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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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  • 6/29-7/4: Maine
  • 7/8: brunch at Casa Enrique
  • 7/24: National Tequila Day at Camacho's
  • 8/31-9/5: Lissa's wedding in Hawaii
  • 9/23: Morgan's Bat Mitzvah in SF
  • 10/15: Zach & Jess's wedding in LA
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Need more streamlined advice?  Shoot me an email with your specific requests:  Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

Entries in Travel (40)

Wednesday
Feb292012

A recap: Day 1 of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival

On Friday morning, February 24th, I arrived in beautiful, sunny Miami for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.  After checking in to my hotel, the first item on the agenda was to fetch my event passes from the Media Suite at the Loews Miami Beach...and snoop around the Hospitality Suite (chock-full of goodies)!

Next item of business?  Return to my hotel - quickly change in to my swim suit - and hit the pool/beach.  Hey, a girl's gotta' have some down time!

For lunch, I grabbed the healthiest item I could find on Eden Roc's Cabana Beach Club menu:  "Blackened Salmon Salad" (sub salmon for grilled shrimp).  Why "healthiest," you ask?  Because I knew that the remainder of my meals in Miami would be overly abundant, indulgent, and gluttonous.  Though I'm sure the two frozen margaritas I sipped poolside didn't aid much in my lo-cal endeavors...

~

First event of the evening:  "Ultimate Beginnings Wine & Cheese Party," hosted by Josh Wesson & Laura Werlin

Held on the sprawling rooftop terrace - overlooking the turquoise sea and palm tree "tops" - at The Betsy Hotel, the Ultimate Beginnings Wine & Cheese Party featured a multi-table spread consisting of a selection of pours from Winebow, and a variety of fromage (chosen specifically to compliment the wines) from the Cheese Course.  Hosts, Josh Wesson and Laura Werlin, were on-hand to answer attendees' questions, pose for photos, and mingle.

We heart you, Michael!!Photo: Billy Farrell Agency (left to right: Emily, Josh Wesson, The Lunch Belle)The Betsy Hotel: a view from the topFabulous pairing sauce from the Cheese Course~

Second event of the evening:  "Wine Spectator's Best of the Best," at the Fountainebleau

This event ended up being one of my favorites of the entire weekend!  Held at the fabulous Fountainebleau Miami Beach (hotel), this grand soiree featured dishes from the best new chefs in the country, which were paired with wines rated 90 points or higher on Wine Spectator's scale! 

Wineries of note included:

  • Champagne Laurent-Perrier
  • Champagne Nicoloas Feuillatte
  • Inniskillin (yummy ice wine)
  • Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
  • Sterling Vineyards

Chefs/restaurants of note included:

  • Hugh Acheson (Five & Ten, Athens, GA)
  • Nick Anderer (Maialino, New York, NY)
  • David Burke (David Burke Townhouse, New York, NY)
  • Marco Canora (Hearth Restaurant, New York, NY)
  • Scott Conant (Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, FL) - met him!  What a babe...!
  • Ariane Daguin (D'Artagnan, New York, NY)
  • Gabrielle Hamilton (Prune, New York, NY)
  • Gerard Hayden (North Fork Table & Inn, Southold, NY)
  • Dan Kluger (ABC Kitchen, New York, NY)
  • Jian Heng Loo  (Hakkasan at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, FL)
  • Emily Luchetti (Waterbar, San Francisco, CA) - met her!  Super nice!
  • George Mendes (ALDEA, New York, NY)
  • Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta's, Brooklyn, NY)
  • Seamus Mullen (Tertulia, New York, NY)
  • Charles Phan (The Slanted Door, San Francisco, CA)
  • Angela Pinkerton (Eleven Madison Park, New York, NY)
  • Bill Telepan (Telepan, New York, NY)
  • Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, New York, NY) - met her!

Wine glasses were given to each guest to use for tastingsSea Urchin w/ Straiciatella: Roberta's, Brooklyn

Dessert spread from the chefs at the FountainebleauMomofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi brought her "Pretzel Cake Truffles!" Yum!!Gag all you want, but ice-wine is the bomb! Especially Inniskillin's version...Chef Emily Luchetti's "Brownie Brown Sugar Parfait," Farallon Restaurant, San FranciscoMy favorite savory dish: "Short Rib Robata with Truffle Miso," Makato at the Bal Harbour Shops, Miami~

Oh, what an eventful day/night it was!  By about 10:45pm, I had no other choice but to surrender to my hotel room.  After all, I had been up since 3:30am and had a full Saturday planned.  Until then...!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Friday
Sep092011

Weekend wishes & Atlantic City dreams

Dear readers,

TGIF!  I apologize for the lack of posting this week.  For some reason, 4-day work weeks always seem to progress at the speed of molasses, despite how many tasks you may have on your plate.  These first few days of September have already proven to me that Fall is, in fact, here.  From the subtle chill in the air to the fact that every bike is now occupied at my 6am spinning class, I'm slowly being forced to come to terms with the end of this three-month-long 'easy breezy paralysis.'  And, clearly, everyone else is, too.

But before I kick Fall in to high gear, I wanted to send you all off with a wrap-up of my Labor Day weekend adventure in Atlantic City, NJ.  That, plus a couple of my personal tips, should you find yourself out there any time in the future. 

Best wishes for a lovely weekend!  *And don't forget that Sunday marks the ten-year anniversary of September 11th.*

~

Atlantic City, NJ

Transportation

  • We chose to take an Academy bus from Port Authority, which dropped us at the first stop: the Trump Plaza (resort).  Door to door, the trip time was approximately 2-hours and 15-minutes.
    • A roundtrip ticket will run you $36, plus you receive a $25 casino voucher!  Talk about a deal!
    • Make sure to arrive one-hour before your bus' departure time, so that you can purchase a ticket and be guaranteed a seat.  Tickets can also be purchased online.
    • Bring hand sanitizer: there is not a sink/soap in the bus' restroom and, more often than not, there is no hand sanitizer, either.  Ew! 
  • Getting around "town": cabs are readily available, but make sure to have cash on-hand.

Hotel

  • We stayed at The Water Club at Borgata.  Shut up.  The rates here are pricey but, luckily, we were able to cram four girls in to one room. 
    • The only reason that I would stay here again, aside from the fact that our room was gorgeous and very well thought/laid-out: this "portion" of the hotel has an outdoor pool; the Borgata does NOT. 
    • Bottom line: stay at The Water Club in the summer - stay at the Borgata in the colder months, as they have an indoor pool complex.
    • Speaking of the outdoor pool at The Water Club: the policies and layout are simply RIDICULOUS.  Are you ready for this?  1) On the day that you check-in to the hotel, you are not allowed access to the pool until 3pm on weekdays/4pm on weekends.  2) There is only one entrance to the pool.  3) The actual "pools" are relatively tiny, especially for the size of the hotel.  This includes the amount of surface area surrounding the pool and the number of chaise lounges.  4) If you want to score a chaise lounge, wake up at 6:30/7am and head to the pool to mark your territory.  Drape a towel over your desired chair + leave another piece of collateral (magazine, water bottle), and then return to bed until you're ready for sun exposure.  5) Make sure to choose a chaise lounge by the pool CLOSEST TO THE BAR - NOT the pool closest to the entrance.  This area clouds over at 3pm, sharp.  Trust me.
    • Room-service menu highlights: cheeseburger + fries
    • Pool menu highlights: scrambled-egg breakfast sandwich + rosemary potatoes
    • Old Homestead Steakhouse: they make a mean steak + tasty bread basket.  The side dishes were atrocious, as were the desserts.  Stick with the beef.
    • DO NOT waste your time eating at the Sunroom.  The service sucked to the point that it overshadowed the 'mediocre at best' food.

Tips

  • Come to Atlantic City with cash (try to avoid using the ATM machines in the casinos, which charge incredibly inflated fees) - not enough to where you feel uncomfortable, but at least $100.
  • Bring non-perishable snacks from home so that you don't have to purchase them at the hotel (granola bars, nut mixes, etc.).  Great for when you get poolside munchies!
  • If an event sounds like it's too good to be true, it probably is (*cough, cough* DJ Pauly D).  My friends and I bought tickets to see DJ Pauly D perform at The Pool After Dark, only to be extremely disappointed when his diva ass didn't show up until 5-hours after he was slated to arrive.  Fail!
  • Stay away from guys who get their eyebrows waxed and wear more hair gel than, well, DJ Pauly D. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Aug232011

The Travel Martyr's guide: how NOT to give yourself a stress-induced coronary in the Hamptons

Summer.  The beach.  Sun-kissed hair and skin.  Lazy Saturday afternoons.  I want you to close your eyes for a second and picture/think about those words and phrases.  OK, now open your eyes.  Do you feel more relaxed?  I'm assuming that most of you nodded your heads "yes."  For those of you who didn't, I can only assume that you've just returned from a weekend in the Hamptons.  So did I.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for the East EndThe Hamptons is town after town of the most fabulous, unique beach communities in the country, atleast in my opinion.  Where else can jaded New Yorkers, who seem to turn their noses up at any city other than "the city," go to that is: beach-y, green, spacious, nearby, chock-full of fabulous shopping - comparable if not better restaurants - a bar and club scene - etc., etc., etc.  The list literally goes on...and on...and on, people.  To answer my own question, there isn't anywhere else!  Many folks will agree, the Hamptons feels like a tranquil "home away from home."  If NYC is your home, that is.

Photo: Vanity FairWith all of that being said, however, there are some draw-backs about the Hamptons:

  • Traffic on the 2-lane, desperately-in-need-of-paving Montauk Highway
  • Expensive, lackluster hotels (or shall I say "motels"): if you think that there are a slew of 5-star properties out here, think again.  Most "hotels" are about as fancy as your town's local Motel 6.  And, no, I'm not exaggerating.  Here, it's all about the homes. 
  • Yuppie central: this can be viewed as either good or bad, depending on your personal point of view.  If you're in search of a little culture or flavor, you're not going to find it in the Hamptons.
  • Beach parking permits: for most, if not all, beaches, you need a "beach parking permit," or else you run the risk of getting slapped with a $200 ticket, just as yours truly experienced first hand in 2009.  Oh, and bring a wad of cash, because you'll likely have to pay an entry fee just to spend the day at the beach.  Think upwards of $40/car. 

So, for those of you planning to head out East this weekend, Labor Day, or not again until next summer - grab a pen and take some notes!  I've compiled a short list of my tried and true tips to prevent or, at the very least, lessen your chances of having a stress-induced coronary from some of the triggers that the Hamptons will throw your way.  Just call me your personal "Travel Martyr."

  1. Where are you staying?  Make sure to keep the address and Hamptons town that it's located in on you at all times.  This leads perfectly in to point #2...
  2. Cabs: fares are negotiable - don't ever pay full price.  Always have cash on-hand, as taxis are not equipped with credit card machines, a-la-Manhattan. 
  3. Car rental: bottom line is to pickup and drop-off in the Hamptons, not NYC.  Instead of driving out of Manhattan, take the LIRR/Jitney to Southampton Station.  From there, take a 5-minute cab ride to either the Avis or Hertz agency in town.  On your way home, drop your rental off there, as well!  When doing so, plan ahead: call a cab 3-hours prior to your scheduled LIRR/Jitney departure, and have them fetch you from the rental agency.  Ask to be dropped off at the train or bus station.
  4. LIRR eastbound (train): if you have an hour to spare, I highly suggest that you avoid beginning your East-bound trip at Penn Station at all costs, especially on a Friday.  Instead, take the Queens-bound E train to Sutphin Blvd. and transfer to the Montauk-bound LIRR.  Believe me when I tell you that this will make your commute much more relaxed.  And, take it from me: you're less likely to be provoked to want to beat up a fellow passenger.  Seriously.

I hope I haven't scared anyone.  But, if I have, I'd like to share something that this random gal told me after she overheard me complaining about that infamous two-lane highway: "They choose to keep it small, with only two-lanes, in order to keep away the riff-raff."  Alrighty then. 

Only in the Hamptons...

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Thursday
Jun022011

The Lunch Belle's guide to So.Cal

Ah, Southern California.  I have to admit that, during my last couple of visits, I've appreciated the "right coast" and its unparalleled beauty in a way that I never have before.  At least not since I fell madly in love with New York City.  There's just something so incredibly sexy about city streets lined with palm trees - perfectly manicured emerald-green hedges and lawns - magenta-pink bougainvillea bundles - citrus trees as far as the eye can see - cliffs and mountains that give way to the majestic Pacific ocean - and a temperature that never dips below 50 degrees.  My father refers to California as "The Promised Land."  And you know what?  He's kind of right.  Aren't parents always?

For the Memorial Day holiday, my friend, Em, and I made the cross-country trek to visit my family in So-Cal (that's "Southern California" to you).  During my stay, I *actually* took in a fantastic exercise class, ate my fare share of both Mexican and coastal/regional cuisine, got some sun, finished a life-altering book, celebrated my sister's Masters, saw my extended family and old friends, spent 24-hours in La Jolla, and found the best margarita recipe that I've had, to date (...this will be posted very soon!). 

Needless to say, it was hard to return to a hot and sweaty, angry NYC on Monday evening.  For the entire 24-hours leading to my departure, I was an anxious wreck.  I can't really explain this, other than to tell you that, like clock work, I go through the same pre-NYC-bound mental anguish on every family-ish vacation.  I've done this for as long as I can remember!  I think that my anxiety has something to do with, somewhere deep inside, me being genuinely homesick.  And by homesick, I'm not talking about secretly yearning for my native Texas - or any locale, for that matter.  I'm referring to being homesick for my mom, dad, and sister.  My family.  I can't help but ask myself, every time I board that East Coast-bound flight, "Is all of this really worth living thousands of miles away from my immediate family?  Life's too short and time is the enemy."  But then, as if my California vacation was all a dream, I wake up to the subtle hustle-and-bustle noise of 6th Avenue from my 7th floor apartment in my beloved Manhattan - smile - and realize that I'm not quite ready to leave.  

~

Are you:

  • Looking for a fabulous holiday destination?
  • Planning a trip to SoCal in the near(ish) future?

Consider Southern California!  Here are some of my personal recommendations & travel tips for the perfect SoCal weekend.  Enjoy!

~

When to go

July & August are the best "beach" months.  Aside from June (read: June Gloom), you really can't go wrong - but it's all dependent upon whether or not you want warm/swimmable ocean water. 

Make the most out of your vacation time (from the East Coast)

Leave on a Wednesday: early evening flights (think 5:30pm - 7pm) are ideal because you can put in a long day at the office and not miss too many daylight hours.

Airline that's worth every penny

Jet Blue: non-stop flights to San Diego and Orange County (SNA)!  Plus, nothing makes 5.5 hours go faster than live DIRECTV and free snacks that don't suck.  Also, your first checked bag is FREE!

My favorite SoCal day trips (assuming that San Diego is your base)

My favorite restaurants/bakeries/farmer's markets/watering holes

  • Carlsbad: La Costa Farms Flower Stand - everything from fruits & veggies, to hand-dipped strawberries, candied apples, homemade salsas and guacamole, tortillas, and flowers!

  • Del Mar: En Fuego - margaritas, hot-spot, watering hole

Best bets

Carlsbad: spend a day at the world-famous La Costa Resort & Spa

  • Burn some calories!  Begin your morning with a yoga class at The Deepak Chopra Center or, perhaps, a Zumba class at the Athletic Club.  Unlike Manhattan, most classes won't cost you more than $10-$15. 
  • Have a "spa day" at La Costa: whether you're staying at this fabulous resort or not, the spa is open to the public.  At a price, of course.  However, if you choose to forego a treatment and would rather lounge in the lap of luxury all day, opt instead for the $60 day pass, which gives you access to all of the spa's facilities.  $60 still too much?  Head to the spa right at 2pm, and pay only $30 for a day pass as opposed to $60!  Make your spa reservations here.     

Carlsbad Premium Outlets

  • I have amazing luck every time I visit this particular outlet!  You can't beat the gorgeous outdoor setting and names like Barney's, Ferragamo, Theory, and Crate and Barrel.

Coronado Island

La Jolla

  • Have dinner at George's California Modern: when making your reservation, make sure to ask for a window-side table for unbeatable ocean views!     

However you decide to conquer Southern California, just know this: you can't lose!  If you're bringing the kiddos, don't forget to look in to Disneyland, Lego Land, Knott's Berry Farm, and Sea World (I would have mentioned them but, to be honest, I haven't been to any since I was much younger.  Sorry!).  

If you have any specific questions about So-Cal, send me an email: Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Friday
May132011

The Lunch Belle's unBELIZEable guide to Ambergris Caye

If you've ever experienced one of NYC's 5-month-long winters, then you are familiar with the slew of unpleasantries that affect every aspect of life: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - arriving to and departing from work without having seen the sun (after all, it sets at 4pm) - wearing your heavy "puffer" jacket from November until the end of April - must I go on?  As bad and as brutal as 'Old Man Winter' treats us, you've got to hand it to the guy because, after all, he is quite inspirational in motivating New Yorkers to get the hell out of town, at least once, during this season. 

On a frigid day in February, two girlfriends and I decided to start planning a getaway of our own for sometime towards the end of April.  To a beach.  Somewhere far away.  Jean threw out Portugal, Guatemala, and Panama.  Ceci suggested Rio de Janeiro or Costa Rica.  And one of us, I forgot who, mentioned "Belize."  The three of us looked at one another in awe.  Instantly, the decision was unanimous: Belize, it was!  Finally, something warm - tropical - and far, far away from NYC to look forward to.

After spending a countless number of hours researching hotels, motels, lodges, resorts and B&B's, we were down to two choices: one hotel was located on the mainland of Belize, in a town just outside of Placencia - and the other was situated on an island called Ambergris Caye.  Ultimately, we chose the Matachica Resort & Spa, located on Ambergris Caye, because of its proximity to San Pedro, a town that has a reputation for having superior restaurants and nightlife.

For those of you considering Belize as a travel destination, I wanted to share some websites, tips, opinions, and advice that helped me plan my trip and, I hope, will prove invaluable to you should you choose to proceed.  For more detailed information or specific questions, shoot me an email: Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.  I'm happy to help!

~

Pre-trip planning

Best general travel websites:

  • About dot com: choose the best destination based on its monthly forecast!  Don't laugh at the "honeymoon" portion of the page - think about it, though, if the website is recommending trip ideas to future honeymooners, you KNOW it's legit.
  • Bing Travel: check pricing for airfare and hotel -  includes invaluable "know when to buy" ratings
  • Frommers: free travel guides, including "when to go."  No one wants to get stuck somewhere during "monsoon season."  I particularly love their suggested itineraries.
  • Journey Mart: can't decide where to go?  This site will help you whittle down your choices.
  • Seat Guru: before you select your seat for a flight online, check and see whether or not it reclines - is located near a restroom, etc.
  • Travisa: determine whether a passport and/or a visa is required for your trip
  • Trip Advisor: learn more about your destination or destination of choice and read reviews from "real" people.  Trust me, I will never stay in a hotel without first viewing this site to make sure that the online community - who has previously stayed there before me - approves.  Priceless.
  • Weather dot com: even though it's not always accurate, I habitually check this site prior to and all throughout the month leading up to my trip.  Make sure to view "record averages" before you make any final plans - this is another valuable "when to go" indicator.

Websites specific to Belize:

If you're staying on an island other than mainland Belize, you will have to get to/from point A to point B.  There are two options: ferry boat or small plane.  The deciding factor boils down to time which, in turn, equals money.  At least to me.  I'd rather eat $60 and take a 15-20 minute flight than sit on a ferry for 1.5 hours and get seasick.  To each his own - the choice is yours:

Flying in to Belize via AtlantaAir transfer to "Tropic Air" Cessna from Belize City to San PedroTips for your trip to Ambergris Caye/San Pedro Belize:

  • To gel or not to gel?  That is the question.  Ladies, if you want your mani/pedi to last long after the sun and sea, then I *highly recommend* that you spend the extra bucks for Shellac or OPI's "Axxium" treatment.  Trust me, it works!!
  • If you have the choice, consider flying Delta Airlines to Belize.  I wasn't really familiar with the carrier prior to this trip, but I can tell you, now, how impressed I was by their service - aircraft - snacks - and facilities.  Plus, 9 times out of 10, you'll be routed through Atlanta, which means a pit stop at Chick-fil-A (located in the airport)!
  • Cash.  You'll need it.  While there are ATM machines in San Pedro, it's best to have bills prior to your arrival in Belize.  Plus, the country accepts US dollars!  Who wants to pay the exorbitant ATM fees, anyways?
  • Belize is not St. Tropez or St. Barth's.  If you're opposed to "dressing down" and would rather "see and be scene," then this country is not for you.  By any stretch of the imagination.  That's not to say that there aren't 5-star resorts or services here, though.  Remember folks, Reese Witherspoon did choose Belize for her honeymoon destination!
  • Don't expect to be able to stay in touch with folks from home via your mobile device, especially if you're footing the bill (as opposed to your company).  Data services are outrageously costly and not worth paying for.  My friends and I turned all services, except for text messaging, off.  **There are internet cafes and, most likely, your hotel will have a business center with internet access.    
  • Eating: you will see a lot of Italian-influence on the menus here, for some reason.  I can't tell you how many pizzas and pastas that I came across only to wonder, who the hell comes to Belize to eat pizza?  For the love of god, people, try to enjoy the local offerings: fresh seafood, tropical fruit, rice and beans, etc.  
  • Unless you're on your honeymoon, I would not recommend staying more than 3-miles north of San Pedro.  A ferry boat is the only way to/from, and it gets costly and annoying.

My favorite day-trips/excursions:

Caye CaulkerRastafarian "biblical" tag, Caye CaulkerCaye CaulkerCaye CaulkerMy favorite eating/drinking establishments on San Pedro (Ambergris Caye), Belize: ceviche and homemade tostados, red snapper, grouper, conch, stone crab, tuna, Key Lime pie, rice 'n beans...are all delicious, local  Belizean staples.

  • Blue Water Grill
  • Cotton Tree Chocolate: *this is not a restaurant, but a brand of chocolates* quite possibly, the best chocolate bar I've ever had.  You will find this brand sold all over the island - make sure to try the 'Light Milk Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs.'  Divine.
  • DandE's Frozen Custard
  • Elvie's Kitchen
  • Fido's: great venue for live music, cocktails, and art (shops worth checking out located within perimeter)
  • Hidden Treasure
  • The bar at Mambo Restaurant: best mango-margarita I've had, to this day.
  • Various street cart offerings: think pupusas, quesadillas, gorditas, and other Mexican/Central American staples.
  • Wild Mango

Ceviche: the "Happy Lobster," Caye CaulkerGrilled red snapper: Blue Water Grill, San PedroKey Lime Pie: Hidden Treasures Restaurant, San PedroThings (restaurants, excursions) that I found overrated:

  • Blue Hole: as a snorkeler - remember, I cannot speak as a diver - this wonder was much better viewed overhead or from a postcard.  The 6-hour round trip - that was just to get there - was nauseating and violent.  If you have the money to hire a private helicopter, then my feelings may change a bit.
  • Capricorn Restaurant: horrible service, food tasted rancid, completely overrated
  • Mambo Restaurant: this was the restaurant at our hotel.  The food was mediocre at best and outrageously expensive.

I wish I would have known/done this before my travels:

  • Dive/scuba certification: snorkeling is great, but you can only see so much.  Belize is home to the second best diving - outside of Australia's Great Barrier Reef - in the world.  Damn it.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve: sea turtle!Items NOT to leave home without - in other words, make sure to include these on your packing list (in addition to your essentials):

  • Camera (plus extra batteries/battery-charger, media card)
  • UNDERWATER camera: who cares if it's one of those disposable kinds!  If you can't find them in the US, they sell these cameras in Belize.
  • Sturdy day pack/pool bag, preferably something with closure
  • Sunblock: I recommend using a block that's both waterproof and sweat-proof.  I lathered myself with SPF 50 for the first half of my trip, then stepped down to SPF 30.  The sun is no joke.
  • 100% pure ALOE VERA GEL: if you don't bring this, then you're a complete idiot.  Period.
  • Bug/mosquito spray: luckily, during the time that I was in Belize, we didn't have an issue with critters.  Still, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Antibacterial sanitizing gel and/or wipes: I make sure to carry wipes with me on the airplane to wipe down the food/drink tray.
  • Motion-sickness pills/relief: trust me on this one - whether it's a plane or a boat, Belize will keep you very mobile.  You don't want to risk the chance of getting sick!
  • Pain reliever medicine
  • Shower/room shoes: for your hotel
  • Wash cloth: I always bring my own, just in case...
  • Goggles: great to have for ocean swims, especially in Belize, where the underwater world is such a sight.  Protects your eyes and contacts (if you wear them), as well!  
  • Polarized sunglasses: trust me, folks - the sun is no joke in Belize, and fashion should always come second to your health/wellbeing.  Those cute designer shades should stay at home.
  • Bandaids
  • Pre-packaged snacks: in between meal service, I was so happy that I brought nuts. 
  • Enjoyable books and magazines
  • Teva-like sandals: for day-trips and excursions.  They may not be the most glamorous shoe, but who cares - sure beats scratching your feet on coral or stepping on something sharp.
  • Light jacket
  • A couple of nicer outfits for evening/dinners out.

Items to leave at home:

  • Stilettos
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Fancy clothes
  • Your entire makeup collection: trust me, you won't wear much!
  • Strong perfume: it only attracts bugs/creatures and creepy men

~~~

What an unBELIZEable vacation it was!

Until my next adventure!

The Lunch Belle

Half Moon Caye, Belize

Monday
Feb282011

Last one standing

Greetings from a wet, dark, and dreary New York City...

I'm finding it hard to believe that, just one week ago, I was wrapping-up a 72-hour President's Day weekend visit in Chicago.  And speaking of the "Windy City, aside from gorging myself on Lou Malnati's deep-dish pizza, my first-ever Chicago-style hot dog from Mustard's Last Stand, a rajas gordita and an ice-cold horchata from Taqueria Los Comales, and an incredibly juicy Portillo's Italian Beef - I was really hoping that I would get an opportunity to spend some time at what was formerly the Henry Horner Homes (West Side), the Robert Taylor Homes (South Side), and Cabrini-Green (North Side) or, what is now called, "Parkside of Old Town."

For the majority of you that do not know me personally, there is one thing that you do know: I LOVE food.  But here's a factoid that even some acquaintances of mine may or may not know: I have been fascinated by, interested in, and extremely passionate about urban sociology since I was a small girl.  This term is lengthy and broad and encompasses a multitude of issues, but here's what it means to me: Why?

When I was in elementary school, my grandfather and I used to go out for "dates" once/month.  He would treat me to lunch and then we would do an activity of my choosing.  While I assume that most children my age would choose to go to an arcade or a toy store, I had my Poppy drive me around the perimeters of various housing projects.  I wanted to understand why everyone didn't live in a free-standing home or take family vacations.  I was also curious about what it was like to ride the public bus, as the vast majority of folks - unlike that of major cities - had cars.  I had lots and lots of questions. 

Fast forward 20-years...

Two of the three most powerful books that I've read in the past ten years both have to do with Chicago (the latter two listed): And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts - There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz - and Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, by Sudhir Venkatesh.  I had originally purchased a picture book about Cabrini-Green, which then led me to "There Are No Children Here," and finally, "Gang Leader for a Day."  I have never experienced such a vast array of emotions from one topic: I cried, rejoiced, laughed, felt shamed, outrage, happiness, disgust, hopelessness, etc.  This text truly struck a chord somewhere deep inside of me.    

Because high-rise public housing in Chicago was so unsuccessful, none of these buildings exist today - except for one.  With the two days that I had in Chicago last weekend, I was hoping to stop by and see, for myself, Cabrini-Green's remaining "White" building, before it would be demolished.  Unfortunately, I never got that opportunity.  I did, however, get to see the structure from the window of the elevated train, as we veered through downtown Chicago.  I also passed over what was formerly the Henry Horner Homes.

www.ChicagoNow.comI'm disappointed that I did not get to see any of these sights "in person," per se, but I am incredibly grateful to authors Alex Kotlowitz and Sudhir Venkatesh.  Each of their books is written with so much detail that, if you close your eyes, you can visualize yourself climbing up one of the building's stairwells, or breaking bread in one of the other tenant's apartments.  Where else will an outsider, like myself, get to relive these men's incredibly unique experiences, encounters, and amazing relationships?

In terms of some raw visuals, I've come across an outstanding photographer, David Schalliol, who has captured many phenomenal snapshots of all-things Chicago Housing Authority and the former projects mentioned above.  Click here to check out his Flickr gallery.     

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On a lighter note, here are some of my favorite snapshots from my visit to Chi-town.  Enjoy!

Lou Malnati's famous Chicago style deep-dish pizza piePortillo's Italian Beef sandwichGordita con queso y rajas, Taqueria Los ComalesChicago-style hot dog, pre-bite @ Mustard's Last StandChicago-style hot dog, post-bite @ Mustard's Last Stand...and there's one more photo...

But first, you have to ask yourself, "Am I ready to see 'The Lunch Belle' channel her inner Kevin McAllister, sans makeup, looking like a hot mess?"  If so, proceed...

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Yours truly, in front of the famous "Home Alone" house.~

Read it & eat,

The Lunch Belle