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Dining Out in Springtime in NJ

Clementine's

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One of the best things to do in Springtime in New Jersey is eat al fresco. There are SO many good places to eat, the dilemma is this: do you go back to your favorite places, or do you try someplace new? Here's one place I've been to more than once and will continue to visit; Clementine's on Main Street in Avon-by-the-Sea. And, yes; Avon is as charming and welcoming as its name implies. There are several local B & Bs where you can stay.

Clementine's opened about a year ago (2008). It's New Orleans' style Creole cuisine and quirky decor delights. Don't forget to check out the incredible Murano chandelier! In Spring, the patio out front opens and you can dine al frescoclementines.jpg from spring through fall. As soon as you are seated, you are served fresh olive tapenade which I've never had anywhere except my kitchen and the very southernmost end of France. It's delicious and, if you're not careful, an appetite spoiler.

The menu is perfect and anything I've had--especially anything served ramoulade--is delicious. Recently, on a weekday night, there were two main course specials. One was soft-shelled crabs that was so delicious I couldn't wait to eat my leftovers that I carried home because my portion was too big to finish. Well, that was partially because the appetizer was S0 incredible, I finished every bite.
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The second special was prime rib tips with shrimp, cooked with avocado and it was sublime!
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Posted by teethetrav 15:56 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Greetings from Asbury Park New Jersey

Glassblowing on Mother's Day 2009

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Greetings from Asbury Park New Jersey. The new and improved Asbury Park has a wealth of things to do. Locals know that Springtime in New Jersey is an amazing time.We try to keep that a secret since New Jersey is crowded enough. On Mother's Day I visited Hot Sands, a fairly new hands-on art experience right on the beach in Asbury. A few steps from Convention Hall, the old Howard Johnson's--now a a trendy restaurant owned by Tim McCloone--, and Madam Marie's (yes, that Madam Marie), Hot Sands is a great way to spend an afternoon. Check it out at www.HotSandAP.com.

At Hot Sands you can participate in glass blowing. If you have the time and interest, you can take classes here, as well. Since today was my virgin experience, I chose to blow a small bubble with one color. Bubbles come in three sizes. You can add more color, swirls or other designs, but I decided to start small and keep it simple. This was, by the way, my sweet baby girl's Mother's Day gift to me (she is 22, but she's still my beautiful baby). She chose pink and I chose light blue and they both came out stunning! There are a myriad of colors to choose from and I know we will be back. This is addictive.
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I'm captivated and intrigued by glass. This is a substance that is first liquid and then becomes solid through a combination of heat, alchemy, the expertise of the glass blower, and a bit of magic. Magic. Each piece of blown glass is unique. I have long been obsessed with Dale Chihuly. He is the Zen master of glass in this country and his work has been commissioned all over the world. I'm on a mission to see as much of it as I can and to turn as many of my friends on to him as I can. I've been to several of his shows in New York, including the one at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. I've seen his work in New Orleans, the Bahamas and in Atlantic City. One day I'll make it to Seattle where he has his studio.

But for today, I'm content. I experienced my own glass-blowing and I did it right here at the New Jersey shore. Shhh. Don't tell anyone else!

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Posted by teethetrav 14:57 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Springtime in New Jersey

The Secret's Revealed

New Jersey is a bad joke to many. The American talk show hosts love to mock the state. And it’s true that if the only part of the state you’ve seen is the New Jersey Turnpike on your way from Liberty Airport in Newark, it does look bleak. When you tell people you’re from Jersey, they ask you one of two questions to determine what part of the state you’re from: What mall do you live near or What exit?

Well, I’m going to reveal a secret I know I shouldn’t. Since NJ is the most densely populated of the fifty states, it’s not much of a secret to those of us who live here, but here goes. New Jersey is an amazing place to live. Whether you live north, central or south you are a mere hour away from something else entirely. If you live in the center of the state you either live on the coast, or you’re a short ride away from fabulous beaches. True, we do pay fees which is an entirely ridiculous concept. But you have your choice of quiet, fishing beaches and bays, surfing beaches, family beaches with boardwalks and rides and games, or...well, you get the idea. The choice is yours.

Depending on where in the state you live, you are also a short ride away from the mountains. Or from New York City. Or Philadelphia. Or Atlantic City. And, of course, if shopping is your thing, there are all those malls.

Usually, we get three great seasons of outdoor weather. Four if you’re a winter person which I am not. Then, if it’s a good year for snow (an oxymoron), we even have skiing.
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Springtime is one of my favorite times. You can smell the earth and it’s damp and green and in late April and early May, the world explodes with flowers and the chartreuse new green of the trees bursting back after a long, dead winter. Everything looks like an impressionist painting. Restaurants put their tables outside and you can sit, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the lovely spring unfold. My favorite outdoor sport!
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Posted by teethetrav 11:47 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Antoni Gaudi: Architecture in Barcelona Part 2

What to do in Barcelona Besides Eat

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Gaudi’s most incredible achievement is his design for La Sagrada Familia, the church where he spent the last years of his life. It is still incomplete and the city hopes to have it finished within the next twenty-five years. No one hurries in Europe, but the money has dripped in slowly and is now coming solely from the fees to enter the church and from the tours.

Although there is an amazing amount to see on your own, I recommend taking the tour. The guide will explain why the façade of the building facing north looks like an entirely different building than the one facing south. Inside, the nave looks like a marble forest. Indeed, Gaudi was trying to make everything seem natural, holistic, and like it came from nature. Some, but not all, of the windows are complete. Gaudi’s love of light is so extreme that I had a difficult time taking photos because there was so much light inside.

A visit to the roof yields amazing views. A visit to the basement will allow you into the museum where you see a demonstration of how Gaudi invented a new concept in structural architecture. Instead of using the traditional flying buttress for support (like Notre Dame in Paris), he experimented with chains and weights to see how much arch would support how much weight before the entire thing would collapse. Once he had his dimensions, he flipped the whole concept upside down and made it in concrete, marble and magic. I’m sure there is a better explanation from physical science and engineering, but you get the idea.

The entire cathedral is magical. The complexity of the façade depicting the Nativity is worthy of hours of staring. The Passion façade on the opposite side of the building is, by contrast, stark and certainly doesn’t glamorize the suffering of Christ. There are just so many details to absorb. I’m still pondering the numerology puzzle that adds up to 33 any way you try it.

More than paintings, sculpture, and traditional art, I think architecture is not simply aesthetic, but a lifestyle. Gaudi defined Barcelona, its people, and its lifestyle. I don’t see how you can visit the city and not spend some time learning about him and appreciating all he left behind.
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Posted by teethetrav 11:18 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Antoni Gaudi: Architecture in Barcelona Part 1

Tim Burton Meets Hansel and Gretel Meets Walt Disney

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The Spanish have quite a sense of whimsy and humor. Think Salvador Dali and his melting watches,and the car outside his museum where it rains inside the car. You have not seen Barcelona unless you have visited Antoni Gaudi’s Guell Park, several of his buildings, and ultimately the fascinating (and still incomplete) La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral he designed.

Briefly, the Guell Park was sponsored by Gaudi’s frequent patron Eusebi Guell. Imagine Tim Burton meeting Hansel and Gretel and you get a glimmer of what this park is like. Originally, the design was to be a planned community. Sitting at the top of a hill overlooking Barcelona and the Mediterranean, the view is spectacular. Bring a lunch or buy one at the cafe and sit on the curvilinear bench which surrounds the park. It’s made of Gaudi’s signature tiny, colorful mosaics. There are sea themes throughout the park; another one of his trademarks. Still another is his willingness to forgo corners. He uses no straight lines.

My favorite building to visit is Casa Batllo, although many disagree. His Casa Mila is more well-known and some say a better design. I don’t think so. The best view of Casa Batllo is from across the street. The facade is completely made of wrought iron and mosaics that glitter and change throughout the day as the pieces catch the different lights and shadows. That view is free. But pay the small fee and take the tour to go inside. The rooftop alone is worth the price of admission. Walt Disney must have visited here and been inspired. There is a dragon’s back made of sparking tile and ceramics. There is a ceramic cross that shines and glints in the sun. Chimneys are made of more ceramics and tiny colored pieces form abstracts that seem to dance in the light.

Inside, sea themes predominate, as do archways, parabolas, and curves, curves, curves. It’s an easy walk from here to Casa Mila. They are both worth seeing.
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Posted by teethetrav 12:28 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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