Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Family reunion Royal Sonesta Boston

Royal Sonesta, Boston...overlooking the Charles River

Thinking about hanging out in Boston with family and friends in a sophisticated green oriented hotel gave us a good feeling, knowing that we could enjoy some of the finer amenities in life without detriment to society. After attending Caribbean Week in N.Y. City we were exhausted and Yndie and I were looking forward to the four hour car ride to Boston. This would be the first time I had seen my kids and grandchildren in two years and this was special in that I was going to introduce them to my partner, Yndie.

My daughter Courtney, as beautiful as ever...great necklace

The greening of hotels is a relatively new concept that is rapidly taking hold in the U.S. and globally, and we are glad to be a part of it. After checking in we headed to the outside patio of the Sonesta to imbibe in a glass of vino while watching the sailboats on the Charles River. This well known river divides Boston from Cambridge and is the site of much activity, rowing, sailing, jogging, dog walking and about anything else one can do on a beautiful sunny day in the northeast. We knew we made the right decision in staying here, as this is a walking town and our location was excellent.

Main lobby

We were greeted with friendly and helpful faces, not just well trained, but sincerity that showed management takes an active role in hiring people that appropriately fit their respective positions.

Bedroom with a view

Our junior suite was very nicely appointed and spacious with soft muted colors. The bathroom was large with high counter tops and an excellent assortment of amenities. Yndie immediately took off her shoes and slipped into a pair of complimentary velvet slippers, settling in for the evening.

The Family, Jason, Melissa, Jacob, Madison, Courtney, Bill and Yndie

Our furniture was comfortable modern Danish with a firm king size bed sporting comforters beckoning one to resist early morning risings. Two large screen flat TV’s adorned the walls of the living and bedroom. Our room had an excellent view of the river, as do most of the others, great for watching activity on the Charles River.

The Crew and Madison's new tatoo

My children showed up, as well as Yndie’s best friend and colleague from Venezuela, Melania Suarez who now lives in Worchester. Here was a real mix of cultures.., two Venezuelan journalists, speaking both Spanish and English and focusing on the world soccer teams. My son who is a sports fanatic immediately hit it off with Melania , discussing the intricacies of soccer, baseball and any other sports played on this planet. My grandchildren, Jacob and Madison were having a ball in the grand bed, watching the flat screen while we were schmoozing and sipping wine in the living room.

Yndie and Melania.., chating, laughing, and reminiscing after four years

Museum of Science with the family

As the evening progressed our stomachs were starting to rumble, so we headed downstairs in search of the ArtBar, finding world-class art surrounding you in a cozy and intimate environment, serving seasonal organic American cuisine along with an impressive wine list and specialty cocktails.

Sonesta's ArtBar patio overlooking the Charles River

After tasty snacks and drinks, our next stop was the north end for pasta and seafood in Little Italy.

Madison, my grand-daughter

Boston's Little Italy on a rainy night.., still beautiful and charming

The following day was a Sunday...

A ten minute walk around the Charles River put us on the doorstep of the fabulous Boston Museum of Science. The kids were in heaven.

Electrical energy demonstrations

Jacob's floating creation...

Bill, Courtney, Jay and Madison

Melania, Jason and me

Here one can spend endless hours, whether child or adult cruising the large exhibitions, seeing dinosaurs or indulging in science or physics demonstrations.

Melissa, Jay and Jacob

Courtney helping Madison

The Family, but where's Yndie...behind the camera as usual

After several hours of play it was good to get back to the hotel.

The following day we said our good-byes to family and friends and had a day to ourselves, exploring center city Boston, parks, and restaurants. We were on the road the next morning, heading to Philadelphia.

The Royal Sonesta offers Courtesy Van Service to shopping areas and historic sites both in Boston and Cambridge on a daily schedule. Special programs during the year offer added services and discounts as seen with their Summer Fest, where this AAA 4-diamond 400-room hotel is totally dedicated to going “green,” as seen by their extensive recycling program, low-flow water accessories, organic and local produce utilization and their commitment to donating all leftover perishable foods to Second Helping at the Greater Boston Food Bank. This is an entity which gives back to the system and one that will hopefully be emulated by others.

If your looking at a family oriented trip, the Royal Sonesta has a lot to offer, comfort, an outstanding location, a great pool, friendly staff and a great river for walking, jogging or bicycling. Summer is here and if you’re thinking Boston on the river, this is the place to stay.

Yacht Club on the Charles River

Royal Sonesta’s can be found in Boston, New Orleans, Miami, Orlando, St. Maarten, Brazil, Peru and Egypt. Visit them at http://www.sonesta.com/
You can also call at 800.Sonesta (800.766.3782) in the U.S. and Canada.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bellavista Bed and Breakfast: Old world charm with a funky flavour

Have you ever walked into a place and thought, wow… I feel great here, not sure what it is but it sure feels good. Kicking off the shoes and walking on old wooden floors that welcome your footsteps with a softness that belies their innate hardness was one of the thrills I experienced on entering our room in the Italian section of Philadelphia. Large oriental carpets cover and invite one to sink their feet into a well traveled path dating back more than one hundred and fifty years. This was the place, no doubt about it, we’re staying here...


Having just made a Wilmington, N.C.- New Jersey- New York city- Boston loop, we were on our way home to N.C. and a stopover was necessary to split up the 16 hour run. After a brief look at rooms in New Jersey at ridiculous prices, my partner, Yndie said , why not Philadelphia…and I thought, yea, that makes sense, it’s a great city, I lived there for seven years during the eighties and loved it and I mean loved it. It’s a manageable city, full of ethnic diversity, great restaurants, eclectic people, inviting walks, it’s got it all. The decision was obvious, but where…

Thanks for technology, we goggled, Bed and Breakfast in South Philadelphia and Bellavista B & B popped up. We put in a call and Barbara, one of the owners answered immediately, she and her husband were on their boat somewhere in Maryland. After an extended chat, reminiscing about the old times in Philadelphia, I knew that this was it, and it was.

Garland of Letters...South Street
Di Brunos

My ex-wife and I lived in Queen Village, just a stone’s throw from the Italian market area, where we were always seeking out the best red sauce in the area. That was twenty-five years ago but I knew that the Italian market area was still basically unchanged, great food, great people, interesting architecture, superb cheese shops,( similar to Europe), and restaurants steeped in old Mafioso history, some with the spirits of Mafioso Dons still haunting them from their premature demise while shoveling in huge amounts of linguine.

One phone call from Barbara to Mary Lou, a neighbor who oversees the B&B and lives across the street and we were in. This beautiful three story row home tucked away on a quiet street in South Philly with its high ceiling, long corridors and its variety of rooms was our home for the next two days and I was very happy.
Italian Market

It was great to be back in Philly and especially the Italian section. This would be considered an eclectic B&B, maybe very eclectic, as it has a variety of brightly colored walls and ceilings, antiques, bric-a-brac and other chackas, appealing to the European, the “open” American and maybe those on small doses of cannabis. This is a very appealing environment to hang out in for several days and centrally located near just about everything, especially if you’re a walker.., great way to get exercise and enjoy the beauty of the city!

Di Bruno's cheese shop...9th street
Our first day was spent walking the city, first the Italian market, buying imported Asiago cheese, along with stuffed grape leaves smothered in garlic and olive oil, then on to Rittenhouse Square, one of the most beautiful and civilized parks in Philly, where people watching and an espresso at Le Colombe(voted the best espresso bar in the U.S.)is a must. Next we were off to China town where we enjoyed a light lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, then on to the liberty bell and back to our B&B.

It was like returning home, except without my audio system…

Later in the afternoon we met up with Jessica, a charming Colombian student at Drexel University, managing the premises, who gave us a tour of the different rooms, their styles, colors and decorations. Unbeknownst to us, there is a wine cooler with a decent selection that is complimentary to those staying in the rooms, of which we imbibed and enjoyed every last drop.

South Philly (BellaVista section) is a piece of Italy that retains that old world charm, now mixed with other ethnic cultures that together somehow fuse and yet symbiotically exist in an environment that makes it all work.

We want to say thanks to the owners, Dan and Barbara who's B&B have enriched our lives in a very short period of time and given me a renewed appreciation of all that this area has to offer. My partner Yndiana Montes from Venezuela, loves my old home and looks forward to returning as soon as possible, and that makes me happy. We will return to Bella Vista B&B and again enjoy a piece of that old world charm rarely found in the U.S.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A RASTA DAY in Montego Bay, Jamaica, by Bill Milligan

Yndie, "First Man" and Andrea Purkiss, Public Relation Manager of the Rasta Village

Montego Bay, JAMAICA, February 2010.- Approximately fifteen minutes of driving through lush jungle on a winding road outside of Montego Bay, we reach our destination, a Rastafarian Village, tucked away from society on beautiful petit rolling hills, dotted with vibrant colors, tropical birds and thick towering bamboo. This is one of sixteen Rastafarian groups found in Jamaica.

Mrs Nelson preparing Ackee & Saltfish in their open air kitchen

Typical Jamaican dish, Ackee & Saltfish

On a warm sunny Jamaican morning we had the opportunity of visiting this Rastafarian village, along with a group of uniformed High school students. We were inititally met by the owners of the estate, the Nelson's and their daughter Andrea, who have donated a portion of their land to promote the Rastafarian lifestyle.

First Man introducing high school students to the Village

Welcoming all and preparing for symbolic cleansing with crossing of stream

After our meeting with the Nelson's, we were introduced to "First Man," a tall and imposing figure,who gave us a general description of the compound and respectful rules to follow. As we descended a gently sloping hill we came upon a beautiful, clear stream, separating the compound from the estate.

Preparing for the crossing

One of the older students

The "Crossing"

Learning about natural foods used in the Village

Official Welcoming by "First Man"

Crossing this stream was like a symbolic cleansing, before entering on sacred land. Not so far off in the distance, we heard the sound of gentle drumming, bathing our ears with a soothing rhythm, interrupted with brief staccato attacks, preparing our auditory senses for an interesting day. With the drumming in the background, "First Man's" baritone voice quietly continued his explanation of the many medically important indigenous plants, fruits and vegetables used by the Rastas on a daily basis. The smell of wood burning and the pungent scent of cannabis lingering in the background combined with the drumming, had a very calming effect on our sense of reality. With two of our sensory systems, (olfactory & auditory) becoming acclimated to our new envirnoment and our inhibitions lessening, we were now well on the road to opening to the Rasta experience.

Ackee, originally from Australia, now grown all over Jamaica

A walking interview with "First Man"

Officially entering the Village

Initial greeting and drinking of coconut water

The "Coconut Man" decapitating coconut heads for it's water and meat

As we ascended the gentle hill, the drumming and scents were accentuated on entering the Village. We were met by other Rastas, who offered us coconut water out of halved gourds, while we sat and “took in” the warm, relaxed and friendly ambience of our new surroundings.

"Wise man", Iion Kanaka (life style and transformation coach), at the relaxation hut

"Wise Man" educating students

Gospel like vocals

The Drummers

Students and drummers

Extolling the virtues of organic growing and eating...

Students with Ras Tafarian, (Haile Selassie l), a major figure in Rastafarian history

Haile Selassie l, emperor of Ethiopia.

As we sat drinking coconut water, about twenty feet away the drummers were playing under an open aired Palapa, used for ceremonies, music and educational presentations.

"Tea Hut"

To our right was the Rasta colored “Tea Hut”, where food and drink were prepared and dispensed by the women of the community. After our coco water we were taken on a tour of the compound, showing us the herbal gardens and organic farming area. A variety of huts were utilized for different purposes; Spa hut for massages and herbal baths, craft hut for selling locally made products and the Reason hut, for exhibits and educational functions.

Preparing part of lunch...

Grating coconut to be used in making coco oil...

Sitting on top of an open wood burning stove, a large pot filled with shredded coconut boiled, ultimately ending up as coconut oil, used in many of their food preparations.

Demonstration table in main hut

Educational tools, organic herbs, fruits and vegetables

An educational exhibit was given under the main hut by one of the members, extolling the benefits of natural eating and shunning its opposite brethren. This was a well done and very specific talk on processed foods, their determental affects and how to read and understand labeling on bottles, cans, etc. This lecture would do well in every school room in the U.S., beginning in elementary schools.

Walking labyrnith
Bamboo labyrinth...used for contemplation

On top of a small hill stands a walking labyrinth, made of thick cut off pieces of bamboo. Interestingly these go back many hundreds of years, originating in the Far and Middle East, and used for contemplation and problem solving. The Chinese observed how powerful these could be in liberating the filter between the subconscious and the consciousness, allowing the inner psyche to surface and bringing resolution to deep seated problems. Unfornuately neurosis and psychosis are exacerabated, so consequentely those with these pre-existing conditions were not allowed to walk the paths. One would think that the combination of the warm Jamaican sun, rhythmic drumming, cannabis and labyrinth walking, would be a magical concoction to entering the subconscious.

Taking a coconut milk break from drumming

As we sat under the warm Jamaican sun with a potpouri of scents in the background, listening to the drummers and enjoying our Rasta hosts, we gave thanks for the opportunity of experiencing this rich and varied culture. The Rastafarians have given Jamaica a special place in historyand have shared this with the world via its music and culture. With Rastafarian lifestyles found on every continent, there is only one place where you experience the real thing, and that's Jamaica. The world has Jamaica to thank for permitting this beautiful culture to survive and thrive.

This life style proposes healthy organic eating, self sufficiency, peacefullness, conservation, education and avoidance of alcohol. While not the lifestyle for all, there are many positive attributes to be gained from observing the Rastafarian culture. We thoroughly enjoyed our temporary stay, and plan to return on our next trip to Jamaica.

For reservations please contact: andrea_purkiss@yahoo.com

First Man's email adress: blessings@rastavillage.com