Pon di Oustop

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The Eastern View, Blue Mountains

Around dusk at my new home, I climb pon di oustop* to see Kingston turn on her lights as the dimming sun shoots pink, purple, and peach across the sky. Kingston begins to sparkle like a diamond that catches the sun’s rays and refracts them to all eyes watching, reminding me of colder nights spent crick-necked with crêpe in hand as I stared up at the Eiffel Tower glittering in the City of Lights.

It’s a funny thing, to be reminded of the past by a shimmer, a passing breeze, or a scent. But what is a human if not an amalgamation of senses, emotions, and reflections? Continue reading

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How to Order the Perfect Cone

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Me eating ice cream at Devon House, Jamaica

I walk into an ice cream shop with two thoughts: 1) What scoop pairs well with chocolate? 2) Do they have waffle cones? At some point in my 27 years, I’ve become a fastidious ice cream eater. I can’t pinpoint when this happened, but I can rationalize it. Better yet, by the time I’m finished, you may never order ice cream the same way again. Here, then, are the Cash Rules for Ordering and Eating Ice Cream (yes, they’re more like guidelines).

  1. I always order two flavors, and one of them is almost always chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate, skip to step two- this step is not for you.

    Chocolate goes well with almost all other ice cream flavors. Vanilla? Duh. Blood orange? A combination I salivate over like a Pavlovian dog when memories of cobblestone and cranberry colored citrus creep into my cranium. Cinnamon? Never question the power that cinnamon and chocolate combined wield.

    The fact remains, ice cream flavors are a reflection of what we eat for desserts, so you won’t find kale and quinoa ice cream stocked at your local creamery. Furthermore, chocolate is one of the most common dessert ingredients, and clearly the best. What else can take a frozen banana from “why?” to “why do I not eat this every night?” What other food comes from a magical plant that offers antioxidants, instant pleasure, and the release of dopamine into the bloodsteam, scientifically proving its toe-curling, eye-closing, beyond-articulated-speech powers?

  2. So I’ve ordered my scoop of chocolate. You may think two flavors is overkill, but if you’re already getting chocolate (and if you’re not, go back and reread step one), you need to get an exploratory flavor. Maybe you’re in Bali, and they have dragon fruit ice cream, and you don’t think you could get that elsewhere. Maybe you’re really in the mood for citrus. Maybe you have no idea of what you want. Since we already know it will taste good with chocolate, think about what flavors you’re in the mood for, what’s common and/or tasty locally, and what the shop specializes in. Triangulate your flavor mood with local offerings and store specialties, and you’ve found your second flavor!
  3. Order waffle cone, if available. It’s less shitty-sugar tasting and has a snappier bite-crunch than sugar cones. Who cares if it costs more? You’re already spending more than one would want on flavored frozen cow’s breast milk.

    Also, if you’re thinking of ordering a bowl, just don’t. Ice cream is a dessert for the mature, for the young, and all ages in between. You don’t need to use a spoon just to showcase your refined motor skills. Real ice cream eaters order a cone. Forget the bowl, embrace the cone! (If traveling in a vehicle, this becomes more acceptable, as ice cream in your lap is worse than ice cream in a bowl.)

  4. LICK, don’t bite! I’ll never understand why some people bite their ice cream instead of licking it. When I lick it, each flavor spreads across my tongue, sweeping from the sweet buds to the tangy; I slowly embrace the creamy, cold concoction cooling my tongue. If you bite, you get ice cream all over your face, feel stabbing waves of icy pain in your teeth, and most sadly, the ice cream is gone more quickly. So lick!
  5. Enjoy! You’ve come a long way, so savor the most flavor diverse dessert in the world!

As a treat, I leave you with the most unforgettable cones I’ve licked and lapped to completion. Sweet dreams truly are made of these:

  • Blood orange and dark chocolate gelato, Chiaso, Italy
  • Cinnamon OR dragon fruit, Ubud, Bali (but NOT together; order with chocolate! My mouth was a little too fiery after eating a cinnamon/dragon fruit combo…)
  • Any creamy goodness, with chocolate, from Annapolis Ice Cream Company, Annapolis, Maryland. I’ve had the opportunity to try their cones many a time so maybe it’s local pride, but honestly, this shit is goooood.
  • Rum raisin or Devon Stout, Devon House, Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaican alcohol + Ice cream = DUH. Order it.
  • Absolutely any flavors you come across in Sicily. I am not exaggerating when I say most days I spent there involved two trips to a gelato shop, sometimes three. There’s a reason for it. Go, eat, and conquer!

Summer Sauna Sweat

When you find a property at €10 a night with a pool, espresso machine, and sauna, you take it, for these are the unicorns of the travel world.

The Hammock at La Despani

The Hammock at La Despani

After staying at La Despani in Brașov, Romania for one night with a good friend from university, I decided to return and enjoy some good ol’ fashion R&R. BONUS: The owners said they would be running the smoke-run sauna on Sunday if I came back.

As I peeled off my backpacks at 6 pm when I arrived at La Despani for the second time, one of the owners told me the sauna would be ready around 8. So would I!

TSZZZZZZZZZZ

TSZZZZZZZZZZ

Going into the 100 °C sauna, (that’s 212 °F, folks) I immediately began to sweat. My pores opened up, drinking in the mint and sage steam that rose from the rocks; that sizzling “TSZZZZZZZZ” sound gushed forth as the owner splashed water on them. After about ten minutes, I started to feel like a turkey basting on Thanksgiving, so I exited the sauna and jumped in the pool. Dead skin cells practically jumped off my body and my legs felt like dolphin skin.

This seemed to me a good circuit: sweat it out in the sauna, then shock your body with a splash in the pool. Only one thing was missing. I needed hydration for my throat as well as my skin. My newly revised circuit became: sauna, pool, beer (Repeat).

Fuel

Fuel

Needless to say, I felt every sort of wonderful after completing this circuit a few times. Once I figured there were no more dead skin cells on my body, the owner invited us into his man cave/bar to try some homemade cognac. I obliged, and was joined by an Estonian (remember the lovely Estonian couple from last week?) and a French couple, in addition to the Romanian owner.

As often happens when you travel, and 100% of the time with people from various countries, we attempted to solve the world’s problems with spirited discussion. A couple of glasses of cognac in, we defended and decried French laicism. “Would that work in other countries?” Only more cognac would tell.

Anytime you’re wondering how to pass a relaxing evening followed by world changing revelations, just follow this recipe:
1. Sweat in a sauna.
2. Jump in a pool.
3. Drink some ____ (beer for me).
4. Discuss critical world issues with a posse of peeps from across the world.
5. Add homemade liquor for maximum effectiveness.
6. The world most definitely becomes a better place.

Bluegrass Dragon

When you grow up in a musical family*, you are so surrounded by music that you see little need to seek it out. I saw little need to seek out new sounds until not so long ago. And then began my bluegrass affair.

On a recent Wednesday, my roommate, his girlfriend, and I packed up a U-HAUL bigger than our kitchen and drove West. Actually, my roommate did most of the packing, but regardless, we all ended up at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in upstate New York. I confess. I had never been to a music festival before, and as an extremely amateur musician, I saw this as a failing. Remedy: Grey Fox!

With our mansion popped up, it was time to head down the hill and check out the music. I could write a detailed analysis of the many bands’ musical stylings, but you wouldn’t give two hoots. So listen for youself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BrFbvOnUVc

I also took a pretty sweet shot of someone hula hooping.
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Over the next few days, I heard many more gifted artists, and some damn fine tunes. But I also had a hard time letting myself slip into the relaxing bliss that is vacation. Part of me felt that I should be listening to as many new bands as possible.

We could clearly hear the bands on the main stage from our tents, so I ended up staying at our campsite reading for much of the time. And then I realized. That was OK! I didn’t have to get up, walk down the hill, and sit in a plastic chair to experience the festival. I could do it while reading about dragons, the Starks, and an Iron Throne. I just needed to sit back and enjoy the music.

In case you’re wondering, dragons and bluegrass do mix well together.

*Your extended family is basically an orchestra.