Friday, September 9, 2011

We Have Moved...

trippin: a travelogue has moved to a new location at See you there!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The South Has Risen

I'm a Yankee. Born and bred. I love sushi, New York City, and about a hundred other things Northeastern and bourgeois. But, like most great country love songs go, the South has a very real peace of my heart.

I fell in love with what is often said will "rise again" a year ago in Memphis. Since then I made a trip down to Birmingham, and most recently I drove from my beloved Memphis to New Orleans, which only solidified the obsession. Personally, I don't see what about the South has fallen. For those of you who are not yet Southern converts, I must ask you: why the f**k not? What do you have against the Blues? Or Jazz? Or a pulled pork sandwich oozing with spicy barbecue sauce and mounted, almost pornographically, by a dripping, cold heap of fresh cole slaw? God…take me back where I belong!!

But I digress.

If you should find yourself on a similar soul searching journey to parts of our country below the Mason Dixon, I am a firm believer that you must do so in August. August, she says?! In the South? Madness. And yes, my friends, yes it was hot. But also…cheap. And when you are a writer on a road trip, cheap is always ideal. But August just happens to be the time of the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Clarkswhat? If you haven't heard of Clarksdale, it's that spot right at the crossroads of Highway 61 and 49, where famed Blues virtuoso Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his panty-dropping musical ability. Clarksdale is also the hometown of Sam Cooke (of Chain Gang fame). What better spot to enjoy some out-of-this-world Blues and Gospel music from a bill of no-names who sing better than anyone I have heard on the radio.

The Festival is free and runs for three days on a grassy field right next to the Delta Blues Museum (admission is $7 and completely worth it). Food stalls line the field selling everything from rib tips to chili cheese fries. And the beer is flowing. And the music will haunt you in the best way possible as local librarians or waitresses get up on stage and belt with all of their might the songs that they have heard for generations and generations, and no one will ever know their names. But their fans are local, and that's all that seems to matter.

Barbecue, Blues and Beer. The South holds its head high still.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Manhattans in Shanghai

This post is a little dated, but while I hunt for new material, you may enjoy this blast from the past. Last February I took my first trip to Asia when I visited the newly renovated Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Enjoy!

I never drink liquor. But when you walk into the Presidential Suite of the Fairmont Peace Hotel, the Sassoon Suite, which overlooks the Bund, and the general manager hands you a Dirty Martini, the least you can do is drink happily.

The Sassoon Suite is located on the 10th floor of the 11-story hotel. It was originally the private apartment of Victor Sassoon, the first owner of the Peace Hotel. It has a sizable living and dining area, two bathrooms, master bedroom and master bathroom with one of the largest marble tubs I have ever seen.

After sipping our swank cocktails, the GM, Kamal Naamani  escorted our group to the Shanghai Room for a private dinner reception - a blend of east meets west. We dined on traditional drunken chicken (chicken soaked in rice wine), steamed dumplings, marinated vegetables and a deliciously unctuous fois gras.

As if we weren't treated enough like 1920s high society, dinner was followed by a trip to the world famous Jazz Bar, where we swilled chilled Manhattans and listened to the plunk of the bass and the snap of the snare. I felt like I should have been sporting a bob haircut and sipping gin from a flask hitched under my skirt: from zero to high society boozehound in just one night.

The evening was enough to put my weary, jet lagged bones straight to sleep in my giant king sized bed. I had to be well-rested for my grueling day of spa treatments....I know, you hate me.

After waking up with a bowl of hot won ton soup (not as good for a hangover as you may think) I was ready to lay back down on the spa table and allow the therapist to do whatever she wanted to do with my lush of a self.

I made my way to the brand-spanking-new Willow Stream Spa, which was added to the Peace Hotel as part of Fairmont's $64 million restoration. The spa has nine treatment rooms, two couples rooms, a fitness center, pool, sauna and steam room.

I was greeted by Spa Director Lyndell Nelis who guided me to the resting area and handed me a cup of hot ginger tea. Linda, my therapist, came to fetch me and brought me into one of the treatment rooms for a 90-minute Mystic Peace treatment. Dear lord. All I could think during the 90 minutes (or at least for the portion during which I was awake) was 'how much does this cost, because I'm scheduling another one for tomorrow."

The treatment involves a massage that traces a continues knot on the body. Linda worked her way up and down my spine located exactly where my problem areas were and then proceeded to loosen up tension with a blend of essential oils and firm pressure. She had to pry me up from the table after the 90 minutes were up.

Little did I know that this hour and a half of bliss was absolutely imperative to keeping my sanity when I ventured out into the Shanghai night to tackle Yuyuan Garden, one of the largest gardens in Shanghai. It was built in 1559 as a private garden during the Ming Dynasty. Today it serves as a shopper's paradise, built within the Imperial buildings and alleyways. Looking for your Louis Vuitton knockoff? It's there. Jade bracelets? Silk prints? Wood carvings? Check, check and check. Get ready to dust off your haggling skills. It's easy to talk vendors down at least 40 percent. And in some cases, say for instance, when you are taken to the back room on the top floor of a dirty department store and shown the back closet which is lined with designer bags, you are cornered while the vendors shout lower and lower prices at you until you finally agree to buy...but I'm speaking only hypothetically here...anyway....

Did I mention one of the most famous dumpling houses, Nanxing Dumplings, is also located in Yuyuan Gardens? Anthony Bourdain made a stop here in his Shanghai episode of No Reservations. That's enough for me. Twelve yuan (about $2) gets you 12 little soup dumplings.

Three days in China is not much at all, but it definitely gave me enough of a taste that I know I need to get back as soon as possible.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

There has been a lot to fret over lately. The headline in today's Daily News mentioned something about 401(k)s taking a hit after the Dow plunged 512 points. What's happening with the debt crisis? What the hell is going on in Syria? But most importantly….what happened to Meg D?

Rest assured, friends. It has been a long (…okay VERY long…) hiatus, but I can say with confidence that I am back baby. Inspired by my good friend Lauren E., who has her own successful food blog (seriously, check it out, it's pretty great), I thought I'd take some time to revisit with you fine people.

Next week I embark on a clash-of-cultures, all-you-can-eat-and-drink, groove-to-the-music road trip from Memphis through Delta Blues country and down into New Orleans. Can you smell the BBQ sauce and beer oozing out of my pores, yet? I sure as hell can. Anyway you may be interested to know that both the party-heavy Beale Street in Memphis and the streets of New Orleans are pretty lax on their open container laws. For the rest of you lushes out there, I've rounded up some other places in our great nation where you can do what our fore fathers set out to establish: drink freely, which, in effect lends itself to a good life and the pursuit of happiness. Forget the New York Stock Exchange and Representative John Boehner. America must be doing something right.

Where to Drink Freely

Butte, Montana
Power & Light District of Kansas City, Missouri
The Las Vegas Strip
Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee
New Orleans, Louisiana
Savannah Historic District, Savannah, Georgia
Fredericksburg, Texas

Where to Drink Less Freely That Other Places, but More Freely Than Most Places
(aka, where open container laws are tolerated)

Duval Street, Key West, Florida
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee