Friday, August 19, 2011

Where in the World is Maggie?

Did you hear? That I'm going on (another) epic vacation? Cuz I am, you know, just in case you hadn't heard.

People keep asking me where I am going. And since there are a lot of places I figured I would cut out the middle man (me) and just post an itinerary. This way you can follow my trip like the crazy stalkers you are.

Seriously though, I am super excited. This is a trip that has been more than a year in the making and the fact that it is actually here is kind of hard to wrap my head around. Maybe when I am sitting on the plane tomorrow night it will actually hit home....

Friday, August 19: depart from Dulles at 8:40pm

Saturday, August 20-Monday, August 22: Reykajavik, Iceland

Monday, August 22-Friday, August 26: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Friday, August 26: Board the Celebrity Constellation for cruise (I've listed our ports below, all other days are days at sea)

Sunday, August 28: Outside Berlin, Germany

Tuesday, August 30: Stockholm, Sweden

Wednesday, August 31: Helsinki, Finland

Thursday and Friday, September 1 and 2: St. Petersburg, Russia

Saturday, September 3: Tallin, Estonia

Monday, September 5: Copenhagen, Denmark

Wednesday, September 7: back to Amsterdam

Thursday, September 8: come home!

Monday, September 12: back to work (cue sad trombone)

So I'll see you all in September and try not to miss me too much!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Take the Canoli

We must have been crazy. It seemed like a good idea in theory: we're only 4 hours from New York City by bus, so going up for the day seemed easy peasy. But when you take the 6:30 am bus up and the 10:00 pm bus back, you are looking at a long day.

But let me back up. There's a little thing called Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Basically, it has tons of costumes, props, wands, and other delights used during all the Harry Potter films. The exhibition has been making a slow tour of North America since 2009, but has only been in 5 cities, none of which are particularly close to DC. I always figured the exhibition would come here, after all, DC is the home of the Smithsonian and lots of Potter nerds. I kept waiting for them to announce a DC date but alas, the latest news from the website indicated that the show was leaving North America and heading out for international stops in September.

What's a girl to do?! I had to see all that Potter paraphernalia! There was only one choice. Hop the bus to NYC and make a day of it.

I am a big fan of the Bolt bus--for about $20 each way you get a ride up to NYC from downtown DC and for the most part, it's a smooth easy ride. Notice I said "for the most part." But more on that later.

Fellow Potter pundit Chris was up for the adventure, so we got up at the crack of dawn and convinced Kent to drop us off at Union Station at 6 in the morning. Kent's price: a doily. Yeah, I know. Apparently they are good for sidetables. Anyway...

Things got off to a poor start. The bus was about 20 minutes late, but when it did arrive our driver was in a REALLY bad mood. But here's the thing. One man's horribly bitchy is another man's delightfully bitchy, and Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the bus driver yell at those who didn't have their shit together. When she calls boarding group A and you come up there with your boarding group C ticket...bitch, please. This driver was having none of that. And when two latecomers tried to board the bus without having their tickets already loaded on their phones...we thought their asses were going to get left. And frankly, I wouldn't have had a problem with that.

The ride up was mostly without incident and we arrived at 33rd and 7th (near Herald Square--and Macy's!) around 11:00. By this time we were starving, so we decided to just strike out for Time's Square (where the HP Exhibition was stationed) and just stop to eat at some random place along the way. We ended up wandering into a place called Ben's Kosher Deli which had some amazing looking traditional jewish food in addition to your typical sandwiches and such. They also had the biggest potato pancakes I have ever seen.

After lunch, we joined the tourist throng in Times Square to kill time (and on the way walked past Parsons School of Design of Project Runway fame) until it was 1:00 and time for the exhibition.

And you thought I was a shitty driver.

I'm not going to take the time to list everything in the exhibition (for a nice little tour check out the wiki page), but let me just say it was infinitely cool and made for a remarkable experience where you could get up close and personal with the props and really appreciate the detail that went into every aspect of the movies. Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed, but here are a couple of fun bits of trivia (pulled from my observance and the audio tour):

1) everyone in the movies is smaller than you imagine. Seriously. Emma Watson is like 5 feet tall. Also, the adults are all way skinnier than I imagined. They just seem so much larger than life on screen!

2) Despite being complete CGI creations, the filmmakers made incredibly detailed mock-ups of the house elves, Buckbeak, and the Hungarian Horntail. For Buckbeak, every feather on that thing was hand-dyed and hand-glued. Pretty impressive for something that would never even be on screen. And I also can't help but think it was a big waste of money.

3) Voldemort's robes were green, not black.

4) You would not believe the detail and easter eggs contained in every textbook, newspaper, or really anything printed that appeared on screen. There were even some things that I never even saw in the movie--like study guides for the O.W.L.S, but even those were amazingly detailed. Basically anything paper = amazing.

After exiting to the gift shop (duh) and breaking my baked goods embargo for a slice of cake from the Cake Boss bakery annex at the exhibition place, we hit the subway and headed for the Natural History Museum. Turns out Chris and I are both big planetarium buffs and our college friend Alyssa just so happens to work at the museum. Although she was out of town and we didn't get to hang with her (bummer) she had set tickets aside for us at will call and we got free admission to the museum and all the special exhibits. Dinosaur bones and planetarium, woot!

Raaaawr! T-Rex doesn't give a shit, T-Rex is HUNGRY! But T-Rex hates push-ups.

After getting our fill of the secrets of the universe, we met up with another William and Mary grad, Sarah. The museum is located on the upper west side which is rife with amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes. Next time I go to NYC for the weekend, I am definitely going to try to stay in that area--if just for the food alone. We grabbed some drinks at a great divey bar called Prohibition and then walked down a newish Italian place called Celeste. We managed to avoid the dinner rush (and over an hour wait) and indulged in some homemade pasta, pizza, and yummy bread. Make a note for the care and feeding of your Maggie: carbs are always a good thing.

But then! We had to get dessert, right? So we walked around the corner (dodging the raindrops that had started to plop down) and went to Cafe Lalo which is famous for its amazing desserts. It's also famous for being in the movie You've Got Mail. Remember that scene where Meg Ryan's character is waiting in the little cafe for the guy that she met on the internet (and doesn't know is Tom Hanks) and she's got a copy of Pride and Prejudice with a rose in it? Yeah, that's the place. And it's just as romantic (and delicious) as it looks in the movie.

And they have like 25 types of cake. ROCK.

By this point we had managed to stretch out the evening and it was nearly 9:00. As our bus departed as 10, we cabbed back to 33rd and 7th Avenue and said hail and farewell to Sarah.

Since the ride up to NYC was pleasant, we never imagined that the ride back would be anything but the same. Oh, boy were we wrong. First, the seats were some of the most uncomfortable I have ever sat in. I'm not sure what made these so different from the seats on the way up, but it was literally impossible to find a comfortable position. Second, the driver kept the temperature at around 65 degrees (not exaggerating--I could see the digital thermostat). Even after I went up there and begged him to warm it up--no dice. Finally, the woman in front of us spent a lot of time chatting on her phone.

WHO TALKS ON THEIR PHONE AT MIDNIGHT? I had earplugs in and I could hear her. I finally stood up, leaned over, and asked her (politely) to keep her voice down. That kind of shut her up. Bitch.

I can't remember ever wanting to lie down in my own bed as much. But finally, after 4.5 hours of hell, we made it back to Union Station. A quick cab ride and ride in my car later, I was finally home.

A super fun day, but maybe just a bit too long. Next time I will be taking an earlier bus home. I think Harry would understand.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Chocolate Party

Two things I like most in the world: chocolate and parties. So what happens when you combine the two? AWESOMENESS.

My friend from law school, Kristine, is a hard as nails criminal law attorney down in the Newport News area by day. But by night she sells Dove Chocolate products at parties. So basically you get a bunch of your friends together, you sit around, and she gives you samples of chocolate: chocolate truffles, covered nuts, martinis (yes, chocolate martinis), mousse, fondue, etc. etc.

I can't really think of a better idea for a party. It's funny though, by the end I experienced something I never thought could happen. I was chocolated out. But when you are eating such rich stuff, a little can go a long way.

I know, I know, you want me to stop babbling and get to the good stuff. Pictures!

Those chocolate martinis might have been my favorite thing. YUM.

Here is the party and fondue aftermath. It was kind of like a pack of wild dogs got to it...but that's what happens when you put a bunch of chocolate fondue in front of some ladies on a Sunday morning. CHOCOLATE RIOT.