Ciao Firenze! It’s time for Calcio Storico (Football)!

So you’re off to Europe and hoping to get in on the local sports, eh? I know the action of UEFA 2012 (Euro Cup) is kicking off summer nicely (no pun intended), but there’s another sporting event that shouldn’t be … Continue reading

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?!

I’ve been doing up New Year’s Eve in The City for so long , I should be over it by now. But I’m not. I’ve been to parties, clubs, restaurants, did a midnight 5K run ONCE, (never again) and on occasion, did absolutely nothing. But the doing nothing part only happened a couple of times. The lack of available taxis has not proven to deter me when on a mission to participate in the biggest party night of the year. And I have to admit, though I’ve had some major highlights this year (finding my honey), overall, I can’t wait to say, Bon Voyage to this stinking year. I’ll let you in on what and where we’ll be going but first, I’ll let you in on some ghosts of parties past, what I think is still tried and true, and hopefully give you some ideas on where to ring in the New Year if you are still pondering on what the heck to do.

First up, the man who was responsible for a lot of late nights and an empty wallet by the end of the night, Harry Denton. Forget the trendy DJ’s, Harry Denton has been San Francisco’s biggest partier through numerous presidencies. Harry Denton’s Starlite Room at the Sir Francis Drake hotel in San Francisco has been going strong for some time now. Offering a combination of a spectacular view along with great, live entertainment, great drinks, and a touch of opulence that you could only expect from Harry Denton. If you’re into getting dressed to kill and having a special night out on the town, this is just one of many destinations to consider.

How about a night of European Caberet? Teatro ZinZanni has been a waterfront hot spot for many New Year’s Eve celebrations. It’s a combination of cabaret, Cirque du Soleil, and good drinks and food. This is the year to go because there is a bit of controversy over the production having to uproot the show to make room for the upcoming America’s Cup. (Don’t get me started.) Though always a crowd pleaser, there will be a break in production for a while until they relocate so I definitely want to start the drumbeat to support them for their last New Year’s Eve at the historic waterfront location. Just a side note: This group also hosts circus summer camps for kids which might be fun to check out. I have friends whose kids would be naturals and could probably teach other kids how to be clowns. Just saying. Check out a video of this fabulous group here.

Of course, I’m going to tout the Cat Club’s 80’s mix dance party. On any given Thursday night, you can find Generation X’ers and wannabe Gen X’ers alike partying to Culture Club all over again. It’s AWESOME! Complete with the original dance videos, it is known as THE place to go if you want the hear the same stuff you used to listen to on your Walkman. (Don’t laugh yourself to death.) I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than to be dancing to Rick Astley which is yes, who I request to hear when I go to the Cat Club. No comments please. If nothing else, you can pull up their website to see the cool, retro Blondie magazine cover they used to promote the event.

You can always count on the free fireworks show at the Embarcadero which is always a hit. It’s beautiful to watch but at this time of year, it can be hit and miss due to the fog. It’s a great party, but dress like you’re going to the snow and wear comfortable shoes. It’s a great family atmosphere and you might get on tv!

The Grand Hyatt, also located on the Embarcadero, is another option to ring in the New Year in style. It’s not the most inexpensive ticket in town but their Grand Ballroom is a fantastic place to be at midnight. The music is usually top 40, everyone is dressed to to kill, and the balloon drop in the Grand Ballroom is memorable. The room is huge and the ceiling is high so the noise at midnight is crazy but in a good, fun kind of crazy. Awesome party. Check it out if you want to sport your best digs.

I can’t do a New Year’s Eve post and not mention my home town throwing a party that makes me want to drive home and participate. El Jardin Tequila Bar and Restaurant in San Jose, is hosting the Mayan Apocalypse New Year’s Eve party. Free admission, Apocalypse drink specials, and live salsa music. Now we’re talking. Located in the beautiful Santana Row shopping center, this restaurant and bar has received great reviews and you can’t beat the location.

We’re going to dinner. With all of the restaurants in town, how can we not. Afterwards? Who knows. As you can see, the possibilities are endless. I’ll give you some dinner ideas here. All I can say is that after years of learning lessons the hard way about New Year’s Eve in SF, wear comfortable shoes (ya, right. Comfortable shoes aren’t pretty), dress warm, (again, how are you supposed to show your stuff?) and don’t hold your breath for a taxi at 12:15 a.m. Start walking. Seriously, you’ll get home or back to your hotel faster. Start walking. And above all, be safe and happy that we are sending this year packing! Bring on the Apocalypse!

A British Christmas in San Francisco-Don’t Miss it!

The last of couple of years, my friend and I have made it a tradition to attend the Charles Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. Every year, the Cow Palace, which has been home to everything from gun shows to rodeos (yes, even in San Francisco) gets a transformation which needs to be seen in order to believe it. If you’ve never experienced it, definitely go and try to drag those who wouldn’t be caught dead going to something like this. You know who I mean. The boyfriends and friends who reduce anything with a ribbon on it down to a craft fair. I’m not very crafty so I admittedly avoid any run-ins with doilies myself, but this is so much more than that. This is truly a trip back in time, in Victorian London where you leave feeling like you escaped for the day. In short, here is why I love this fair:

The Participants-Everyone who participates in the fair has to remain in character the entire time. That way it stays authentic and you don’t feel like you’re at a decorated carnival. It’s an experience.

The Food-They offer up everything from English bangers, Greek food, hot toddies, roasted chestnuts, and a variety of other goodies. Going back to the bah-hum-buggers in your life, maybe entice them with one of their various pubs found around the “village.” They have varieties of ales as well as hot buttered rum and champagne, among other beers and wines to choose from. Did I mention the bar maids? I could care less but every year they seem to find authentic bar maids who represent what I think were the original Hooters girls. (I usually just get my hot chocolate and leave. Fighting men to get to a bar at the Dickens Fair for hot chocolate becomes silly at some point.)

Entertainment-The entertainment is fantastic. They have full entertainment schedules throughout the day including my favorites, the Irish cloggers, as well as others such as the singing drunken sailors.

Gifts-My favorite part of going to the fair is because of the fabulous gifts I find every year without fail. I have been able to find quality gifts such as handmade silk and faux fur scarves, beautifully made hats, Christmas ornaments, wooden gift boxes, and other goodies that have made for special gifts for loved ones.

Whatever you fancy, take some time out from the dreaded holiday shopping to enjoy yourself!

To see my post from last year, click here.

Black Friday- I don’t get it!

Come on people. Let me hear it. Let me hear from you if you seriously got a deal worth all of the trampling, fighting, hair pulling, swearing, and camping in line when you should have been having turkey. Somebody has to justify this madness to me. I like a discount like anybody but do you seriously come away with a 48″ Sony tv for forty dollars? If so, did you have to kill somebody to get it? Please, inquiring minds want to know.

Earlier tonight, in the middle of a second piece of pie, the news came on and showed two guys who had camped out in front of Best Buy for HOURS waiting to get in on a great deal on electric toothbrushes. That’s right, TOOTHBRUSHES!  I remember the days when my cousins and I would get up early the next morning and run off to the mall just to get a start on Christmas shopping but this is a whole different animal all together. Now, you have people barreling through the front doors of anything from Walmart to Macys, but I’m not really sure of why. My friends went to Walmart last year at midnight, knowing that the Black Friday sale didn’t start until 6:00a.m. but the store was still open for business. They saw people in the camping section…..well………camping. In Walmart. Waiting for the sale to start.

I was getting out of bed when my friends came home with a nice amount of wares from their shopping excursion. When asked if it was worth it, they responded that they were happy with what they got but they saved about twenty dollars per item on average. Hey, twenty dollars is twenty dollars but that is not enough for me to go into Jackie Chan mode in order to survive a shopping spree. So please. Enlighten me. What have you been able to show for your Black Friday shopping experience? Anything worth boxing over?!

Travel Essay-Una Festa? ( A Festival?)

A few summers ago I had the pleasure of spending an entire summer in the hills of Sicily with my friend’s family. They showed me where they grew up, introduced me to their friends and families, and I had the most outstanding homemade Sicilian cuisine one could ever ask for. I was included in many gatherings and outings that I otherwise never would have encountered had I not been in the company and comfort of locals.

One such outing started out as just a regular day. During my extensive stay in Sicily, I became very obedient and often just nodded yes when told that we were getting in the car to pick someone up or go off to run an errand. What did I care? I was in Sicily and wanted to see everything including how regular everyday life occurs. On one particular day, the gent who was kind enough to drive us around during our stay, offered to take his friend with us to pick up his daughter from her job at the hospital. We didn’t mind and in fact my hosts and I were happy to oblige.

Off we went, five people in a car equivalent to a Yugo in 95 degree weather, and drove 45 minutes through the winding hills of northeastern Sicily. (Note to self: don’t go back in July. It’s too damn hot for such togetherness.) We picked up this man’s daughter whose acquaintance I was so pleased to make and as it turned out, she could give a rat’s tukus whether I existed or not. I chalked it up to anti-American sentiment which I could care less about so we sat in the car during the drive back for about half an hour, arm to sweaty arm, totally indifferent. She wasn’t that young, probably in her mid-twenties but had the social graces of one of Sicily’s many ancient stones found around the hillsides. My friends in the car with me made a gesture implying that she had “issues” and I just laughed to myself at how such cattiness and people with “issues” are so universal. Crazy people and bitchiness run rampant throughout the world and I found it almost comforting. It took the staleness and the need to act proper out of the equation.

So there I was, sitting silent next to this chick who had nothing to say other than to herself (she was muttering to herself) when out of the blue, Silent Maria screams, “Basta! Una Festa! Una Festa!” (Stop! A festival! A festival!) Where the hell did that come from? This chick didn’t even say, “CIAO” to us when we introduced ourselves and all of a sudden, apparently she heard a band playing and wanted to see the Festa. (Festa’s are street fairs that run throughout many parts of Europe during the summer months, especially in very Catholic communities to honor patron saints.) Our driver hit the brakes and suddenly my new BFF grabbed my hand and said in Italiano, “let’s get to the front!” Seeing that this was the first real sign of life from this girl, we all appeased her by grabbing our belongings and running with her to catch the front of the parade coming down the main street of whatever walled village we stopped in. I believe it was Belevedere. I grabbed my camera, my friends grabbed their cameras and camcorders and we headed toward the front, ready to capture the bands and confetti in full color. Our mini-mob got to where we wanted, just in time for five cameras to snap away in unison at a coffin coming right toward us. Holy shit. How do you say faux pas in Italian? Should have known better than to listen to this wayward idiot who had been muttering to herself during a 45 minute hot car ride. Not only did we confuse a funeral with a festa, but because we all looked like American and Australian tourist trash dressed in flip flops, baseball hats, shorts, and armed with cameras, we ended up taking the poor deceased soul’s thunder away from him/her. Everybody was looking at us instead of the coffin. Talk about feeling like a stupid ass tourist.

Is it bad that our tasteless mob found this to be hysterical? Mind you, we all were raised Catholic and should have been absolutely mortified by not only our misstep but how we instinctively laughed out loud upon realizing that we were not at a festa. We laughed so hard we started crying. Welcome to tacky hell. However, we couldn’t stop laughing at how collectively stupid we all were. All we could do was pile back into the Yugo-like car and drive like Cruella Deville into the hills of Sicily just to get as far from the scene as possible.

But guess what happened? Crazy, Silent Maria loosened up and started chatting away. In fact, we all laughed so hard for so long that we all loosened up and let the initial uneasiness fall away. I still thought the girl was nuts but at least she became a nutbag having a good time. My lesson learned on this particular day was not to write somebody off after an initial bad first impression. You can still have a hell of a good time with somebody even if you think you have absolutely nothing in common with them. More importantly, if you’re ever in Sicily, don’t be fooled by a bass drum and a trombone. Check out the scene first to determine if you are about to wear black to a Festa or throw confetti unto a coffin.