Category Archives: sights to see

The retirement life in Ajijic, Mexico

The view from behind my parents' house.
The view from behind my parents’ house.

After bonding with my parents over an episode of “My 600 Pound Life,” I changed the channel to watch the Cubs and Dodgers battle it out in Game Five of the National League playoffs. During a commercial break I got an update on the Curling World Championships, and was reminded the National Hockey League season just started, and I could watch every game courtesy of the new app from Rogers.

This is just an average night in the retirement community of Ajijic, Mexico—my parents’ home since 2008. I’ve visited every year since, and figured it’s about time to tell you all what it’s like.

They witness some pretty incredible sunsets
They witness some pretty incredible sunsets

While looking for an inexpensive place to retire, a realtor tipped my Mom off to the expat communities of Lake Chapala, home of Mexico’s largest lake. Money talks, and in Mexico, it practically screams. My parents did some research, visited Ajijic a couple of times, and bought a house in short order. It took a while to settle their affairs stateside since the real estate implosion was in its infancy, but they sold their house in the spring of 2008. Six weeks later, they drove cross-country to set up their new home in Mexico.

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The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Mermaid mid-twirl
Letting it all hang out at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Grab your pasties, slap on some glitter, and don’t worry if your bathing suit and skirt don’t match or fit. You know what? It’s better if they don’t. Your only requirement at the Coney Island Mermaid parade is to have some fun and let it all hang out.

I love parades, especially ones with character. The best parades are rooted in some deep tradition no one can really remember, but morph each year as new twists are added to keep the crowds coming back. Two parades had a big impression on me.

Mummer mid-strut
Mummer mid-strut

I was hypnotized the first time I saw Hare Krishnas march down a Boston street, and I was a regular at the Mummers Parade when I lived in Philadelphia. The parades may seem very different: one celebrates religion, the other blue-collar union pride; but the differences end there. Participants of both have far-out clothes (drapey robes, feathers and parasols), play indigenous, folksy music (gongs and hand cymbals, string-band renditions of “Golden Slippers), toss things at crowds (marigolds, beaded necklaces) and can be seen as gateway events to other cults.

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The Louis Armstrong Museum

Visiting New York City anytime soon? Are you looking for an Authentic New York Experience – a place that embodies the Big Apple Dream? You know, the dream where you overcome your modest roots to achieve wild success and travel the world, only to go on a real estate search for a starter home that would, due to the neighborhood’s charms, become your forever home with the love of your life?

Then take the 7 train to the 103rd street stop in Corona, Queens and visit the Louis Armstrong Museum where Pops and his wife Lucille set up house and stayed put. It’s got the make-yourself-at-home feeling of Graceland with just the right amount of Liberace glam to remind you that, even though you’re in one of the most humble of celebrity homes, Pops and Lucille knew how to live large without going too over the top.

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Provincetown in Winter

Welcome to Provincetown, MA - gorgeous and peaceful, especially in winter.
Welcome to Provincetown, MA

Picture this vacation: Four nights in a fabulous one-bedroom condo for less than $80 a night. No traffic in the streets, plenty of seats in the restaurants and coffee shops, free parking at any spot in town. And since I stayed in the center of town, all that free parking was at most a five-minute walk away.

It was early March, and I was in Provincetown, MA.

Yes, Provincetown. Over the years it’s gotten so pricey that it’s become an alternate version of New York City.

Race Point Beach right before sunset
Race Point Beach right before sunset.

But the solitude, quiet, and outta sight light this tiny beach town offers are there year round, and I found them at bargain prices in the offseason. I’ve been to the Cape tons of times in the summer, and I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be at the beach when the crowds are gone and the weather was colder. I finally made it two weeks after the last blizzard and three weeks before the brutal winter of 2015 was officially over, and it could be one of the best trips I’ve ever done.

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Three Days in Philadelphia

Love Park, Philadelphia
Love Park, Philadelphia

I love the City of Brotherly Love! I’ve had a couple of lease-signing stints there, so when a relative recently emailed me to recommend places to stay, it inspired this “36 Hours” rip-off post. My list has a half-assed geographical order to it, but you could easily skip or combine any of them into a manageable itinerary. Here’s what I would do if I were spending 3 days in the city.

City Hall, clean on top, a little grimy on the bottom.
City Hall, clean on top, a little grimy on the bottom.

The Basics: The entire city is enormous, but Center City (don’t call it downtown) isn’t. If you’re a walker, this is the city for you. If you aren’t, it’s well served by SEPTA’s buses and subway, as long as you have exact change (it’s $2.25 a ride), tokens, or a pass.  Center City’s streets are laid out on a grid and the two main drags, Market and Broad, cross at City Hall—a big old granite building that, apart from being three different shades of white due to too-high cleaning costs and a statue of William Penn on top, would not look out of place in any European capital.

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