About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

Brasserie Style Merchant Boston Wows With Presentation + Taste

September 29, 2014 by  

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Brasserie style Merchant near Boston’s Downtown Crossing surprises for a few reasons. First of all, when I lived in the Boston area now close to ten years ago, I never spent time near Downtown Crossing, a central part of Boston that has some stores and office buildings, but very few great restaurants worth mentioning. So, when I learned about Merchant’s location, I wasn’t expecting much.

When you first walk in, you’re greeted with a standard brasserie style venue with a classic Boston flare, which was only surpassed by the Irish waiter, who was gracious and let’s just say, fit right in.

When I saw that they had fresh oysters on the menu, I immediately relaxed and knew the evening was going to be okay. After oysters, we moved onto the Maine mussels, which is served in a green curry with sake. Also a “must order” is the Dayboat Tuna Sashimi, something you wouldn’t expect from a Boston brasserie. The chef services the dish with avocado mousse and crispy tempura. They also do a delicious homemade country pate with whole grain mustard, carrot pickles (yes really), and of course, grilled country toast, for a l’il old world in a somewhat modern style brasserie.

Beets seemed to be on nearly every New England menu this summer. The Merchant’s beet salad was fresh and didn’t disappoint. Like all their other dishes, they seemed to once again nail it on presentation.

For unusual but delicious pasta dishes, try the homemade asparagus pasta with shrimp, asparagus and chorizo or the housemade Oxtail ravioli (YUM!!), which is served with spring vegetables and wild mushrooms in a red wine reduction sauce. And…if you’re a scallops lover….note the grapefruit and cauliflower addition! It was a perfect blend, so much so we were dreaming of the dish two days later.

Another “wow” for the menu: a Croque Madame (smoked ham, gruyere cheese, bechemel and a fried egg — not something I’ve ever seen on an American restaurant menu). Or, for mains, the olive oil poached sea trout, the slow roasted chicken or fish and chips. They also have a crispy duck ‘orange served with sweet and sour cabbage, a wild mushroom risotto with fontina, herbs and truffle honey, braised beef with parsnip puree, smoked tongue and shiitake confit and pork served two ways — roasted and glazed, with turnips, citrus and ramps.

More for the surprise list. For dessert, they offered an elderflower Panna cotta with sour cherries.  I looked over at Anthony and he had a surreal smile on his face as he took another bite of the beautifully presented panna cotta. He looked down at the dish and then up at me and said, “THIS excites my palate.” It’s not the type of thing he says so it also surprised me. Despite the fact that were exceptionally full from our savory delights we sampled the previous two hours, we couldn’t resist putting a serious dent one of the best desserts we’ve had in awhile.

The other desserts were out of this world as well. As always, we ordered the au chocolate option.

Also worth mentioning is their unusual tea selection–Rooibos, Herbal Chai Spice, English Breakfast, Lemon Chamomile, Crimson Berry & Moroccan Mint.

Two thumbs up! While it isn’t exactly on the beaten path (meaning, it’s not next to Faneuil Hall, the North End, Newbury Street, the trendy South End or Harvard Square), The Merchant is a definitely must visit if you happen to be a foodie! It WILL surprise and excite your palette!

Details:

The Merchant

60 Franklin Street

Boston, MA 02110
(617) 482-6060

Photo credit of inside of brasserie by: Josh Raab, InsideOutImages. All food photos Renee Blodgett.

Note: we were hosted but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Legal Harborside in Boston, Not Quite Like the Others…

September 29, 2014 by  

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Legal Harborside is Legal Sea Foods’ 20,000 square foot flagship property on the Boston Waterfront, comprising three floors and three different concepts under one (retractable) roof.  And, of course like other Legal Sea Food restaurants, it is notorious for its fresh and wide assortment of seafood menu offerings.

We opted for the third floor to take advantage of their exquisite chef’s cooking, the fabulous views and top notch wine list.


Legal Harborside’s third floor promenade deck offers a four-season rooftop lounge and bar as well as cosy seating in front of windows with great views of the pier.  There’s also a copper-clad fireplace which is perfect for visits in colder months.

We were there this past August, so the weather was perfect, but decided not to sit on the patio since there was a fairly noisy concert next door at the time we were there — in summer months, it’s worth checking the concert schedule if you don’t want to compete with the noise.

That said, if you do end up sitting inside, the views are equally stunning however and in my case, it allowed me easy access to the open kitchen area to see what was coming off the grill. I, as always, had to start with some fresh oysters on the half shell, which we paired with a nice refreshing Chablis.

Their beverage menu offers 27 wines by the glass, a feature which I noted in our research and in addition to their regular menu and fabulous seafood offerings, they have a sushi menu, which includes sushi party boats, a great option if you’re there as a family or with a group of friends.

They also have a collection of rare wines and we spent time with the wine guru tasting a few whites he thought our palette would remember for awhile. In Vino Veritas says Sandy Block, their Master of Wine, who is clearly proud of the selection they have curated on-site.

For example, they had a Domaine Les Hertitiers du Comte Lafon, Vire-Clesse from Macon and by the class, you could get the Domaine Henry Natter Sancerre from Loire Valley. Of course they had the more standard buttery chard’s on the menu as well like Cakebread Cellars, Neyers from Sonoma and Forman “Star Vineyard’s Chardonnay from Napa, but it was the unique choices from France and Italy that had me at hello.

The restaurant is touted as being a notch above other Legal Sea Food restaurants (locals consistently told me this). It is located in the Seaport District, which makes it a stone’s throw and easy walking distance to the Institute of Contemporary Art, the World Trade Center, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Bank of America Pavilion and hotels including the Renaissance Boston, Westin Waterfront and Seaport. 

Gems on the menu included their smoked trout pate served with rye toast, pickled grapes and trout roe, fennel seared tuna with white beans, pepperoncini and bottarga, caviar (YUM), and the shellfish tower (which we did NOT get) which consisted of a combo of oysters, clams, king crab and shrimp cocktail.  They also have a great prosciutto appetizer and the bread is fresh and like all their dishes, beautifully presented.

And, of course, there’s their classic New England creamy clam chowder.

And, deep fried calamari, freshly prepared and ready to be zipped out to the table.

The chilled spicy coconut soup was out of this world, served with shrimp, mango and avocado (so so fresh), as was something we weren’t going to get but in the end, were talked into — the fried oysters served with Korean short rib and kimchi remoulade. Talk about daring and not “quite” like the “other.” I was surprised just how delicious this was — we nearly didn’t order it but the waiter talked us into it. Smart move!

Grilled octopus….

More grilling with fresh vegetables, perfectly sauteed and placed on top of the fish.

Since they specialize in seafood, the lobster soup is worth trying and they serve it in a unique way, with puff pastry and oloroso sherry. The size of the shrimp in the shrimp cocktail is let’s just say fit for a King, something I was told about from a local friend who had been there several times.

A dish we didn’t try but wished we had was their black pepper linguini appetizer, served with corn uni emulsion and summer truffle. What we did try simply because it sounded too good and unusual to pass up, was the Foie Gras Duo, which is a foie mousse, banana caramel (yes, really), and grilled mango. I asked how this was done and apparently miso is involved – they carmelize in a low oven and then put riped bananas in the freezer, add the miso and then…..Never mind, just order it. It’s out of this world.

For mains, they have a fluke with grilled summer squash, smoked tomato mussel nage and crab stuffed zucchini blossom, a Loche Duart Salmon with mole negro, native corn (always good in New England), masa cake and a cilantro cream, a Sauteed California Abalone with lemon risotto, guanciale, fried capers and that yummy oloroso sherry again that they also put in their lobster soup.

They do an unusual preparation of Yellowfin tuna -- “nicoise style” with marble potatoes, a three bean salad and quail egg. Same goes for their Cap Cod Diver Scallops, which is served with a confit pork belly, sweet potato, mustard greens and peach mostarda. A must try! (photographed below)

If you must have red meat, they have a Creekstone Filet Mignon, served with Alaskan King Crab to make sure you at least try some of their seafood, all served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables with a sauce bearnaise.

We went for drinks after dinner on the more casual first floor of the restaurant where you can get shareable plates, pastas and pizzas made to order in an open kitchen.  You can eat at one of the picnic tables for an authentic throwback experience or grab a seat at the oyster bar and watch their shuckers at work (up to 14 varieties of oysters are offered daily).  A large elliptical bar offers both wine and local beers on tap and you can sit on their patio along Boston’s HarborWalk for a great view of the Boston Fish Pier, the oldest working fish pier in the country, and Boston’s city skyline. 

If you think Legal Harborside can only shine in the seafood department, think again! The chef aced the desserts and we saw plenty of other options coming out of the kitchen that we didn’t try which made our mouth water despite how full we were! A big kudos and thanks to Matt our waiter, Cory the sommelier and Justin the manager for an outstanding experience.

If you have the time, visit their old-fashioned fish market where the seafood is fresh from the docks and the person behind the counter tells fish tales, knows where the fish was caught and how best to cook it.  You’ll find a wide selection of fresh seafood by the pound, live lobster, grab-and-go and take-out.

Photo credits: Lobster photo (first shot), the sushi party boat and view of the water from inside the restaurant courtesy of Legal Harborside website, all other photo credits by Renee Blodgett.

Details:

Legal  Harborside Restaurant

270 Northern Avenue

Boston, MA 02210
(617) 477-2900

 

Note: we were hosted but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Quaint Rockport For All Things New England on the Massachusetts North Shore

September 29, 2014 by  

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I love Rockport and although I hadn’t been back for years before this recent trip, I used to live in the area and spent many a’ summer and fall day and night biking, hiking and eating in her peripheral vision. This charming predominantly summer town lies about an hour’s (depending on traffic) drive northeast from Boston on the Massachusetts North Shore. (approximately 40 miles)

It had been 9 or 10 years since my last visit to the North Shore, so it was a welcome treat to get to spend so much time there this past summer. There are plenty of things to take in both in the main town of Rockport itself, the charming artist colony in Gloucester nearby (see our separate write up on Gloucester), any of the neighboring beaches or Plum Island which is a stone’s throw away.

Located at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula, Rockport is not short of stunning views and charming landscapes regardless of which direction you look. You’re surrounded by the ocean with its ever so picturesque port where boats pull up after a lazy excursion on Atlantic waters.

In the town itself, dozens of shops, restaurants, creameries, fudge and ice cream shacks, jewelry and clothing specialty stores and more line a pedestrian walking street called Bearskin Neck that eventually takes you out to a point bathed in cliffs which jet out into the ocean.

It’s a great place to take in the sunset. The below shot was taken at one of the most charming and delicious restaurants in Rockport – My Place by the Sea, where we had dinner one night – be sure to read our write up on this fabulous establishment as it also includes lots of scrumptious photos of their dishes. Let’s just say you won’t be disappointed by the views, ambiance, the service or the food.

Along Bearskin Neck during the day, there are many things to do, from getting lost in one of the fudge shops to ordering a steamed lobster or a fresh lobster roll at one of the take out places where you’ll find freshly caught lobsters swimming around in a massive glass rank as they bring them in regularly throughout the day to keep up with incoming visitor orders.

Take a look at our video we shot of Ray Moore, showing them unloading the lobster into the tanks. Here, you can  get a sense of what you’ll experience. You can get fresh clams, oysters ($2 a pop), lobster and fish. It doesn’t get much more fresh than this — and delicious. They also have picnic tables in the back where you can eat. (see the video for more).

There are also quaint pottery shops and numerous art galleries that house some fabulous works of art from local artists in the area.

The above two shots are the ever so unusual but charming 8 Bells Shop, which we loved – it has lots of quirky things that are all so beautifully New England.




You can also go kayacking which we opted to do from North Shore Kayack located on 9 Tuna Wharf Road in Rockport Harbor.

The shop is located on one of the turnoffs from Rocky Neck, so is conveniently located and easy to find.  They have paddling equipment, sandals, and summer footwear for your outdoor adventures, as well as touring, recreational and sit-on-top kayaks. You can rent them on your own or go on one of their fabulous tours, which take you to the nearby islands. They also rent bicycles, pedal boats and stand-up paddle boards.

While their tours hit several islands in the vicinity and range in duration (their site has all the details), the one that we are eager to do at another time is the tour that heads to Thatcher Island, which is a beautiful little island about 2.5 miles from Rockport Harbor.

It hosts a National Wildlife Refuge and has twin lighthouses, erected in 1771, which align North to South and pointed the way to Gloucester Harbor and Boston for whalers and seafarers returning from afar.  Thacher Island has been mentioned in literature and films over the years – everything from Rudyard Kipling’s “Captains Courageous” to a brief mention by George Clooney as Captain Billy Tyne in the movie “The Perfect Storm”. They offer daily trips at 1:30 pm and also can take groups of 10 or more for an overnight camping trip.

The owner and staff are incredibly helpful and can help you determine which is the best option for you. We’d recommend this adventure excursion be added to your North Shore agenda.

Just on the outskirts of town, you can find many spots to get to the water’s edge, whether that be one of more classic beaches nearby or just a mile or two outside. (below, taken in front of Emerson by the Sea, where we stayed for a couple of nights – see our hotel write-up in the Massachusetts Hotels section).

Nearby beaches worth mentioning include:

  • Cressy’s Beach at Stage Fort Park – great for summer cookouts, picnics and playing frisbee on the park’s open laws.
  • Half Moon Beach at Stage Fort Park – quiet, crescent shaped, which is surrounded by a rocky hill and ample shady spots, it offers a lot of seclusion from the rest of the park.
  • Pavilion Beach — Near Gloucester’s famous Fisherman’s Memorial Statue, is great for beachcombing and watching watercraft as they head out to the channel.
  • Back Beach — home to one of the best scuba diving areas in the region.
  • Niles Beach — tucked away from the crowds, it’s great for a quiet family beach day.
  • Plum Cove Beach — this is the perfect beach for families with small children.
  • Front Beach — Sandy Bay acts as the perfect backdrop for Front Beach and great for swimmers.
  • Pebble Beach — mostly smooth stone popples and pebbles stones blanket this long beach.
  • Old Garden Beach — a small sand and stone beach with an adjacent municipal park offers a beautiful view over the bay and grassy areas for picnics.
  • Cape Hedge Beach — long, secluded rocky beach separated from Long Beach by a short, seasonal foot bridge.
  • Long Beach – about a mile long, it offers one of the best views of Thatcher Island (mentioned above under the kayack tours).
  • Singing Beach — an immaculate beach with clear blue waters and white sands.
 All photos taken by Renee Blodgett.

The Authentic Lobster Pool, Picnic Table Style on Rockport’s Coast

September 28, 2014 by  

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A very special and unique restaurant on the Massachusetts North Shore is a gem called The Lobster Pool in Rockport. What makes this place so special and unique is that in the hands of this very casual atmosphere are long time veterans of the area who believe in keeping New England tradition alive through their love of lobsters and seafood…local Massachusetts lobster that is, NOT Maine lobster.

When we were there, it was sadly the only rainy day we had on our trip to the North Shore, so we didn’t sit outside, which is something you want to count on doing if the weather is good.

The Lobster Pool has a west-facing view over the ocean and there are picnic tables outside, all with that spectacular ocean view. While the venue may be a “humble shack” of sorts, the hospitality and service is out of this world and the lobster is as fresh as it gets. The restaurant is obviously known for their lobsters (steamed or baked), lobster rolls, Quesadillas, haddock, clams and scallops.

They source their lobsters from Captain Joe’s and Sons in Gloucester down the road, and the rest of their seafood is from Gloucester as well. Haddock and Scallops come from Ocean Crest, and other seafood is from Intershell. They get their fruit and vegetables from Cape Ann Fruit (all locally grown and they have worked with owner Lisa Waring for the past 16 or so years) and their french fries, coleslaw and potato salad from R&C Beef, also in Gloucester. (pronounced Gl-owe-ster) for those of you who aren’t local or haven’t spend time in New England.

Inside, there are also picnic tables but note, you can bring your own wine, which is a must do, to have with your lobster, steamed corn on the cob and whatever else you happen to order.  

The menu at The Lobster Pool is varied, including lobsters obviously, clam chowder that is very thick, so a bit like the kind your grandmother made, fried clams, crab cakes, seafood quesadillas, and a fried sole. For kids, you can also get hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches.

We were staying along the same coast at the ever so charming Emerson by the Sea down the road (which we’d recommend — be sure to see our write up on the inn), so it was just a few minute drive to get to Lobster Pool. If coming from the center of Rockport, head west out of Rockport past Halibut Point State Park, then look for The Lobster Pool around the bend in the road.

Be sure to talk to Lisa, the owner and proprietor - she has an interesting story and the establishment has a deep history -- and she’s incredibly warm, friendly and knowledgeable, not to mention incredibly knowledgeable about lobsters and the area. (below)

This guy has been with her since she began….there seems to be a lot of loyalty here which also works both ways as indicated by the local vendors she has been using for years.

You’ll get a taste of this very authentic lobster eatery from the video I shot below. Two thumbs up! Be sure to try it next time you head to the Massachusetts North Shore.

Details:

Lobster Pool

329 Granite Street

Rockport, MA 01966

 

Emerson Inn By The Sea, Where New England Charm Meets Ocean Views

September 28, 2014 by  

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Meet Emerson Inn By The Sea, a charming and authentic inn nestled on the ocean in Massachusetts’ historical Rockport.  The inn is intimate with only 36 rooms, all of them unique in character and presentation. Imagine a massive old historical house on the ocean that has been renovated but just ever so slightly to bring in some of the modern amenities you’d expect for a luxury boutique stay while keeping the lovely style of yesteryear.

This property exudes the charm and nostalgia of the past yet there’s wifi, TV, mini-refrigerators and air conditioning. Imagine waking up to this view every morning. Fog, rain, mist or sunshine, it’s hard to beat this breathtaking scenery.

 

Here’s a view of the inn we took as we were walking up from the water after taking a stroll along the rocks which I would recommend doing early in the morning or close to sunset.

Of course, the best part about the inn in my opinion is the front porch which is decked with Adirondack-like chairs from left to right. The very same charming chairs are scattered across the lawn as well, which have equally stunning views of the ocean.

On the main floor, you can sit and read while looking out at the ocean views in case it rains. There are books to read, and outlets if you want to bring your laptop and get some writing or work done in a serene and quiet environment. There’s endless tea on the counter as well if you do choose to spend your afternoon just lounging.

The setting is of course very historical — note the bar with the mirror behind it in the photo below. In the evenings, they have happy hour and there’s also coffee, tea and cookies available at certain times. Through the door to the right of the bar, you’ll see their classic dining room which is where they serve dinner and of course, breakfast in the mornings. To the left of the dining room, there’s a closed porch where I’d recommend you sit if you have a meal here.

In this very same sitting room, there are plenty of authentically old antiques and orientals as well as a baby grand piano which I didn’t have an opportunity to play, although thought about it on more than one occasion. There are also some quirky things about the inn, such as their attention to detail and creative additions to the rooms throughout.

More of the magical fine touches — remember it’s all the details. Not every designer or venue manager gets that however Emerson-by-the-Sea pays attention to the details spades. It’s almost as if they designed the place to specifically attract writers, philosophers, artists and nature lovers.

Our room, as I said, was ever so charming. Described as the Honeymoon Room, my guess is that it gets its name because of its soaking hot tub.

Another view of our room from the other side so you can see the “jet” bathtub, which is in the room itself — the bathroom is on the other side, which has a separate shower.

I had an opportunity to see a few other rooms briefly since we were there for a few days.  As I didn’t have my camera with me when I did, the below shot is taken from the inn’s website, but it will give you an idea of what another room looks like, this one with a small balcony that overlooks the ocean as well as the pool in the front of the property. This is called the King or Queen balcony.

Since it was Anthony’s birthday, a nice surprise was brought up to the room — we had a nice bottle of Pinot Noir from one of our earlier stops so we popped it open to sample with this delicious fruit, cheese and olive platter. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect since it was a rainy day so we got lost in our platter and wine together with accompanied novels and games which was a great way to spend a drizzly afternoon in New England. 

Two thumbs up! For the romantics, writers, artists and nature lovers among us, it’s a great place for your New England bucket list.

Details:

Emerson-by-the-Sea

1 Cathedral Avenue

Rockport, MA 01966
(978) 546-6321

Note: we were guests of the resort, but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Salem Massachusetts

September 28, 2014 by  

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For those of you who have never heard of Salem, it is based in Essex County along the North Shore of Massachusetts and about an hour’s drive from Boston. While not everyone may have heard of it, Americans know Salem for its infamous Witch Trials from the 1600′s, which made the town famous not just in the states, but worldwide. It’s a small city, with a population of under 45,000 but there’s a remarkable number of things to do, from boating, segway and walking tours to museums and a variety of activities which center around witchcraft.

Here are ten of our favorite things to do based on a fairly extensive visit this past August.

The Fame Schooner

The Fame Schooner ride on the Atlantic in the afternoon was one of our favorite things we did in Salem.  The authentic boat captures history and brings you back to a different time, all while enjoying the best views of the coast. The original Fame was a ‘Chebacco boat’ that was commissioned as a privateer when war broke out in the summer of 1812. She was the first American privateer to bring home a prize, and made 20 more captures before being wrecked in 1814.


The new Fame (above) is a full-scale replica of this famous schooner. Framed and planked of white oak and trunnel-fastened in the traditional manner, the schooner is based at Salem’s Pickering Wharf Marina. Like so many activities and events in Salem, you learn about history in the process…in this case, the stories of the fishermen, privateers, merchants and men of war who shaped the Massachusetts North Shore.

Passengers on our sail were even encouraged to help put up the sail when we were finally out of the harbor.

Below are a few shots taken while we made our way out of the harbor.

I found the story behind the building of Fame fascinating. The boat was built by National Heritage fellow Harold Burnham, who is part of a boat building family who have been involved in building boats in Essex for over 350 years.  Preparations for the construction of Fame began in February 2002. 

Burnham started carving half-hull models, working up drawings, and hunting for wood and by the spring, the spruce trees had been cut down, trimmed, dragged out of the woods, rolled down to the river, and towed upstream to the Burnham Boatyard in Essex, across a small inlet from the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Over the summer of 2002, Burnham completed the lofting, haped and finished the spars. The lead casting for the keel arrived in late August and a keel-laying ceremony was held on Labor Day of that year.  

The result is the current modern Fame Schooner tours throughout the summer and Fall. We would recommend this to anyone passing through and would go so far as saying that it’s worth a day trip from Boston even if  Salem isn’t on your radar, just to take a Schooner tour. Check out our two videos we shot during our tour which will give you a taste of what you’ll experience. Here’s Part I and Part II of our video footage.

Information is at Wharf Street in Salem, phone: 978.729.7600.

The House of Seven Gables

In the National Historic Landmark District, the historical and renowned House of Seven Gables is located on the Harbor, where you can discover 359 years of Salem’s history while you experience this museum and collection of historic buildings.


The structure is a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge clustered chimney. This famous site became so from the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne who wrote in depth about Salem’s most famous house in his 1851 novel The House of Seven Gables. The novel is famous for taking you back into early New England Puritan life and it’s charm, its oddities and its culture. 

The house stands today and does tours. They also have fabulous programs for kids where they learn through an experience with a “living textbook” by which economics, geography, history, literature, mathematics, and science come to life. Programs for Schools offer several connections to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, and a range of topics covered during school visits are noted in each program description on this website.

Information is at 54 Turner Street in Salem. They are open year round. More at 7gables.org.

Winter Island Maritime Park

Just outside the city, south of Salem Willows Amusement Park and less than two miles northeast of Salem center, you’ll find the Winter Island Maritime Park , the site of Fort Pickering and its lighthouse.
We  think this is a great option for families, since it now houses a campground as well as a park and a quaint beach — Waikiki Beach. Nearby, the Forest River Park has two beaches, picnic areas and a saltwater swimming pool.
Information is at 50 Winter Island Road in Salem. Phone: 978.745-9430.

Get a Hot Dog at Boston Hot Dog Company

At Salem’s Boston Hot Dog Company, you can get natural casing or kosher beef hot dogs made a variety of ways. It may very well be the largest variety of hot dog preparations I’ve seen on my travels. You can have nearly anything you want on your “dog” from diced onions, peppers, poppy seeds, pickles, cheese and bacon bits to mayo, baked beans, pastrami (yes, really), peanut sauce and sauerkraut.

While I don’t eat hot dogs or burgers in my daily life, every now and then I crave one and it tends to be when I find myself in New England because of my childhood memories of having them loaded with meat sauce in Gloversville’s New York Lunch.

One afternoon when we were walking around Salem, I suddenly found myself craving one and when we started asking around, we fell upon not just a hot dog stand (which was what I was expecting) but a place that gave me so many choices, my head began to spin.

They also have traditional draft root beer and an incredibly friendly (and witty) staff. We had a blast stopping here and would recommend it if you’re not a vegetarian and want to be a l’il adventurous with your “dog.”

Information is at 60 Washington Street, Salem. Phone: 978.744-4168

The Salem Segway Tour

I didn’t always dig segways despite testing one out when it was still a prototype many years ago, but I’ve grown to love them as they have become a more popular way to experience a destination. The great thing about segways is that you can get to places you can’t normally get to in a car and is faster and more efficient than walking or even on a bike since you can look at things more closely than you can if you’re on a bike. And, truth be told, they’re FUN!
The tour is highly worth doing and after the Schooner, it was our second favorite thing in Salem.
Salem by Segway offers 1 and 2 hour tours — they call their guides Adventure Captains. Along the way in typical Salem style, you learn a lot about the area’s history — from witchcraft to literature to art to architecture. Adventure Captains narrate the tour via an audio device which allows you to listen in hands free and enjoy the sights at the same time. They also offer tours in Newport, Philadelphia and Boston. Two Thumbs Up!!
It was a blast hearing historical factoids about Salem’s witch trials and past while we were zipping through the city.
Information is at 283 Derby Street in Salem. Phone:  866.611.9838

The Salem Witch Museum 

Everyone knows Salem for its history of witches, when in 1692, twenty innocent people were put to death during the Witch Hysteria. History of course made them famous — the Salem Witch Museum brings their stories to life in a lovely storytelling way as you sit and listen to a narrator bring you back in time in complete darkness while relevant articles light up at the appropriate time.

To understand the events of the Salem witch trials, it is necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. There were the ordinary stresses of 17th-century life in Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strong belief in the devil, factions among Salem Village fanatics and rivalry with nearby Salem Town, a recent small pox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion. Soon prisons were filled with more than 150 men and women from towns surrounding Salem. Their names had been “cried out” by tormented young girls as the cause of their pain. All would await trial for a crime punishable by death in 17th-century New England, the practice of witchcraft.

As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims’ families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society.  The Witch Museum does one of the most accurate jobs of explaining this story.

Information is at 19 1/2 N Washington Square, in Salem, Phone:  978.744.1692

The Witch Walk & Psychic Reading by Lorelei

Done in a more informal and “fun” way, the Witch Walk  starts at Crow Haven on Essex Street, where you join a real Salem witch who starts the tour with a ritualistic circle. Here you go through various rituals and in the process, learn about witchcraft, what it means, its misperceptions and truths from a Salem witch’s point of view. We loved this!!! The tour took you through some of the historical sites in town however what’s really great about the tour is that the guides are great storytellers and actively practice witchcraft, so you’ll learn about how they got started, why they’re doing it and even the meaning behind some of the rituals along the way.

You are given a crystal at the end of the tour in recognition of your participation in the tour. Check out our video which gives you a glimpse of what to expect from the ritual, which kicks off your walking tour — it’s fascinating!

Information is at 125 Salem Street: 978.666.0884. Ask for Lorelei and tell her that Renee and Anthony said hello. She also does psychic readings which are a boat load of fun! Note that isn’t an ordinary witch — she has a strong accent from the area, is witty and is often if not always surrounded by her two little dogs who join her for the reading. Her reading “room” is more than just a little eclectic and colorful.

The Crow Haven store on site is also worth meandering through as it’s a wealth of information on witchcraft and has tons of things you can purchase, from candles and crystals to books and more.

 Take a Mahi Mahi Cruise

While we took one of their morning cruises during the late summer, they also offer jazz brunch cruises, sunset cruises and in the fall, they have historic (and heated!) cruises with food and drinks from their bar & grill, including belly-warming favorites like New England Clam Chowder and their famous Grandma’s Spiked Cider.   They have different boat options, including the Finback, which is a 50-foot sightseeing boat that provides a fun and intimate setting for up to 50 people. The Finback apparently has great lighting for evening cruises.

The more spacious boat is their Hannah Glover, which can accommodate up to 150 guests on two decks. The Hannah Glover features a fully-heated main deck and an open-air top deck to enjoy the weather during summer and fall months.

On the top deck, you can relax in style in one of their colorful Adirondack chairs.  It is a great way to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon seeing the area by boat. Kids will love it too. A major refit recently outfitted Hannah Glover with two Mahi Tiki Bars, and a beer and wine stations.

Information is at 24 Congress Street in Salem.

The Salem Night Tour

For people who love the mystic of ghosts, witches and history, the night tour brings you into the world of Paranormal Investigation. It’s an award winning walking tour through The Witch Cities most famous Haunts — haunted historical, witch trial sites, cemeteries, murder sites and more as you listen to a narration of various stories from the time.

The tour also starts on Essex Street and of course, tours run at night, so a great option for those who like the spooky and mysterious in life. Below, Howard Street Cemetery by night, which is a historic cemetery dating back to 1801 with more than 300 gravestones.  The land on which the cemetery is located is connected to the witch trials which you learn about on your night tour.  There are a quite a few seafaring men buried in the Howard Street Cemetery, including ship captains.

Information is at 127 Essex Street, Salem. Phone: 978.741-1170.

Explore the Unknown with Psychic Lori Bruno

We accidentally learned about Lori Bruno, which is surprising given that her photo can be found in so many of the brochures floating around town about the city. A longstanding psychic who used to work in Boston’s North End, she is a delight to spend time with and something you should do when you visit Salem. Lori is a Hereditary High Priestess and Elder of the Sicilian Strega line of the Craft of the Wise, founder and Head Mother of Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian Rose Church, Inc.

She has an exciting and interesting history, as you’ll learn if you ask questions about her life.  I found her stories and energy fascinating enough that I interviewed her, so be sure to see my standalone write up on her which you can find in our Massachusetts section under Culture.  And, she’s also a delight to look at as is her “castle” which is a private room where she does her psychic readings in her store - Magika on the Wharf.

I couldn’t help wondering during my time with her how much the jewelry weighed that she wore around her neck and on her fingers and arms every day — jewelry which apparently she cleans every night. And, in addition to being informative and incredibly interesting, you’ll have fun in the process.

Information is at Magika, 63R Wharf Street Pickering, Wharf Salem: Phone: 978.741.9297 or 740.9297.

The Peabody Essex (PEM) Museum

While Salem may be a small and not necessarily on everyone’s global travel radar, the quality of the Peabody Essex (PEM) Museum and what passes through its doors is top notch. PEM may be considered one of the oldest continuously operating museums in the United States, combining the collections of the former Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute.

The roots of the Peabody Essex Museum date to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The society’s charter included a provision for the establishment of a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,” which is what we today would call a museum. Society members brought to Salem a diverse collection of objects from the northwest coast of America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and elsewhere.

It’s a great museum to also bring children as they have special exhibitions, weekend festivals and family art-making programs. This summer, they had an outstanding Turner & the Sea exhibition through September 1 that showed the first full-scale examination of Joseph Mallord William Turner’s lifelong preoccupation with the sea.

It featured iconic works spanning the artist’s career from his transformative Academy paintings of the late 1790′s and early 1800′s, to the unfinished, experimental seascapes produced towards the end of his life. A  Turner & the Sea was produced by the National Maritime Museum, part of Royal Museums Greenwich, London. Supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. They have a Calder and Extraction exhibit on through January 5, 2015.

Information is at 161 Essex Street in Salem. Phone: 978.745-9500.

Lastly, you will be surprised by a number of top notch restaurants in town. Be sure to also check out our Massachusetts Food/Wine section where you’ll find some restaurant write-ups on Salem as well as our Top Massachusetts Hotels section where you’ll find a couple of recommendations on where to stay.

While we were there over the summer, Fall is in fact the best time to visit Salem — September and October is not only pretty as the leaves begin to change, but they have additional activities going on leading up to Halloween, the city’s busiest time.

Photo credits: First Howard Cemetery by night from List25, Second Howard Cemetery shot by Renee Blodgett, Winter Island from Marinas.com, House of Gables from Wikipedia.org. Hot Dog menu from the restaurant’s website, the PEM photo from the PEM website, the schooner being built from the Fame Schooner website, all other photos courtesy of Renee Blodgett.

The Magic & Simplicity Behind Magellan’s Echo Smartwatch

September 27, 2014 by  

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Magellan, a leader of innovative GPS devices for vehicles, fitness, outdoor and mobile navigation, isn’t just about GPS. They also offer the very cool (and colorful) Echo smartwatch, which has sporting applications like golf, skiing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. One of the things that really jumped out for me in our research was that the Echo watch offers a lot more variety than just white and black. The smartwatch also comes in a sophisticated gray, blue, orange and bright pink.

The Echo Smart Sports Watch leverages the power of both a smartphone and sports-related apps. It uses Bluetooth Smart to connect a smartphone and watch, putting the power of a smartphone right on the user’s wrist. Echo is compatible today with the iPhone 4S, 5, 5C and 5S and Android. Whether you’re a skier, golfer, runner or simply a gym rat, there is an app that keeps you informed and in control. Pairing with your favorite sports app, you can receive information that streams from your smartphone directly to the smartwatch in real-time. They easily can keep track of their running pace, the distance to the green, or maximum speed on their last ski run.

Several million athletes use mobile apps daily. While running, golfing, and skiing, athletes tuck their phones away and can’t readily see the valuable information provided by the app. Additionally, they can’t control or interact with their apps. Echo solves this problem by streaming real-time sports data to the wrist and allows the user to control the app and music. Simple functions like start/stop, lap, and stroke count are huge, plus the ability to change songs means the user can match their music to their mood. With an open platform, Magellan has invited all apps to join the party and get active with Echo.

Echo can also be used as an everyday watch. Its sleek design and watch functions with multiple watch faces make it the perfect watch for a tech-savvy athlete. Using ultra-low power components, it runs off a replaceable coin-cell battery that will last up to 8-10 months with typical usage. No charging is needed.

The Magellan Echo Smart Sports Watch has an MSRP of $149, or $199 with a Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Monitor. It is available in a wide range of colors — Black, Gray, Dark Blue, Blue and Orange. All will be on display at 2014 International CES. It will be available through retailers worldwide in early Spring 2014.

To learn more, go to magellangps.com/ echo.

Private Gym, Soaking Baths & Steam Room Galore at Tokyo’s New Otani Spa

September 27, 2014 by  

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I recently had an opportunity to experience the Spa at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo Japan. The Japanese treat spas a little differently than in the western world. The “Spa” for all that the word represents is something that is an integral part of Japanese life, particularly for women. Not treated so much as a luxury item even though it can be expensive to experience one depending on where you are, life in the sauna or hot tub is an important part of health, relaxation and down time.

Spas are also more formal than they are in the states and even Europe, where I find the service to also be a notch above the U.S. The New Otani Hotel is a luxurious stay (see our write-up on the property which we loved and would definitely recommend, including having a meal at any of their on-site restaurants – YUM!!). The spa at the New Otani is an extensive of that luxury — from the offerings, the service and the amenities.

Use of the spa includes rental fee for gym wear, swimsuits, towel, and bathrobe which of course they expect you to have in the west. To give you an idea of how formal they take the spa experience, they state on their website that “Guests with tattoos are not admitted in the Golden Spa.”

You also must be 18 years of age or older to use the spa and it is required that you wear swimsuits with adequate coverage.” I found that amusing of course but in case yours is too skimpy, you can rent them on-site upon request. These “rules” are an extension of Japanese culture, which I absolutely respect. It isn’t really any different than the knee socks you’re expected to wear on a Scottish golf course (or a South African one), at least in my experiences which was now quite a few years ago. It’s what defines a culture and makes you cherish one. Enuf said! 

The interior set of two side by side mini jacuzzi pools was my favorite part of the spa. Inside the same room, there’s a steam room and sauna which you can rotate between all afternoon if you’d like.

The changing room area for women is adjacent to what I’ll refer to as the preparation area, essentially a section with mirrors and mini stools for grooming of sorts before or after using the spa.

There is also a sitting area as well as an extensive exercise facility and fitness center where you can work out. There’s a private one you can use if you’re staying on one of the Executive Floors or a main one which has more flexible hours in which you can work out in the main building. I tried both btw – the main difference is that the private one has exclusive but limited hours and is obviously much less crowded.

Other facilities and services include facials, massage and esthetic treatments. They also have tennis courts and a golf driving range which is great for the adventurers and sports enthusiasts among us.

Personally I found the experience unusually interesting and felt that my time there was not just respected but I had to respect “it” which made me look at the spa experience a little differently…..in an absolutely good way :-)

A We Blog the World 2 Thumbs Up!!

Details:

THE GOLDEN SPA NEW OTANI

4-1 Kioi-Cho, Chiyoda-Ku

Tokyo 102-0094, Japan

Tel. 03-3265-9611

Note: I was hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


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