Archive | January, 2012

CourtneyMara.com In the News

31 Jan

The following was in the January 20, 2012 edition of American Jewish World:

Visit Detroit!

29 Jan

I am going to be honest and say that before I went to Detroit I really did not do any research on what I would like to see and do. Now that I know I missed so many amazing sites, I highly recommend for everyone to do research before you go anywhere (even if you are just visiting a family member).

Now on to Detroit…

Despite what you may have heard about Detroit in the news and elsewhere, Detroit is a great town to visit.  There are so many events, museums, and places to just hang out at.  The following are some ideas of things to do in Detroit depending on what you like:

  • If you are a country music fan, travel to Detroit when Downtown Hoedown is taking place.  Downtown Hoedown is a three day country music event where over fifty artists play in downtown Detroit.  This year the event is scheduled from June 8-10, 2012.
  • If you are looking to relax, spend a day at Lake St. Clair.  There is a beach, volleyball courts, biking trails, and more.
  • If you like architecture, spend a day exploring the buildings in downtown Detroit.
  • If you like to go out, head to Greektown.  There are many cool restaurants and bars in Greektown.  Also, some good restaurants to try for a fun night out or a casual lunch are Beach Grille (see below) and Fishbones in St. Clair Shores.

Some things I have never done, but would like to do in Detroit (and surrounding areas) include:

For more information on Detroit, check out this article on the “9 Surprising Reasons Why Detroit Rocks.”

Breakfast with a Senator (MUST DO)

27 Jan

(Senator Klobuchar and me at a “Minnesota Morning“)

If you are traveling to or residing in the DC metro area, you should take advantage of having breakfast with your senators.  Many senators offer a breakfast for their constituents either once a week or periodically throughout the year.  You can usually find the schedule by checking out the senator’s website.  For example, Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) offers “Minnesota Mornings” “every Thursday morning when Senate is in session,” according to her website.     While, Senator Al Franken (MN) offers his breakfasts every Wednesday (when Senate is in session).   These breakfasts are great to take advantage of not only because they are free, but also because you get to have (hopefully) good food (usually food from your home state), talk to people from your home state, and meet your senators.

Climbing Mount Washington by Elizabeth

25 Jan

In July 2010 I made a 2 day climb along peaks of the White Mountain chain in New Hampshire. Here is the route we took and some tips we learned along the way:


1.    Parked the car at the base of the Cog RR – We took a route that would spit us out here so after parking the car we geared up and hitched a ride over to the entrance to Valley Way.
2.    Valley Way was a great trail to begin. We started our trip spotting some true New England wildlife and were steps away from a moose! Along the way we had some excellent views and were only 3.75 miles from our overnight spot.
3.    The Valley Way trail took us about 4 hours. We traveled at a moderate pace with a couple quick stops for a snack or a drink of water. To give you a good estimate of how long the trip might take you here are the details of our group:
a.    Age ranged from 21-65
b.    Backpacks weighed between 5 and 35 lbs. (Just a note, there is no reason for your bag to be this heavy for a 1 night trip! Especially if you do what we did and stayed in the hut overnight)
c.    We were all in a little better than average physical condition but had a couple injuries to baby.
4.    Stopping at the hut at the top of Mt. Madison was a great decision. It was comfortable and everyone was ready for a break. It was $90 per person per night, which seems on first glance like a lot for the type of accommodations. But, it was well worth it. We had an excellent dinner and breakfast which was included and had a fun relaxing evening with card games and chatting with other hikers.  Things to expect at the hut:
a.    There were bathrooms with toilet paper. Though packing extra napkins or toilet paper is never a bad idea.
b.    Bring a towel if you expect to shower or dry your hands.
c.    There are blankets and a small pillow on the beds, we were there in the summer and wearing long clothes to bed was enough to be warm. On this note though make sure to bring something warm to layer for the nights and early mornings, it is the top of a mountain in New Hampshire…it gets cold up there!
d.    There were hot and cold drinks for purchase and small snack such as granola bars and oatmeal.  Although you are just hiking it could be a good idea to keep a small amount of cash on you in case you run out of supplies and stop at one of these huts for a snack.
e.    If you are a light sleeper bring earplugs. The hut we were in had 2 rooms with about 50 beds in each room.
f.    The bunks are 4 beds high and do not have enough room between them to sit up on your bed. If you do not want to be at the top, or want to sleep near your group, get to the hut early to claim your spot.
g.    There were some card games at the hut. A light book or game could be good to bring but they do have a few things to entertain you in the evening.
h.    Click here to make reservations.

For more information on Guest Blogger Elizabeth see the Guest Blogger page.

Memorial Day Weekend in Colorado

23 Jan

The following is a sample Memorial Day weekend itinerary:

Friday:  Arrive.  Drive to Georgetown, CO.  Eat some ice cream and go antique shopping.  Take a ride on the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad.  Grab some dinner.  I highly recommend Thieu Uy Dong’s Vietnamese Cuisine (4701 Peoria St. #47, Denver, CO 80239).  My dad says that Thieu Uy Dong’s restaurant has the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine he has had outside of Vietnam.

Saturday:  Go fishing.  Long day of fishing is followed up by a BBQ at the Colorado house.  For visitors, I recommend walking around Denver’s 16th Street Mall.

Sunday:  Drive to Estes Park, CO.  See the Stanley Hotel.  If open, drive Trail Ridge Road/U.S. Highway 34, the highest continuous highway in the U.S., according to Wikipedia.  Drive back to Red Rocks.  See Red Rocks and then drive to The Fort for dinner.  Try “exotic” meats like elk, buffalo, quail, Rocky Mountain oysters, and bison tongue.  Or, just go for the steak, which is delicious.

Monday: Drive through small mountain towns to go gold panning.  My dad and I go gold panning in Black Hawk, CO, in particular at Vics Gold Panning.   If you like gambling, go through Central City, CO.   Take late flight home today or on Tuesday morning.

Here are some other suggestions for a Memorial Day weekend trip:

Enjoy Colorado!

MUST READ: The Lost Girls

21 Jan

(the picture is from here)

The Lost Girls is about three ladies in their late 20s quitting their jobs, leaving relationships behind, and traveling the world together for one year.  This book makes you want to get off the couch and fly somewhere exotic.   The Lost Girls is a MUST READ for anyone who loves to travel, as well as for those that dream of traveling but think they can’t do it because of obligations.

Labor Day Weekend in Minnesota

19 Jan

Labor Day weekend is the best time to travel to Minnesota mainly because the two weeks leading up to Labor Day are when the Minnesota State Fair takes place.  The following is a sample Labor Day weekend itinerary:

Thursday:  Arrive Thursday evening.

Friday: Spend the day around Stillwater, MN.  Visit the downtown area of Stillwater, MN – it is a cute, quaint town.  Find some hiking trails and go on a hike around the Saint Croix River.  Go to Aamodt’s Apple Farm and pick some Minnesota apples.  Make sure to try some hot apple cider and cider donuts.  Do a wine tasting next door at Saint Croix Vineyards.

Saturday: Spend the day at the Minnesota State Fair (MUST DO).  Ride the rides (I LOVE the double ferris wheel), play arcade games, try everything fried and on a stick, do some more wine tastings, shop at the international bazaar, and see all the cute animals.

Sunday:  Go to a Twins game at Target Stadium.  In the evening we have a BBQ at our house in Minnesota, but you could go explore nightlife in Minneapolis.  I recommend checking out Uptown.

Monday:  Explore the Mall of America (MUST DO).  Ride the rides, DO the mirror maze (it is the best one I have found), shop, and eat.  Take a late flight out or wait for a Tuesday morning flight.

Enjoy Minnesota!

One Long Weekend in Mexico City

17 Jan

The following is a sample Mexico City itinerary:

Saturday:  Arrive in Mexico City.  Go to Saturday Art Market in San Angel.  Explore other interesting neighborhoods of Mexico City (e.g., Zona Rosa, Condesa).  We had a BBQ at a friend’s house Saturday night.

Sunday:  Take a tour of Teothuican (DO). The tour should provide lunch (try Molecate if you so dare – see picture on right), a visit to a tequila and art factory, a tour of the Basilica de Guadalupe, and a tour of the pyramids.  At night we went to an Irish pub in Polanco.

Monday:  Take turibus around Mexico City to see a lot of Mexico City in a short time frame.  DO stop at the Zocalo and take it in.  Get drinks on the rooftop of a hotel in that neighborhood.  Dinner at an Argentine restaurant in Polanco.

Tuesday:  Explore museums that may interest you (e.g., National Anthropology Museum, Museo Frida Kahlo, etc.).  Eat at a taco stand.  At night we went to Lucha Libre (MUST DO).

Wednesday morning:  Return to the U.S.

DO Watch This Travel Video

15 Jan

Video of a trip to Morocco and Spain by Mike Matas (original video can be found here):

You can find more work by Mike Matas on his website.

4 Days in Puerto Rico

13 Jan

June is a hit or miss month in Puerto Rico with weather.  Our first two days it was crummy out, but our last two days were beautiful.  One thing though that is great about June in Puerto Rico is San Juan Bautista Day, which includes, as part of the celebrations, walking into the ocean backwards at midnight on June 24th.  We arrived June 23rd and were staying on the beach so we were there to jump in the water at midnight with thousands of Puerto Ricans.  It was a beautiful sight.  Matt and I also lucked out in the fact that we were in Puerto Rico when Major League Baseball was about to have a game there.  Unfortunately, we left the day of the game, but the Florida Marlins stayed in our hotel and the New York Mets (including my crush Jason Bay) stayed at the hotel next to us.  I was able to see many of the players while Matt just rolled his eyes at me.

The following was our itinerary:

June 23rd:  Arrive.  Check into Intercontinental (DO – great hotel).  Spent time on beach.  Explored hotel.  Gambled in casino.  Dinner at Brother Jimmys BBQ in El San Juan Resort and Casino (I DON’T recommend the restaurant I never want to eat BBQ again after eating there – the meat was not cooked and I got very sick).  At midnight we jumped into the ocean in celebration of San Juan Bautista Day (DO).

June 24th:  Rainy day.  We spent time in Old San Juan (DO DO DO).  First stop was lunch at Barrachina – said to be the birthplace of the pina colada.  Amazing food and drinks.  This is a MUST DO.  We then saw the Governor’s Mansion, shopped at the outlets, explored the fort, ate ice cream, and walked the artistic streets like Calle de San Sebastian.  Returned to Intercontinental.  Went to dinner at La Piccola Fontana at El San Juan Resort and Casino.

June 25th: Relaxed at the pool and beach until our afternoon excursion to the Bioluminescent Bay.  We then kayaked around the Bioluminescent Bay (DO DO DO).

June 26th:  Beautiful weather so we spent the day on the beach.  Dinner at a Mexican restaurant outside of our hotel.

June 27th: Day snorkeling cruise excursion (DO DO DO).  We went to different islands, we snorkeled, we ate lunch, we drank, etc.  It was a beautiful, fun day.  Returned to hotel.  Florida Marlins arrived.  Dinner at Japanese restaurant at our hotel.

June 28th:  Returned home.

One last thing I would like to add is: go to El Yunque (the rainforest).  Matt and I skipped this but we really regret it.  We have been told many times that this is a MUST DO.