Monthly Archives: July 2012

Honeymoon: Boston Top 5

1. The Lenox Hotel

Jasmine: Without a doubt, this was our top attraction in Boston. Rated the #2 hotel in Boston, this lovely boutique hotel nestled on prime property in the heart of the city, the Lenox distinguished itself for its fabulous service.

Housekeeping offered us chocolate pralines during turndown service, and the hotel offered the widest array of complimentary items I’ve ever seen in any hotel, from the ubiquitous, like toothbrushes and hairbrushes, to the more unexpected, like Lay’s potato chips and Reese’s chocolates. But what put the icing on the cake was this: when Andrew went to ask front desk for one of each snack they had, they brought up a HAMPERFUL of full-sized goodies and one cute little Lenox beaver mascot:

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Jasmine: And all of this, without even an extra charge! We were so pleasantly surprised that we just had to leave a tip the following morning for the front desk.

Andrew: It was really an amazing hamper of goodies. Of course Dearie was happy that they had a full size bag of chips, as opposed to the usual fun sizes you get when you sit on planes or with Subway. What was even cooler was that they gave us a whole jar of Lay’s French Onion dip to enjoy with our nachos and chips! I was a happy man:

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Andrew’s “Campbell’s can” T-shirt blends right in with all the goodies

Jasmine: Of course, the cosy Christmas atmosphere and traditional furnishings made it seem like a (luxe) home away from home. Speaking of service excellence, we were helping each other take photos when a bellboy came over and offered to be our “photog”, saying that he was “pretty good at it”.

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Jasmine: I will always associate Boston with the Lenox and have already recommended it to two different people who are headed to Boston. Overall the excellent service made this the best hotel ever (and this is in comparison to our stays at six-star hotels like Raffles and Fullerton Bay)!

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Our room in The Lennox 

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Public Washroom at the lobby 

Andrew: To add on to what Dearie has already listed as The Lennox’s plus points, they had one of the best gyms out of all the hotels we stayed in US. They also had a board that listed possible running routes around the city, for marathon trainers. Boston is quite big on marathons! They also have a decent restaurant on the first floor, where we had dinner when we first arrived in Boston AND it is an environmentally friendly hotel:

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2. Freedom Trail

Jasmine: Considering how Boston was the birthplace of the American Revolution, the geeks in us just had to sign up for a ninety-minute long walking tour despite the freezing cold. For that, we opted for the Freedom Trail, which was sort of an "outdoor history museum", led by a tour guide costumed as the first female writer, Mercy Otis Warren, from the 1700s and who remained in character throughout.

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One of the tour guide’s jokes about this emblem: time flies

Jasmine: And that was quite a feat, staying chirpy and entertaining, on all 16 stops of historical significance, from churches to Paul Revere’s house (outside only) to the site of the Boston massacre to cemeteries. Quite an engaging way of experiencing history!

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With our tour guide

Andrew:  Even though I’m not quite a history buff, I actually did enjoy the tour quite a bit. Like Dearie mentioned, what made the tour so fun was that the guide stayed ‘in character’ throughout. When we were at the graveyard, instead of giving lengthy descriptions of prominent people who died, she spoke of them in a very casual manner, as siblings/friends or whatever relation she bore to them. It was an engaging tour indeed, if not for the unbearably cold weather.

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3. North End

Jasmine: The North End is also known as "Little Italy" by locals so we tried a couple of Italian food places here. We also met up with my former Edinburgh flatmate, Julia, who is a Boston native, for our mini food hunt!

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Jasmine: We tried pizzas at the famed Ernesto’s, where a "slice" was more like a quarter of a very large pizza that might feed a party of football-watching dudes, and priced only at $4. We also had one of my favourite Italian desserts, cannoli, a flaky tubular pastry with a creamy, mildly sweet pistachio or vanilla filling, at Mike’s, which offered huge ones in all kinds of flavours! Julia shared that this was most probably the Italian-American adaptation of the Italian dessert, though, as Mike’s monster cannoli was thrice the size of the delicate cannolis I’d had and loved back in Italy.

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Our amazingly huge cannolis

Andrew: It was not just the cannolis which were huge – every single thing there was huge. I had so much fun taking photos of all the over-sized desserts:

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4. Seafood chowder

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Andrew: Still along the theme of oversized food, another highlight of Boston was the seafood chowder we had at Atlantic Fish restaurant. As it is a classic New England staple, we had to try it. This came highly recommended by the waitress and we had no regrets. It was so rich and chock-full of seafood goodness, with clams, prawns, fish and other summer vegetables like celery and carrots. Along with the chowder was a small bag of oyster crackers that were nice and crisp, good on their own or with the chowder.

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5. Candlelight Carols at Trinity Church

Andrew: Dearie and I still made it a point to attend service weekly when we were on honeymoon and I was put ‘in charge of’ identifying interesting churches we could go to, both in terms of architecture and also different format of service from what we were used to back in Singapore. Trinity Church, which just happened to be a few streets down from our hotel, was our choice for Boston:

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Dearie and her ‘artistic’ photography

Jasmine: The Romanesque church looks imposing during the day, but looks positively stunning lit up by night. Trinity Church is renowned for its  three choirs, and the Candlelight Carols are a famed Boston tradition, so it was a real treat to attend their choral service, pipe organ and all.

Andrew: Although we can’t remember the sermon now, we both remember being quite impressed by how down to earth it was. It wasn’t too heavily spiritual, but was more practical in terms of perspectives one could take on life.

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Jasmine: And just after the service ended, the pastor announced that some women in the church had returned from Tibet (or Nepal, or somewhere), and were selling linens and pashminas to raise funds for the needy, and invited the congregation to support them. So I turned to Andrew, and said, “Who am I to hinder the work of God?” and happily dragged him down to the undercroft of the cathedral.

IMG_0439 The cathedral made use of the natural stone in the undercroft as display shelves for books!

Jasmine: We were also very amused by this shirt sold in the church’s gift shop, which wasn’t afraid to poke a little fun at its denomination. Thanks Dear, for sourcing all the amazing churches and choral services! Plus points if the churches have gift shops!

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Jasmine: And to round off our post, here are a couple of pretty pictures from our walks around this walking city:

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Next stop – Chicago!

Honeymoon: Washington Top 5

Andrew: Dearie and I keep talking about blogging about our honeymoon – in fact, at various moments during the honeymoon itself, we were actually discussing the form which our honeymoon blog posts should take. Should we do a Day by Day account, or group it by category (e.g. food, museums etc.)? [Yes we engage in such geeky discussions.] After coming back from the honeymoon, we just got so swept up in the craziness of transitioning that we never got down to writing.

It was only during our NZ trip that we finally decided that we -HAVE- to document our honeymoon or all our wonderful memories will be forgotten. We also decided to present our trip in terms of the Top 5 highlights at each location, with an exception for NY where we have the Top 10 – since we spent 11 days there over Christmas and Boxing Day too. So, here’s presenting the first of our Honeymoon series – our Top 5 attractions in Washington!

Washington Top 5

When we were doing our Washington D.C. Top 5, what was interesting was that only one of the Top 5 is actually a tourist attraction! The rest of them are highlights we stumbled upon while exploring D.C – one of them was even recommended by a salesgirl who became Jasmine’s best friend in D.C.

1. Georgetown Cupcakes:

Andrew: It was in D.C. that we started our Cupcake craze. It all began with Sprinkles on the first day. We arrived in D.C on a gloomy, wet and windy afternoon – unexpectedly so. We had not foreseen such weather and it was rather unbearable. After stepping out of the hotel, our first instinct was to find a cafe to seek refuge in and the first place I saw immediately was Sprinkles cupcakes – just opposite our hotel! This is where we had our first foray into US cupcakes and it was unforgettable.

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Red Velvet & Spicy Eggnog Cupcake from Sprinkles

Andrew: Of course after googling Cupcakes that same night, we realised that Sprinkles was not the best and actually, the more famous Cupcake place in DC was Georgetown Cupcakes (yes, we had never watched that reality TV show D.C. Cupcakes before!) and it was just a few streets down from our hotel. We headed down immediately the next day and we were greeted with an extremely long queue! Singaporeans are not the only ones who queue up for good food. We ordered:

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White chocolate peppermint and Christmas lava fudge cupcake

Andrew: They were all so moist and decadently sweet! Singapores’ cupcakes really cannot compare in terms of texture, taste and of course, size.

Jasmine: Singapore may be home to much good food, but we have yet to find such velvety, rich cupcakes here. And of course, it being December, there was all kinds of Christmassy flavours available, such as white choc peppermint and gingerbread. We loved topping our sweet treats off with a steaming hot chai latte (for me)!

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Bright, sunny day in Georgetown Cupcakes

2. Betsy Johnson

Andrew: Jasmine was extremely excited to see Betsy Johnson – so excited that we actually visited this store everyday we were there. You can say that this is her equivalent of Sprinkles cupcakes for me, except of course, the fact that the items here cost 100x as much. Anyway, I won’t say much about the clothes and leave it to the expert instead.

Jasmine: I’ve heard of Betsey for years but it’s just too bad that it’s not stocked in Singapore. Of course, you can imagine how excited I was to see rows of flirty cocktail dresses… I caved in and ended up getting this one, which I also wore for our honeymoon shoot in NYC:

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Jasmine: That dress aside, my favourite Betsey buy would have to be the stockings- they came in non-traditional colours and had the most unique designs ever. I must have bought at least three pairs during the course of the trip and still get compliments on them, most recently when we were in Auckland, NZ. This is one of the three:

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Andrew: What I’ll say is that I was incredibly amazed by the warmth and level of passion of the salesgirl, Jenny, which I found genuinely refreshing. She was not just a salesgirl – she was almost like the brand ambassador for Betsy Johnson. She gushed about the dresses, the stockings, the jewellery and kept talking about how amazing Betsy Johnson was. She was very friendly too – invited us to a cocktail part and also gave us 2 food recommendations, both of which we took up and one of which is on our list of top 5.

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Jasmine and her best friend in DC

Jasmine: Jenny even invited us to a party that very evening, hosted by one of her friends in her vintage and consignment store. Washington itself may seem like a rather huge and anonymous city, but we liked that community spirit in Georgetown, where everyone knew everyone else and supported each other’s businesses.

3. Filomena

Andrew: We came to Filomena on Jenny’s recommendation for our lunch before departing for Boston and it was truly a one of a kind experience. Jenny mentioned to us that the owner had just gone over the top with the Christmas decorations, but we were really not prepared for just how opulent and extravagant the Christmas decorations were.

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Andrew: I dare say this restaurant alone had as much decorations (scaled down, of course) as one of our own shopping malls during Christmas season. Since Jasmine is the decor expert, I will leave her to talk more about that.

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Jasmine: We went during lunchtime, and Filamena’s was already all lit up. Unfortch, our camera battery died on us before we could take any pictures of the exterior, but within the restaurant itself, any empty ledge or floor space was dripping with brightly-lit Christmas trees, colored glass baubles, gyrating Santas, glittering mistletoe and all manner of old-fashioned Christmas paraphernalia. It was Christmas decor overkill in the best of ways!IMG_0356

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Jasmine: The food also did not disappoint. The meatballs were fab- oversized, juicy and unusually tender. The salad bar was exceptionally generous and would have been enough to fill me, with cold pasta salads, fruits, vegetable dishes, breads and a wide array of ‘rich’ dressings and dips.

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Andrew: The arancini (Italian rice stuffed with cheese and bolognaise meat) that we had for starter was hearty and tasty. The main course I had was pretty good too, in an American way. The American way of doing all cuisine is simply to upsize it by almost 2 times and make it rich and creamy. That was exactly how my pasta was, but not overdone of course. I loved it to bits! We were so stuffed at the end of the meal that I think we skipped dinner that night.

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4. Newseum

Andrew: So I guess we should actually talk about at least one tourist attraction that we went to. Yes, we did see all the monuments and memorials  and we did go to some museums in the Smithsonian as well. They were good, but none were as memorable as our time in Newseum.

Through extensive research, Dearie had narrowed down the list of museums for us to go too and the 2 which were highly recommended, even by friends, were the Spy Museum and Newseum. We really liked Newseum because of the exhibits, but also the cool design and architecture of the place, which provided us with lots of opportunity for creative shots.

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IMG_0212Jasmine: The monuments in Washington were pretty haunting, but the Newseum stood out for us. I particularly enjoyed the Pulitzer Prize gallery, with its poignant display of photographs capturing not just pivotal moments in history, but also raw human emotion.  To think we would almost have missed it if we hadn’t read up on the reviews, as it was tucked away in an obscure spot just next to the cloakroom.

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At the Putlizer Prize Photo Gallery

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Andrew: We spent a lot of time at the Pulitzer Prize Photographs gallery with 100 of the most significant photographs in history, just appreciating the stories captured vividly in the action. There was also an informative display on 9/11 (including actual artefacts from the wreckage) and a whole wall with the front pages of newspapers around the world on the day after 9/11. It was visually very powerful and signalled what a turning point that event was in global history.

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Plane wreckage from 9/11 and Wall of Front-pages after 9/11

Another display that fascinated me was the gallery of front pages from newspapers all around the world for that day:

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Gallery of front pages

As a GP teacher, this was definitely fascinating and I was contemplating the possibilities of an excursion to DC for GP students! Now that’s a crazy idea indeed.

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5. Nutcracker @ Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts

Andrew: One of the amazing things about this honeymoon is that we tried to do the things we enjoyed to do in Singapore, so this was us pursuing our love for arts events. It truly felt as if we were on a ‘date’ – yes, I know that the whole honeymoon can be seen as one ‘extended’ date, but this was a truly special day. As the ballet was a matinee show, Dearie and I took a late breakfast, shopped a bit then we took a leisurely stroll along the river from Georgetown all the way to the Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts. We saw many joggers along the way – jogging at 1 pm! They must have a really good work life harmony culture there. [Jasmine: I can’t remember.. Was it Saturday? :P] Of course, the weather was also really conducive and we took lots of photographs.

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Jasmine: The Nutcracker is on my bucket list, so I’m so glad we caught it. Thanks hon for being willing to go along with this! There were actually two Nutcrackers in town, but we went with the American Ballet Theater, and it was a feast for the eyes. It was a heartwarming, imaginative rendition that had universal appeal to both adults and children. At the same time, I say ‘feast" because the staging and costumes were sumptuous-  floaty tutu confections, charming stage props for the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Even the visual theme related to food, as the ballet opened in the Staulbahms’ kitchen, with a life-sized mouse poking amidst the Christmas goodies and meats for a bit of cheese. Only one word could sum it up: delicious.

Andrew: As it was the Nutcracker, there were lots of parents there who brought their kids to enjoy this ballet. [Jasmine: And the number of well-dressed kids that day… Paparazzi heaven!]

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It was so heartwarming to see whole families coming to enjoy the arts together, which isn’t really a common sight in Singapore. The ballet was great fun indeed and we both enjoyed it, but what was memorable for me was the time spent with my Dearie, doing the things that we love.

IMG_0298On a date with Dearie in DC