architecture

Must-See Macau

Macau is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from the terminal in Hong Kong, and it’s worth a day trip.  Everyone knows about the lavish casinos and the huge party town (it’s like the Vegas of Southeast Asia), but here are three must-sees – aside from the glitz and glamour – that will make your Macau visit even more fun.

Old Town Macau

Check out the fortresses from when Macau was a Portuguese colony.  See the architecture, take in the decidedly European influence (there’s even a Port wine museum!), try to figure out street signs in Portuguese…

One stop for spectacular views of the city is the old fort, Fortaleza du Monte.  It has panoramic views and really shows you the dichotomy between Old and New Macau.

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The cannon is pointed directly at the casinos….hm….

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The Ruins of St. Paul are right next to the fort, and are gorgeous.

You can also see the Chinese influence that still hasn’t will probably never go away, in the forms of older temples and shrines, and even more modern propaganda in the form of the 1950s Mao posters in every store.

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Pandas!!!!!!!!!!

Did you really think I’d skip the pandas?  Come on….

There are two pandas in Macau, and they are awesome.  The panda park itself is interesting – it has panda EVERYTHING (so it’s basically my version of heaven), and you can watch them till your heart’s content.

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These were absolutely huge awesome pandas made from carnations.

If you catch them on a good day, they’ll do flips and entertain you, but on a bad day, they’ll just stay in their little cave area and not come out.  Luckily for me, it was a good day, and I got to see it up close and personal.  Now if only I could figure out how to get one home…

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Grand Prix Museum

I realize this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a really short museum and if you like cars or appreciate it at all, it’s worth a trip.  Inside, you will see Aryton Senna’s car and race suit, an entire wall devoted to Michael Schumacher, and various other cars from other forms of racing (Porsche, BMW, even Toyota).  It’s a throwback homage to the days when racing was insanely dangerous, drivers were rugged men, and parties were wild and debauchery ran amok.

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And if the Museo du Gran Prix isn’t your thing, the Port wine museum is right next door. Cheers!

Haven on Earth, Part 3: Carving a Niche

Hollywood would have us believe that in college, you’re supposed to find yourself; to carve your own niche in society (and learn something…maybe).  And the prestige of the institution directly reflects the intelligence of the students matriculated there.

I’m here to tell you that the second statement is a big, fat lie.  These kids walk around in 20 degree weather in a flannel shirt and jeans, and wonder why they’re cold.  They know it’s going to thunderstorm out, leave their umbrellas at home, and complain that they’re soaked and their new suede boots are ruined.  They also step out in front of oncoming traffic without a second thought, because well….they’re at Yale.  No one is going to hit someone from Yale.   Unfortunately, motorists are largely non-discriminatory, and these kids are kind of idiots. IMG_20140911_122046858

To be fair, I’d venture a guess that by December, many of these signs will be taken down.  I figure that by then, the students have taken in all that New Haven. They know where they’re going and they have been staring at the buildings long enough that they don’t need to look at them anymore.  That last part is sad, because the buildings are truly gorgeous.  They’ve got ornate carvings, decorative windows and doors, and giant timepieces so you aren’t late to class.

If the students are staring at all of this architectural beauty and are getting hit by cars because of it, I can’t say I fully blame them.  Though I might suggest looking at it when you’ve fully crossed the street.

I Think I’ll Go To Boston


If I had to pick an East Coast city to live in, Boston would not be on the top of the list. In fact, it wouldn’t even be near the top.  Manhattan, DC, even Philly would outrank Boston – which is near sacrilege for any true New Englander.  I love the Red Sox, I love the Patriots, I love the Bruins and Celtics…but otherwise, give me a better metro system, gridded streets, and a lot more hustle and bustle with less Massachusetts fuss.

Despite all this, I found myself in Boston this weekend for my cousin’s 40th birthday.  While she wanted something lower-key, my family (namely my aunt) had other plans, and so we trekked to Beantown for some shopping on Newbury Street, a show, and dinner.

Lunch was turkey sandwiches at the Harborwalk, which was really quite lovely.  Like everything in this city, it’s a bit of a frustrating drive to get to, but once you’re there, it’s very nice.  I’m also a sucker for anything ocean and beaches, so I might be biased, but it was a gorgeous place to have a nice picnic.  We walked around some of it, and while I would have liked to spend more time, we had an agenda to keep, so off we went.

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Following lunch, we went to the famed Newbury Street, which is really the social street of the city.  It’s eight blocks long, and has everything you can imagine.  Shopping, food, self-care…you name it. We stopped into some stores, as the women in my family adore shopping (I’m much more of the online browsing type), and while only my aunt bought anything, my grandmother had fun looking at the antique sewing machines in one of the trendy and very expensive shops that used to be a sewing factory.

I’ve not ever been huge on drinking in front of the older women in my family, even though I’m Italian and wine is practically in my blood.  But we were celebrating, and decided that celebrate we will, for life is short, but sweet for certain.  And thus, seven weary women stopped into the Met Back Bay’s Library Bar for a drink.  We chose poorly.  I’m going to spare you the gory details, but my Yelp review is here (I’m Jenna C), in case you were wondering about probably the worst experience I’ve had in a really long time.  It was unfortunate, too, since the place was charming, old-timey, and I totally would have spent hours here reading something – though I think the books on the shelves were mostly decoration 😦

IMG_20140906_150300031The service was so slow and poor, we had to hightail it to the Charles Playhouse, where we were going to see Blue Man Group.  I’d never seen this show before, but three of my aunts and my cousin had, as had many of my friends.  It was entertaining, and while I wouldn’t pay to see it again – though I might go if someone handed me free tickets and really, really wanted to go – it was done well.  They’re always changing the sets and making it interesting, and the Charles Playhouse is very small and intimate, which makes performances there feel special.

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The birthday girl is on the far right.

Dinner at Rock Bottom Grille was….fine…but contrasted against the service at the Library Bar, it was top-notch.  It’s not a place to go if you have dietary restrictions, but otherwise it’s fine, and offers a great view of the W Hotel – bachelorette party watching is probably my new favorite sport.  Seriously.  My eyes bugged out of my head and I had trouble processing some of the attire, language, and activities.  You can’t make this shit up.   And they kiss their mothers with those mouths.

I think the best part of being in Boston all day was the walking around.  One of my favorite parts of any place is the contrast between old and new – the old New England brownstones and churches against the stark modernism of buildings like the Pru.  I still wouldn’t live in Boston, but I’d visit on occasion, and with the right company, I think it would be quite lovely.

¡Viva España! El Cuarto Día: Toledo, Part 4 – Me Gustan Las Puertas

I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.

I love doors.  Windows, and doors.  Toledo, being an old city, has many, and when closed, can only spark your imagination as to what is behind them.

There were large doors, and small ones (to be known herein as Jenna-sized).  Heavy ones with sharp decorations, light ones that swung in the breeze.  There were ornate ones that were works of art in their own right, and ones that blended into the wall.  

Of course, I was awfully fond of the Jenna-sized ones.  If only more people subscribed to making things me-sized, I’d be able to do so much more.  Like drive a Miata, or use the top shelves in my kitchen….

IMG_20140703_093843Alas, I fear the push for making things for those of us that are 5′ on a very good day has fallen on deaf ears.  Or perhaps people have gotten so tall over the past 600 years, that they just can’t hear us down here anymore. 

Even if the tops of them stretch feet above my head, I still love doors.  Here is a sample of some of the many entryways we came across in our 12+ mile walk.

And of course, one of the most elaborate and beautiful one for last:

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¡Viva España! El Cuarto Día: Toledo, Part 3

I was going to try to do a “churches” entry, but realized the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes needed its own – not only because I took over 100 photos in the 45 minutes we were in there, but also because I didn’t want the sheer beauty of it to have to be shared with the other churches and cathedrals.

According to Wikipedia, it’s from the late 15th Century, and King Ferdinando and Queen Isabella founded it to commemorate Prince John’s birth, and also the victory in the battle of Toro.

Simone offered to take me, and I got to walk around outside for a bit, snapping photos.

For a few Euros (thank you again!) we entered, and I was blown away by the interior.  The carvings, the paintings, the doors, oh my!  Also, the utter magnitude of the place.  It was ginormous.

I do love doors – and these certainly did not disappoint. While they look as though they’ve been restored, they still have a bit of 1400’s charm.  They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Being in the chapel itself (even though the size was more like a cathedral) was humbling.  20′ ceilings, you say?  Not even. These were so high up, I had trouble focusing my camera.

My mom was a Catholic school teacher, my grandmother and aunt/uncle go to church every Sunday, and I went through all the sacraments I was supposed to up to this point (except marriage – we eloped and got married in traffic court), and my ex-husband and his entire family have massive novenas, church parties, and every single family gathering is centered around religion. So yeah, I was raised Catholic. but I’m the Dane Cook version.  You know, holds the holy days holy-ish, subscribes to most of the major beliefs, and has a rosary, bible, and crucifix somewhere in the house, observes Catholic traditions that are convenient, but generally only goes to church when required, or when the mood strikes.  But one thing that always seems to get me is an altar.  And this altar was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

As it was a monastery, there was a whole separate section for living and praying (and whatever else monks do), joined to the chapel by several magnificent hallways.  I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie.  This was my Last Crusade.

The center courtyard looked like a lovely place to sit, have a cup of coffee, or contemplate the meaning of life.

And if anyone wanted to bother you during your hours of rest and relaxation in the courtyard, they’d have to deal with the gargoyles.

One thing that I do very much enjoy about churches is the idea that they are an antenna to the heavens, if you will. When I was young, I would find my eyes wandering upwards, wondering if my thoughts and prayers were actually getting to God, or if they were bouncing back down off of the ceiling.  Suffice to say, as I was in this church and looked towards the sky, I was reassured that even if prayers were bounced back to the earth, at least they were bouncing off of something pretty.

¡Viva España! El Segundo Día: La Escritura en la Pared

Although I had gotten (a bit) lost trying to get to Calle Mira el Sol, by the time Tuesday rolled around, I might as well have been a local – you know, aside from the whole “Spanish” thing.

I figured out that the Atocha train station wasn’t far, and decided to head that way, since that’s the general direction of the Prado Museum. I was walking, walking, walking, down Calle de Embajadores, and upon reaching the intersection of the aforementioned street and Calle Miguel Servet, I came across a wall.

Google Street view took pictures of this wall in March 2014. Perfectly plain, moderately clean, and sort of boring. UntitledLuckily for me, someone had commissioned crazy artwork to be painted on the wall, so each block was its own mural, done by different artists.

If you look, there’s the heart again. I do like the whole “love your city” theme. If residents take pride in their city, then it becomes a place you’d want to live in, and a place others would want to visit. Embajadores is doing a really good job of that, because I definitely want to go back.

And here are a few closeups of my favorites. For some reason, all the photos I took of each mural didn’t come out – and as touristy and obnoxious as it is, on a return trip, I might have to break out the D7000 and a kickass lens. There’s just way too much beauty and creativity to be captured with a cell phone camera.

This one is by far one of my favorites that I saw on the whole trip. It was really cool just looking and trying to identify everything.

This reminded me of my Trapper Keepers in junior high. People would write random quotes on them in gold and silver paint pens. The only thing I was mildly disappointed in is that my favorite saying is not on this mural: Lo mejor está por llegar.

There are TONS of political statements all over the city – did I mention that?

Again, with the weird tiny penis obsession – I really don’t get it, but I thought it was funny. Sort of like Michelangelo and Il Davide. Someone should tell the Spaniards that size matters.

 

 

 

Do You Know What Fate Is?

For the last six weeks or so, I have been doing a lot of traveling. Such is the life of an amateur racing driver – we get up at the asscrack of dawn, and get in a car to travel hundreds of miles to….sit in a car, and race it for as little time as possible (ironic, isn’t it?). It’s a 5am-to-10pm-every-day activity, and then we get back in the car and drive hours to get home, just to go to work on Monday morning. Yes, autocross is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t mistake this for complaining – I truly love my hobby, because of some of the simple pleasures it affords me. It’s quiet and peaceful on the roads at 4 am, and I’ve been able to see the sun rise and set over some of the most beautiful and underrated sights in the eastern half of the United States.

While driving to an event earlier this year, I realized that we cross a lot of bridges. In three weeks, I’ve crossed so many bridges that it took me a while to realize that they aren’t just ways to traverse over a body of water. They’re actually architectural works of art.

The Tappan Zee bridge is the preferred way of getting from Jersey to Connecticut after an event. It’s sometimes raining, and always bumpy, and the reports from civil engineers regarding the structural integrity of the bridge can be somewhat disconcerting sometimes. But, if you’re lucky, you can see the sunrise, and that’s good enough for me.

Another sunrise over the Delaware Memorial. The toll for this bridge, with a truck and trailer, is $10. There’s always traffic (probably because of when we reach this particular part of the trek), and sometimes, when you’re teetering between two giant semis, with your baby on a trailer behind you, it can get a bit worrisome. But traversing this particular span brings me to the (usually) first event of the Pro Solo Season, and is never a bad time.

The George Washington Bridge and I have a love-hate relationship. At 4am, it’s not so bad, especially since they’ve paved some of the road leading up to it. But normally it’s congested, full of construction, NY-bound drivers are insane, and I am not always sure if we’ll make it to the left lanes to go on the “trucks allowed” lower level – it’s a huge gamble and a lot of chance. Most people don’t like slowing down to allow a 30′ long truck and trailer to drive in front of them. I usually try to avoid the GW at all costs, but it’s the fastest and most direct route to the Metlife Stadium Complex. Despite all the pitfalls, every time I go over this bridge, I know I’m that much closer to something I love.