If you’re in any city that has Goonies ice cream and you’re needing ice cream, look no further than a Swensen’s. I grew up going to Swensen’s, and aside from their cheese soup and delicious shredded chicken salad, their ice cream hits home runs on my mind. Maybe you’ve seen it in Goonies, maybe you haven’t, but if you haven’t, look again, because it’s also Chunk’s favorite food! This isn’t a movie endorsement really either. Just know, Chunk’s food works for me. They have earthquakes, banana splits, milkshakes, carfaits, everything. They are like a 50’s ice cream parlor with 33 flavors or something. Check out Strawberry Bananas ‘n Cream and Turkish Coffee to name a few. Sure there’s Cold Stone which I love, but do they have Bubblegum? I think not. What about a Gold Rush? Try that! It’s like a better sundae. Started in San Francisco, this place really knows how to hit homers like the San Francisco Giants on major ice cream scoops, fudge and cherry combinations. Hence the name Earthquake. Try that! Go for it on like the best thing I’ve ever had with eight scoops of ice cream. Split it with your girlfriend or your guy. What makes it unique is they just have all these like mini chocolate sundaes that just completely execute on the quality, design and taste. They also have carfaits, which are similar to sundaes, but are like stacks of scoops of ice cream surrounded by good stuff. So go for it at Swensen’s if you can find one. If you live in San Francisco or Miami, you shouldn’t have a problem. The cherry on top is the atmosphere of these places with their marble slab tabletops—it just feels cold in their like Christmas mornings and ice cream. All things good to you. Here’s a cheers to your Gold Rush at 33 flavors of goodness! (You can also buy their ice cream in stores sometimes, if you can find it, just like Chunk, you can have Goonies ice cream also!)
If you’re going to Northeast Florida, one place to not miss is the oldest city in North America, St. Augustine. There are a lot of things to do in St Augustine, FL that you won’t want to miss. Founded in 1565 and discovered by Ponce de Leon, this wonderfully preserved ancient city sits almost right on the water and boasts some of the most beautiful stretches of isolated beach in Vilano Beach just north of St. Augustine that you will find in modern day Florida. One cool thing is that there are building codes in place, unlike other parts of Florida, that discourage taller ocean front buildings. I think there’s like a three-story minimum or something, maybe less! You might start out your day in the old city by doing a walking tour up and down this historic slice of old Florida. Go for it on a cup of coffee somewhere there and get the European feeling the city has to offer as you sit outside with gentle ocean breezes blowing. While there, go see some history like The Castillo de San Marcos and the Ximinez-Fatio House—it goes back to 1573—wow! Also, be sure to stroll down St. George Street in the old area. Two very old churches in town really capture the essence of this place and are worth visiting also. Next, think about the Fountain of Youth. You will learn all about the city’s history and how Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the spring of eternal life there. Next, you might pack a beach bag for the day and go to St. Augustine Beach by the pier. You’ll cross the incredible Bridge of Lions on your way over. Feel the wonderful energy of the natives who lived in this place that you’ve learned about and the Spanish conquistadors like Leon in the vibe of this place. Hey, go surfing for the day! After a day at the beach relaxing, you could be like me and drive south to Crescent Beach just to check it out. Hit a shell shop on the way—there’s an awesome one. There are some beautiful vistas of the ocean on Crescent you won’t see in many places in Florida. On the way back, maybe check out the Alligator Farm. I know there is also an awesome dolphin/marine park, but I’ve never been to it. After running through all the above things to do in St Augustine, you might check out Vilano Beach as the sun sets. It’s beach stretches on for miles, so it’s a great place to catch the sunset. Hey, try out Cap’s On The Water up the way there for fresh seafood and a steller vibe. Next, for night, take it to one of the many bars in the old city. Walk around and immerse yourself in this place I once almost called home. It’s that cool.
What was the longest home run ever hit? The answer is that there is no real precise answer really because the distance balls were hit was often measured from where a ball landed after rolling in many cases. Clearly, the most consistent long home run hitter was probably Babe Ruth who purportedly whopped the longest recorded drive at around 575 feet at Briggs Stadium in Detroit on July 18th 1921; although, Mickey Mantle may have come pretty close to hitting one a lot further in a drive that was interfered with by a Yankee Stadium balcony as it was ascending on May 22nd 1963 off pitcher Bill Fischer. So, we can say Babe Ruth hit the longest home run ever.
So, I grew up coming to Miami for vacations and always loved this wonderful city. Although, I never lived there, I have a list of my favorite top ten things to do in Miami. Here it goes:
1. Lay out on the beach!
2. Go for a sailboat cruise of the area (you may have to go to Key Biscayne to find one, but it works there also—they even have snorkeling!).
3. Go shopping in South Beach and see the Art Deco houses and hotels there.
4. Have a cup of cuban coffee at a cafe.
5. Tour the historic Italian Meditarrenean Vizcaya with it’s sweeping views of the ocean.
6. Go to Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market. Unlike Joe’s in South Beach which I wrote about, Garcia’s feels more like a local crab shack on the Gulf Coast or Maine and sits right on the Miami river. Boasting a fresh seafood market, it really takes you there on the quality of their fish. Everything is fresh. It may not always be the best extras or the best sauces, but the quality of seafood is outstanding.
7. Cruise over to Coconut Grove for cool bistros, a little more shopping and coffeehouses, plus a park on the water and great classical architecture to drive by. Getting some ice cream there to cool down is good idea for me.
8. Sitting right next to Coconut Grove, the wealthier enclave of Coral Gables boasts more big old sprawling Spanish style homes to wander by. Similar to Beverly Hills, it has tons of wonderfully designed historic houses for a driving tour. The houses literally hide behind swooping banana palms and tropical vegetation. You might check out the Venetian Pool while you’re there.
9. Go see the Miami Heat cook it up.
10. Have a drink at the hip Fontainebleau hotel.
*Don’t forget to explore cultural neighborhoods like Little Havana and take advantage of Miami’s awesome downtown museums and opera if you like that sort of thing. Look at Trip Advisor.
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If you’re a sea buff, it’s important to know about oysters and pearls. Along time ago, pearls came from wild shelled mollusks. Pearl divers swam for them, and hundreds of pearl oysters or shelled mussels had to be opened just to obtain one pearl. This made the price of pearls extraordinary in Queen Elizabeth’s days. Pearls were the likes of kings and queens and never a common place thing. Although, pearl divers still dive for wild pearls in certain parts of the world to add to the luxury of the pearl market, most pearls are now grown in a laboratory much like a harvest. A tiny irritant is injected into the shelled mollusk along with an implanted bead usually, and the creature creates a pearl as a protection against the irritant. The timeframe is a whopping one year for an Akoya oyster to be harvested and much longer for other species. Many people think a grain of sand is often the irritant that causes a pearl to form, but in the wild it is usually a parasite inside the shell or an exterior shell attack. A pearl can also come from clams such as the most famous and largest natural pearl ever The Pearl of Lao Tzu. Weighing a staggering 14 pounds, the pearl was valued at around 40 million dollars by The Guiness Books of World Records. The internal make-up of a wild pearl like those from clams and a cultivated one are different, and X-ray detection can discern the two. In The Opaque Stones, I have many pearls and oysters, and before writing the book, like a fool, I always just thought oysters were wild pearl producers, harvested that way, and a particular species excelled at it. After reading about the process, I learned some fascinating things for writing the book. You won’t get much more about it from reading my book than I have here, but it’s worth a look for fun. If you liked oysters and pearls, you might like the art of treasure hunting.
Trivia: Why won’t you get a pearl in an oyster by accident while eating out? Answer: Because pearls generally come from a different species called a pearl oyster.
You might have seen me once at Jack of the Wood in an ole European house because that’s what it feels like there in Asheville, North Carolina at the best pub in town. A Celtic style pub that still has the words “public house” scribed on the outside entrance, Jack of the Wood is named after a 2nd century A.D. deity who symbolizes nature and fertility, among other things. And everyone knows there is truly nothing like the nature in Asheville, and sitting at the black walnut bar with your custom Green Man Ale brewed just up the street or your Guiness Stout and a plate of fish and chips, a definite nature vibe emanates from the bones of this place. Besides, it’s got some of the best fiddling and music around sometimes! The pub is in the heart of downtown Asheville situated right in the Blue Ridge Mountains. So get some food, throw some darts, sit at the coolest big bar ever (it curves around the joint) and check out the long list of brews (local and others). Good conversation is hard to come by, but never at Jack of the Wood. So get lost in the woods! Be my guest. Buy a t-shirt also. They have the coolest around.
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If you need some exciting things to do in LA on the weekend just follow me and you’ll be well on your way to big laughs and fun times. Whether you’re just visiting the wonderful City of Angles or if you are lucky enough to call this city home, try starting out in Santa Monica on the 3rd Street Promenade. While you’re there, walk up and down the promenade and watch the local street performers—some truly talented singers perform there. Shop at J Crew or Banana Republic, get some custom One Star kicks made at the Converse star or even eat at Sonoma Wine Garden’s rooftop at the Santa Monica Place mall—there, look out over the breathtaking ocean and take in the sun. After you’ve finished with the 3rd Street Promenade, go to the 4rth Street area and get a cup of coffee at Urth maybe and shop some more. The Patagonia Store, my favorite, is there. Hey, walk to the beach afterwards—you’re there! This area is a great landing spot for the Santa Monica beach. If traffic is light, hop in your cruiser, hopefully, a convertible, and head down Wilshire until you get to Beverly Hills and do a driving tour of the streets for architectural gems in Beverly Hills and even Bel Air back towards the West a bit. Miles of historic residences dot these streets on and off of Sunset Avenue in all styles of architecture. Next, go visit the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills for more houses! Afterwards, either head to L.A. for the museum or go back to Santa Monica to Palisades Park and watch the sunset. From there, head over to Montana Avenue for dinner and an old movie at the Aero. There is nothing like watching Indiana Jones or Casablanca on the big screen in the town that made it all take place. Maybe drinks there or in WeHo after supper and back to your hotel or home.
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While eating in Miami, I always make it a habit to go to Joe’s Stone Crab at Miami Beach. Touristy or not, Joe’s big mouthwatering stone crabs fill the plate and your appetite for all things seafood that come from the ocean. The last time I was there, my mouth was watering for New England Clam Chowder from Maine or something, so I got that, and what did my eyes see, low and behold, it was the Killer King Crab Claws, I believe I went for it there on the two pounder, and had Key Lime Pie for desert. It was like Key West, Maine and Miami all rolled into one for me that way. I sat alone, drank iced tea and watched the bustling South Floridan traffic brush by me as I dined in style at 11 Washington Ave. What a bar they have there also. Stop in for drinks before walking on the beach at night. Maybe a Mojito or something.
Palm Beach’s architectural history is rich. You might not know this, but a lot of the Mediterranean Spanish Style houses in South Florida, particularly Palm Beach, were designed primarily by two men, Addison Mizner, a widely traveled American and a Swede named Maurice Fatio. Their styles, especially Addison Mizner’s one room deep approach to design gives Palm Beach its unique distinctive feeling. You could be in some Spanish castle from another country, while sitting in one of these estate’s living rooms. Mizner, who moved to Palm Beach for his health around 1918 believed in South Florida’s future—he even helped eventually found Boca Raton. He was also friends with Paris Singer, famous sewing machine heir and Palm Beach resident who encouraged him to primarily work in the area. Some notable Fatios and Mizners don their Spanish root names and have been lived in by the likes of rockstars, tycoons and even politicians. I have driven by all these wonderful estates with their sprawling tropical lawns and in many cases, well-manicured hedges, although, the occasional jungle house lawn appears hiding away as if a tiger might lurk there in the bushes. So, if you’re ever in South Florida, tour the homes there like me. Or pick up a book like Palm Beach Houses and take a journey through many of the famous architecturally inspired houses—some of them like The Everglades Club are visible right off Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and others are businesses like The Brazilian Court Hotel and The First National Bank of Palm Beach that you can actually walk up to, others are homes with romantic names such as Villa Flora, La Guerida, La Bellucia, El Solano, The Warden House, Buenos Recuerdos, Il Palmetto and Casa Eleda.
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One thing I have done is traveled all over America’s coasts. I have been from Maine all the way to Key West, exploring the Eastern seaboard’s scenic drives, and all the way from Seattle to Laguna Beach, looking for that picturesque moment along the sea. My favorite drive ever in America is Highway 1’s scenic drive from Carmel, California to Big Sur going South. It is literally awe-inspiring and breath–taking. No wonder writers like Henry Miller and Jack Keruoac chose to live there. Reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast, the California coast there boasts dramatic jaw–dropping cliffs with whirling sea blue ocean below with the fog nearly touching your nose. Hawks circle around you sometimes as you drive through the dry sunny Califonria climate with the smell of Eucalyptus in the air. Stop at Nepenthe for lunch in Big Sur, it’s name literally means an elixir referenced by writers that is capable of causing forgetfulness of sorrow. Or take the route on down south going towards Los Angeles for even more crooks and turns on the hilltop drive. Going all the way across the coast, another drive I love is U.S. 1 in Maine, which passes through little picturesque towns like Camden that sit right on the ocean. Stop at a dinner for some Maine clam chowder and lobster, and then walk to the harbor or go see on an old movie in one of the charming towns. Equally impressive is the Southernmost leg of U.S. 1 going south through the Florida Keys. The overseas highway literally floats along Caribbeanisque American waters for miles and miles. Stop and eat at your favorite crab shack or go fishing for the day in one of the inlets. End up in Key West where you can visit Papa Hemingway’s house and favorite bar and eatery Sloppy Joes, or take a boat out in Jimmy Buffett style to the Caribbean, your drive ends here.