Friday, December 26, 2014

Minus 5 Ice Bar New York: Is it worth it?


minus 5 ice bar NYC
Yup - I wore my ugly sweater hat for our entire NYC day
Minus 5 ice bar is another theme bar with everything made of ice - Ice glasses, Ice sculpture, Ice chairs, and the actual Ice bar itself. After completing the Ugly Sweater Run in the morning with Brian and Larissa from The Traveling Mortician, and grabbing am amazing lunch, we decided to continue on with the winter/Christmas theme of the day and experience this Ice bar first hand. We were no strangers to the ice bar experience, having stayed at Hotel De Glace in Quebec earlier in the year and witnessing their amazing ice art first hand. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 - Year in Review


2014 was an interesting year, and my first year blogging! It got off to a good start with crossing off some major bucket list experiences in the winter and training for the NYC half through the Polar Vortex.

The "We" refers to the hubby, who was by my side for a majority of these events!

January saw us freezing for a reason with Larissa at the Wildwood Polar Bear Plunge for the Special Olympics. 

Polar Bear plunge NJ Selfie
Probably the most epic selfie I have ever taken

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Ugly Sweater Run 5k Recap


The Ugly Sweater Run 5k was the perfect way to end Brian and I’s 2014 race season, which had some highs (finishing our first half marathon!!) and some lows ( busting my ass in the run the vineyards 5k and the subsequent worst time I have ever posted )

I had been looking forward to this event ever since I bought the race entries on Groupon back in October. We had bought our ugly sweaters about a month beforehand, and even the 36 degree windy New York morning was not going to stop us from enjoying this race. Larissa from The Traveling Mortician was nice enough to join us as a spectator and take some awesome photos!

We arrived at 10:20 for the 11pm start time and I have the say this race was one of the most organized theme runs I have ever participated in. Packet pick up was seamless and in less than 5 minutes time we had our bibs, swag bag, and our 21 and over bracelet for our free beer. 

the ugly sweater run swag bag and hat
Swag bag - one of the few times it is acceptable to wear race swag on the run!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Iceland - Top 5 adventures


Iceland - the tiny European country may be on the chilly side, but it's jam packed with amazing scenery and adventure around every corner. Just a short 5 hour flight away from the East Coast USA, this should definitely be on your must go list! Here is my personal list of the top 5 things to do in Iceland: Adventure Edition. Do one, or do them all!  Most can be done in just a long weekends time!

5. See the Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights) by boat


Photo courtesy of secretescapes.com

Monday, November 24, 2014

NYC Dessert Crawl


New York is known for some epic pub crawls, but have you heard of an NYC dessert crawl ? Neither had I, so when Brian and I found ourselves in the West Village on a cold Saturday afternoon with a few hours to kill, I decided to invent our own. The West Village is much quieter section of New York than Times Square, and the streets are lined with tiny cafes, bakeries, and restaurants.  

A quick google search revealed some famous desserts as well as a few lesser known  small cafes whose main focus was dessert. In no time, I had mapped out some select locations and the dessert crawl NYC was officially born!

NYC Dessert Crawl Map
NYC Dessert Crawl route - locations explained below

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

5 Unique, Odd, Insane half marathons for your bucket list


Recently, after being inspired by some fellow running bloggers, the genius idea came to me to marry my love of travel and running into one hobby - running the states! Since I am only half crazy, the goal is to run a half marathon in each of the 50 states over the next few years.

Many people have already embarked on this adventure, so I am aware that this is not a new concept. However, since I am not under the delusion that I will PR at every race, I am going to make it a point to find some of the lesser known, most unique, and maybe even some insane races to run to keep things interesting along the way. Here are a few that are going on my race bucket list!



Most Unique aid stations

unique half marathon
Photo from mudandchocolate.com
Mud and Chocolate half marathon - Redmond Watershed, Washington

Forget the GU packs and Powerade gels! At this trail half marathon, you have the option of refueling with chocolate! Reward yourself after crossing the finish line with the Chocomania party. Even the medals are chocolate...This race is every running chocoholics dream!



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cape May Wine Trail


We were already going to be in Cape May overnight for the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge, so it seemed like a great idea to also hit up the Cape May wine trial while we were there!

We arrived at Cape May Winery a little after 5pm on a Saturday after making 9 stops for the challenge and climbing 789 stairs. We sure earned that wine! They were starting to close up for the night so they weren't doing wine tastings anymore, but they did let us purchase a glass of wine to enjoy out back on their patio. I, of course, couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a glass of their ironically named Lighthouse Blush, which was delicious. The winery had a nice little set up with a fire pit, and people brought in their own cheese assortments to enjoy with their wine. Be sure to try and arrive earlier than we did to get the full experience!

Cape May Wine Trail - Cape May Winery
The wine tasting list

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Run the Vineyards 5k: Hawk Haven Winery race recap


I love 5ks and I love wine. So, when I found the Run the Vineyards 5k which combined both these things, of course I had to sign up!  Plus, it was in Cape May the same weekend we were doing the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge, so it was obviously fate!

run the vineyards 5k wine glass
Run the Vineyards 5k race swag - love this tumbler glass!
At $40 per entry, the race fee was a little steep for a 5k. But, this included a custom run the vineyards wine glass and a free glass of wine or wine tasting which would normally run you $10, so with that considered I think the race was a good value.


Monday, October 27, 2014

North Jersey Wine Trail + Working Dog Winery


A while back I wrote about the NJ wine passport program, where you go to some 39+ different wineries in NJ, getting your passport stamped at each one, and once you have gotten them all stamped you can send it in for a chance to win a wine tasting abroad. Since I couldn't pass up a perfectly good challenge, I decided to take this on along with Brian and Larissa from the Traveling Mortician and planned some trips to the various wine trails.

NOTE: This post is a little overdue as we visited these wineries a month ago, but I was waiting on clarification about the passport program before posting this update. As it turns out, the winery that gave us our passport gave us an old one from last year. But, the wine association will accept any completed passport book for entry to win the trip, so we made the decision to continue along with the old wine passports as we are now 11 wineries in! 

 Since we had done Laurita winery and Cream Ridge winery as part of the pour and pedal back in June, we intended to finish the rest of the Jersey shore trail and hit up the Colts Neck, Morganville, and Working Dog Wineries.

As our luck would have it, the website for Morganville winery said they were closed for a private event, so off to Working Dog winery we went for our first stop of the day. Arriving a little after 11am, we were the first one's there and had the opportunity to chat with the owner about their various wines.


New Jersey Wine Trail - working dog winery
Working Dog Winery

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge 2014




The New Jersey Lighthouse challenge is a 2 day event with 14 stops consisting of 11 lighthouses , 2 life savings stations , and 1 museum. I had come across this when I was looking up NJ fall events, and thought it was a really unique way to see the Jersey Shore while also getting a workout climbing all those lighthouse stairs!

New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge 2014
The Lighthouse Challenge Map

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Jersey Zombie Walk 2014



In my efforts to showcase all the unique and wonderful experiences NJ has to offer, I recently came across the  NJ Zombie Walk. This is not only a FREE event which takes place every October in Asbury Park, it is THE zombie walk of all zombie walks, holding the Guinness World Record for most Zombies ever recorded in one location in 2013. And best of all, this year the walk is for charity! 

NJ Zombie walk 2014
Aeriel photo of this years walk courtesy of NJzombiewalk.com

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oktoberfest - Best festival in Europe


When we planned our 2011 Eurotrip, we knew we had to head over to Munich to see what the infamous Oktoberfest was all about. Oktoberfest actually takes place mostly in September, with the opening ceremonies typically occurring the third weekend in September and the closing ceremonies the first weekend of October, for 3 weeks total of beer and partying. If you are thinking of staying in Munich's city center for your visit, beware, as hotel prices skyrocket and many hotels even sell out months in advance. We tried to lessen the blow to our wallet by only staying 2 nights and booking our hotel stay for midweek, which still set us back almost $200 a night. Rest assured, you do not have to book a weekend stay in order to fully experience the festival. The 2 weekdays we were there were still packed to the max, and no one seemed to be holding back on their beer consumption!

Oktoberfest Munich

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Week 1 fitness update: The rise and literal fall of my fitness




Last week I wrote about my intentions to be more consistent with my running and my start of P90x3.

 I got off to a rocky start when early morning conference calls and work deadlines had me missing 2 days of my P90x3 workouts. I had only gone on 2 runs by Thursday of the week, so the only thing I kept up with was the P90x3 diet of 1500 calories a day.

Now, this diet assumes that I am only doing P90x for a workout, and doesn’t take into account running. I thought that 1500 calories would still be ok (I admit I just estimated and didn’t literally count every single calorie,) but I found myself starving all week and had a hard time making the adjustment. Thursday morning I set out on my run and just felt sick and had no energy, barely making it through 3.1 miles.

One of my worst runs ever

Thursday, September 11, 2014

State of my fitness

For the past couple of month’s, I’ve been having trouble keeping consistent with my workouts. I had no real plan, ran 3.1 miles a few mornings a week when I felt like it, and barely did strength training. 

I noticed my running endurance completely tank. Last year at this time I was at my all time best, PR’ing at the Jets back to football 5k with a time of 26:08. I then went on to run the NYC half in March with decent endurance. Now, I struggle to get 3.1 miles done in 30 minutes...

jets back to football 5k
Jet's back to football 5k, right after we both PR'ed.  The glory days!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ireland in a blizzard - Part 2


The snow and ice started to get a little old by day 4. We headed to the Ring of Kerry, which had no snow in the forecast. This day turned out to be one of the nicest of the trip, and although it was windy, we got some amazing pictures. We were warned that there was ice all along the windy hills and that it was dangerous, but we decided to drive it anyway, knowing that we were at our own pace and could turn back at any time if we felt unsafe. We barely saw a single other car or tour bus out on the road the entire time. I imagined how crowded it must be during high season, and for the first time on the trip we were happy to be there in the off season. We stopped at another pub for lunch and then made it around the rest of the ring, getting back to Adare after nightfall.

Here are some pictures from the nearly deserted Ring of Kerry:

ring of kerry ireland

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Battlefrog Tristate 5k race recap


Battlefrog is the newest mud run on the block, with both 5k and 15k distances filled with some challenging obstacles designed by Navy Seals. I learned about this race via Groupon, and at $27 for the 5k entry (plus the mandatory insurance charge), signing up was a no brainer. 

We got to the starting line just as the 10 wave took off and immediately got to the back of the pack as we tried and failed to get the Gopro to work. (Luckily, event photos are free, so we at least got some pictures!) Now we had some catching up to do. We easily cleared the first two obstacles, which were 2 five foot walls and then walls to go over, under, a through a window. We climbed through a rat tunnel, and next was a series of muddy hills to run over. 

battlefrog rat tunnel
Rat tunnel

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ireland in a Blizzard - part 1


Since we had just visited my motherland (Italy), we thought it only appropriate that our next trip should be Brian's motherland (Ireland.) We scored a great travelzoo deal that included a weeks stay in a 5 star villa in Limerick at the famous Adare Manor, rental car, and roundtrip airfare from JFK for only $750! The only catch was that it left at the end of November, but both my research and some Irish friends assured us the weather in Ireland is mild year round and we should have no issues...

The week of our trip, a deep freeze descended upon all of Europe. It hit Ireland particularly hard, forecasting the first major snowstorm they have seen in 40 years! Dublin was hit the hardest and was in a state of emergency, practically shut down. Luckily, our flight was landing in Shannon, and it went off without a hitch. We arrived to Adare also without issue, but did notice the area seemed rather deserted. The Irish must have been avoiding the cold!

Adare Manor Ireland
We arrived to Adare Manor in our ski jackets...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The ruins of Pompeii



A dark cloud filled the air. No one knew exactly what was happening, but it was terrifying. They could see the smoke coming from the mountain, but there was no way to escape now. The last ships full of people left at the first smell of danger, and the water was now too rough to sail on. There was nothing left to do but take cover, and hope to wake up in the morning when it was all over. Ashes began to rain from the sky, covering everything. Sadly, some people would never wake the next day, as the black smoke sent a wave of poisonous gases through the town.

Mt Vesuvius - Italy
Mt Vesuvius in the distance

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NJ QuickChek Balloon Festival


I am proud to announce that NJ is home to one of the largest balloon festivals in the USA, the QuickChek Festival of ballooning. Over 100 balloons ascend twice daily (weather permitting) the last weekend in July every year. In addition to the balloons, the festival is packed with other activities to keep you entertained, with arts and crafts vendors, rides for the kids, a rock wall to get your workout in, and plenty of food to go around.

NJ QuickChek balloon festival
Very picture worthy sight!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rome - ruins among the pickpockets

colosseum rome
What comes to mind when people think of "Rome"
We had seen ancient Venice and the beautiful Florence, and now it was time to see the last stop of the Italian Trinity - Rome.  We arrived off the Eurostar and entered the metro. We started to look for the ticket machine, and a sly woman must have read the look of confusion on our faces as she came right up to us and said she would show us. We were well aware that this was basically begging in disguise, but it seemed like more effort to shoo her off than to just keep walking towards the machine that we now spotted. "I help you buy the tickets, she says" as if we needed help paying the 1 euro each for a metro ticket. Too tired to object, we allowed her to do it for us, then gave her 1 Euro to go away.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Top 10 Adventures Hawaii


Some people go on vacation to relax, sitting on the beach with drink in hand, barely moving for the entire week. Not us! While we enjoy the beach (and tropical drinks!), our version of relaxing is to see what a new place is all about by experiencing all the local adventures in the area.

Hawaii is a haven for the fit, active, and adventurous, boasting more adrenaline pumping experiences then we were able to do in just a weeks time. Here are my opinion on the top 10: 

10. Kite Surfing - Waikiki

kite surfing waikiki

This resort area is quite windy and therefore the perfect place to try out kite surfing! The day we were there, I tried signing up for a regular surfing lesson but the weather wasn’t cooperating. I now regret that I didn’t give kite surfing a try instead, as it looked like a lot of fun!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Florence - 3 night stay


The second stop on our very first time abroad in Europe, Florence remains one of my favorite cities to this day! We arrived off a local train in the late afternoon, and the first thing we noticed was how alive the city seemed. Everyone was out and about in the square, probably after a hard days work, not like back home where most people would have taken their seat on the couch for the night and flipped on the TV. All the restaurants had outdoor seating, and everyone seemed to be happy sipping their wine on this beautiful day.

main square Florence
The Main square in Florence

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Getting lost in Venice


We stepped out of the airport, and into the unknown. It was our first real international trip , except for Niagara falls and a few cruises. We stumble upon the ticket booth for the Vaporetto, which is the Venice water taxi. I try and epically fail at ordering the tickets in Italian, so I just point and hold up 2 fingers and that works much better. The taxi pulls up, and Chaos ensues. Mass amounts of people start boarding simultaneously, all lugging huge bags and storing them at the far end of the boat. We squeeze in and begin to take in our first views of beautiful Venice, the ancient buildings, the clear blue water, the cathedrals, and the passing Gondolas. We arrive at our stop, and feel like we have stepped back in time to the year 1500. The language is unfamiliar to us, there are narrow alleyways around every corner, and pigeons - everywhere! Upon closer inspection, the ancient buildings appear noticeably rundown, but yet still have a charm to them.

Venice canal
First views of Venice!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pour and Pedal NJ



Pour and Pedal - wine + biking = winning!
New Jersey is home to close to 50 wineries (39 of which are officially part of the Garden state wine growers association), and is surprisingly the 7th largest producer of wine in the country! Fittingly, I recently made another great discovery on the Living Social website. For around $60 per person, we were signed up for an event called Pour and Pedal, which was a 15 mile bike ride between two wineries, including wine tastings and a picnic lunch. 

Brian and I joined up with Larissa fromThe Traveling Mortician  and her husband Angel, and yesterday the 4 of us got to finally experience this unique event we were looking forward to!

We arrived in New Egypt at Laurita winery, which was the starting point of the tour. After signing in and selecting our lunch order, we chose our bikes, were given some safety instructions, and off we went.

Pour and Pedal NJ
Ready to start the tour!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zorbing - Great Smoky Mountain Tennessee


What is zorbing, you ask? This is a “sport” in which you roll downhill whilst inside a clear plastic ball, either strapped inside or completely unharnessed with the addition of some water. First invented in one of the adrenaline capitals of the world, New Zealand, Zorb and Zorb impostors have started popping up all over the world in recent years. 
zorbing in tennessee
If you look really closely, you can see me feet first inside

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Learning to surf in Kauai



Being from New Jersey, surfing is not something most kids learn how to do growing up. Our ocean water is rough, brown, and cold, which aren't the most attractive conditions to make anyone want to give it a try. Hawaii, however, is one of the first locations that come to mind when people think of surfing, and is that cliche item on many bucket lists. Of course it was on mine as well and something I have always really wanted to try, but I was hesitant to give it a go as an adult. As the week wore on and we got to Kauai, I became even more hesitant as I was worried I would be in a group lesson full of kids that were surfing circles around me as I humiliated myself by failing to stand up on the board.
Luckily, Brian knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't at least give a shot, and urged me to inquire about a lesson in this small shop behind Poipu beach. We learned it was a slow time of year, being the week after Thanksgiving, and that so far no one else had signed up that day. The probability that I would end up with a private lesson for a group rate was enough for me to sign up, and it worked out because it really did end up being just me and the instructor! It was a little bit pricy at $75 for an hour lesson, but it was still a deal as private lessons were going for $100+ per person.
 
poipu beach kauai
Poipu beach - not a bad place to learn!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Suzhou - not quite Venice


Suzhou is deemed "The venice of the Orient" by guidebooks. We had the opportunity to take a day trip here from Shanghai, and as an added bonus we got to stop at the Masters of the net gardens on the way.

 The garden was beautiful, but was very similar to the Yu Garden we had seen the previous day while visiting the market. We did get some spectacular pictures at this garden, so it was all worth it.

masters of the net garden suzhou
Beautiful Masters of the Net Garden

masters of the net garden suzhou
Plenty of photo ops in the garden!


We stopped for lunch, then headed to the canal for our boat ride!

The boat was on the smaller side, low to the water, and exactly what you would expect it to look like. The water was calm, but was a dark brown color and had the slight stench of a sewer to it. I can see why the comparison is made to Venice, as we rode through the town down narrow waterways, shops, homes, and restaurants lining the path. However, having been to Venice before, this is where the comparison ended for me. I couldn't help but feel sad for the people that live along this water because it was so obviously polluted. Unlike Venice, Suzhou also has drivable streets, so the canal is no longer the main means of transportation in the area. On the day we were there, it seemed to be primarily used as a tourist attraction.

suzhou canal boat ride
Our boat for the canal ride
 It was an interesting perspective to see the local homes up close and personal, decorated in the red oriental lamps that we have all seen so many times on TV and in pictures. Some locals even had their laundry hung up.Chinese tourist eating at waterfront restaurants waved as we went by. It was overall an enjoyable experience once you overlook the color of the water, and a great contrast to the modern city of Shanghai that is less than 2 hours away.

Suzhou canal
These red oriental lamps lined the canal

Suzhou canal
Narrow alleyway in the canal

suzhou canal
Not as pretty as Venice, but still an enjoyable ride

Brian and I really enjoyed seeing how extremely different each city was from each other, all wrapped up into a single country.. From the historic and somewhat run down Beijing, to the old but up and coming Xian with it's bustling nightlife and crowded streets, to the ultra modern Shanghai with it's big business and designer stores -each stop changed our view on the country. Just when we thought we had things figured out, we would arrive at the next city and see a whole new way of life. We were thrown out of our comfort zone more than ever before in our lives, between the cuisine, non western bathrooms, and the haggling of the street vendors, but we are really glad we picked China as our first journey to Asia.

We highly recommend seeing China - the good and the bad! Take advantage of one of the many travel zoo deals out there, and make sure to include all 3 cities - Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai in your visit!

So, What countries should we see next year??? Leave us some ideas in the comments section!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Xian night market - China


It's 9pm on a Tuesday... The streets are filled with thousands of locals, seemingly not worried about getting up for work in the morning. We make our way through the crowd towards the famous drum tower, which is also where the night market is located. It is a long street lined with small shops and food carts, and full of life. There is music playing on the street, which sounds like a chinese version of techno.

xian china night market
The chaotic night market in action 

We walk slowly down the street, the smell of fried street food filling our nostrils, and try to figure out the different things on the menu, which is not translated into English. One of the first things we notice is squid on a stick. This is not the calamari that we know and love, but the entire squid, uncooked, baking in the heat, sure to destroy our stomachs if we dared to order. A local purchases one, and we watch it being cooked for a minute before moving onto the next stand, which has even more interesting treats.

xian night market menu
These menus didn't help us figure out what the food was..
xian night market food
Shrimp, one of the only recognizable food items besides the squid

Xian night market food
Unidentified meats on a stick

xian night market food
Close out of the night market fried goodness

xian night market squid on a stick
Squid on a stick cooking

“What animal is this?” We asked each other as we had never seen anything other than chicken and turkey legs for sale back home. Maybe its dog or lamb, or maybe something even bigger? The head, probably from the same animal, is also for sale, and the teeth are even still attached. We don't stare too long as we really don't want to know the answer to our question.

xian night market food
Large unidentified animal.. Lamb? Dog? Pig?

xian night market food
As seen on our know before you go post, animal head, teeth included

 Next we pass what I am assuming are Chinese desserts, and they almost look like dumplings with Chinese writing on them. We are tempted to try them, but our tour guide warning us not to eat anything from the market has scared us into just taking pictures.

xian night market food
These look tasty! 

 We also pass 2 men using what appears to be a long mallet, banging out some sort of bread. As we go over to take a closer look, a motorbike speeds past, weaving in between the vendors and the pedestrians on the street. There seems to be no rules for motorbikes, as they are even able to ride on the sidewalks if that's what it takes to get to their desired destination.

xian night market
The men hard at work in the market

After a while it becomes clear that the vendors all sell the same type of foods, so we start taking a look at the shops for some souvenirs. Most of it is the usual stuff - magnets, postcards, imitation terracotta warriors, keychains, etc. We walk inside a few stores and see some toys and other cheap things, but nothing really catches our eye. In the back of one store we even find weapons - brass knuckles, nun-chucks, even knives, which we find interesting since our guide told us the Chinese never carry weapons on them and they are not even sold in most of the country.

xian night market
Stores in the market

Xian night market
Cheesy Souvenirs 
 Once we have seen it all, we start to head back to the hotel, but not before we are stopped by a women standing in front of an entrance to what looks like an alley leading to a basement shop. "We have a children's art exhibition in here, sponsored by the University, come have a look" she says. Sureeee.... Obviously there would be such an exhibition down a dark alley at 10pm on a school night in the middle of a market... This is our first time actually being propositioned for one of these scams, and as we decline and walk away, we can't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

We walk back to the hotel, happily satisfied that we finally got to experience China away from the tourist crowd. What was the strangest thing you have ever seen at a night market?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

China Foodie Post


We heard mixed reviews about the food in China before we arrived. We love Chinese food at home, but knew what we eat home was the Americanized version of the cuisine. So, just to be safe, we brought 2 boxes of protein bars with us on the trip. We did need them, but only a few times!

Let's quickly go over how to make a safer choices when looking to eat in a non westernized country:

1.  Look for some sort of refrigeration system at restaurants to prevent food from turning. This   may not always be obvious, so beware. But if the food is sitting out, it is really hot inside the restaurant, or you see multiple flies around the place, keep walking.

2. This isn't fool proof by any means, but if #1 above is met, look for a place that is crowded. An empty restaurant may mean low turn around of food, giving it time to rot. A busy restaurant may mean fresher ingredients.

3. Stay away from cold items that may have been washed in the unsafe water - think salads, fruits, vegetables, and any drinks with ice or smoothies. Some of the places we went with the guides were deemed safe and had water filtration systems so we ate the fruit without trouble. But as a general rule if your not sure, stay away.

4. Do not eat anything fried on the streets - e.g the night market items. The oil is used over and over again, and is not clean! We were warned by all guides that this will make us very very sick if we tried anything!


Back to what we did eat...



Fast Food

Sadly this was some of our only choices on 2 occasions, but at least we know what to expect from these places, right? Wrong!

McDonalds - The first night of our trip in Beijing we were jet lagged and looking to grab something quick, and McDonalds was right across the street. The place smelled pungent, like a sewer, and while the burger tasted mostly the same as home, the fries were undercooked, unsalted, and completely inedible. We popped some Tums that night just in case!


Chinese Mcdonalds
Looks the same, but looks are deceiving!
KFC -  At a day market in Shanghai, we were warned by our guide that KFC and McDonalds were the only safe choices in the area. I ordered the popcorn chicken while Brian ordered a chicken breast and we both had mashed potatoes. The popcorn chicken had some the the blackest meat I had ever seen, and I couldn’t eat it. The mash potatoes, however, were edible and were the only thing I ate that afternoon.


Tourist Restaurants

Many of the lunches we had, and a few dinners, were included as part of the tour package. It seems China has a good handle on the tourism industry, and the menus are created with Western taste buds in mind. We had things like sweet and sour chicken, sticky rice, spring rolls, etc. On a few occasions some unique things popped up, most notably the fish with the head still on it, which is how it is served in China as it means wealth and luck. All meals also included a free beer, which was always Tsing Tao, the main beer of China. The food is served family style and is on the middle of a round table on a lazy susan that you can spin around to taste the different dishes. Most of these restaurants are also attached to a factory or store of some sort, to entice tourist to make a few purchases after eating.



Chinese dining style - lazy susan
Chinese dining style - Lazy susan

chinese beer tsing tao
Tsing Tao - the official beer of China

Authentic

In Beijing, we had limited dining choices due to the location of our hotel being out of the city center. We, along with another couple from the tour, found a restaurant full of locals and gave it a try. Even though the menu had pictures and was translated into English, we still had difficulty communicating our order to the waitress. We ordered pork, chicken wings, and sweet potatoes, but when the food arrived it was only 2 pieces each on skewers. Since this wasn’t enough food, we ordered some pork over white rice in a mushroom sauce to supplement.   It soon became clear the pork was actually pieces of fat, so we ate the rice and went to bed hungry that night!


So, up until now it seems like the food isn’t so good huh??? 

I saved the best food for last!

Famous Peking Duck Dinner

 Our tour guide recommended this restaurant 10 minutes from our hotel, and it was a fancy place. We went with 3 other couples and ordered 3 ducks plus an additional dinner and it was more than enough food. They bring out the entire duck, head included, and carve it right in front of you. It was delicious!


Peking duck menu
The Peking Duck menu

Peking duck beijing
They carved it right in front of us - notice the head in the back

 We also just happened to notice that scorpion was on the menu.... Hello Adventure eating! For only 7 Yuan each (a little over $1US), three of us were served these tiny scorpions on a sort of chip:


scorpion in Beijing
Yup... I actually ate one of these
Someone at the table told me the poison was still in them, making me extra squeamish at the thought of eating one... We decided to take them like a shot with a water chaser, and they surprisingly didn't taste bad. They were fried really well, so they were mostly crunchy and the flavor of the chip was stronger than the flavor of the scorpion, easing the blow. And, since I'm still alive over a week later writing this, I guess I didn't get poisoned!


scorpion beijing
I'm smiling here - but actually terrified!


Dumpling Banquet

As an optional part of our tour, we were taken to a restaurant in Xian known for their steamed dumplings. They are prepared two hours in advance, and have a variety of different meats inside as well as tofu, mushrooms, and an assortment of other tasty things. Other than the Peking Duck, this was one of the best meals we had on the trip.


dumpling banquet xian
Dumpling banquet display in Xian


Overall the food was interesting and I’m glad to have tried so many different types of authentic cuisine. Would you eat scorpion?