guy if we can shoot from his back porch.  Guy agrees.  We get great footage with minimal tree intrusion.

– 11:00am: Head back to the high school, shoot more video, interview people, do a standup, freeze bum off

– 12:30pm: Get amazing lunch at random, hole-in-the-wall pub.

– 1:30pm: Start driving home.

– 2:00pm: Stop for gas before we run out.

-4:00pm: Arrive at school, return camera equipment, start editing, writing, recording.

-9:00pm: Finish package, figure out chyrons, write other stuff, tweet, tweet, tweet.

– 9:45pm: Go into newsroom.  Send texts so people will watch the show.  Get on the phone with Skype crew.

– 10:00pm:  Live Super Tuesday show.  A little rocky, but successful.  Vermont package airs.  I get 3423 text messages from family and friends telling me they loved it.

– 11:00pm: Go to bar and drink beer with classmates (and prof) on the dean’s tab.

Report the news.. then drink.

– 11:45pm: Train home.  Almost miss stop.  Set morning alarm for 5:45 and 6:15.

-12:21 am: Sleep.

– 5:45am: Alarm goes off.  Almost throw phone across the room.

It was a long day.  Thankfully today, we don’t have class because we had it last night instead.  But that doesn’t mean I got to sleep in.  Quite the opposite.

I didn’t actually end up rolling out of bed this morning until closer to 6:30.  I had to meet the rest of the Unyted Stylz crew at the New England Aquarium at 7:30 for a show.  I was nervous that I’d totally miss our call time so I left my apartment just after 6:45 to take the Green Line to Government Center and switch to the Blue.  I met up with another crew member waiting for the blue line train and was happy that I wouldn’t get lost the rest of the way.

At the Aquarium, the host of the event was beyond thrilled to see us.  When it was time for us to perform, I was pretty nervous since it was my first show with the crew since joining last month.  Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t as Oh-My-God-I’m-Gunna-Throw-Up nervous as I normally am before performing.  Either way, it was great and the crowd really liked us.  And I looked pretty decent in the video we watched after so WIN.

Some of US Crew (with baby CJ!) at the Aquarium

When I got back to my apartment, I made some breakfast, watched Jenna Marbles (anyone else obsessed with this girl?  Fun fact: She got her Master’s at BU like me) and tried to make myself look decent for the second time today before heading off to Cambridge to meet up with Alaina for the first time in person!

I’ve been reading Alaina’s blog for a while now and when we figured out we live super close to each other, we decided a blogger meet up/coffee date would be the way to go.  Unfortunately, we are both incredibly busy so it’s actually taken months to finally take the time to do it!

We met up at 1369 Coffee House in Central Square, Cambridge just off the red line.  I had never been there before and was excited to try it.  I ordered a blood cider instead of coffee (who am I?) and it was delicious.  Locally produced piping hot apple cider with a deeply aromatic tea steeped in.  I also tried the cranberry-walnut muffin which was delicious.  Alaina and I talked about anything and everything you could think of: our blogs, running, working out, living in Boston, school…  It was great to get to know someone in person that you feel like you have known from reading their blog.

The rest of my day looked like this:

– YouTube videos.

– Nap.

– Oversleep from nap; frantically get ready; train to school.

– Anchor BU’s “Inside Boston”.

– Fro Yo (aka dinner) with a treat-obsessed dance friend.

– Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube.

And now I think I’ll sleep because I have an live guest coming tomorrow to interview on our class news magazine show and I should probably wash my hair and put make-up on in the morning.

How did you spend your Wednesday?  Do you have to set three to five alarms to ensure you’ll wake up on time?