Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vieques Vacation - for lovers of the wild Caribbean, families and peace seekers

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comVieques is a wonderful, off-the-grid vacation spot for laid-back, outdoorsy families. Long held by the United State as a military base used for practicing tactical procedures, the island, 8 miles east of Puerto Rico remained off the tourism grid for most travelers for decades. As a result, the canopy is as lush now as it might have been when pirates still trolled the Caribbean in search of plunder.

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comAnd the charm of Vieques is in the wildness of it. The verdure of the overgrowth and the ruddiness of the roads together offer the immediate sense of truly having left civilization. The unmarked and uninhabited beaches, the wild horses left behind by Spanish conquistadors some 500 years ago, the roosters and dogs and mongoose that populate every shady bend and beach let you know you had totally “dropped out”. It’s no wonder so many hippie ex-patriots and LGBT couples have found their way here. It’s a zen heaven for peace seekers and nature lovers. And now that the Navy is gone and the world has smartened up about paving  the planet, I suspect it will stay the same. It’s clear, commercialization has no business here.
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero

In fact, be prepared to pack everything you will need when venturing to the beach, as they are all completely spare of the tee-shirt and jewelry wallahs you’ll find on pretty much every other Saint Somewhere. You can’t even buy water and there are no toilets, nor are their formal parking areas save for the one at Sun Bay. You simply park your 4wd Jeep roadside and follow a path to one of
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.com100 breathtaking coves, assuring you that the inconvenience of letting go your need to be herded and directed is totally worth a glimpse of those very spots buccaneers and privateers likely used as stopovers on their way to terrorize the colonies and the islands. Secluded, calm, rife with sea life for easy snorkeling and covered in wild overgrowth to create your own cabana, these beaches are the most beautiful and peaceful I’ve ever visited. Orchid and Blue, were runners up for #2 on the many we visited but Secret Beach, a recommendation from our property manager, Joe, was hands down the most perfect spot. We went there a few times. You should too. Guide to Vieques Beaches

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comAnd speaking of property managers and property, in general, Joe and pretty much everyone else we met assured us of two things – if you leave your Jeep unlocked on the deserted roads by the beaches, you won’t lose your windows. And if you deadbolt your rental, you won’t lose your belongings. Opportunist crime is the only you really need to worry about. The dirt from the unpaved roads can be a drag, but the hard hit on your credit card if your rental is vandalized is much worse. 

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comBut don't let the opportunist crime warning give you a bad taste. We found the Viequenses to be quite friendly and very helpful. Residing within the residential neighborhoods of Esperanza made for an inclusive feel. We walked daily from our rental La Vista Caribena to the local bakery and bodega for bread, beer and pastries. My parents rented a similar spot within walking distance, neighboring a local tour operator and a former chief of police. On several occasions we were assisted by the locals, one lead us, in his car, to the destination we couldn't find and another served us fried fish and johnny cakes on the beach as part of the Loaves and Fishes tradition from the Bible on Easter Sunday. We ate, shopped, drank and swam with the locals and found them all to be very, very nice folks.
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In terms of getting around, though the beaches are a spread out, and the drive is slow because of the road conditions and the abundant wildlife you've got to watch for, our rental location was super convenient to the Malecon, Esperanza's boulevard bustling with local eateries, water sports, shops and nightlife, well, as bustling as this little village gets, which was just fine with us.You could go car-less and swim in the cove at the Malecon and have everything you needed within walking distance. We opted to rent because we wanted to see everything and the good beaches, well, they are worth the rental price to get you there.
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero
We cooked at home most nights while prepping beach lunches (grilling and swilling to the sound of the
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comjungle is not so rough). As travelers with kids, we typically get our groceries on the island but bring proteins along with us (I order from Omaha Steaks and hit McKinnon's in Danvers, MA). As long as the bags are sealed tight, not opened along the way and you keep ice packs inside, the freezer bag makes it solidly frozen to most island destinations. Foreign meat cuts can be a challenge, as we spoiled Americans are accustomed to having everything trimmed down to the easiest, leanest possible form. The more
remote the island, the more expensive and less convenient are the grocery items. Our grill was charcoal on this trip, which definitely slowed the process of preparing a meal - I'd rent this house again if they upgraded to gas.

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comThere's a big supermarket and the best fruit comes from the Fruit and Tire Store, no joke. The owner will lead you into what seems like a scene from a mob movie, a reefer truck driven straight up the the back of the bay full of beautiful produce. He isn't trying to ice you. He's just showing you the freshest wares.

The few times we did venture out (I am a foodie and I need to have SOMETHING to talk about in the way of local cuisine), we were very pleased. Here are our favorite spots for nosh:

Belly Buttons, in Esperanza
Owner Craig Button proudly displays his well-fed jolly girth and proclaims it the venue' namesake.The barbecue at Belly Buttons is THE BEST I'VE EVER HAD. Sticky ribs fell off the bone and smoky, sugary glazed chicken had us licking the bones clean. We washed it all down with coconutty Pain Killers (one of my favorite
island drinks).If you love bbq you will go back twice. We did. Breakfast here is the bomb, as well. Giant fried egg sandwiches are served on
slightly sweet local bread. For the kids, they have ice cream cones. It's also a great spot for people watching. We witnessed the filming of an episode from the HGTV House Hunters International, the second time they've covered the island. We recognized the stars of the first in the audience that night. I'd run into them at the market as well. It's a very small island.

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comBuen Provecho, in Isabella Segunde
This is GOURMET HEAVEN for foodies on an out-island. The island's gourmet provisioner offers fruit, bread, sauces, house made charcuterie and house cured sandwich meats. They also carry wine and have an espresso and cocktail bar within the shop so you can sip whiles you wait. Sandwiches here are the tastiest, most eclectic beach lunch on the island. I LOVED my lunch.

La Viequense Deli, in Isabella Segunde
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comThis bakery is the source for that sweet fresh local bread you'll find all over the island as toast, crostini and for sandwiches. The faint sugary quality is not so pronounced as in Portuguese sweet bread or Nissu, or Anadama. It's far more subtle, which makes it suitable for both sweet and savory meals. Sandwiches here are also terrific for para llevar lunching. Note that they only take cash, they do have an ATM and there are two separate lines - one for ordering food and the other just for bread, which presumably services the island's entire restaurant industry.

Chicken King, on the road to Isabella
Always packed day and night, Chicken King is like homemade Kentucky Fried with all the Caribbean bbq accompaniments. I don't know what the seasoning is, but it takes Finger Lickin Good to a whole new level. We grabbed a bucket to share over a game of dominoes at the house and although we all hit it hard, there was still enough in the fridge at bedtime to lure one or two of us from our rest to grab another piece. They also have really tasty ice cream.

vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero
Esperanza Riding Company
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero
THIS DRESS (on the left)
The world's most beautiful equestrians offer the island's most comprehensive instructional tour on horseback. Our group felt very well informed and well taken care of as this trio led us on a 3 hour tour of beach and jungle. And what a way to spend Easter morning! We hit a black sand beach, mucked through gullies and climbed above the canopy. The male guide looked and sounded just like Matthew Mcconaughey. And his name was Matt McCoy. T-shirts available for sale befit the cowgirl beauties with slogans like, "Well behaved women seldom make history". I wouldn't ride anywhere else. Just don't.

Stand Up Paddleboard/Snorkeling
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comOur SUP trip was a bit of a fiasco, through no fault of the family snorkle and SUP rental company who's name I CANNOT REMEMBER because of the PTSD I'm experiencing from that day that set us up in Esperanza. Walking down from our villa to avoid having to resolve for an unlocked car and an expensive-to-replace electronic jeep key, we brought our cash and the rental key in a sandwich bag, which my husband promptly dropped, in the ocean. The paddling was fun, if choppy up till I needed to obtain
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comsnorkeling gear to scour, with the help of 20 young Viequenses, the cove in front of the Malecon. Alas, the search for Los Llaves Perdidos was futile, much to the chagrin of one toothy smiling youth who requested "one hundred money" as reward for the return of our keys and the $40 that sank with them. Fortunately, the island is small and everyone knows everyone so the rental shop keepers knew how to get in touch with our property managers (our phones were also locked in the villa), who met us within 20 minutes of calling the search quits. Bad day, nice people. An opportunity to experience human kindness. I'll call it a win.

Funky Beehive
I want to go back to Funky Beehive just to buy stuff. Super hip, island comfy gorgeous clothing in this sweet little shop operated by a former east coast school teacher. The dress I bought here was around $50 and it gets more oohs and ahs than most other ropas in my closet. And, the owner is an absolute doll.

Lucky 1 Pallet
vieques puerto rico review jennifer amero 90secondsandvelvet.blogspot.comRe-purposed pallets become funky furniture. The owner is from California and her work made me take about 2000 pictures. Not convenient for shipping but if I lived here my whole space would be tricked out with her work. I'd DEFINITELY stop by.

Jet Blue is our totes fave for Caribbean travel. Several direct flights run from Boston to San Juan daily. From there it's a choice. Either stay in San Juan overnight, grab and early taxi to the Lanchas ferry dock in Fajardo and prepare to wait in lines designed for cattle until the very rough crossing on the island's only ferry can be made for a couple bucks (maybe $5 each way). Here's a link with information and complaints. Read it and then fly.Fajardo to Vieques Ferry

OR grab a charter or small commercial flight out of San Juan for considerably more but spare the cost of taxi and hotel and precious wasted vacation days you'll spend in transit on either end.. Several small airlines operate between the islands and chartering often means you pay the same price but pick your times.

 Airlines that fly from Puerto Rico to Vieques
 I HIGHLY recommend spending the money to fly. We took the ferry over after a couple days visiting the historical sites on the main land and knew before we docked that we were flying back. Life is short. Vacation is shorter. YOLO.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Emerald Rae at Beauport Sleeper McCann - this Friday at 6:30pm

Just a lil' plug for my amazingly talented cousin Emerald Rae who rarely graces Cape Ann with her beautiful music these days (she's kind of a big deal). But THIS FRIDAY she plays on the water, at the breathtakingly beautiful ocean side historic property Beauport Sleeper McCann House and you really should go...

Fabulous Fridays: Concerts by the Sea (Emerald Rae)

Friday, July 11, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
emerald rae if only i could fly coverBeauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, 75 Eastern Point Boulevard, Gloucester, Mass.

$20 Historic New England members, $30 nonmembers

beauport sleeper mccann houseA summer Friday evening concert is the perfect ending to a long week. Enjoy our first-ever concert series, with Gloucester-based artists, focusing on early twentieth-century American music with Celtic and Scottish origins as well as favorites from American singer-songwriters such as Cole Porter. The Beauport gardens overlooking Gloucester Harbor provide a tranquil and beautiful setting for this series of early-evening performances. Chairs and refreshments are provided. Come between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. to enjoy an abbreviated house tour.

Price: $30.00
Registration is required. Please call 978-283-0800 for more information. Purchase tickets now

Growing up with mom and dad in a country-rock band, Emerald had a taste for the stage from a small age. Hailing from America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester, Emerald found herself venturing to Boston as a young fiddler, entranced by the hard-driving rhythms of Cape Breton and Scottish traditions. Each summer she followed the traditional path back to Cape Breton Island that so many other Bostonians had traveled before her. At 18, she took home the grand prize at the US Scottish Fiddle Championships! As her studies in Scottish music deepened, she moved to Glasgow to study musicology, but it was her time at the Berklee College of Music that connected to her new worlds of fiddling. Collaborating with fellow fiddlers Flynn Cohen, Liz Simmons and Mariel Vandersteel in the popular folk group Annalivia, Emerald toured also with the Cathie Ryan Band. Over time, Emerald made a name for herself as a solo fiddler totally adept not only in Cape Breton and Scottish traditions, but in Irish and old-time as well. All of these influences are heard on her new album, If Only I Could Fly. Her music here.

Shear Madness - An Hilarious Whodunit That Changes Every Night

"Isabella Churney was nuts. She was taking Viagra. She heard it would make an old pianist perform better".

So who murdered the crazy old concert pianist? Truth be told, in Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan's production "Shear Madness" at the Charles Playhouse on Stuart Street in Boston, it could, quite frankly be anyone on the stage.  

That's because Shear Madness is an interactive whodunit where the audience's participation and interrogation, perceptiveness and majority vote determines the killer, so it literally changes with the show. 

And the options are abundant. Barbara (Boston Magazine's Best of Boston, Actress 2013's Celeste Oliva) the ambitious potential lesbian love interest might be the heir to Isabella's fortune. She does spend alot of time alone with Isabella, "Lesbionic? Do you think they were gay robots?" and with limited education, evidence by her assertion that she'd like to one day visit the countries of "France, Italy and Europe", Mrs. Churney might be her ticket out of the basement salon.

And speaking of the salon, Tony (Jordan Ahnquist) rents the space from Mrs. Churney whose incessant banging of piano keys makes him hysterically irate. His over-the-top emotions punctuate his, ahem, fancy flair, as does his cache of colorful one-liners. "That towel is hot, like Channing Tatum hot!" Given his explosive nature,  and his disappearance at the time of the event, which he attributes to a fear of fire,  "I thought the building was on fire and I was worried about my cats, Bill and Hillary. I told Hillary to run but she said not till 2016. Bill kept chasing his tail", and with the discovery of stylist scissors in the trash at the crime scene, he looks as guilty as Barbara.

But there's also a good case that it might be Eddie (Joe Ruscio), the seedy antiques dealer who appears to be simultaneously scamming the old eccentric out of her piano and courting Churney's alleged lover, Barbara. So the audience wonders, are Barbara and Eddie in it together?

Then there's salon client, old Mrs Shubert (Mary Klug) who is peculiar and suspicious and knows the artist personally. Shubert makes a secretive phone call after the crime is committed, but she claims to have called her butler and  lover, Frederick who entertains her while, "Mr. Shubert is in France. He's staying In the Paris Hilton. It's crowded but quite comfortable". What's more, Mrs. Shubert keeps trying to get out of the beauty parlor during interrogations and off to the airport "I've got to make it to the airport and I don't want to be late for my pat down". She's an easy culprit, and an absolute riot - I am very much looking forward to seeing Ms. Klug in the upcoming Whitey Bulger movie with  Johnny Depp where she plays Mrs. Bulger.

And even the (oh-so Boston) police, Mikey and Nick (Joseph Marrella and Christopher Tarjan) can't quite explain WHY they are at Ms Churney's home that day BEFORE she is murdered, though they do entertain local and visiting audiences with endless allusions to the bean town scene "Jesus, Mary and Bill Belichick". I particularly like the Boston-isms - they speak to the locals while making tourists feel like they are in on something. Well played.

The cast performances were positively side-splitting and the injection of friendly off-color banter on and off stage set a tone for no-holds-barred hilarity that audiences will enjoy again and again. I won't tell you who did it this time, but it wouldn't matter, because next time it'll be totally different.


Shear Madness" is one of the most popular entertainments in the world, delighting audiences night after night with its unique blend of madcap improvisation and spine-tickling mystery.

This unique comedy-whodunit takes place today in the "Shear Madness" hairstyling salon and is chock full of up-to-the-minute spontaneous humor. During the course of the action, a murder is committed and the audience gets to spot the clues, question the suspects, and solve the funniest mystery in the annals of crime.The outcome is never the same, which is why many audience members return again and again to the scene of the mayhem.

Voted "Best Comedy of the Year" seven times by the Boston Globe and recipient of the title "Best Play of the Year" by both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Philadelphia Enquirer, "Shear Madness" has also received the Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America and has been inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame, the first play ever to receive that accolade. "Shear Madness" is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest running play in the history of the USA.

The flagship Boston company has given birth to 42 productions in the US and "Shear Madness" has been translated into 10 foreign languages, playing worldwide in a host of cities including Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Paris, Rejkavik, Rome, Tel Aviv, Melbourne, Johannesburg and Seoul.

Over 10.6 million people worldwide have joined in the fun, and while no one
has actually died laughing, some are still rolling in the aisles.

Tuesday-Friday 8PM
Saturday 6 and 9PM
Sunday 3 and 7PM