The Time I Had The Best Beef Jerky Of My Life. In Cleveland.

Guys, I know what you’re thinking.  Who goes to Cleveland…on purpose?

Well, no one really.  Despite their really awesome marketing campaign here:

And here:

So you might have some preconceived notions of what Cleveland is like…I mean, yes, both times I went it was rainy and gloomy and miserable…and cold.  Very very cold.  BUT!  But I believe misery breeds creativity.  And cold miserable weather breeds the desire to eat.  So creativity + food = some seriously fine food.

And we all know how serious I am about food.

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So you can credit Cleveland’s surprisingly thriving food scene to crappy weather, the desire to eat, and of course Iron Chef Michael Symon.

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I mean, have you BEEN TO LOLA or LOLITA or THE B SPOT??  I have, I have been to all three and this is what I have to say about that.

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Michael Symon revolutionized the food scene in Downtown Cleveland, and now between the hours of 6:00 and 9:30 on any night, you had better have a reservation somewhere or you’re not eating.  Because people are serious about their eating there.  And they don’t have time for your out-of-town notions of just walking in somewhere and getting seated because, “seriously, this is Cleveland, how busy can it be?”  Well, it’s busy.  Real busy.  So plan ahead or you’ll be driving around really strange places outside that few mile radius that feels charming wondering if you should maybe drive through that red light to avoid, I don’t know, perhaps being car-jacked.  (Just kidding, Cleveland!  Sort of.)

So now that you have your dinner reservations for every night you’re in town, you probably want to start planning your days.  There is a lot to do in Cleveland and you want to be sure to fit it all in.

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But you do want to make time to go to The West Side Market.  Because it is glorious.  And you must go directly to J and J Meats and immediately order the beef jerky.  Because its not really beef jerky, it’s more like a juicy steak that you can carry around with you and bite into anytime you feel like it.

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Now, if you aren’t going to drop your vacation plans in the Bahamas to fly immediately over to Cleveland, you can actually order this beef jerky ONLINE!!.

I know, I know.

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The Time I Became a Graffiti Artist in Berlin

I’m a big fan of street art, and I always wished I had one single artistic bone in my body, but sadly, this is pretty much the extent of my art skills.  Seriously, I like, just drew that.  And I was TRYING.

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Probably better to leave the whole art thing to the experts, but if those said experts ever want to employ me to help them spread their art, I’m all about it.  And this is how I became a graffiti artist for almost two whole minutes.

My friend Alexis Ames is one of those super talented arty people…obviously, I mean look how adorably arty she is!

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Before I headed out to Berlin, Lex told me about this really cool place called Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles), originally called: Friedrichsstadtpassagen.

No really: Friedrichsstadtpassagen

Michael-Scott

It was originally a department store in the Jewish quarter in Berlin, and then sadly it served as a Nazi prison.  After World War II it was partially demolished and then after the Berlin Wall came down it was taken over by artists who called it Tacheles, which is Yiddish for “straight talking”.  And Germans are nothing, if not straight talkers.

For instance, when we were driving around aimlessly looking for the Berlin Wall, we pulled up to this guy at a stop light and asked for directions to The Wall.

His response:  “well, ya, you just have to go straight…back in time about 30 years.”

friendship

But I digress.  Tacheles was at the top of our list of things to do in Berlin, and Lex gave me a FLYING BUNNY sticker to bring with me and put in as many places as I could.  The Flying Bunny is part of Lex’s logo design (see right over there on the right).

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The FLYING BUNNY was inspired by her beloved pet, the late Mr. Bun Buns:

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So I took The Flying Bunny with me to Tacheles and I totally TAGGED a wall.

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All for you Mr. Bun Buns…all for you.

Unfortunately, Tacheles was closed down on September 4, 2012 after fighting the good fight for alternative art for 22 years.

I feel pretty lucky to have seen it before it was gone, and of course I took about a million photos.  Here is a little tour through the building…

Me with a gorilla outside in the courtyard:

gorilla

Enter if you dare:

entrance

Jewelry for sale:

rings

This painting both frightens and confuses me:

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People posting photos of themselves in support of Tacheles:

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My awesome nephew, Greg:

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I was a little afraid to touch it.

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And of course a super creepy hallway.

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So, I would totally say GO HERE, except that there is no longer a HERE to GO…

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The Time We Coined The Term “Franc-en-shafted”

Last month, I decided to go on a European road trip with my brother, two of my nephews and my cousin.  We like to think of ourselves as “the dream team”…but probably resemble something more along the lines of this.

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We landed in the Milano airport and immediately got busy.

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Coffee?  Check.

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Patron XO Cafe?  At 8:30am?  After an overnight sleepless flight?  Sure why not.

Our very loose plan was to land in Milan, drive up to Zurich, then over to Liechtenstein (more on that in another post), then onto to Venice, Florence, Bologna, Rome and then up to Parma through the Tuscan countryside, ending our trip back in Milan.

IN 5 DAYS.

I do not normally like to travel like this—I prefer a nice leisurely pace with time to really absorb my surroundings (preferably a nice lukewarm Caribbean ocean with a fancy drink in hand).  But sometimes you have just have to go for it.  You have to be the America cliché because you are, for the most part, American.

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So we landed in Milan, had some coffee and were on our way.  One small glitch: our GPS was set in Russian.

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Russian.  An alphabet that is, like, totally impossible to work with when you’re desperately trying to search “how do I change the damn language on the GPS when it’s set to Russian” with my limited data roaming plan.  (Verizon, you’re the worse.)

GPS OUT, iPhone IN.  Our first mission was to leave Milan and head to Zurich.  Something I absolutely DID NOT want to do.  Why why why would we leave beautiful, wonderful, WARM Italy for the mountains, and cold, and dark, and dreary?  WHY WOULD WE DO THAT?  I tried my best to convince the dream team to skip the Alps, but I was outnumbered.  So I gave in and focused on the photo ops instead.

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At the border of Italy and Switzerland you are charged 35 Euros to enter Switzerland.  That’s a red flag if I ever did see one.  But we resumed blissfully unaware that the Franc-en-shaft had begun.

Around noonish we arrived in Zurich and started looking for places to eat lunch.  I looked up some places on yelp and picked the highest rated/cheapest option.  Except in Zurich “cheap” means something completely different than what it means for the rest of the entire world.

We find a pub and it’s tiny and cute and the owner seemed like a pretty authentic, rough around the edges kind of guy.  Thankfully, my brother speaks German which earned us just a touch more respect than perhaps other American tourists would have.  He plopped down menus in front of us, and gave us all of 3 seconds to look it over and figure it out.  All the while standing impatiently over us waiting for our order.

When we told him we weren’t ready he gruffly took our drink order.  My order went something like this:

“Can I have a glass of the house red wine?”

“WINE.  WHITE.  OKAY.”

“Ohhh, no…red.  Red wine.”

“OKAY.  WHITE.”

My brother, laughing, ordered my red wine in German.  The owner was not pleased.  Did they have an abundance of white wine that he was trying to get rid of?

He came back two minutes later and pulled the menus out of our hands and waited for our orders.  Let me repeat that, HE TOOK MY MENU AWAY BEFORE I COULD POINT TO WHAT I WANTED.  Which of course left me to place my order in my ridiculous version of German.

“Geschnetzeltes, please.”  Yeah.  Exactly.

I ordered what is supposed to be the specialty in Zurich, and it looks like this.

food

It’s chicken (or pork or veal) smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce with what looks/tastes like a hash-brown on the side.  And despite myself, and my growing dislike of this pub owner, it was pretty tasty.  One side creamy, one side fried—win-win, right?

Our check came out, and was placed gently on the table.  Ha, I’m kidding, gentle is not in the German/Swiss vocabulary.

You may or may not know this, but Switzerland is so rich that it never converted to the Euro.  They’re all about the Swiss Franc.  And because the country is so small, everyone is obviously a millionaire.  Because our bill for the cheapest/highest rated pub in Zurich induced this reaction.

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So we paid.  Yet, still, we shrugged it off because we were ON VACATION!  YEAH!

But then we went to get coffee at the Starbucks (Zurich is basically an outdoor mall full of American chain stores set in picturesque surroundings).

And we paid 8 Francs, or $9.20, for a coffee.  This, this was the moment we coined the term: FRANC-EN-SHAFTED.

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The entirety of our Swiss adventure felt like one big Franc-en-shaft after another.

Our most expensive, most delicious meal at a very expensive restaurant in Rome cost HALF of what a crappy “cheap” pub with terrible service costs in Zurich.

So do GO to Zurich for the photo ops:

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alps

zurich

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But DO NOT eat/stay/drink there.  Just turn yourself around and get yourself to Italy stat.

However, if you do decide that you must see the Swiss Alps, because they really are beautiful, you should perhaps brush up on your German:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_xUIDRxdmc

The Time I Was All Normcore When I Met Henry Cavill

First, we must establish two things:

THIS is Henry Cavill.

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And this…is normcore.  (Gaaa.  So stupid.)

NORMCORE

Since we were talking about Ireland, I thought this would be a good time to bring up the time I swooned like a drooling fool over Henry Cavill.  When I was supposed to be interviewing him.

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Before arriving on the set of The Tudors, I was told to wear boots because there was going to be a lot of mud.

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I live in Manhattan, I don’t own boots that are good in the mud—we don’t have mud, just enormous lakes of melted snow/slush/garbage three feet deep around every sidewalk.  But no mud.  So I wore my snow boots.  Which are utterly hideous.  And look like elf shoes.  And I wore blue corduroy pants (from the Gap!).  And some scarf that I thought was cool, before I realized it had something to do with Palestinians or protests or whatever.

I mean…is this what someone should wear when they are about to meet the second most beautiful man in the world?!

Shhhh, Ryan, it’s okay, I will always love you most.

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So this is what I looked like when I met Henry Cavill.

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And this is what he looks like.

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He walked into the room IN COSTUME, gave me a glorious smile and sat down in the chair in front of me, all ready for his interview.  My entire body turned a nice beat red as I made a sad attempt at some small talk while he was getting mic’d up—something like “soooo, how has the day been going?  Great great…so…how has the day been going?”

I had my very carefully prepared questions in front of me, which were totally useless.  How is a girl expected to read a 12-point font on a white piece of paper when a man dressed like a knight at the round table is sitting in front of her.  How, I ask you!

After a few horrendously awkward moments, I finally pulled it together and started asking my questions like a robot reading directly from my list.  Then, there was this moment when I actually said something…funny.  And he smiled.  Nay, he laughed!  And all I could think was, “HE THINKS I’M FUNNY!  I AM SOOO FUNNY RIGHT NOW!!” And then, of course, I completely lost my place and bumbled around like a fool through the rest of the interview with one part of me desperately wanting it to be over, and the other wanting it to never end.

However, despite my ridiculous behavior I got a great interview from him and he gave me a sweet hug goodbye. (I KNOW!!! I. JUST. DIED.)  And that was it.  He was gone.  And the color faded just ever so slightly from the world around me.

But this is a travel blog, not a homage to my love for Henry Cavill, so here is the travel stuff.  A little outside of Dublin, The Tudors shot their outdoor scenes in the countryside, and if you’ve never seen the Irish countryside, you are truly missing out.

This is what it looks like with men on horses galloping around on it.

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This is what it looks like when they are surveying the land.

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And this is what it looks like when someone sets up a medieval war camp on it…

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muddy

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And of course here are some soldiers…just having a smoke.  They had lighters back then, right?

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The Time I Almost Died at the Cliffs of Moher

The 80’s were a special special time.  And if you grew up in this special time you grew up during the golden age of cinema, which utterly distorted your perspective of the world and ruined you for real life forever.

Nothing seemed impossible.

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The underdog always won.

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And the uncool girl always got the hot guy (I will always love you Jake Ryan).

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The Princess Bride rates in the top ten films that ruined you for real life forever.  It taught you that there was such a thing as “true love” and “friendly giants” and ROUS’S.  I mean, what girl didn’t dream that she, too, would one day hear these words coming from these beautiful beautiful lips.

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So as you might imagine, being a child of the 80’s, I was exceptionally excited to go see THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY!!!

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Otherwise known as The Cliffs of Moher.

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It was a perfectly sunny day, apparently a rare thing for this part of Ireland (or any part of Ireland), and The Cliffs of Insanity Moher stretched out in front of me in their vast, overwhelming beauty.  In my defense for the story I am about to share, there are shockingly few safety rails, however, there are signs.  Like this one.

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And this one.

sign unstable cliff

But to someone visiting on a seemingly harmless sunny day, this all felt overly dramatic.  And then I saw this sign.

sign do not enter

And this gorgeous trail.

road less traveled

And I had to follow it.  And then I had to lay down on my stomach and hang over the cliff so that I could take a photo of the tumultuous rocky ocean 700 feet below, because, you know.  I’m a photographer.  With photography skills.  And I needed this photo.

Which turned out like this.

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Needless to say, when I returned to Dublin and proudly told all of my new Irish friends about my amazing adventures at The Cliffs of Insanity Moher, they stared at me mouths agape.  “You know…those cliffs are made of limestone…and…well, if the wind doesn’t sweep you right off the ledge, the limestone could give way and you’d get your close-up of that 700 foot drop.”

Huh.  Well.

So..DO go to The Cliffs of Moher, but DO NOT hang precariously over the edge like a stupid American tourist with a camera.