Retrospective Nicaragua: Managua

I didn't have many expectations for my trip to Nicaragua--I've found it to be a lost cause to wish and dream for things beyond your control. There is so much to love about travel and it's the unexpected moments that bring the most joy. The good things are magical in their purest form, and the not so good things, well they at the very least make for some really good stories. :)

The largest city in Nicaragua, Managua is also the capital. Like many other cities in Central America and the Caribbean, Managua's central business/tourist area is scattered with high rise hotels, shopping centers and industrial/corporate parks and surrounded by middle class to low income housing developments. I was not overly impressed by the city itself (what I saw of it) and truthfully did not feel compelled to stray very far from the hotel. 

The Intercontinental Real Metrocentro was my home base for 2 days, and provided a welcoming relaxed environment to acclimate to a slower pace of life. It should be no surprise that outside the Empire State, and in some cases the US--time takes on a whole other persona,  stepping back into its own natural rhythm.

The hotel was centrally located in the heart of the business district, conveniently attached to one of the local shopping centers. The staff were most charming and accommodating, arranging a driver to tour the city of Granada and acting as my go-between translator. The hotel amenities included access to the gym (and the resident massage therapist), (2) restaurants on-site--one of which featured live music during the evening hours, comfortable modern-style accommodations complete with wi-fi (if you had a laptop or tablet with you, of which I did not), and a beautiful courtyard with a freshwater swimming pool where I spent most of my time.

Intercontinental Real Metrocentro - MGA
View from my hotel room

Note: for anyone considering visiting Nicaragua, you should have a working/basic knowledge of Spanish (or at the very least a dictionary--it would have made my trip somewhat easier) to make the most of your visit. I was truly lucky that in all my interactions there was at least one person who was bi-lingual.


For when you visit Roma....

One of my favorite cities in Italy is Rome...and it seems as if it's very popular this year. Here is a of recommendations and tips I used to plan my vacation. Hoping they can be useful to you as well.

  • Buy Roma Pass:  (25 -27 €) -  The Cards that offers you Transport and 2 Museums free of charge as well as Reductions for all other museums and major events.
    • Free admission to the first two sites and/or museums visited at your own choice
    • Reduced price for any other following sites
    • Reduced price for exhibitions and events that are part of the network
    • How to use it:
      • The overleaf form must be filled in with name, surname and validation date
      • It is validated when the first site/museum is visited
      • Direct access for the first 2 sites. From the 3rd site onwards please apply to the ticket office for discount
      • It must be produced along with your identity papers when required by the staff in charge
      • It will be valid for 3 days from the first entrance
    • Also includes free admission to ATAC urban buses and trans, Underground lines A and B, Metro trains: Roma - Lido, Roma - Viterbo (in the Roma - Sacrofano section), Roma - Pantano railways lines.
      • How to use it:
      • It comes only with Roma Pass
      • It is validated on the first trip by filling out the overleaf form with your name, surname and validation date
      • It must be produced on public transport along with Roma Pass and your identity papers when required by the staff in charge
      • It expires at midnight of the third day, from the first day of validation inclusive
    • The Kit includes:
      • Roma MAP: a map of the city illustrating the location of Local Tourist Offices, Underground stations, museums/sites of interest (address, phone number, buses and underground stations, timetables)
      • Roma Pass Guide: the complete list of museums/sites of interest that have joined the initiative
      • Roma News: the programme of events and tourist services that are eligible for discounts divided by area of interest: art, music, theatre, dance, entertainment and sightseeing tour 
Autumn Antiques Fair (Weekends Only) - A magnificent Renaissance street leading from Piazza Navona to the Tiber; it repeats the line of the Via Recta, which in the imperial epoch linked ancient Via Lata and the Ponte di Nerone bridge. 
Rome's Via dei Coronari is the venue for a fantastic antique fair that takes place every weekend in October. Situated in the heart of the Centro Storico in the oldest, narrowest streets in Rome, the fair is a Mecca for antique hunters from Italy and beyond. The atmosphere along the Via dei Coronari is superb - shops stay open late into the evening and you can wander and chat with experts or gaze in wonder at the profusion of extraordinary objects on show. From the Sun King's dressing table to furs, jewellery and ceramics, you're bound to find something that intrigues you. 

Coronari actually means "rosary-makers" and Romans have lived off the visitors to the Caput Mundi for several centuries. First the visitors were pilgrims, now they are tourists. So although you'll find some fantastic antiques here during the fair, beware of buying souvenirs. The shopkeepers here have had generations of practice in selling knick-knacks to people who certainly never thought they'd want them!

By District

Campo de Fiori
A rectangular piazza near Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy, on the border of rione Parione and rione Regola. Campo dei Fiori, translated literally from Italian, means "field of flowers." The name was first given during the Middle Ages when the area was a meadow.

"Go hang in Campo de Fiori! (Tuesday nights special) It’s a must, house wine out in the piazza...La carbonara...der pallaro...Hosteria Costanza...I could go on...ENJOY!!!"

  • Botanical Garden Largo Cristina di Svezia 24 (daily 9-1hr before sunset). 
  • Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Piazza Santa Cecilia (daily 9-12.30 & 3-6). There are 9th century mosaics behind altar and there is an underground archeological site below. If you get there before noon, ring at the convent to the left of the church portico and ask to see Cavallini’s Last Judgement. Also if you time it right, you may hear the nuns practice their singing, absolutely angelic in sound.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere (daily 8am-8pm). Maybe this one is not so hidden, but it certainly doesn’t get the attention it deserves, considering its amazing decoration. Look for the spectacular mosaics in the apse, including some by Cavallini c. 1300. 
  • Villa Farnesina, Via della Lungara (Mon-Sat 9am-1pm; e5). Originally built for Agostino Chigi, Europe’s richest man in 1500, the villa was purchased by the Farnese family and renamed. The interior is decorated with frescoes by Raphael, in the Loggia of Amore and Psyche, look out for the playful phallic imagery employing corn cobs (the first time they appear in art work after arriving in Europe from the New World). 
  • If it’s not too hot, head up to the Janiculum Hill—follow Via Garibaldi. There are great views from the Fontana Paola (aka Fontanone) and from Piazza Garibaldi. Beyond Porta San Pancrazio sprawls the Villa Pamphilj, Rome’s largest park and a nice place to sprawl out with a book.
Jewish Ghetto
Walk from Via Del Teatro di Marcello, or from Via Arenula. . Connecting the Ghetto with the island is Rome's oldest bridge that is still in use, Ponte Fabricio. It was built in 62 BC and is now only a footbridge.

Piazza Navona
In the piazza of the same name stands the Sant’Eustachio Basilica, a church more than one thousand years old. On the top of the basilica, instead of the traditional cross, there is a white stag with a cross between its horns.

The Basilica of S. Croce is situated at the foot of the hill called Esquilino, in an area full of history and of artistic and cultural aspects.

Castel Sant’Angelo
Raphael painted restroom...Directions to find it, located above the courtyard with the Angel Sculpture that used to be on top of the Castle - ask Castel staff to direct you.

i libri

The Lion Bookshop & Cafe
Via dei Greci, 33/36
The oldest English bookshop in Rome has a vast selection of books.


Dress Agency Donna
Used designer clothes, bags, shoes jewelry and accessories can be found in excellent condition at this shop. Located at Via del Vantaggio, 1/b, Rome

Via del Moro 37B  - Bus 23, 280, 780 - Tram H/8

La Focaccia  (Pizza e CafĂ©)
Via della Pace, 11, 00186 Roma, Rom (Lazio), Italy

Sant’Eustachio Il CaffĂ© Best Cappuccino Ever!
Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82
Via Cardinale Marmaggi 12 (Trastevere)

A Sicilian rosticceria serving
panelle, pane ca’ meusa and sfincione, all for under €5 each.

Largo Arenula, 30
This landmark espresso bar also serves prepared food cafeteria style at lunchtime. Cold pastas, salads, fish, and meat dishes are made with high quality ingredients. A full lunch will cost €8-10. Don’t miss the coffee!

Via Catanzaro, 30/36 (Piazza Bologna)

This cafe serves typical Sicilian snacks and desserts. The arancine (fried rice balls) are to die for. For €5 you can eat a pizzetta or arancina and a cannolo siciliano.

Via Flaminia, 42 (Piazza del Popolo)

Via Marcantonio Colonna, 38 (Prati)

“Arancina World” serves a huge array of arancine, ranging from the traditional ragu’ filled to the creative squid stuffed (ink and all). Grab a savory Sicilian bite followed by a typical sweet for under €5.

Ristorante Alla Rampa - Pasta Fagioli
Piazza Mignanelli 18 
My mom and dad discovered this place on a tour of Rome in the early '90s. Very close to the Spanish Steps.

30 Piazza delle Cinque Scole, Jewish Ghetto -  Accepts cash only

Pizzeria Ai Marmi
Viale Trastevere, 53-59
**NB addresses on viale trastevere can be confusing. Pizzeria Ai Marmi is just north of Piazza Mastai, near the cinema and the McDonald's. It is NOT at the corner of Viale Trastevere and San Francesco a Ripa (which is 52-56 Viale Trastevere)!


Via degli Uffici del Viccario, 40.
Yes, gelato in Rome is quite the experience at Giolitti's. Giolitti's has been there for almost the entire century (the last one, the 20th) and will be there for the rest of this one, too. It's north of the Pantheon and west of Piazza Colonna (the piazza that has Marcus Aurelius' column in it). Look for the green sign on the building. Try the riso or the champagne flavors. The bacio is nice, too. Giolitti. Don't eat gelato without him.

Via della Maddalena 20
Near Giolitti is a contender for the crown of "best gelato in Roma". Della Palma doesn't have those ubiquitous sign cards telling you the flavors; they simply put a sample of the flavor item on top of the tin. For example the orange is topped with orange slices, the frutti di bosco with blueberries, wild strawberries and raspberries. Just figuring out what some of the items are is fun.

San Crispino
Via della Panetteria, 42 
The New York Times declared San Crispino's the best gelato in Rome. You can decide for yourself. Their specialty is a honey vanilla flavor. Very sweet, quite heavenly. Near the Trevi Fountain.

Petrini Mauro - Gelato, 40 years in the making
Piazza dell'Alberone 16/A - Tel. + 39.6.786307

Via di San Simone, 70


Via Tiburtina
This gem is tucked away off a shopping street just south of the train station. The walk there is as urban as Rome gets, but it's most definitely worth the scavenger hunt to find. The cafe serves sweet and savory meals prepared with chocolate. The lab includes every iteration of baking and eating chocolate imaginable; splurge for the drinking cocoa to savor at the cafe, and then buy a bag of coco negro to take home. 

wine bars

La Vineria - Campo Dei Fiori

Del Frate Wine Bar - Near Vatican
118 Via Degli Scipioni, Rome, 00192

Via del Teatro Valle 48-49
Transportation Bus: 8   

wine tasting

International Wine Academy of Rome
Classes are taught by world-reknowned chefs and sommeliers bi-lingually. Great way to meet expatriates. 

live music

Via Casilina Vecchia 42 (Pigneto)
Getting there: Bus 81, 105, 412, 810/tram 5, 14, 19 .
Circolo degli Artisti is probably one of the best places in the city to catch original, quality live music. For example, you won’t see any cover bands haunting the rooms here where the emphasis is on an eclectic mix of original sounds—from hip hop to light pop—by up-and-coming bands. Cover charges for gigs run between 6 to 12€.  The bar stays open from 9:30 PM to 3:30 AM Tuesday through Thursday; 9 PM to 4:30 AM on weekends. 

"I especially like this place for its huge open area outside, replete with bars; it’s the prefect chill out spot."

Via del Plebiscito, 101b (near Piazza Venezia)
Bus #60,#70,#80,#40,#64 from termini, ………
The cosy and charming Scholars Lounge is host to live music almost every night from 10:30 PM. If it’s not a cover band doing the Chili Peppers, Springsteen, or Oasis, it’s traditional Irish music, Reggae or karaoke (come on, you know you love it!). For the cost of whatever you want to drink, you can kick back with a congenial mix of locals and travelers and enjoy the vibe.

Via Libetta, 13          
In trendy Ostiense, this is one of the best of Rome's fashionable clubs. Goa marries iron and steel with curvy, 1960s-style whites. The quality of its Italian and international DJs is generally above the competition. Ultrabeat on Thursdays, organised by top Italian DJ Claudio Coccoluto, brings the cream of Europe's electronic music DJs to Rome.

 I walked almost every where, and treated myself to a Scooter Tour (highly recommend it if you can splurge; tell Annie I sent you!) but if you need to know about public transport: 

The Metro is the fastest way to get around Rome's clogged streets. Trains run daily from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance from tabacchi (tobacco shops, most of which display a sign with a white T on a brown background). They are also sold at many newsstands and in vending machines at all stations. Considering the expense of getting around by taxi, the transit system is an excellent value. You can purchase single ride tickets for 1€ ($1.20), an unlimited day pass for 4€ ($4.85), a 3 day pass for 11€ ($13.30), or a weekly pass for 16€ ($19.40) (www.metroroma.it).

The same tickets are valid for Rome's network of buses and trams. You can obtain a complete transit map with all the routes at the office of ATAC (Azienda Tramvie e Autobus del Comune di Roma, 6 4695 2087, www.atac.roma.it), next to the Stazione Termini at 59 Via Volturno (800 431 784 for information).


Less is more, or is it?

New York in the summertime is far from easy and in many ways is both a blessing and a curse. These last few days since I've been back have been bittersweet, and suffocating in a whole other way--partly because of the heat but mostly because of the economic climate that is New York. I had forgotten how fast money goes in this city! I know that may sound absurd to some but when you're in the groove of your every day you don't necessarily notice the subtle changes, like the extra $.10 tacked onto your cup of coffee or the increase in milk prices (unless of course you have a family with kids)...and the biggest groan most people can relate to is the unexpected rent hike. 

City living is all about making compromises, and I find that one of the biggest ones is convenience over money... whether that's about living spaces (walk-up or doorman, outdoor space or extra closet space) or something else and ultimately as we enter the rat race, it's hard not to get settled into a rhythm that may or may not be good for you.

It's been quite sometime since I vacationed in a location where the cost of living is significantly lower than it is here in the Big Apple. And I nearly had a cow when I realized how much I've spent on food (aka lunch and dinner) since my return from Nicaragua.I can't stress enough that living in NYC is brutally expensive. Nothing new I realize, but after 10 days in Nicaragua watching people manage on next to nothing (sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance), I was reminded about the minimalist philosophy of less is more.
Less is more, and progress is another thing entirely. The concept of believing that the world can better itself in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, quality of life. The debate of its purpose is not something that comes up in common conversations, or even in heated debates after one too many Jack'n Gingers. And had I not been under duress before this trip, I'm not sure if I would have been as affected by progress and its present effect on modern society. Or absence in modern day Nicaragua.

In fact, I find myself caught in a careful reflection wondering not what progress has taught us but rather what it's stolen from us.What have we sacrificed for this thing called progress?

Karmic disposition? Rock steady.

I am so excited still high off a fantastic holiday in Nicaragua, I came home to find out an article I submitted to the Huffington Post had been selected for publishing. I'm happy to share it with you here, this anecdotal post is a follow-up to my participation in a company-wide Monster Help Day. The story is about hope and the treasures a piano brings to children at the Ronald McDonald House. Check it out on HP Impact.


Resolution Red....

because of its equal parts of boldness and warmth.

because these last few weeks of Brooklyn blood boiling over, have taught me how strong I can be with words written passionately and with conviction.

Brand New - 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe
for prosperity and joy, happiness
for hearts healed behind closed doors

because its the color of extroverts (which in this case resonates in more ways than one) 

for courage and fire,
an adventurous spirit

Red, not quite candy apple or fire engine, warmer than a pin-up S.W.A.K.

Sonoran like the mesas in a desert landscape.


Balancing act

I should be excited for my trip but instead I'm completely freaked out and filled with trepidation and dare I say it, fear. I began planning this yoga/surf/volunteer retreat in early March--and short of a day tacked onto a long weekend, have not had a real vacation since Christmas. After the brow beaten winter we had (I've never shoveled so much in my entire life!) and the nonstop flow of projects at work, this has been my beacon. I've held onto the challenge of surfing, the daily yoga and give back to the community like a talisman, to replenish my soul. The uncertainties of the last few weeks mainly sparked from the debacle with the car, has left me raw. And now I need this retreat more than ever.

The retreat is hosted by Holly Beck at an ecolodge on the Western Coast of Nicaragua. Nicaragua is a Central American nation located south of Honduras and just north of Costa Rica, and the mere mention of the country as a destination raises eyebrows from family, friends and strangers. It's not a country on my bucket list, nor is it one I ever thought to even consider visiting. I'm by no means an adventure-seeker of extremes, but there was something about Holly's program, Suave Dulce that appealed to me. (Check out the video that sold me here.)  I'd like to think it was the mix of soul searching and exercise--you spend mornings learning to surf, afternoons in yoga practice and volunteering within the local community--the practice of giving back to others, restoring balance to yourself, readjusting the karmic nature of things. I've been swimming in preparation, my own self-induced training circuit, with a yoga class or two in between; I'm ready as I'll ever be and am looking forward to where this journey will lead me.


Happy Birthday America!

Saturday drive to Greenwich was refreshing, the road clear and free of traffic. I made it to Claudia & George's with time for a beverage and reintroduction to the felines. By 6pm we were picnicking in Binney Park in Old Greenwich, to the right of the pond and far enough away from the bandstand to carry a conversation and have an unobstructed view of the town's firework display. As I've always spent Independence Day in and around the city, watching the fireworks on the East River, this enclave of celebration was a pleasant change, and relaxing way to enjoy the holiday. Of course, the celebrity sighting of famed photographer, Nigel Barker (even more handsome in person) and his family certainly lent to the mystique.