Well, what is there to say about Bruges, Belgium (Brugge) that hasn’t already been said in one of my favorite films in recent memory, In Bruges?
While visiting a friend and vacationing in Amsterdam, the siren songs of Bruges were impossible to resist. Depending on how many transfers you have, Bruges is just a three to four hour train ride from Amsterdam, and what better way to see more of Northern Europe than by train? It was interesting to see the flat farmlands of The Netherlands, reclaimed from the water through their ingenious designs of dikes, dams and canals. Off in the distance windmills both ancient and modern could be seen and quaint small towns were passed by until we reached Belgium. On the way back to Amsterdam we even got to see a little bit of Antwerp during an hour layover at possibly the world’s most beautiful train station. Who knew, however, that Belgium is apparently considered the armpit of Northern Europe, as my friend (who has lived in both Belgium and New Jersey – another famous armpit we share in heritage) confirmed the theory I was developing while the train rattled through more small towns and rundown graffiti-strewn cities. But…who cares when Belgium is also home to the world’s best waffles, chocolate and beer? And…well…Bruges.
Martin McDonagh’s endearing black comedy captured Bruges perfectly. When Ken (Brendan Gleeson) fumbles over the phone with Harry (Ralph Fiennes) when trying to describe how Ray (Colin Farrell) felt about Bruges…he was spot on. Getting off at the train station, your first thought might be what the hell…maybe Bruges is a shit hole? But as soon as your feet hit those cobblestone streets and your eyes take in all the architecture, churches and canals, Belgium’s best preserved medieval city really is like a fuckin’ fairytale, innit? I mean, honest to god, Bruges is probably the most unabashedly beautiful city I have ever seen. Bruges knows exactly what it is, why people come, and it luxuriates you in its very essence. Continue reading →
Ah, Amsterdam – a city of infinite inspiration. A city of romantic canals and crepuscular red-lit streets, of curious contradictions, of people confident and tolerant and fit, of old and new. I mean where else in the world could you see within a matter of minutes from each other the original building that housed the Dutch West India Company (yes, thatDutch West India Company, you know, that explored and exploited much of the New World and founded New Amsterdam which became New York City) and the current world headquarters of Booking.com?
Amsterdam – a multi-cultural liberal stronghold atop ground that had it been left to its own devices would’ve been swallowed up by the sea. Kindergartens and churches sit comfortably adjacent to the Red Light District, and there is a vibe of very little worry or concern about it. It’s a city where if you are looking for something, you will find it. But there doesn’t seem to be any cultural neurosis or obsessing over it. People just are. They hustle and bustle, but in a laid-back manner. The inhabitants seem to share in a sense of solving problems in practical, efficient, scalable ways – whether it’s reclaiming land for growth and controlling the tides, creating bicycle paths to corral the traffic, or dealing with the darker sides of human nature. And while all of that is there if you look for it, it’s also a city of incomparable history, architecture, art and beauty.
It’s a city I envision myself returning to again and again as no single trip could ever do it justice. Continue reading →
There’s no rhyme or reason here, folks, just a collection of photos from random places I have been in 2013. I’ve been all over the map (with Europe still to come later this month!) from the Caribbean to Canada and with plenty of local tri-state faves here on the Eastern Seaboard in between.
Bet you were expecting a story here or something, huh? Well, some shots from the Cape May Lewes Ferry did inspire a short story about an elderly lady turned drug dealer. And another creepy abandoned industrial building in Toronto is sure to inspire a story about dead bodies most certainly hidden there at some point in my near future.
But I’ll say nothing more and allow you to choose your own adventure with these shots.
Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night. Now, they blew up his house, too. Down on the boardwalk they’re getting for a fight, gonna see what them racket boys can do.
For the Issue #4 of The Stone Digital Literary Magazine, we’re asking writers to submit their best short fiction where travel is prominently featured in the story. Maybe you’ve written a tale inspired by a poignant homecoming or a vacation from hell. Or maybe you’ve written a story about traveling to the stars. We invite writers to let their imaginations run wild on this one – in other words, we’re open to sci-fi for the first time ever. The only stipulation is, as always, no children’s stories or erotica. We want strong character-driven stories where a place or a destination can also be thought of as a character – vivid, unforgettable stuff.
Are you up to the challenge? Then what in blue blazes are you waiting for? Follow the below guidelines and submit your travel-centric story to The Stone today! Continue reading →
What better way to cure a Hurricane Sandy hangover and escape a bitter Nor’easter than by flying down to the place that knows bad storms the best…New Orleans! By pure happenstance (my little sojourn was planned about a month or so ago), I was flying down to the Big Easy for some rest and relaxation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and just before a Nor’easter battered my home state of New Jersey. It was also Election Day – more on that later. I had chosen New Orleans as my destination on a whim. I had never been there (alas, an aborted attempt to go my junior year of college still haunted me) and I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere a little more exciting…somewhere completely unlike my normal R&R spots in Upstate New York. A morbid thought also burrowed its way into my mind, as New Orleans is one of the few places in the US that at some point in my lifetime might no longer exist. Little did I know that much of the Jersey Shore and parts of NYC would fall into this category as well just a week before my trip.
Sunny 70-degree weather, cool nights and leisurely bustling but not overcrowded streets greeted me as I touched down in Louisiana. Good food, good drinks, good people and a city like no other (this has to be the most laid-back city in the United States) - it was just what the doctor ordered.
Ausable Chasm – Upstate New York -This past spring while up at Saratoga Springs for some R&R I took a scenic drive up I87 towards the Canadian border and stopped at Ausable Chasm. I don’t recall much of this - only that there was a pretty cool waterfall…
Original Photograph by D. H. Schleicher
…that brought to mind a rather Twin Peaks-ian moment…
I took a half-hearted stab at a local dining guide years ago, and at some point many of the restaurants listed below received a shout out in one way or another from The Spin or on my Twitter…but I decided it would be fun to traverse the eastern part of North America and crown a best restaurant in each favorite stomping ground. Our journey begins way down yonder in my former homeland of Nor’ Cackalacky. We’ll revisit some of my local favorites in Philly and the Jersey Burbs. We’ll travel far north through New York (and slighty west) all the way up into the land of expense accounts and Canucks. Prepare your taste buds, your credit cards, your hybrid vehicles (only if you have a designated driver) and/or your frequent flier miles….here is The Spin on My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts.
Raleigh, North Carolina – Babylon (309 N. Dawson St.) – I have no idea why a restaurant serving Moroccan food is called Babylon. Would Casablanca have been somehow un-PC or Marrakesh too obvious? But weird geographical naming faux-pas aside, this uber-trendy mecca of Raleigh’s liberal elite located fashionably downtown serves up organic, locally raised Moroccan and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that rivals any of your bigger city Northeast rivals. The ambiance is casual urban chic, the service impeccable, and the food fresh, hip and flavorful. Really, Raleigh, whodathunk? You go, with your emerging multicultural self!
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Amada (217 Chestnut Street) – Old City. Chef Jose Garcas. Spanish Tapas. Drinks named after Almodovar films. And a dish so epically simple and flavorful called Madre y Hijo (which consists of a fried egg atop a perfect slice of chicken breast atop a bed of roasted fingerling potatoes and all drizzled in truffle oil) that I would request if I were to ever find myself on death row waiting for a last meal. This is a Philly Restaurant Week staple and one of the most popular (and hard to get into) restaurants in the city even after all of these years. What more is there to say? (Reservations required!) Continue reading →
Paula Deen! Paula Deen! Get me some fried bird - stat!
We always discuss films and books and television. There’s the occasional politicking. Oh, and let’s not forget drinking – as in drinking games for watching political theater or your favorite cult film/TV show. So why the heck not put The Spin on one of my all-time favorite things?
I’ve been in love with it ever since that day when I was about ten years-old and I tasted the home-cooked fried chicken of Mrs. Cottingham in Willingboro, NJ.
On reruns of Seinfeld I’m often reminded by Newman that “Kenny Rogers makes a pretty mean bird,” but roasting is for suckers. My heart and cholesterol belong to fowl of the fried persuasion.
I covet it like Daniel Plainview covets oil.
So ladies and gentlemen…if I say I’m a fried chicken man you will agree.
And I am a man on a mission - in search of the world’s greatest fried chicken.
Well, I just got back from another successful excursion to Upstate New York for some much-needed rest & relaxation, and I even got some writing done while up there, too. The weather was perfect – sunny with patchy clouds and blue skies, a cool breeze and mid-60 degree temperatures – and the water was high and gently rushing down the mountains from the recent thaw. The roads and hills were once again open for the taking.
While Cooperstown has become a second home to me, I thought it was about time to explore other areas of Upstate New York. As a last-minute autumnal getaway, I ventured up to the Adirondacks as far north as Lake George while also stopping in Glens Falls — home to the Hyde Collection — and Saratoga Springs — home to one of the friendliest casinos I have ever been to. There’s something inherently adventurous when driving up a highway that has signs for Montreal — less than two-hundred miles away — and this civilized wilderness boasts some of the oldest settlements of both Native American and European origin. The drive up marked the first time I was ever able to leave New Jersey without paying a toll — quick, someone fact check this…is the 287 the only way to get out the Garden State by car for free? — and the Catskills and Adirondacks unfold in gently rolling forms on the horizon as one heads up I-87N. It’s astounding to think these now weather-worn and inviting mountains were at one time higher than the Himalayas. Taking in all the gorgeous lakes and interconnecting canals and creeks flowing into the Hudson and eventually down to NYC, it’s no wonder the French, English and Indians all wanted to not only live here, but also control it. Archaeological sites like Forts William Henry, Ticonderoga and Edward beckon us to stare into our Pre-Revolutionary past and see why this land…this wilderness was the first to be conquered.
The fresh air is meant to be drunk…the humble expanse breathed in…the fall colors tasted…. Continue reading →