Beers & Beans http://beersandbeans.com Wander With Us. Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:10:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 7 Reasons Why We’re Over the Moon About Traveling to Jordanhttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/10/12/7-reasons-moon-traveling-jordan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=7-reasons-moon-traveling-jordan http://beersandbeans.com/2014/10/12/7-reasons-moon-traveling-jordan/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 21:44:39 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20227

To say that my life got better when I met Beth would be a colossal understatement. On our second date, for example, she told me confidently that we’d travel the world together and, like so ...

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To say that my life got better when I met Beth would be a colossal understatement. On our second date, for example, she told me confidently that we’d travel the world together and, like so many other things, she was right. In those early days, we talked a lot about our dream destinations, and Jordan was always at the top of her list. I must admit, I didn’t know too much about the country then, other than parts of Indian Jones were filmed in the kingdom.

During the next couple of years, however, I learned more about the country from friends and bloggers, like Matt Long of Landlopers, photographer Ken Kaminesky, and Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads. Their tales and photographs captured my imagination, leading me to interview each for a piece I wrote for G Adventure’s The Looptail called Dishing on Jordan: Travel Bloggers Talk Jordan and Its Cuisine. And now the day has finally come for us to experience Jordan for ourselves, and we can’t wait!

We’ve worked behind the scenes for more than two years to make this trip happen, so it’s really cool that our visit to Jordan will finally be kicking off on Oct. 14. We just don’t want to see Jordan, we want to tap into the local culture, connecting with Jordanians to tell their stories, which, we hope, will bring an even greater understanding of the kingdom. There are going to be two sets of bloggers on this 8-day storytellers journey, and we will all be using the #GoJordan hashtag across all of our social media channels, so you can follow along on all of our adventures and cultural findings.

We just don’t want to see Jordan, we want to tap into the local culture, connecting with Jordanians to tell their stories, which, we hope, will bring an even greater understanding of the kingdom.

We have an incredible itinerary that’s going to take us all through Jordan and has us meeting a lot of interesting folks along the way. Here are the seven activities that we’re most excited about.

1. Exploring Amman, including a trip to its spice market and Souk Al Sukkar, a popular vegetable market.

2. An afternoon tasting at Zumot Winery, whose owner, Bulos Zumot, is credited with growing the first wine grapes in Jordan near the historic Saint George Church.

3. Experiencing Petra by night. I’ve seen the photos, and now I can’t wait to see this world famous site for myself. In the evening, the ancient Treasury is lit by nearly 2,000 candles and filled with the sounds of Bedouins musicians. The following day, we’ll explore Petra by day and chat with local author Marguerite Van Geldermalsen, who wrote Married to a Bedouin.

shutterstock 169816541 e1413152031354 7 Reasons Why Were Over the Moon About Traveling to Jordan

Petra at night via Shutterstock

4. Traditional Bedouin Zarb dinner and overnight at Captain’s Desert Camp in Wadi Rum, where will get the chance to experience the Bedouin lifestyle for an evening.

5. Snorkeling in the Red Sea off the coast of Aqaba. From everything I’ve read, this portion of the Red Sea is supposed to have an amazing reef with lots of sea life.

6. Floating and photographing the Dead Sea, which at more than 1,200 feet below sea level is the lowest geographical point in the world.

7. Family-style cooking at the Petra Dining Experience. In many Jordanian households, food preparation is a joyous occasion when family members come together to chat about the day’s events. Along with our group and the local staff, we’ll have the opportunity to take part in the tradition, while we help prepare a full Jordanian dinner including a soup, an array of hot and cold mezza dishes (appetizers), and a main course.

shutterstock 216273877 e1413152679311 7 Reasons Why Were Over the Moon About Traveling to Jordan

Hummus and falafel via Shutterstock

As you can see, we’ve got a lot fun things planned for our visit to Jordan. But, trust me, when I say that what I mentioned above is just scratching the surface of what we’re about to experience in the kingdom. I didn’t want to give everything away, so make sure you follow along with the #GoJordan hashtag on your favorite social network to see our journey unfold in real time.

What’s your best tip for Jordan? Let us know your favorite dishes or must-see spots in the comments!


Our trip to Jordan is part of a campaign with Jordan Tourism Board that’s been created and managed by iAmbassador. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own, and we always maintain complete editorial control over everything we publish.

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Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snapshttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/10/01/instagram-helsinki-guide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=instagram-helsinki-guide http://beersandbeans.com/2014/10/01/instagram-helsinki-guide/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 03:21:53 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20176

Helsinki popped on to my radar a few years back when we interviewed skateboarder Bam Margera at the X-Games in Los Angeles. The Jackass star said the city topped his list of favorite ...

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Helsinki popped on to my radar a few years back when we interviewed skateboarder Bam Margera at the X-Games in Los Angeles. The Jackass star said the city topped his list of favorite places to visit. Why? A thriving music scene and some terrific skate spots were the big reasons.

Now that we’ve spent a few days in Helsinki ourselves, I couldn’t agree more with Margera’s assessment–it’s everything he said and more. For example, the capital city’s food scene is off the hook, in particular the many delicious food trucks on hand in the streets. Design also plays an important role in the city, blending a beautiful aesthetic that teeters between Gatsby-era Paris and contemporary Finnish design with a flair for sustainability.

We were in town to cover the last night of the Flow Festival, a music and art’s festival, where cuisine and sustainability play just as important role as the performers do. Luckily , for us, we had a few days after Flow to explore Helsinki. These 12 snapshots (and the captions that follow) showcase moments from our time in the city and our thoughts as the pictures unfolded.


One of the most unique things about the Flow Festival is that it takes place on the grounds of an old energy plant in central Helsinki. So all around you there are crumbling buildings and unusual structures that make an incredible backdrop for the musicians. Its a very industrial design aesthetic and fits perfectly with the city.


I met Bjork at the Flow festival in Helsinki!! She let me be her flower.


“Sorry Ms. Jackson I am for real. Never meant to make your daughter cry. I apologize a trillion times.” Outkast at Flow. INSANE. I can’t believe I’m watching Andre 3000. Holy *%*^ what a show!!!


I love the buildings and the gorgeous light on Suomenlinna island. I definitely could imagine staying here for a couple months and working on an art project.


Hey mom! This photo is for you! icon wink Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps Isn’t Finland pretty?

 Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps
We decided to explore the Suomenlinna sea fortress this afternoon with our Helsinki Cards and discovered that the island is also home to a fantastically low key brewery…score!

 Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps
A peek inside the fortress on Suomenlinna island. I loved this island – the light was beautiful and like most areas in Finland it was just so peaceful.

 Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps
Lunch! We’ve been dying for Asian and Wrong Noodle house in the city center delivered. Huge tasty portions and great prices – around 10€ a dish. Oh and Lana Del Rey just came on while we’re sitting here. I’m in heaven!

 Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps
Time for a beer at Helsinki’s only brewery – Bryggeri. The beer is excellent, definitely worth a stop if you’re in town.

 Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps
This guy is playing glass wine bottles. So inventive.

 Helsinki and the Flow Festival in 12 Snaps
Now this is a cinnamon bun! This traditional Finnish delight, know as the korvapuusti, is like a meal in itself; though, it’s not as sweet as its American counterpart. We wanted to taste the best of the best so we went to Café Esplanad, which reportedly as some of the biggest in town.


Sad because we have to leave Finland. I absolutely fell in love with this country and its people. Randy and I talked about many times just how nice everyone here is. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen such welcoming, helpful & easy to talk to people as I have in Finland. Helsinki is a world class city and the countryside is gorgeous and peaceful. Yeah #Finland is awesome. Really sad to leave it.

Know Before You Go: Fun Facts and Information

Helsinki

  • King Gustave Vasa of Sweden founded Helsinki in 1550 at the mouth of the Vantaa River as a trading town. The city was then moved to its present location in 1643.
  • Helsinki is full of islands. To be exact, there are officially 315 islands in the area of Finland’s capital city.
  • If want to ride a tram or subway in Finland, then Helsinki is the only place you can do it. Vintage-trams crisscross the city on 73 kilometers of tracks, and Helsinki’s modern subway system features four lines and 17 stations.
  • The German Embassy once considered bring charges against a dog that they felt was mocking Hitler, because it raised its paw in an eerily similar Nazi salute.
  • Helsinki is reportedly one of the coldest cities in the world, averaging 169 annual days below freezing. The capital city averages 101 days of snow a year, and does not receive any sunshine for approximately 51 consecutive days during the winter. It should be noted, though, that we had incredible weather during our visit in mid-August.

The 411

  • You can get a sim card that’s good for one week and has unlimited data for about €25 from any Elisa store. If you’re going to be in the city longer, you can easily extend your time for an additional fee. We used the Elisa in the underground mall/bus station at Mannerheimintie 22-24.
  • Helsinki is an expensive city to visit, especially for U.S. travelers, who already face unfavorable exchange rates. While we tend to forgo visitor cards, the Helsinki City Card (1-3 days) is one that I’m glad we got. Not only does it provide free public transportation (3 euro savings per ride), it also gives you access to the city’s top museums and attractions, like Suomenlinna Island.
  • Tipping is not expected in Finland but is appreciated, and that goes for taxi drivers too. While you won’t see “service” listed on the bill, it’s already included in your meal or cup of coffee, for that matter.

Want to discover more unique festivals? Follow our friends and fellow travelers as they journey through Europe this summer with Must Love Festivals and through the #MustLoveFestivals on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


Disclosure: Our visit to Helsinki was supported by Visit Finland, who is a Must Love Festival partner. As always, though, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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8 Essential Android Apps for Working on the Roadhttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/09/30/essential-android-apps/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=essential-android-apps http://beersandbeans.com/2014/09/30/essential-android-apps/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:38:32 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20159

Whenever I get a new device, be it a laptop, phone or tablet, I love scouring its respective app store for ways that I can work smarter while we travel. As an early adopter to ...

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Whenever I get a new device, be it a laptop, phone or tablet, I love scouring its respective app store for ways that I can work smarter while we travel. As an early adopter to smart devices, it is exciting to see how far the app world has come in only a few years. These days running our blog, as well as handling our newest business, Speakeasy Travel Goods, is now possible from an Android tablet, as I found out early this month during a road trip with my family, when I tested Acer’s newest tablet, the Iconia Tab 8, to see how it could handle a life of travel. After spending about six weeks with the 8-inch Intel Tablet, I’ve amassed several essentials apps that I thought I’d share with you guys. Each one of these is free and plays an integral part to my work flow on the road, enabling me to have my workspace with me no matter where we go.

Evernote

Screenshot 2014 09 30 13 58 09 e1412110779276 8 Essential Android Apps for Working on the Road

I’ve always been intrigued by Evernote, but never took the time to fully understand it. Like Shaft, it always felt complicated. I realize now, though, I was just overwhelmed by all of its features. After reading this story on LifeHacker—I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing—I came to see the organizational app in a new light. Evernote, like many of the programs on this list, plays nicely with all operating systems, so it’s easier than ever to organize my thoughts and story ideas.

SwiftKey

One of my favorite things about SwiftKey is the ability to cloud sync custom dictionaries across all of my devices. Additionally, the keyboard supports Swype-like gestures, and has intelligent word prediction.

ES File Explorer

Strangely, Android doesn’t come with a stock file explorer like desktop operating systems. So, when you want to explore your internal storage or SD Card, download photos and music, access your files via FTP, the ES File Explorer is what you want. Another nice feature is the file explorer’s built in app manger, which gives you to power to easily install/uninstall and backup apps.

Snapseed

Screenshot 2014 09 30 14 02 51 e1412111059304 8 Essential Android Apps for Working on the Road

We’ve been using Snapseed for years now on our phone, and it is our g to photo editor on the road. In addition to a robust feature set, it’s also designed around touch. While you’re not going to get the same editing capabilities as you would with a proper version Photoshop, it is one of the best apps for editing photos on your smart device.

DocuSign

DocuSign is the easiest way to sign forms while you are traveling, even if you need multiple signatures. Once you insert your signature, then it’s just a matter of emailing yourself the .pdf, as there’s no way to save to your internal storage directly.

Google Docs

With the Microsoft Office app still in the works for Android tablets, I needed to find an alternative, so I turned to Google Docs. One of the keys for me is being able to have access to my documents on whatever device or desktop operating system I’m on, and Google’s word processing handles that task nicely.

OneDrive

These days mobile users have a lot of options when it comes to the cloud. I’ve used a couple over the years, including Google Drive and Dropbox, but I have found that Microsoft’s OneDrive is the most rounded for my needs. Through the Android app, I can easily upload and download files to my tablet, create new folders, and rename files. In the future, I’d love to see OneDrive integrated into a file explorer to make it even easier to move files around, like it is on Windows 8.

PicsArt

Screenshot 2014 09 30 14 06 45 e1412111339699 8 Essential Android Apps for Working on the Road

Placing text over photos has become sort of a thing online, so it should be no surprise that there are quite a few photo apps in the market offering this service. Of the ones I tested, PicsArt is the most complete, offering a lot of options to create your own digital posters.

Did we miss something? Let us know your fave Android apps in the comments!

Remember: You can also get exclusive first looks and insider info. about the latest Intel products (and win some cool prizes too) by joining Intel’s free advocate program. Just click on the image below to sign up.
IntelAdvocatesthumbnail 8 Essential Android Apps for Working on the Road


Disclosure:

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include the Intel Corporation providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

IEL7 29yhD 8 Essential Android Apps for Working on the Road

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Acer Iconia Tab 8 Review: Can It Really Handle a Life of Travel?http://beersandbeans.com/2014/09/16/acer-iconia-tab-8-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acer-iconia-tab-8-review http://beersandbeans.com/2014/09/16/acer-iconia-tab-8-review/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:35:08 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20125

We’re always looking to minimize our packing list. Some of the heaviest offenders can be found in our tech backpack , in particular the need to travel with two computers. I’m looking to slim ...

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We’re always looking to minimize our packing list. Some of the heaviest offenders can be found in our tech backpack , in particular the need to travel with two computers. I’m looking to slim down our electronics footprint again, and this time I’m going to see if I can make an 8-inch Android tablet work for our travel blogging lifestyle.

A year ago I proudly announced that I ditched my laptop for a 10-inch Intel tablet for travel. That tablet, which contains an Intel Atom Clover Trail processor, runs a full version of Windows 8 and boasts 10 hours of battery life. I found it really easy to use for working on the road, as it’s essentially like having a mini-desktop computer in your pack (I carry a Bluetooth travel keyboard and mouse). My main issues with it were the lack of apps in the Windows Store and the processors lack of power to play the latest games in the app store.

While we bounced around Europe this summer for the Must Love Festivals project, I carried my laptop with me for the first time in more than a year. I swapped out my tablet right before leaving because I couldn’t find my mouse and didn’t have a chance to buy a replacement. From the start, I noticed the increased weight compared to the tablet. You wouldn’t think a few pounds would make that much of a difference but it did. Then came the shoddy battery life–approximately four hours. After a couple of days, I longed for my tablet. But I also wondered if I could go even smaller without sacrificing my work flow?

Well, I just got back a couple of days ago from a road trip with my mom and grandparents to Williamsburg, Virginia. In fact, mi madre is still with us in New England for a few days (say hi Mom!), and I’m happy to say I went smaller and I loved it. I took Acer’s newest tablet, the Iconia Tab 8, on our trip, and I was able to do everything I needed to do for work–blogging, freelancing writing, light photo edits, answering emails, and updating social media–with the aid of my Bluetooth keyboard. Plus, because the tablet runs Android I’m able to access the Google Play store which boasted the entertainment aspect of the tablet immensely. Not only could I play graphics-rich games, like Fifa 14 and Real Racing 3, but the size of the tablet also made reading on the tablet much more enjoyable, as the Tab 8 felt more like a paperback novel in my hands.

photo 21 e1410884332276 Acer Iconia Tab 8 Review: Can It Really Handle a Life of Travel?

The easiest way to describe Acer’s newest tablet is to look where it draws its inspiration from, the iPad mini. From its white profile and silver metal back, to the Iconia 8′s weight and thickness, Acer has stepped to the plate with this tablet. I absolutely love the size and feel of the 8-inch slate in my hand. Where as the 10-inch tablet felt okay to the touch, I found it a bit awkward to type on with my thumbs, no matter if I was using it in landscape or portrait, which lead to typos.

What I like about the Tab 8, though, is that it performs just as good as it looks. Just 8.5 millimeters thick, the tablet boasts Intel’s latest Atom processor, Bay Trail, a quad core dynamo whose power and quickness can handle the most demanding mobile games available, not to mention video playback and web browsing, and runs Android’s newest OS, Kitkat. Intel has become a master of squeezing long battery life out of its processors, and the Tab 8 gets a solid 7.5 hours–perfect for those long travel days. And since the tablet is charged through the micro-usb port, the battery life can essentially be doubled with the aid of a battery pack like a Jockery.

And to bring it back full circle, the Tab 8 also looks as good as it performs; this time, though, I’m not talking about its slim figure. Acer hooked the 8-inch tablet up with a full HD display (1920 x 1200) with IPS wide-viewing technology and zero air gap that makes everything pop. With that said, I found the brightness to be lacking in direct sunlight leading to glare, something I hope Acer will fix in future iterations of the tablet. Beyond that though,the display is simply gorgeous and rivals many of the top-rated tablets on the market.

Intel has become a master of squeezing long battery life out of its processors, and the Tab 8 gets a solid 7.5 hours–perfect for those long travel days. And since the tablet is charged through the micro-usb port, the battery life can essentially be doubled with the aid of a battery pack like a Jockery.

The Tab 8 that I’m testing also features a micro-HDMI port, a micro-SD slot, and the new and improved Bluetooth 4.0. Additionally, the tablet has a front camera (2mp) and a rear camera (5mp) that’s just okay in terms of image quality. Personally, this isn’t a big deal to me since I like to shoot with my phone. One feature, however,  that is sadly lacking from the Tab 8 is the ability to do a screenshot. It’s a minor feature, but one I do use on a regular basis for work.

acer tab 8 promo tabletcrew Acer Iconia Tab 8 Review: Can It Really Handle a Life of Travel?

On the road, the Intel tablet handled most of my work needs without a problem. Though, I did put in some time learning the Android OS before leaving on the trip. And, in all honesty, most of the minor issues I encountered had to do with Android and not the tablet itself.

For example, one of the biggest hurdles I had in the past with the Android OS was WordPress.  Ultimately, this is the make it or it break it test for me, since we are after all bloggers. I was happy to find that WordPress was doable, much more so than it was a couple of years ago. The key here is that you have to use the text editor and not the visual one, as the latter made it difficult to scroll through the post. While it’s not as smooth as I’d like it to be, and it still has a few quirks, such as images breaking when I tried to upload them from One Drive, I was able to publish from the Tab 8 in roughly the same amount of time it would take me on my laptop or Windows 8 tablet.  It’s important to note,  however,  that I used the website to publish and not the app,  which I find to be best for editing and uploading images since its a lot more basic than the website.

To give you a better idea of how the Tab 8 performed, I’ve put together a pros and cons list. My hope is that this will help you in deciding if the Tab 8 (or one of the other Intel Tablets) could also work for you on your travels.

Know Before You Buy: The Pros and Cons of the Acer Iconia Tab 8

Pros

  • Robust app library on the Google Play store
  • Easily edit photos with Snapseed
  • Access to internal folders and file structure
  • Ability to download documents, music, images from email or the cloud on to the device, and just as easily attach and upload files.
  • Size and weight
  • Craftsmanship–it feels solid
  • Full-HD display for watching movies
  • Bluetooth 4.0–better connectivity with peripherals and power efficiency
  • Google Docs–Switching between devices–Windows 8 PC, iPhone and Tab 8 is seamless
  • Expandable memory up to 32gb
  • Acer’s notification system and system settings is very accessible (I’d take a screenshot but…)
  • Micro-usb–Nice option for peripherals or attaching a hard drive to transfer files. Plus, I can charge the Tab 8 directly through the port, meaning I can attach it to my computer, a wall outlet, or an external battery pack.

Cons

  • No ability to take screenshots
  • No split-screen for apps or separate windows
  • Microsoft Office app isn’t available yet
  • WordPress still has quirks, but publishing on the road is possible
  • I couldn’t use my mouse to highlight text on Chrome browser (A keyboard works fine, however, for highlighting, copying, cutting and pasting text)

As you can see, the list speaks for itself. I’m excited about the results as I loved the size, weight and power of the 8-inch tablet. The Acer Iconia Tab 8 is scheduled to be released this fall; though, the company hasn’t given an exact date yet. And early reports have the tablet priced under $300. Once I have more information about its release date and pricing, I’ll let you guys know. In the meantime, though, feel free to reach out to me in the comments about any questions you may have about the tablet or my workflow on the road with it.

Remember: You can also get exclusive first looks and insider info. about the latest Intel products (and win some cool prizes too) by joining Intel’s free advocate program. Just click on the image below to sign up.
IntelAdvocatesthumbnail Acer Iconia Tab 8 Review: Can It Really Handle a Life of Travel?

Would you ever ditch your laptop for a tablet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


Disclosure:

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include the Intel Corporation providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

IEL7 29yhD Acer Iconia Tab 8 Review: Can It Really Handle a Life of Travel?

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The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challengehttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/09/15/great-caribbean-cocktail-trail-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=great-caribbean-cocktail-trail-challenge http://beersandbeans.com/2014/09/15/great-caribbean-cocktail-trail-challenge/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:22:08 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20110

I’m curious, how many of you have ever had the urge to spin the globe, plop your index finger down onto the rotating sphere, and travel to whatever spot is underneath your finger tip? While ...

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I’m curious, how many of you have ever had the urge to spin the globe, plop your index finger down onto the rotating sphere, and travel to whatever spot is underneath your finger tip? While you can’t see it, our hands are both held up high!

At the moment, we’re having a difficult time choosing between two Caribbean cruises with Carnival Cruise Lines. One route goes to the west–Jamaica, Cozumel, Belize and Grand Cayman–and the other sails to the south with ports of call in St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Marten and Barbados. In term of cost, duration, departure dates and days at sea, both cruises are nearly identical. Additionally, each has islands that are high on our list of places to see.

So, in keeping with the spontaneity of a Spin the Globe-style trip, we have decided to create a cocktail trail, if you will, of popular local drinks from each route and let our taste buds help guide us.

Bushwacker

bushwacker The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challenge
Island: St. Thomas (South Caribbean)

Origins: Legend has it that the Bushwacker was created by a bartender at Bolongo Bay Resort in St. Thomas.

Ingredients:

2 oz. cream of coconut

1 oz. coffee liqueur

1 ½ oz. dark rum

½ oz. dark creme de cacao

2 oz. milk

How to prepare:

Combine all ingredients in a blender along with 2 cups of ice. Blend until smooth, and then serve in a tall glass.

Jalousie Plantation’s Watermelon Delight

watermelon delight The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challenge
Island: St. Lucia (Southern Caribbean)

Origins: A signature cocktail from Jalousie Plantation on St. Lucia.

Ingredients:

2 oz. Chairman’s Reserve rum

2 oz. Perrier or club soda

1 tsp. brown sugar

½ oz.  lime juice

Mint leaves

Cubed watermelon

How to prepare:

Muddle the mint leaves and lime juice in a glass, add brown sugar then ice. Next, add watermelon cubes, then mix in the rum and soda and serve with a garnish of mint or lime.

Planters Punch

planters punch The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challenge
Island: Jamaica (Western Caribbean)

Origins: It should be no surprise to anyone that a rum punch was conceived on a huge rum producing island, such as Jamaica. What may surprise you, though, is that the first recorded documentation of recipe dates back to September 1878 when the London magazine Fun ran instructions, in verse, for making “Planter’s Punch! A West Indian Recipe:” 

A wineglass with lemon juice fill, of sugar the same glass fill twice

Then rub them together until

The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.

Of rum then three wine glasses add,

And four of cold water please take. A Drink then you’ll have that’s not bad —

At least, so they say in Jamaica.

For our cocktail, we used Trader Vic’s classic recipe from 1947.

Ingredients:

3 oz. dark rum

1 oz. lime juice

½ oz. lemon juice

½ oz. grenadine

¼ tsp. superfine sugar

How to prepare:

Stir well with ice, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish any way you see fit and stick a straw in it for good measure.

 Cayman Lemonade

cayman lemonade The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challenge
Island: Grand Cayman (West Caribbean) 

Origins: Calico Jacks on Grand Cayman

Ingredients:

1 oz. vodka
1 oz. triple sec
1 oz. peach schnapps
Cranberry juice
Club soda or seltzer
Lemon

How to prepare:

First, mix the vodka, triple sec and peach schnapps in a shaker. Pour mixture over ice, add a squeeze of lemon and a splash of cranberry juice and soda, stir and enjoy.

While all of the cocktails were tasty, two of them really hit on all the right notes; Planters Punch and Bushwacker were our two favorites. Since both are from opposite routes, we mixed up another round of each to determine the winner. When the glasses emptied it was Planters Punch that we kept talking about…so…Jamaica and the Western Caribbean in November it is!

Now, I’m really curious to hear your thoughts. Did we make the right choice? Does the Western Caribbean really have better cocktails? Speak your mind in the comments below!


Disclosure: This post was created as part of my collaboration with Carnival. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are my own.

 The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challenge

 The Great Caribbean Cocktail Trail Challenge

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Pin-Up Live! Join Us Wed. (8/27) on #Pinterest to Talk Travel with @ExOfficiohttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/08/26/pin-up-live-pinterest-chat-exofficio/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pin-up-live-pinterest-chat-exofficio http://beersandbeans.com/2014/08/26/pin-up-live-pinterest-chat-exofficio/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:10:34 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20093

Holy cow, I can’t believe Labor Day is almost here! How is everyone’s summer going? Wait, before you answer, why not join us and AFAR this week in welcoming ExOfficio, the ...

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Holy cow, I can’t believe Labor Day is almost here! How is everyone’s summer going? Wait, before you answer, why not join us and AFAR this week in welcoming ExOfficio, the makers of truly awesome adventure travel clothing and gear, to Pin-Up Live! We’re going to be sharing summer tales and talking about gearing up for adventure. We’d love it if you stopped by and chatted with us.

To spread some extra summer love, ExOfficio will be giving three lucky participants at the chat $100 gift certificates to spend at ExOfficio.com. I don’t know about you, but I could really use some new travel underwear!

So, please join us and AFAR this Wednesday (8/27) at 7 p.m. (EST) on the Pin-Up Live! board to have a real time chat about about preparing for your next adventure! You can expect a lot of Pinspiration, tips and stories flying around on Wednesday night, and we would love to hear your stories too!

ExOfficio FB Prize Pack Pin Up Live! Join Us Wed. (8/27) on #Pinterest to Talk Travel with @ExOfficio

About ExOfficio

ExOfficio is a Seattle-based company that has led the outdoor industry in designing innovative, functional and comfortable adventure travel clothing.

They believe traveling, whether you seek different cultures, epic scenery or the thrill of the unknown opens your ind to the wonders of the world.

How Do I Join In?

ExOfficio Promo 1 Pin Up Live! Join Us Wed. (8/27) on #Pinterest to Talk Travel with @ExOfficio

It’s simple to participate in the chat,  just head on over to our Pinterest board, Pin-Up Live!, which is dedicated to the event. We will be pinning inspirational travel pins to the board, each one containing a question related to preparing for your next adventure. All you have to do is join in on the conversation!

We will pin a question pin every few minutes and if you read or see something you like, we’d love to hear from you in the comment section of the pin. This is a way for all of us to share our travel stories in a visual way. During the chat we’ll be checking out your boards and repinning some of your items to the board as well.

The theme for this week’s chat is going to be Gearing Up For Adventure! Feel free to chat away–we want to hear your travel questions, tips and travel tales! Important: Pinterest does not use hashtags (#) in a real time way so in order to follow the conversation, you’ll have to be on the Pin-Up Live! board at the dedicated time (Wed 8/27/14 at 7 p.m. EST) to participate. You will also need to refresh that page every couple of minutes to see the updates and new pins. Remember to refresh!

How can I win one of the $100 ExOfficio Gift Certificates?

Simply join in the discussion! At the end of Pin-Up Live!, we’ll announce the winners–so just by joining in the fun you’ll automatically have a chance to get one of  the three gift certificates to ExOfficio.com.

Why Pinterest?

Ever since joining Pinterest in 2012, we’ve been hooked. And a lot of it has to do with the inspired ideas and photos we encounter on a daily basis.There’s a lot of incredible people on Pinterest, but no real good way to have a conversation–until now.

As avid travelers, we love sharing our travel tales and we believe the best tips and advice comes from your connections–family, friends and social networks. Pin-Up Live! brings the conversation to Pinterest, making it easy for people to connect and share stories, tips and beautiful images, while developing a comprehensive travel resource board that will continue to grow more robust as new topics are discussed.

Pin-Up Live! is the original real time chat held on Pinterest and we plan to keep bringing you unique travel themes to stoke your inspiration and wanderlust, so please let us know if you have anything in mind you’d love to chat about. Remember, joining in the conversation is easy, just come to our Pin-Up Live! Board on Wednesday (8/27/14) at 7 p.m. (EST). And remember, if you’d like to be entered in this week’s drawing, all you have to do is comment on one of the question pins during the session.

We can’t wait to chat live with you this Wed!

 *Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!

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Discovering North County San Diego’s Best Skateparks with a Kia Soulhttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/08/24/san-diego-skateparks-north-county-edition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=san-diego-skateparks-north-county-edition http://beersandbeans.com/2014/08/24/san-diego-skateparks-north-county-edition/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 03:05:53 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20045

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was time–approximately 15 years or so ago–when San Diego didn’t have the concrete skateparks it has today.

The skate culture was there; it always has been. And in 1999, ...

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It’s hard to imagine now, but there was time–approximately 15 years or so ago–when San Diego didn’t have the concrete skateparks it has today.

The skate culture was there; it always has been. And in 1999, an unlikely city stepped up. Vista built the first modern day public concrete park in the county. The off-white slab featured light transitions, street elements–handrails, boxes, stairs, etc.–and fairly smooth concrete. While it is a far cry from what can be found in the city today, the park laid the foundation for what was to come. Plus, I had never seen anything like it before.

I grew up skating in the streets of Pennsylvania. The only transition I had ever skated was homemade launch ramps, which may as well have been nothing. I arrived one morning in Vista and watched the other skaters carve lines all through the park. They made rolling-in over the coping ledge look super easy. and I knew I had to go for it…don’t think…just go, dammit. So, I did, and my wheels got hung up on the coping, pitching me to the cement a few feet below. I tried once again…slam…one more time…slam…damn! My introduction to transition skating that day went about as well as a hipster trying to stage dive at a death metal show.

These days, though, North County San Diego boasts some of the best and newest skateparks in the county. And the crazy thing is, there are more on the way, as Carlsbad should be cutting the yellow ribbon on a new park later this year. To explore the skateparks of North County, I traded in the Mitsubishi Outlander we had used for the first part of the project for a Kia Soul.

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The Soul has been on my radar for years, pretty much ever since it came onto the scene as a sort-of affordable version of a Mini-Cooper. Except for a period in my late teens when I desperately wanted a muscle car, in particular a Chevy Chevelle, I’ve always been more interested in function over power. (I’m one of the few people who thought the Pontiac Aztek was awesome.) And from what I could see, the Kia Soul fit the bill, at least that’s what I gleamed from all those hamster commercials anyways. How would it stack up in living color? Well, I’d find out soon enough.

Slimmed down and as stylish as ever, the Soul, which Kia classifies as an “Urban Hatchback,” had me at hello. Honestly, I’m glad Kia decided to classify the Soul, because I don’t think I could have. Personally, I feel like the Soul belongs in a class all its own, and that’s a very good thing. One of my favorite things about the Soul is that its style isn’t just regulated to its shimmering exterior. Those who say you can’t judge a book by its cover, obviously haven’t had the pleasure of sitting in a Soul yet. The inferno red paint job sparkled in the sun, and the 18 inch alloy wheels as well as the overall design of the Soul, which really is a cross between a hatchback and crossover, felt hip without being pretentious; a perfect introduction to what you’ll find within its comfortable 4-door frame.

Inside, the Soul felt roomier than I expected, much more so than my Hyundai Accent hatchback, for instance. I’d say the interior space was on par with Mitusubishi Outlander, the SUV crossover that we used during the first leg of the campaign. From the outside, however, the Soul appeared to have a smaller profile, making it ideal for city life, especially with the rear camera display. Just as the Cadillac did for our parent’s generation, the Soul seems to be at the forefront of bringing the latest car interior car tech–once known as bells and whistles–to our generation. Highlights for me included: the 8-inch navigation screen and in-dash infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, powered everything, temperature regulated seats and a panoramic sunroof.
Kia Soul Collage Discovering North County San Diegos Best Skateparks with a Kia Soul

The Soul felt great as I bounced from one skatepark to the next, through city streets, up freeways and down dusty back roads. And when it came to packing up our all of our luggage, the Soul handled that like a champ too. I guess my only complaint is with the vehicle’s gas mileage. While it is certainly not awful, 26 mpg city/highway combined, I feel like Kia could do better, especially since the Soul is running on a 4-cylinder engine. After seeing what Kia did with its Optima Hybrid, I feel like they could really shake up the hybrid landscape by bringing this technology into the already-innovative Soul.

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For the project, I visited three skateparks with the Kia Soul, and I have laid them out below as a mini-guide. If you’re going to be traveling to San Diego, though, I’d recommend downloading our free Buggl travel guide: Skate Thru San Diego: 48 Hours in America’s Finest City. In it you’ll have offline access to all the San Diego skateparks I visited, plus recommendations for cheap eats and fun bars.


A Mini-Guide to San Diego’s Best Skateparks


Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA | Encinitas

A new street course was recently added to this already stellar North County San Diego skatepark. The street section now has rails, mini ramps, ledges, boxes a four stair-set. Beyond that, the Encinitas park features an 80 foot vert ramp from the 2003 X-Games and two of the county’s best pools. One is a backyard style kidney pool and the other is a multi-tiered clover bowl. Local pros, like Andy Mac and Mike McGill, often session the park.

Hours: Check website for operating times.

Cost: $10 for non-members

Alga Norte Skatepark | Carlsbad

After years having a sub-par park, Carlsbad finally has the skatepark it deserves. After all, it was Carlsbad that birthed the world’s first skatepark in 1976. Alga Norte, which opened on Dec. 31, 2013, is simply gorgeous. The street plaza looks like it was ripped from a city center and the bowl and pool are top notch. It’s reported that Andy McDonald himself gave a lot of input about the pool and large bowl to ensure they were both designed properly.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

Alex Road Skatepark | Oceanside

A few miles east of I-5 in Oceanside sits a small airfield, a defunct four screen drive-in and, now, one of the county’s best concrete skateparks. Designed by Grindline Skateparks and built by California Skateparks, The Alex Road Skatepark, which opened in 2013, features a pool and bowl, a street section consisting of banks, ledges and handrails and two snake runs, one of which leads into a clamshell that goes oververt slightly and features pool coping. There are tons of lines in this place and the transitions and concrete are near perfect. Cops do enforce helmet’s here.

Hours: 8 a.m. to Dusk

Cost: Free

Going to San Diego soon? Now, for a limited time, get our two San Diego drink guides for free!

buggl guides san diego beer and bars Discovering North County San Diegos Best Skateparks with a Kia Soul

The Alcoholics Guide to San Diego

The Beer Lover’s Guide to San Diego


Disclosure: We had complimentary use of a 2014 Kia Soul with a Sun and Sound package for this project. The MSRP on the vehicle we test drove is $25,400.

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Southern Oregon in 16 Snapshots: Medford to Crater Lake and All Points in Betweenhttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/08/05/photos-rogue-valley-and-crater-lake-oregon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=photos-rogue-valley-and-crater-lake-oregon http://beersandbeans.com/2014/08/05/photos-rogue-valley-and-crater-lake-oregon/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 14:34:32 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=20003

Touching down in the former logging town of Medford, we weren’t entirely sure what we’d find in southern Oregon. Despite being just 20 miles from the California border, we had crossed an invisible line of ...

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Touching down in the former logging town of Medford, we weren’t entirely sure what we’d find in southern Oregon. Despite being just 20 miles from the California border, we had crossed an invisible line of demarcation into the fabled Pacific Northwest.

In the early days of our relationship in San Diego, Beth and I had talked about traveling up the coast to Oregon but never got chance to make the trip. At that time, the furthest we made it was the San Francisco Bay. I guess then it is only fitting that our first trip north of the Golden State started just across the border.

I’ve talked before about the passionate people we met in Oregon on our journey to Crater Lake National Park, one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders. Like Molokai in Hawaii, the Rogue Valley is one of those special places where gorgeous landscapes and the people who call its sacred native lands home live harmoniously together, so much so, that’s it’s hard to imagine one without the other, as their fates seem to be intertwined.

If you haven’t been to southern Oregon yet, or as I like to call it the “Golden Gate to the Pacific Northwest,” then I hope these photos will inspire you to go and check it out for yourself. And for those that are already familiar with the Rogue Valley, then I hope these snapshots will bring back some incredible memories. (Make sure to read all the way through, because at the end of the story, we’ll reveal how you can enter to win your own trip to Oregon!)


We’re on the way to Oregon and it’s Chachy’s first time on a train. He likes it!


We all thoroughly enjoyed our flight to Oregon–even Mr Chachy who got to sneak some views.


In addition to posting our photos here on Beers & Beans we’ll also be posting them on the fantastic @traveloregon Instagram feed. Be sure to go check them out, they have amazing photos and we’re quite humbled to be sharing our images of this beautiful state with their followers.


Our first stop this morning was Portal Brewing Company in Medford, Oregon. This tiny little brewery makes excellent beer. This photo shows their taps, beer flights, portable kegs and a hand painted growler. Be sure to get the Ghost beer when you visit. 100 E. 6th Street, Medford, OR

Peaceful days at the Lake Of The Woods Resort with Mt. McLoughlin keeping watch.


Today started up in the air. We both took plane rides over the Klamath region and Chachy got to come too! This was one of the beautiful views I saw out the window of the 1949 two seater Piper I flew in. Jim was an excellent pilot and totally took away my fear of flying in a little, vintage plane. If you’re interested in taking a vintage plane ride in Klamath check out FlyKlamath.com -a very unique experience.


Jacksonville is a cute gold rush town in Oregon. Randy and I fell in love with it immediately and wished we had more time to explore it. While walking down the street i spotted these beautiful flowers–so pretty!! I love that Oregon is so full of greenery and flowers.


A fun hike along the natural bridge with the guys I love – randy an Chachy! Tomorrow? CRATER LAKE!!!! I hope the snow minimal so we can get some more great hiking in!


I hope this rain calls it quit soon – we’re on our way to Crater Lake and I want my big blue skies back!


A great shot of Oregon from above–such a gorgeous landscape!


Meet Jon from Caldera Brewing. One of the highlights of our time in Oregon was all of the fantastic beer and Jon brews some of the best! They also have amazing vegetarian food – seriously they have a killer menu with all sorts of inventive food. Worth the drive for the beer alone but the food makes it a complete destination. If I lived there is be a regular for sure! Have you been to Caldera?


Once a year go somewhere you’ve never been. This year we made it to a new state–Oregon! It was worth the wait.


Group selfie in Crater Lake! Can’t wait to return in the summer for the big views!


Self portrait with Randy from Crater Lake in Oregon. In 10 days ( or so) we leave for Europe and I am so excited to get back into Photography again. I have missed it so.


We had an amazing time at Crater Lake in May. Along the way we met a lot of passionate people doing a lot awesome things and got to test out some cool “crafted-in-Oregon” gear from the likes of Danner, Poler, Shwood, The Clymb and Nau.

Now that you’ve seen our Oregon journey, how would you like to take one of your own? Travel Oregon wants to know which of Oregon’s 7 Wonders is your favorite. Vote for the one that you love most and you’ll be entered to win one of three epic adventures from The Clymb, two tickets for air travel on Alaska Airlines and plenty of cool gear. You can enter at http://budurl.com/vote7W.


Disclosure: We were invited by Travel Oregon to explore Crater Lake and the surrounding region. As always, though, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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2 Days of Peace, Beats and Love at the PITCH Festival in Amsterdamhttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/07/31/2-days-peace-beats-love-pitch-festival-amsterdam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-days-peace-beats-love-pitch-festival-amsterdam http://beersandbeans.com/2014/07/31/2-days-peace-beats-love-pitch-festival-amsterdam/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:25:16 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=19957

We were in Amsterdam to cover the PITCH Festival (July 4 – 5) for Must Love Festivals, so with that in mind, and a busy work schedule, we didn’t get to play tourist ...

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We were in Amsterdam to cover the PITCH Festival (July 4 – 5) for Must Love Festivals, so with that in mind, and a busy work schedule, we didn’t get to play tourist a whole lot, beyond doing some lazy laps around the red light district, where we attended a €2 peep show and had the unfortunate luck of seeing another man’s vinegar strokes, and getting lost in the sunny shadows of golden-age canal houses.

i djQTZ58 L 2 Days of Peace, Beats and Love at the PITCH Festival in Amsterdam

Our journey to Amsterdam marked the first time we traveled outside of the United States for a festival. And, I have to say,  it was super cool! It added a whole different dynamic to visiting a destination. Apparently, Amsterdam, like so many other European cities, loves their festivals and will close the books on 300 of them by the time the ball drops on 2015.

We went into the PITCH Festival not really knowing what to expect. Now in its 3rd year, the festival is based around progressive electronic music. Honestly, I kind of figured it was going to be two days of DJs bumping all-sorts of house, dub and trance, like an outdoor rave, but the lineup went so far beyond that. In addition to the DJs, the festival’s organizers put together an eclectic lineup of artists who unleashed sonic waves of rock, electronica, and even Saharan-desert blues on to festival-goers. I knew things were going to be good as soon we entered the festival grounds and came face to face with the wailing blasts of Seun Kuti’s alto-sax. On the main stage Kuti and his orchestra, Egypt 80, who originally played with his father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, before his passing in 1997, let it all hang out with their grooving Afrobeat sound and spirited vocals.

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“So, that’s what they mean by ‘progressive’ electronic music festival,” I thought, before revealing my insight to Beth as Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 finished their set.

“Yeah, who knew, right? These guys sound great!”

On that note, we set out to discover new sounds and artists. Besides Massive Attack, we had never heard of any of the other artists. To get our bearings on the first day we wondered the grounds, checking out the five different stages and randomly catching bands that happened to be playing at the time.

Other than the main stage, which was outdoors, the four other stages were an eclectic mix that ranged from an outdoor festival tent to the Gashouder, a large pillar-less round chamber with an iron roof that predates World War I. Without a doubt, the Gashouder and the Westerunie, an upstairs space in a stone building with drooping blue windows on one side, were some of the coolest rooms that I have ever seen shows in. Beyond that, the organization of the festival was fantastic and you could come and go as you pleased, which was nice since right outside the park is a large restaurant and bar with an excellent patio.

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For the next day, we decided to go through the festival lineup and plan out the shows that we wanted to see. Not knowing any of the artists, we sifted through samples via the PITCH Festival app and set reminders for the shows we wanted to see. Prior to PITCH, I felt stagnate with my music collection, it no longer inspired me. Furthermore, I realized recently that I’ve been listening to some of my favorite songs, from the likes of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and 2Pac, for nearly 20 years. Twenty years, can you believe that! Spending the afternoon discovering new artists who we would then see live just a few hours later reinvigorated me, as there were so many good musicians, all with their own unique sound, style and following, who up until this moment I didn’t even know existed.

Still reeling from first day performances by Massive Attack, Tinariwen, The Field and Seun Kuti & Egypt, we plotted our course into the uncharted music (for us anyways,  all of these bands had a lot fans) of CaribouDarkside and Snakeships, and we came out on the other side of this summer sound cloud as fans of each.

Along the way, Beth pieced together this short (16 seconds, short) video showcasing a few snippets from the first night with Tinariwen (these guys and their sarahan blues were my favorite discovery at the PITCH Festival), The Field and Massive Attack, respectively.

And on the second day, just when we thought the festival couldn’t get any better, it did. Much to our surprise as we stepped out with sweaty smiles from Snakeships in the Westerunie, the Netherlands vs Costa Rica game had just started. At first, it seemed liked the club-like stage with a bar was the only place showing the game, while the scheduled DJ mixed beats keeping a close watch on the game and the pulsating crowd in front of him. Then, as we walked around towards the main stage, we realized that the organizers had set up a huge screen just off from that stage to broadcast the game.

By that point, all eyes were on the game. From an our perspective it was insane, as nothing like that would ever happen in the United States. But here we were, right in the middle of a festival with the headliner still up, and the World Cup took precedence. We wondered if the headliner, Richie Hawtin would play, but sure enough he did. This added even more flair to the game, because everyone now had a beat to groove to as they watched the game, and as the beats grew, so did the crowds movements and emotions, building anxiously with every miss and save until Netherland’s game winning overtime goal. At that second, the place erupted in a simultaneous roar (see the victory celebration in all its raw, unedited goodness below), and it was in this moment that I had my aha moment, not just for football but for electronic music too.

Know Before You Go: The PITCH Festival

The 411

  • To buy food and drinks in the festival you have to exchange your cash for chips (13 euro for five). Small beers costs 1 chip and food averaged 2 to 3. Using these little plastic vouchers, which can be bought from vending machines near the entrance, helps to keep the lines to a minimum, but they can wreak havoc on your wallet, as, just like with casino chips, it’s easy to forget how much cash value the little chip holds.
  • Security is really tight when entering the festival. They will search your bag and will pat you down.I even saw them going through people’s loose-leaf tobacco pouches. I stashed about a gram of marijuana and a one hitter in my Speakeasy travel scarf (I’m not sure if they would have cared about pot or not, but I didn’t want to take any chances), and all was good.

Tips

  • You can bring a bottle of water (probably a water bottle too, but we didn’t try) as long as you remove the cap. I don’t really understand the logic behind this, but hey, I’m not complaining since a little cup of water at the beverage counters costs 1 chip. Inside the festival you can fill up your water bottle for free at the hand washing stations near the bathrooms.
  • Once inside the festival, security is really laxed, much more so than U.S. concerts. You can smoke pot openly and you’ll see people lighting up spliffs, which seem to be the preferred method of smoking bud at the show, indoors and outdoors. Technically, the indoor stages were suppose to be non-smoking (tobacco), but I never saw that rule enforced.

For more stories about Amsterdam, check out:

Where to Snack, Sleep and Smoke in Amsterdam

It Was Me Amsterdam, Not You (+3 Awesome Spots to Check Out)

Looking for Unique Lodging in Amsterdam? Check Out a Houseboat

Amsterdam After Dark (Photo Essay)

Modern Magdalene #1–Red Light District, Amsterdam–Somewhere in Time Photo

Behind Glass Doors–A Stroll Through the Red Light District

Amsterdam, I Can’t Find You–On the Road Journal Entries

Want to discover more unique festivals? Follow our friends and fellow travelers as they journey through Europe this summer with Must Love Festivals and through the #MustLoveFestivals on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Where to Snack, Sleep and Smoke in Amsterdamhttp://beersandbeans.com/2014/07/28/where-to-go-in-amsterdam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=where-to-go-in-amsterdam http://beersandbeans.com/2014/07/28/where-to-go-in-amsterdam/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 06:20:18 +0000 http://beersandbeans.com/?p=19924

One of the great things about life is second chances. A second chance to get a better grade in school, a second chance at love, a second chance with your career, a second chance to ...

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One of the great things about life is second chances. A second chance to get a better grade in school, a second chance at love, a second chance with your career, a second chance to say “I Love You,” and for us, as travelers, a second chance to see a city again.

Beth and I got a second chance with Amsterdam last month. She was a mistress who just didn’t move us the first time around. But when we joined the Must Love Festivals project, we had a chance to revisit the city for the PITCH Festival, a progressive electric musical event, and we went for it with an open mind.

Sleep

We arrived in Amsterdam on a red eye out of Boston. By the time we collected our baggage and got our things together the local time was approximately 6:35 a.m. It was early in Amsterdam and late in Boston–just after midnight–and we we’re caught between one late night and a very early morning.

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After discovering that the city’s multi-day transit passes don’t cover train fares, only buses, trams and the metro, we bought two train tickets (€4 each) for the 15 minute ride to our hotel, where we had a room at the Meininger Hotel West (Orlyplein 1 – 67, 1043 Amsterdam; private room rates from €48 to €175 but they have lower priced dorm rooms as well).

One stop before Amsterdam Central, and just around the corner from the Sloterdijk train station, the hotel was something I had not seen before. It is a hybrid of sorts—one part hostel and one part hotel—playing on the strengths of both by combining the hallmarks of a hostel—a kitchen and lounge space with a bar and games, like foosball and billiards—with the branded style and well-equipped private rooms of a reputable hotel-chain (think: a hipper Holiday Inn with options for dorm rooms). It’s a great concept and one that I didn’t know existed until this trip. It is also a concept that I see becoming more popular, as travelers who grew up in the hostel system yearn for something slightly more mature and private that’s still budget friendly with more amenities than a hotel.

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Inside our room, we had all the comforts of a hotel room—a comfy bed, modern bathroom, flatscreen TV, good WiFi and a couch. The hotel did a wonderful job of maximizing the space in the long rectangular room. Outside the window, trains passed often, which could have been a curse, but the room was pretty much soundproof, so much so that you wouldn’t know a train was passing unless you actually visually saw it going by.

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Located among other modern high rises, Meininger is a five minute train ride (€2 each way) to Amsterdam Central, the central nerve of the city, from which you’ll have free reign to explore the historic center by foot or bike. Alternatively, from Sloterdijk, you can also catch a tram (12 to the 13 or 14 line will get you into the city center and take about 20 minutes ), through the city’s outer neighborhoods, which are reminiscent of the Sunset and Richmond Neighborhoods in San Francisco or, even, parts of Brooklyn in New York City. A bus as well as an underground metro also run from Sloterdijk; though, we never took the bus into the city center as the tram seemed easier, nor did we use the metro, since we didn’t find out about it until our last day.

And for those who prefer to explore Amsterdam like a local, you can rent a cruiser bicycle from the hotel and easily pedal your way to the Keizersgracht. In fact, I biked to the PITCH Festival the second night, and it was a wonderful ride through a wooded bike/walking path to the Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek. Honestly, if you’re in town for any events at the Cultuurpark and you’re staying at Meininger, then I recommend biking. It’s an easy ride that takes about 20 minutes, and it frees you from having to deal with city’s night bus system following the show.

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On our way home after the first night at the festival, I managed to piss off a night bus driver for simply trying to clarify something with him. After I asked him twice, he scolded me for not listening to him and then sped off as we shuffled to the middle of the bus, trying to keep our balance. He then proceeded to brake erratically and, while I can’t prove it, I think he was trying to make me fall, as we were only people standing. Eventually,  another passenger came to our aid and told us where to get off to catch our connection, which then blew by us as we were waiting at the stop. Frustrated, we hailed a cab and paid roughly 11 euros to get back to the hotel. So, the moral of the story is to avoid the night buses, unless you know their schedule well, and act like a local Amsterdamian and just bike!

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Snack and Smoke (Smoke and Snack)

While we were in town to cover the PITCH Festival (July 4-5), we had a few days prior to the event to revisit the city with fresh eyes. On our first evening in the city, we went to the historic center around 6:30 p.m., after catching up on so much needed sleep from our red eye flight earlier in the day. It was a gorgeous evening, the sun bathed the city with its sweet summer rays light, we set off to find Siberie Coffee Shop (Brouwersgracht 11, Sun-Thur 11 am-11:30 pm and Fri-Sat 11 am-midnight, www.coffeeshopsiberie.nl), which came highly recommend from our buddy Rick mother lovin’ Steves. (He has no idea we even exist, but I’ve really come to enjoy his guide books and advice over the last couple of years.)

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So why did I choose Siberie out of the handful Mr. Steves recommended? Well, it was simply his closest recommendation to Central Station. Rick nailed it though! Siberie, in my opinion, sets the standard for what a coffeeshop should be. The staff is awesome, they had great music playing and an even better selection of marijuana on hand, and the shop is well lit and comfortable.

After chilling for a bit, we hit the streets in search of Maoz, a vegetarian fast-food joint in Europe that specializes in falafel kebabs. As we wondered the streets with our useless tourist map, we remembered just how confusing Amsterdam can be. Like Venice, Italy, the city is all too easy to get lost in, which is not necessarily a bad thing. During our crusade to Maoz, stumbled across The Original California Burrito Company Oude Leliestraat 5, Mon-Thur & Sun 11:30am-9pm, Fri 11:30am-10pm, Sat 11:30am-11pm,californiaburrito.nl), a bold statement that cried out for some firsthand sampling. It turns out they don’t actually have a California Burrito on the menu (for those who don’t know, a California Burrito is a San Diego classic, consisting of carne asada, fries, cheese, cilantro; it’s delicious!) and the restaurant itself was more like Chipotle, but it was good, good enough that I’d eat there again the next time I’m in Amsterdam.

Following the burrito-shop rendezvous, we carried on and finally found the Maoz. There’s a few of them in the city, but this one in particular holds a special place for us since it was our first Maoz flaffel. Sadly, it kinda sucked. Not sure if it was the dude behind the counter who had been M.I.A for about five minutes before showing back up to work, or if the company changed something, but it was sublimely poor and a pretty big disappointment overall. Which was sad because we loved Maoz so much on our last trip we talked about it for days before our trip.

Luckily, we were able to wash the mediocrity of Maoz out of our mouths the next day at Singel 404 (Singel 404, +31 20 428 0154, Open daily 10.30am-6pm). We each ordered a broodje (sandwiches, made with your choice of bread). Mine had goat cheese with honey, pine nuts and thyme on farmers brown bread (€6.75), and Beth’s contained cheese with honey mustard sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, walnuts and garden cress (€6.75).

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On our last night in Amsterdam before the PITCH Festival started, we both had a hankering for Thai and decided to splurge on a meal at the acclaimed Bird Thai (72 – 74 Zeedijk, 1012 BA Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Red Light District). We caught wind of this place from a post on Four Jandals Travel Blog about eating in Amsterdam. When we arrived the line was out the door (it turned out there was just a large party in front of us, but tables can be hard to come by here), and I’m so glad we waited. The restaurant smacks you in the face with the delicious Thai flavors as soon as you enter. The menu is pretty extensive and they have a number of tasty vegetarian options; all the plates are served with a huge bowl of rice. Our bill came to about €35 and that included an appetizer, a vegetarian tofu plate, a curry and a bottle of sparkling water, and we both had leftovers. If you’re on a tight budget, then you could easily get away with just sharing one plate and the accompanying rice bowl plus an appetizer.

How about breakfast, any recommendations? Good question. I wish I had some but I don’t (if you do, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments). We ate breakfast (€7.90) each morning at the hotel, which is an all-you-can eat selection of fruits, yogurt, granola, breads, deli meats, cheeses, juices and teas. It now stands as one of our favorite hotel/hostel breakfasts we’ve encountered on our journeys.

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Know Before You Go: Fun Facts and Information

Amsterdam

  • If you see words that end with “-gracht” on your map, like Keizersgracht, then it refers either to a canal or to the lanes that boarder the canal. On the other hand, words ending with “-staat”  mean a street without a canal with the exception of a few, such as Elandsgracht, whose canals have been paved-over. (Thanks Rick Steves.)
  • Amsterdam is built on wooden poles placed deep into the sandy soil. In fact, it’s reported that the Royal Palace in Dam Square sits on nearly 14,000 of these wooden poles.
  • The city is home to one of the most unique animal shelters in the world, The Poezenboot (Cat Boat). Visitors can explore the houseboat (Singel 38G ) and meet its motley crew of cuteness for a voluntary donation.

The 411

  • You can get a sim card with 1gb of data for €20 from any Vodafone store’s in Amsterdam. We used the Vodafone at Rokin 32, which is just above Dam Square.
  • If you’ve got a few days in the city and don’t want to bike, then look into a multi-day transit pass or the iAmsterdam Card. The latter includes unlimited access to the metro, tram and bus (not the train, though) plus free entrance to museums (except the Ann Frank House), discounts and other perks, but it costs a bit more than just the transit passes.
  • Tipping is normal in Amsterdam but not compulsory. You don’t have to tip at bars, restaurants, cafes and for taxi rides, but if you do, then rounding up your bill is fine. However, for more expensive meals, tipping 5% to 10% for good service is common.

For more stories about Amsterdam, check out:

It Was Me Amsterdam, Not You (+3 Awesome Spots to Check Out)

Looking for Unique Lodging in Amsterdam? Check Out a Houseboat

Amsterdam After Dark (Photo Essay)

Modern Magdalene #1–Red Light District, Amsterdam–Somewhere in Time Photo

Behind Glass Doors–A Stroll Through the Red Light District

Amsterdam, I Can’t Find You–On the Road Journal Entries

Want to discover more unique festivals? Follow our friends and fellow travelers as they journey through Europe this summer with Must Love Festivals and through the #MustLoveFestivals on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


Disclosure: Our stay at Meininger Hotels was complimentary as they are a Must Love Festival Partner. As always, though, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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