Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
The Great Adirondack Camps
Friday, May 27, 2011
Stout (Disclaimer: I don't like beer, least of all stout)
So, as you probably have noticed from past posts, I go to a lot of beer related things: beer festivals, breweries, beer-focused bars. But do you wanna know a secret? I'm actually not that big a fan of beer. (shhh, don't tell my friends....it will ruin my party girl image completely)
I'm really more of a liquor and wine person these days. But....I can appreciate any venue that mainly offers beer as long as there's a good time to be had.
And the new Stout bar offered this.
It, along with the City Beer Hall, had its soft opening last night so they both were only accepting cash which was annoying but understandable. And I believe they are accepting credit cards now, or at least they said they would.
Stout is just across the street from the Biergarten and owned by the people who run Graney's in Albany and they offer the same yard-long beer containers (see my friend Eric displaying his proudly).
This bar, aside from the very Irish theme, did not really strike out as very different from other Albany nightlife spots. It was like a fusion of Juniors with Lionheart - a pub feel with sports playing everywhere on flat screen TVs.
I think part of the reason I wasn't impressed was because, as stated earlier, I really don't like beer as much as I used to. My bf loved this place especially due to the beer selection (displayed kinda like the Biergarten's on an overhead chalkboard) which included hard-to-find McSorley's on tap.
The waitresses all wore green garter belts which I found interesting and there was an outdoor patio area.
Their food selection, last night anyway, just included deli sandwiches (we had one and it was very good and fresh).
The bar was a good time though and we had fun with friends. And I always enjoy checking out new places - even if they are named for my least favorite beer of them all.
But, of the two we went to last night, I liked City Beer Hall just a tad more (you can't really compete with a long awaited mechanical bull). Though, I have a feeling I'll stumble over to Stout again maybe after filling up on a good German meal across the street.
My first (and it won't be my last) trip to the City Beer Hall
Sometimes I do come out of my trying-to-be-a-mature-adult cave and spend money that really should be going towards other things (like health insurance or a house) even though I know in the end most of my money really does go towards travel.
But, I made an exception last night and went to two new bars in Albany - The City Beer Hall and Stout.
Our first stop was the City Beer Hall which I was mega-super-excited about since I have always wanted a bar in Albany with a mechanical bull, even though I did "ride" the one in Syracuse at Daisy Dukes...for a whole five seconds and that was after trying to get up on the bull for about a minute (short legs, le sigh).
The bf and I had a slight issue finding parking but only because we really weren't looking in the right place. Once we went down Howard Street where the beer hall is located we found parking without a problem (though all the spots were filled when we came back).
At the western style bar (with a friendly beer hall atmosphere, a fire place, and long tables and benches), I ordered a Dale's Ale and we were both happy to see a lot of good beers available, with Ommegang on tap. I had just gone to the craft beer event not long ago so there were a few familiar names (like Clown Shoes' black IPA Hoppy Feet which sold out at the fest).
With our beer orders, we got two free tickets for personal pizzas. I neglected to ask if this was a soft opening thing only or if that would be the case with future visits.
We went up a couple steps to the kitchen area where we saw our thin crust, flatbread pizzas made by a couple talkative and nice staff members.
Nearby the kitchen, there is an entrance to a patio area outside with tables and another bar. And upstairs there are barrels for tables, another bar, a view of the beer hall below and Da Bull. It was a pleasant surprise that riding the bull is free and only requires you signing away our life on a waiver and showing a valid ID. I watched a couple people ride it which was amusing. I figured I'd wait until I was with a larger group of friends with which to make a jackass out of myself.
I also read somewhere (Tablehopping, I think) that the basement would include a speakeasy cocktail area but a bouncer said it was not yet open to the public.
Overall: I liked the experience. The people were friendly. The place wasn't as packed as I expected and the beer was reasonably priced with a good variety. They do need to expand their food list, though, to offer something besides pizza and I think they do plan to do that.
The only things I worry about are: how hot (temperature wise) it will be in there with a lot of people and little ventilation, and what drunk people in large groups are doing to do with the actually-kinda-sharp saw blades set up for decoration at an inebriated person's reach.
Piazzas of Italy, Belgium, and Troy
In light of the piazza news in Troy, some of my co-workers and I thought it would be fun to list some of the more famous piazzas in the world (well, mainly in Italy).
I have fond memories of some of Europe's piazzas - the memories mainly include me walking around with a variety of gelatos (usually recipes involving chocolate and hazelnut) while admiring the beautiful architecture and wishing it would come back with me to New York.
Well, I may not get the Duomo in Troy, but we are getting a piazza at the end of Broadway. Now we just need Gelateria Lisa to move to Monument Square and I am set.
These are some of the must-see piazzas. Maybe one day Troy will make the U.S. list. :)
Piazza Fontana di Trevi - Everyone (or at least nearly everyone) has heard of the Trevi Fountain. Well, there's a reason for it. It's immense and amazing.
Piazza San Pietro - This is the piazza at the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica. You've probably seen Pope-broadcasts from here with millions of Catholics filling the space. (I remember getting a really nice gold watch for my dad here...but then, upon further inspection, I thought it was too girly since it had flowers on it and I kept it for myself and got him a pocket watch from Sicily instead).
Piazza Venezia - The beautiful image of this piazza with its famous monuments atop a hill in Rome stays with you for a very long time. I still remember walking down its steps. (which brings me to the...)
Piazza di Spagna - The Spanish Steps in Rome has inspired visitors, artists, and writers since the 18th century. It's nearly impossible to have not seen a painting of it (my favorite is by F. Childe Hassam). I remember there being a McDonald's nearby when I visited which kinda ruined the mood; apparently it was the oldest McDonald's in Italy though built in the late 1980s, according to a plaque there.
Piazza Santa Croce - The main building in this very old plaza was built by the architect of the Medici family.
Piazza San Marco - (St. Mark's Square) Though this piazza is sometimes famously submerged in the ever-sinking city, St. Mark's Basilica in the square is absolutely amazing with Catholic drawings, and opulent gold details.
Grand Place - This is technically a central square but I think it counts as a non-Italian piazza (especially if Troy's counts as a piazza). The place is also near the country's Little Man Peeing statue which has become a symbol of the country, marking a care free attitude/fun - or so my AAA tour book said.
Piazzas are basically a place for people to come together (they're also great for people watching). The $30 million development in Troy, I think, will be a welcomed edition to the city.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Have you been to the world's "pretties places"?
The U.S. News and World Report recently put out a list of the world's "prettiest places." The word pretty is kind of a vague term but I like the idea.
On the list: Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef, Borobudur in Indonesia, Machu Picchu in Peru, The Great Wall in China, the Great Temple of Ramses II in Egypt, the Northern Lights, the Palace of Versailles in France, and the Grand Canyon. Of the 10, I've seen four and the rest were basically on my wish list, except for the ones in Croatia and Indonesia. Though, I keep hearing really, really good things about both countries so I might have to add them to my list. (ok, done, they're on my list)
I guess this all comes down to what your definition of "pretty" is.
I've already given my opinion on the Grand Canyon. I didn't really find it all that amazing. Pretty? Maybe. But no more so than the Rocky Mountain National Park or the Yellowstone Lake's West Thumb Basin. Now those are pretty.
I'll agree with Versaille - that was just luxuriously-pretty. And the Temple of Ramses II - that was worth getting up at 3am to see at dawn. And I was lucky enough to go to a college where we sometimes saw the Northern Lights if we stood on the college quad at night (obviously) and waited.
In my humble opinion, I would add the Cappodocia region of Turkey, the Celtic areas of the Scottish Highlands and Irish and Welsh coasts, the Norwegian fjords, the Swiss/Italian Alps, Germany's Bavarian castles like Neuschwanstein, and the Adirondacks, for good measure.
I'm also surprised a Hawaiian spot is not on the list. I've never been there, but again, I've heard really, really good things.
But what do you think, where are the prettiest places in the world?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Travel and the Economy
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Canals: (Partially) Up and Running, er Flowing
Also in the area, the Champlain Canal remains closed due to high water. Area canal officials estimate it could be a couple weeks before everything is opened.
One of these years, I want to rent a canal boat and just cruise along the historic waterways. That...and sail around the world. All I need is a boat and to learn how to sail.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
On one of the last visits I was there, I stopped into the Enterprise rental car business because I was wondering what their policy was on credit cards. The last time I rented a car, it was unfortunately because my other car was totaled, they needed a credit card to secure the car. My only problem: I don't have a credit card.
Well, I'm not sure I'd consider that a problem. I consider it a good thing that I am not sinking further into debt. I already have enough of that with my student and car loans, thank you very much.
So, when I rented from Enterprise in Troy they required that I bring in a pay stub and my National Grid bill to show that I had an income and paid my bills. Luckily, I have a lot of random things in my car and so I was able to produce these things.
One of my co-workers was recently asking me about rental cars because she is planning a road trip to Utah/Nevada. Actually, her vacation starts this weekend. I'm very, very jealous. But, I guess she had the same dilemma as me in the lackage of a credit card.
As it turns out, Enterprise at the airport does rent cars as long as you show your return ticket. My guess is it that proves you will not steal the car? And they assumed the same policy would apply for my trip to Northern Ireland, though they recommended calling the company.When I looked online, it did say you could use a debit card too.
I have yet to call them but while reading the New York Times today I saw an article that suggested using Autoslash.com to rent cars since they (like kayak or priceline) compare prices with many rental car companies like Hertz or Europcar, find coupons and then even apply the coupons after booking the car.
I went to their site and I did find better deals than I was expecting. Then, I looked at the fine on-screen print and noticed the cheap prices were only for manual cars.
Now I'm debating learning to drive standard (since the last time I did was for an East coast road trip several years ago where I only really drove on the highways and referred to my friend to drive in heavy traffic), maybe in this process I'll get a credit card too. We'll see.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Egypt's Tourism is Down, obviously
Friday, May 6, 2011
During my lunch break, I get to have a pie thrown at me
As I get ready to take my lunch break from work, during which I plan to get two pies thrown at my face by a blonde 2nd grader, I want to remind everyone to visit the circus this weekend.
You probably wonder what one has to do with the other. Well...
I participated in a Clown College a week ago and today is our graduation, which apparently includes pie throwing. Only I don't get to throw any. Seems kinda unfair, doesn't it?
Oh well, the college was fun. Several members of the media were matched up with Make A Wish kids and we learned clown routines and some tricks. My little partner's name is Faith.
And I actually look forward to seeing her face, as shaving cream runs down my forehead, after she throws the "pie" at me.
The families, and some of the media peeps, then get to enjoy the circus show tonight.
I attempted to go last night but it didn't quite work out.
So, I gave my tickets for tonight's show, since I have a family obligation, to my friend Eric and his girlfriend. (They have awesome seats too.) Make sure to wave to them tonight. If shaving cream supplies last, I may instruct Faith to throw a pie at them too...
Anyway, I got off topic. The shows at the Times Union Center run through Sunday and last night was pretty full. I wouldn't be surprised if the weekend shows are even more packed, which is good news for everyone (well, except the animal cruelty protesters).
There's nothing quite like a circus, so I encourage one and all to escape for a bit and enjoy elephants, acrobats, jugglers, clowns, and more. I'll be enjoying the part that counts...making a kid smile.
Ok, off to get a pie thrown at me....
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Alive at Five, partial lineup
It's that time again. I got my annual Facebook invite for the ongoing Alive At Five event.
Which made me wonder if the lineup had been announced yet. Well, it hasn't officially. And, after so many people were mad at him last year, I kinda doubt Kevin Marshall will make a fake one again this year either. In fact, I'm still mad Flava Flav didn't actually come.
BUT...it seems two artists have confirmed this year. For June 9, The Marshall Tucker Band is playing and June 16 10,000 Maniacs will take the Corning Preserve stage. The series starts on June 2, according to the Facebook event and Albany's Web site.
I actually really enjoy "These Are The Days" by 10,000 maniacs (the song brings back a lot of nostalgia from college and being in my sorority in Chi Omega since it was kinda our theme song....my friends from the sorority still play it at their weddings). So, I'll probably be going to that one. :)
Let's keep our fingers crossed for Flava Flav this year too.
Flooding, Flooding everywhere (and what a mess it makes)
The Amtrak route from Albany to Montreal has resumed today after the railroad passenger line discontinued it yesterday due to flooding north of Whitehall.
And, as predicted by Waterford Harbormaster Dick Hurst, the canal system is not opening in the Capital District area (along the Champlain and Erie) for at least a couple of weeks also due to flooding.
I would give you the weather forecast predictions and say whether they might affect flooding, but...I tend not to listen to weather forecasts. It's really hard to avoid them too, considering they make up about 1/3 of a TV news broadcast and then they have them on the 9s on YNN and on the 8s on the radio.
So, I'll make my own prediction....it will be partly cloudy this weekend with a chance of showers and sunshine. Vague enough?
Monday, May 2, 2011