Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Maho Beach St. Maarten (Airport Beach)

Maho Beach was the only thing I wanted to accomplish while visiting St. Maarten because it is one of the most unique beaches in the world. There's nothing particularly amazing about the sand or the water (although both are surprisingly great and an added bonus). For Maho, it's all about location. And that location is basically on the runway.

Watching the planes fly just barely overhead is a lot of fun. And trying to time a picture of the moving plane behind you while not looking at it is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. But luckily there are quite a few small planes landing and taking off to give you practice.

But the most fun is when the big jets take off.

It gets exciting when the 747s and other commercial airliners pull back from the gate.

Everyone runs from the water onto the beach to get pelted by the sand, and everyone laying on the beach secures all their stuff so it doesn't blow into the water. Those of us who dared went right up to the fence.

You're close enough that you can see the pilots waving as they turn at the end of the runway. A few of them were taking pictures of us, which I thought was fun. I hadn't thought about how unique we would be to them. They usually don't have an audience cheering them on.

Most people hung back on the beach, on the other side of the road. But it didn't really matter where you were, unless you were to the far left or right, you were gonna get hit.

The jet blast is strong enough that I couldn't hold onto the fence with one hand and record with the other. It ripped me off the fence and threw me into the road. I was impressed.

From the beach, the jet blast just feels like a really windy day on any beach. Really windy. Like hurricane force windy, but on a nice sunny day. The wind picks up and pelts you with sand for about 30 seconds and then it stops. And you and your towel and your bag are covered.

My bag was closed.

It's not painful, it just stings a little when it's happening but it doesn't last.

I filmed the entire experience, so I don't have very many pictures (hence the two screencaps above). I'll post that video soon and embed it here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy SXM Day!

No, not S and M. SXM. It stands for St. Maarten. And today was his day.

So first, some history. Because nobody I asked knew what St. Maarten's Day was celebrating (independence? just a holiday because our island is great? the day Columbus discovered the island? - that last one turns out to be true, but not why the holiday exists) and I thought it was interesting when I looked it up. St. Maarten was an actual person - Martin of Tours (Tours is a city in France, and therefore probably not pronounced how I'm saying it). Anyway, Columbus saw this island on November 11, 1493 (although he never actually landed on it - he really just saw it and claimed it for Spain) and since it was St. Martin's Day (yeah, the holiday already existed in 1493), he named the island St. Martin. And it stuck, even though the Spanish didn't colonize it until after the Dutch and French did. The Dutch spell Martin differently, hence, Sint Maarten.

Anyways, the government forced all retail businesses to close, which they didn't tell us until yesterday at 4:48pm. I was planning on working all day because we had five ships in town. It was supposed to be a very busy day and it was the main reason I flew down this week as opposed to later in the month. But this was what our store looked like today:

The cops drove down Front Street every 5 to 10 minutes to make sure every store stayed closed. They even shut down a lady selling handmade crafts from a table in an alley! I was very frustrated that we couldn't open, but there was definitely nothing I could do about it. So I went on an adventure.

I caught a local bus to Maho. Buses here are just 14 passenger vans that you can flag down anywhere along the road.

They have a sign in the front window telling you which direction they're heading. Maho is the area right next to the airport, and it costs $2 from Philipsburg (much better than the $20 taxi I took from the airport yesterday).

Maho Beach was the only thing I wanted to accomplish while visiting St. Maarten because it is one of the most unique beaches in the world. It deserved its own post, so you can click here to read all about my Maho Beach experience. Here's a pic, so you can get the idea:

After Maho, I walked about a mile to the airport because when we passed it earlier, there was a party going on for SXM Day. It was still going strong when I got there at 4:30pm. Face painting, food, characters, music, lots of fun.

I caught a bus from the airport back to Philipsburg, but I jumped off early and walked out to Fort Amsterdam to watch sunset. The fort is mostly ruins and foundations with a few cannons. But it's on top of a hill overlooking Great Bay and Philipsburg and the ships.

I ended up watching sunset from Little Bay beach, which it looked like is a private beach owned by the Divi Hotel, but they let me in because I'm American and I walk confidently through security checkpoints with a friendly, "Hello." Sunset was gorgeous, to say the least.

I hung out at the Divi Hotel for a little longer than I should have (checking out their infinity pool and fountains and stuff, and then refilling my water bottle and using their bathroom), so I walked back to Philipsburg in the dark. After the big hill on the peninsula, I walked along the beach to the boardwalk. It's dark and somewhat sketchy at times, but I mostly felt safe.

I stopped for dinner at a random restaurant on the boardwalk. It was packed and I was the only white person there, so I figured it was a good spot for local cuisine. After discussing favorites with the server, I chose the curry goat platter.

It was yummy.

I was a little bummed that they don't have a parade or fireworks or something spectacular in honor of such an important holiday that shuts businesses down. But I guess family barbecues and music is good enough.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Birthday #34

Today was my birthday!! Yay!

I worked for the first part of the day. In the early afternoon, I decided to go for a run. Because it's my birthday and I felt like running. Also because we learned that our scale has been off by 5 pounds and I fixed it last night so now I want to lose 5 pounds to get back to where I thought I was.

I ran for about 6 miles, from our apartment down through the rambles across the bow bridge down the mall all the way to the pond and gapstow bridge. And back up the east side and around the reservoir. I wanted to go to places that might have pretty colors for Fall. I found some.

The rambles (just south of the castle and above the lake) were ridiculous. Every direction you turned was picturesque.

And the rest of the park was equally as vibrant.

After my run, I showered and got ready for dinner. Isa and I went down to the Village to eat at one of the highest rated Italian restaurants in all of New York: Malatesta Trattoria.

It. Was. Amazing.

We started out with some piadina - prosciutto and mozzarella. So good! It's like an Italian quesadilla.

For our main courses, Isa got spinach gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce and I got spaghetti alla chitarra (spaghetti with fresh chopped tomatoes and basil). Isa's was ridiculously delicious. Mine was really good. Our favorite part is the cup of parmesan cheese they gave us. We hate how restaurants just give you a little ramekin of parmesan when I usually use TONS of it when we make pasta at home. So it was a welcome surprise that they gave us a big cup of it.

That cup between our plates is filled with parmesan cheese!! Yay!

After dinner, we went out to Queens (!) to go to a secret street art competition. Two of Isa's college friends were actually competing in it, so that's how we heard about it. Basically, each artist gets a 4'x4' white board, 90 minutes, and they can only use black paint or markers to create their masterpiece.

It was awesome! It was also cool to be in this environment just a few blocks from 5Pointz. (RIP) I love new adventures and experiences like this! Even though we were so out of place - not only do we not smoke or drink, we don't really look the part of a person that would hang out with street artists - but whatever. As soon as they started drawing we didn't even think about it. It was so cool to see them work. So fast, so creative and as far as I could tell, they didn't make mistakes. I loved the variety of artistic styles too.

They also gave us these sweet wristbands that made it look like I celebrated my birthday at Chuck E Cheese's.

We stayed for about an hour and then we had to take off for part 3 of my birthday. But on the way to Chinatown for part 3, we stopped in Union Square for some an Italian Thick hot chocolate at Max Brenner's. If you haven't had this, you are missing out! On such a cold night like tonight, this is just heavenly.

So around 10:15 we were wandering through Little Italy over through Chinatown to my surprise. Isa's been keeping this a secret from me for weeks, and I've been so excited! I had no clue where we were going (what on earth is on Chrystie Street?) so it wasn't until we were at address and I saw the guys shirts that I knew what was going on. She got tickets to Mission: Escape Games.

I love playing escape games online, figuring out clues and solving puzzles to find a key or code to open locks and escape the room. But this one was real life! We had seen this in Bangkok, but apparently they just came to New York and she found out. Needless to say, to be in a live escape game was amazing. I was beyond excited.

We were put in a group with 8 other strangers and locked in an "Art Studio" and we had one hour to figure our way out. Isa and I did very well. We definitely pulled our weight in the solving category. We ended up escaping in just under 50 minutes. Woohoo!!

We finally got home around midnight and I thought my birthday was done, but Isa had one more surprise for me. While I was out running, she ran down to Momofuku's and picked up birthday cake truffles since she knew we weren't going to have a proper birthday cake today and because she knows how much I love them (and you will too - you should go eat these).

There's more too, but what I've written is good enough for a birthday post. All in all it was a great day. Much love to Isa for planning this out and making it such a special day.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

110 Seconds in Asia

It only took six months, but we finally made a video from our trip to Asia. We took all our footage and edited it down to just 1 second per day. Check it out:


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