The New Gym on the Block: Title Gym

“Jab, cross, bend, two upper-cuts!”

Michael’s instructions echo all around the small studio. With rivulets of sweat running down my neck, I can’t help but feel a swell of resentment every time I hear the voice. I glance back at the screen in the front of the room – “Round 6” with the seconds counting down at an achingly slow pace. I wasn’t sure that I would last to the end of the hour.

My quest to achieve a healthier lifestyle over the summer months led me to discover Title Gym. Nestled among the lush and luxurious on Boston’s Newbury Street, Title Gym has equipment and training fit for any regular health club, but their specialty is boxing. The clientele is a mix of hardcore gym rats and young women in search of the best #fitspo body. The gym offers classes in total body boxing and kickboxing, with an emphasis on muscle building.

From the outside, Title Gym is well-lit like any fitness studio down the street. The owner Mike Musto greets me upon entry, eager to set me up with the proper equipment. My class requires hand wraps and boxing gloves, the former of which I had no idea how to use. Musto sends me straight to the instructor Michael, who expertly wraps my hands in long, circular motions.

I am then guided to the rows upon rows of punching bags, hanging from the ceiling by a mere chain. I choose one towards the edge of the boxing area, close enough to watch the instructor and close enough to make a break for it if necessary – exercising has never been my forte.

I take a look around the room, sizing up my competition. There are a couple of bros, all muscle tanks and testosterone, in the front of the room. Towards the back, there is a young, fit-looking couple and behind them, a woman not unlike myself (but clearly more experienced as she wraps her hands like a pro). Next to me are two hijabis who also look like first-timers. Overall, I start to feel less out of place on seeing this eclectic mix of people. I instead direct my focus to the front of the room where a screen displays a timer in bold red letters. Like most workouts, I assume this will begin with some stretching and light cardio.

This was not like most workouts.

Our instructor immediately has us bouncing on our feet. Then we move into squats and, much to my frustration, I already feel a dull ache in my thighs. Michael begins to call out repetitions for us to complete: three squats, five jumping jacks and three jumps into squats. We continue this “warmup” for 15 minutes, which feel like an excruciating 45 minutes.

The class pauses for a water break, during which I chug more than half of my water bottle. I feel a smidge of regret as the water sits heavily at the pit of my stomach. We move on to the boxing portion of the class. I feel ready to take on any opponent – in this case, it is the punching bag – as I strap on my gloves.

Michael teaches us a variety of hits including jabs, crosses and upper-cuts. At first, I mimic the boxers I see on TV with their mean hits. The owner, Musto, comes over to gently correct my technique.

“Swing around with your fists,” Musto says kindly, mimicking the action on the other side of the punching bag.

To my surprise, his kind tone encourages me to perfect my hits. Though I don’t come close to this goal by the end, I pick up on the nuances between a weak hit and a solid hit. Proper technique, including hip movement, feet placement and posture, helps me strengthen my hit.

I am elated when Michael calls out “active rest” because I assume that means it is break time.

As it turns out, that assumption is both right and wrong. Though it is a breather from the tough punches, it is not meant to slow down our heartbeat. During our active rests, we complete a variety of low-impact exercises including jumping jacks, bicycle crunches and, of course, squats. I try to keep up but eventually I unstrap my gloves to give my poor fingers a breather from being curled for so long.

The last fifteen minutes are dedicated to the cool down, which as expected, is no less intense than the first two sections of the workout. We each grab a medicine ball and I consider how much I would be judged for asking for a lighter ball. The lightest one is 8 pounds, but with the intense workout we had just finished, I didn’t think my arms could support the heavy ball in the air.

It takes a lot of unattractive grunting and heavy breathing, but I am able to get through the exercises. One requires us to swing the ball from one side to the other. In my mind’s eye, I imagine myself dropping the ball on the ground, or worse, on my foot. Another requires us to do sit-ups, but we are only allowed to touch the floor on count five. As a result, Michael prolongs the five seconds with a cruel “foooooour… five”.

With thighs burning, hands smarting and body sweating buckets, he finally calls time at 8:30 p.m., exactly an hour later. I stagger out of the gym on shaky legs soon after, a sense of accomplishment blooming in my chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#CursedChild: The Event of a Generation

A uniting factor among many millennials today is a young boy with a curious scar: Harry Potter. Dubbed the “Potter generation”, many of us have had the opportunity of experiencing the sheer euphoria at getting our hands on one of the coveted books – and promptly scrambling home, lest a Pettigrew spoil the ending. J.K. Rowling has thrown a bone, so to speak, to her fans after nine long years with the release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I and II”, a special rehearsal edition of the script used for the two-part play with the same name currently running in London.

I could not even remember when I had pre-ordered “Cursed Child” – it was that long ago (after a glance at my receipt, it was in May). I felt giddy with excitement because I had always felt like a cheat. For being such a great Harry Potter fan, I had never been to the midnight book releases. As a girl in my early teens, I was too embarrassed to be seen with my parents, so naturally I had the books pre-ordered to my house. This time, I would get to live out my dream of truly experiencing what being a Potterhead would be like.

Harvard Square would be turned into “Hogwarts Square” for the night. Restaurants in and around the area would serve special treats to guests. One of the movies from the franchise would be shown in the open air.

My friend and I set off in search of the bus stop. We were unsure of its location until we saw a young, frizzy-haired woman in Gryffindor robes waiting on a street corner.

Bingo.

It turns out her grandmother had hand-sewn the robes, an impressive feat considering the actual Harry Potter merchandise did not look half as nice. She was also headed to Harvard Square for the festivities. We discussed the things we had heard about the book at length. How would the script form affect the prose we know and love? Would the story stick to the canon?

The bus ride across the river was short, and our search for Potterheads was even shorter. We found the open air theater after a few minutes of walking. There were so many people that some had taken to watching the screen from the back – a hazy view, but one that guaranteed open seats.

We sat among the diverse audience members. A mother and daughter giggling away at young Ron’s actions. A father gamely propping his daughter up so she could see the screen. A group of four friends murmuring the characters’ lines. A proud audience drowning the sound out with their applause when Harry finally caught the snitch.

Content aside, the Harry Potter series is magical for its ability to capture the intrigue of so many different people. A poster was set aside for fans to write what the series meant to them. Someone wrote “I love Hermione! She’s a hero, too! Smart girls rock,” while a different message from 7-year-old Thea said, “I want to go to Hogwarts when I am 11.”

We then took off for Porter Square Books, where I would eventually get the prized script book.

The line to get into the crowded bookstore wrapped around the corner unsurprisingly. Once we got to the front of the line, they checked our names off the extensive list of pre-orders and handed us the “house” we would receive our book at. It was a smart organizational tactic, though I was unhappy to get a yellow Hufflepuff card.

Adults, teens, children and families lined the store. Some were filling out trivia questions (the Hard questions proved to be too much for my friend and I) while others were sampling “Harry Potter” themed food and drink.

We made our way to the back of the bookstore where a costume contest was taking place. While I thought my hand-drawn Dark Mark was impressive, these people took dressing up to another level. There was a woman dressed as Hagrid with a large beard, “Harry Potter” pants, a lantern and other outlandish items. Another woman was dressed in various shades of green, from the tassels hanging out of her blonde hair to the leaves adorning her skirt – we assumed she was the physical incarnation of Slytherin. The only other one that stuck out to me was this shy, little girl – she couldn’t have been more than 11-years-old. She had dressed as Harry Potter, complete with the lightning scar and Gryffindor robes.

You already know she won the costume contest.

As the announcer coaxed her to stand on a chair for all to admire her costume, the audience was deafening with their applause. The mousy girl cracked a small smile as it was revealed that she would be the first to get a “Cursed Child” book.

The spirit and camaraderie among the crowd never really died. In one corner, two Luna Lovegoods were discussing the merits of their costumes while a group of Slytherins in a another were jokingly discussing cheating on the trivia.

The minute before midnight, the crowd began to chant the seconds to the official release of the “Cursed Child” book.

“5…4…3…2…1…”

Some jokingly shouted “happy New Year” into the air while other whooped and hollered in excitement. There was an air of something new, of something exciting.

The fun of these events is not solely centered on getting the book; it’s meeting people who share the same passion and dedication to something that has come to define a generation.

Neighborhood Treasures: Bookistan

Located past the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Harvard Avenue, Bookistan is nondescript and unassuming in appearance. A black sign has the name printed in unevenly spaced block letters while the window beneath it has the words “B0OKS + RECORDS” printed. The window, which sits around hip-level to the average person, displays an eclectic variety of knickknacks, from Elvis memorabilia to Star Wars themed novels.

I descend into the bookstore. As always, the shattered window is propped against the wall. The mild breeze is not enough to fight off the mild sense of claustrophobia I feel while walking around the store.

After a quick glance around the place, I stop in front of the owner, El-Cid Shahroozi, seated behind his cluttered desk.

When I ask for his name, he quietly mumbles that I will not be able to spell it correctly and that it would be better off if he wrote it down for me. In precise strokes, he hands me the spelling on a Roberto Coin sticky note. Later, I find out via a quick search on Google that Coin is an Italian designer who specializes in jewelry with merchandise in high end places like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue. What is this old Iranian man doing with sticky notes from an Italian designer?

I don’t find out the answer to this question. Instead, I surmise that, like the rest of his life, there was a complicated story behind the stationary.

Shahroozi is an Iranian man in his early 70’s. He is dressed very plainly in a cotton grey shirt and green cargo shorts. His glasses have a steel frame, very sensible. As we begin to talk, a young couple walks in. He immediately gets up and greets them as if they are regulars. His warmness is welcoming, and the couple stays for a few minutes while browsing the immense book collection Bookistan boasts.

He then asks me what university I attend: Boston University or Emerson College? He has definitely been interviewed before. Despite my suspicions, Shahroozi’s account of his life before and during Bookistan spares no detail.

Shahroozi spent around 50 years in Iran under many occupations – writer, publisher, librarian, and journalist, to name a few. He was a voracious reader, a trait that naturally led him to take over this obscure bookstore.

His push to move to the United States was prompted by none other than a love affair. The affair was with a woman from Middletown, N.Y. who taught at an international school in Iran. The two met through a Harvard-educated man who was also teaching in Iran. Iranian diplomats would send their children to be educated by these people, said the owner, to highlight the importance of their work.

“Our lives were intertwined with the revolution,” Shahroozi said. The friend eventually fled Iran after worries that his Jewish heritage would conflict with the wishes of the government. Shahroozi’s would-be wife waited for him for a full year in Pakistan while he worked to get a U.S. visa.

The Iranian government was closely monitoring the comings and goings of its citizens at the time. It would be a few years before Shahroozi would gain a visa to escape the political turmoil in favor of the United States.

As he describes his personal experiences and their correlation to the political events of the time, I take the time to study his desk. There is a miniature boat with the destination “Barbados” etched into the side. Behind the boat, a jewelry stand holds tarnished silver watches. Across the desk, a miniature Halloween skeleton figurine sits at the edge. Perhaps the newest item on the desk is the red rose, fittingly immersed in water in a Gatorade bottle.

We moved on to lighter topics. At the mention of books, his eyes seem to sparkle. The books, he tells me, come from all over the place. He has meticulously picked and chosen for Bookistan’s collection.

The store is new, just past the two-and-a-half-year mark. Yet the light musty odor, reminiscent of something older, could fool patrons. Like any store, Shahroozi affirms that he has his regulars. He runs the store for both them and other patrons. He tells me that this is his civic duty, to educate people to think critically.

At first I’m unsure what he means – what is there to think critically about in this place? But as I look around, I find that it is confusing. Why are there 4-H ribbons? Who would give away Elvis memorabilia? Would anyone really buy such an obscure vinyl?

On walking out, I have the distinct feeling of having walked through someone’s mind. And perhaps that is the point of Bookistan.

100 Details: Martha’s Vineyard

  1. The first parking lot was full of people – at 10:15 a.m.
  2. The kid looked like Napoleon Dynamite and was definitely unhappy about being there.
  3. We drove down the winding roads to another parking lot.
  4. The parking lot was massive, bigger than the size of a football field
  5. We were parked at the complete other end (U2).
  6. We got on a shuttle
  7. Others were bringing suitcases and large duffle bags
  8. There were many families, groups of friends, and couples
  9. The bus was white
  10. It took us 15 min to get back to main area
  11. The ticket area was full of people.
  12. It was very convenient, with a food area and bathroom. It has a sign that says “threat level” – currently, the threat status is elevated.
  13. The line was not too long
  14. The ferry was huge, with a giant space for the cargo hold
  15. On entering, the back of the ship has less seats than the front
  16. There were many kids on the ferry, eager to interact with their surroundings
  17. Once docked, the ferry opens up to a wooden bridge that connects to the island
  18. I believe this is called Oak Bluff
  19. Next to the docking is a tourist center with free information
  20. We go to Offshore Ale Company for lunch
  21. The peanut shells cover the ground, constantly being added to
  22. Their signature is, unsurprisingly, beer
  23. The oysters are fresh, tasty and easy to eat
  24. The apothecary is just a regular pharmacy; sounds more interesting
  25. The signs all over the island have character (don’t you dare think about parking here, etc)
  26. The gingerbread cottages are real houses
  27. People just casually traipsing through the neighborhood, residents don’t seem to mind
  28. Residents ignore us
  29. The houses are painted all sorts of colors, clearly not like regular neighborhoods
  30. Very close together, only a few feet separate the houses
  31. Houses have all sorts of names, giving a more personalized touch on top of the crazy colors
  32. Seem very much like dollhouses
  33. Ubers are expensive on the island
  34. A taxi (or at least a bike) is necessary to get to the other side of the island
  35. The road is straight, and not much traffic, so it takes us no time to get there
  36. There’s a section of the bridge where people crowd around others jumping off the bridge
  37. The taxi drops us off at a nice hotel near the lighthouse
  38. We stop to use the restroom; though we are not paying customers, they do not stop us
  39. We walk past the manicured lawns onto the sandy beach
  40. The sand is rough, full of rocks and shells (slightly dangerous)

41.The lighthouse is unimpressive, barely taller than my own house while boasting a $5 price

  1. We forego the experience and sit on the rough ledge surrounding the lighthouse
  2. Families huddle around the shade, eager to not burn even more in the hot sun
  3. A proposal had just taken place; people congratulate the couple – it’s very low key
  4. There are bricks with names surrounding the lighthouse
  5. High school girls are sitting, brushing away the dirt and painting the names in black
  6. My friend begins to play a few songs through her iPhone and speakers; no one reacts
  7. The cool breeze is a welcome change from the muggy air
  8. A Spanish speaking family huddles around the shade, laughing and enjoying themselves next to us
  9. We go back towards the hotel; two boys greet us from the porch of their house
  10. The lawn is really well-manicured, and I wonder what it’s like to live on the island
  11. My friend calls an operator to call a taxi – the woman is efficient but rude, clearly she’s done this a lot.
  12. The taxi driver is the same one that dropped us off near the lighthouse. He plays the same music as well.
  13. We stop at a convenience store to see how much an umbrella is. At $30, we decide not to buy the umbrella.
  14. We walk down the street to the ice cram store.
  15. The walk is almost sensory overload. There’s live music (via guitar) playing from one of the restaurants. People fill the street like ants. The vendors are out and about, inviting people into stores.
  16. We decide to stop by the Chocolate Emporium at first. It’s decidedly unimpressive – you can find most of it anywhere. The smell is so delicious, though.
  17. We hurry out the exit and to the ice cream shop.
  18. The ice cream shop is open, with a small carpet leading to the ordering area. We take some time to make our picks.
  19. I try the “black raspberry” in hopes that it will taste like a sorbet. It does not. The flavor is super dry, and I’m not too impressed.
  20. I settle on the cookie dough ice cream. The cookie dough itself has a weird sort of flavor to it – clearly not freshly made as the store claims. I’m still not very impressed, especially with $5 a scoop.
  21. There is a purple curtain in the store. A few people disappear through it, so we are curious as to where it goes – perhaps a bathroom? My two friends go to check, but it turns out to be the entrance to another store (which is weird in itself).
  22. We exit the ice cream parlor, thoroughly full on the ice cream. We keep walking down the street. Now, we plan to go see one of the oldest carousels.
  23. Traffic is very slow, as they stop for any pedestrian who walks out onto the street without a care.
  24. It turns out that the arcade we passed earlier has the carousel. My interest is piqued.
  25. We walk in. It’s dramatic in that the first part of the arcade has the usual games. Through a wooden entrance lies the famous carousel.
  26. The carousel looks like it’s about to break.
  27. The kids on the ride grab small metal hoops and put them on their chosen horse at each round. Perhaps it’s some sort of challenge?
  28. Again, this ride is $5. Seeing as we might contribute in breaking the carousel, we decline to get on.
  29. Across the street, we see a lounge dedicated to pool. We decide to check it out.
  30. From the outside, the lounge is swathed in black and up a flight of stairs, so we really don’t know what to make of it.
  31. Though there’s AC (it is still miserably hot outside), no one is there so we decide not to play.
  32. We turn to the left and walk down the street. This time, we see that a bunch of vespas/scooters are for rent. We regret not having seen this earlier. Of course, none of us are wearing close-toed shoes, so we wouldn’t have been able to rent them anyway.
  33. The woman at the stand tells us that it is around $30 for about 2 hours. We really regret not wearing close-toed shoes.
  34. We do an about face and turn to the beach to spend our last few hours.
  35. As we climb down the stairs, we notice that the sand is full of shells just like the sand near the lighthouse. It’s not fun.
  36. We settle on a shady spot next to a bag full of drained beer cans. Unfortunate, but it’s the only spot.
  37. My two friends decide to jump in the water, while another and I stay at the edge – simply feeling the cool water.
  38. A dad and his child play in the water next to us. Despite the painful rocks, she keeps giggling away.
  39. We get used to the cold water and finally feel some relief from the hot weather.
  40. We all come out of the water and return to our towels.
  41. My friends begin to play Frisbee. We call out one of them for having terrible aim. Soon, we realize that it’s because of the wind when someone switches with her.
  42. The sun begins to die down, and the weather is perfect.
  43. My friend complains about picking up a rock, pressing down on it, and realizing that it was a snail by the oozing.
  44. After that, we decide to call it a day at the beach – if you can call it that. All the rocks on the shore still bother me.
  45. We use Yelp to find good restaurants near us. Luckily, we find one right next to wear our boat was to dock. Unluckily, the woman told us it would be a 45 min. wait.
  46. We try for another restaurant further into the little town. It’s called 20byNine.
  47. They seat us outside on some wooden slats and revolving chairs. We instantly feel hip with the décor. And then we realize why they seat so few people outside – bugs are everywhere.
  48. My friends order a margarita, sans tequila because the restaurant doesn’t actually serve anything besides bourbon and whiskey. They are a bit wary.
  49. We order a cheese plate for the table, intrigued by the sophistication it promises.
  50. We quickly realize that we are not cut out for this sophistication. We order 3 more baskets of the tiny pieces of bread they give us. The cheese is a delight, but we are more concerned with the various fruits they gave us – some of which we had never seen before.
  51. Bees buzz all around our food, making eating a sort of exercise – chew, then swat.
  52. The margaritas turn out to have foam-y egg white at the top. None of my friends are amused, and close their noses when drinking to tolerate it.
  53. One of the waiters, in a plaid shirt and khaki pants, hovers over us. He seems to be taking notes – I can only hope he isn’t taking note of how obnoxious we are.
  54. For a small plate of cheese and fruits, a lobster cake appetizer, bite sized smores, and our drinks, we are charged $100. We are still hungry.

A Curious Sense of Diversity: Martha’s Vineyard

When I used to think of the quintessential New England, I automatically thought of lobster rolls, ‘Hahvahd Yahd’, and Tom Brady. Now, I think of Martha’s Vineyard.

Martha’s Vineyard is the premier vacation hot spot for primarily white, Vineyard Vines wearing middle and upper class folks. At just a 40-minute ferry ride away from mainland, the Vineyard affords these people a classy getaway for relatively cheap – a round-trip totals to $17 (that’s if the BMW is left in the garage). Upon further research via the Washington Post, Oak Bluffs – the part of the island my friends and I were headed to – is known as the “Black Hamptons”, a mecca for the “Black Elite”. I would reserve my judgment for the trip.

Don’t let the cheap ferry price fool you. Everywhere else on the island might as well have had “tourist trap” tacked onto their doors.  A scoop of ice cream will set you back $5 (plus tax). A margarita, mixed sans tequila, will set you back even further at $13. A ten-minute taxi ride will cost you upwards of $30.

Naturally, we scoped out the free options.

Among our limited options, we stumbled upon the famous gingerbread cottages. Not to be confused with actual gingerbread houses, the neighborhood seemed to be simply one cottage duplicated many, many times. On closer look, each house had its own personality and distinctive characteristics. One was covered in an atrocious bubblegum pink while another was painted in soft purple. Yet another house was painted in contrasting navy and burgundy tones. Even more odd: the houses were named. From “The Millers” to “La Vie en Rose”, each name complimented the eclectic style in which the individual house was designed.

Upon leaving the neighborhood, I had the distinct feeling that I had just taken a turn around Whoville.

Or perhaps a ghost town. It was eerie to walk amongst the cottages. We did see the residents here and there, but for the most part, the houses stood empty. They seemed to be from another era. One thing that really stuck out was the conformity among the houses. Despite the range of colors, the cottages were all the same. It was a little disconcerting, frankly.

We eventually made our way across the island to a little lighthouse. My friends and I were dropped off in front of Harbor View Hotel. Here, I found my imagined stereotype come to life. Here were the upper middle class vacationers with varying degrees of tans. Here were the houses with impeccably cured lawns.

The rocky shores that greeted us as we first docked on the island were in direct contrast with this manicured picture. Families of all walks of life lounged around the shore in the former while in the latter, the people, proudly sporting their Vineyard Vines polos and caps, were the ones we jokingly scoffed at.

We made our way back to our original place in Oak Bluffs, a place we felt more comfortable in. Besides, the $5 entrance fee to the lighthouse barely taller than the hotel served as an effective barrier on the other side of the island.

People, from the rapid Spanish speaking family to the nuclear Indian family to the straight out of Fourth of July couple, crowded the nearby grass and sand. The mix of languages and people was fascinating, something I had not expected from a place called Martha’s Vineyard.

Bottom line: as we too lounged near the rocky shores of Oak Bluffs, it was clear to me that perhaps I was wrong in judging the Vineyard too soon. Yes, it definitely had my imagined stereotypes, but it also had a growing rich (and dare I say, diverse) culture. That’s how I’ve also come to see New England and so yes, for me, the quintessential New England is Martha’s Vineyard.

Escaping the monotony: A trip to Martha’s Vineyard

To escape the humdrum of the city, five friends and I decided to pile into a car and make our way down to the ever popular vacation spot: Martha’s Vineyard, home to Vineyard Vines and the movie “Jaws”.

We arrived in Cape Cod around 10 a.m. – an early start for most people in the group. Not early enough, apparently, as a tired-looking Napoleon Dynamite told us at the first parking lot we visited. He directed us down the long, winding roads to a second parking lot. This one was massive, bigger than the size of a football field. We parked at the complete other end of the lot among the rows and rows of cars.

Luckily, there was a shuttle transporting visitors to the main ferry area. Among the visitors were families, groups of friends (like ourselves), and couples. Some were carrying suitcases and large duffle bags, a testament to the popularity of this particular vacation spot.

Once at the ferry area, we each bought round-trip tickets and waited our turn in line to get on the ferry. From our view, the ferry looked massive with a giant cargo hold. First, the cars were loaded one by one. Then came the bikes. Then came the people.

The ride was short at 40 minutes, but we took the time to walk the deck and watch the water lap against the rapidly-moving ferry. The white blended in with the turquoise which blended in to the deep blue, making for a beautiful view to the island.

We started our day the way the best days start: with food. We ended up at the highly recommended Offshore Ale Company. Instead of the regular free bread or free chips, this restaurant’s fare was peanuts. The restaurant surprisingly encouraged its guests to throw the shells on the ground – an altogether messy novelty.

After a filling lunch, my friends and I made our way to the famous gingerbread cottages. No, the cottages weren’t actually made of gingerbread but the reasoning behind the name was quickly apparent on first glance. They seemed to be the same house duplicated throughout the neighborhood, but as we walked around, we realized that each had its own distinctive characteristics. Each had a different color scheme – one was covered in atrocious bubblegum pink pink, another soft purple, and another in contrasting navy and burgundy tones. Oddly enough, the houses were also named. From “The Millers” to “La Vie en Rose”, each name complimented the eclectic style in which the individual house was designed.

Upon leaving the neighborhood, I had the distinct feeling that I had just taken a turn around Whoville.

We then made a group decision to head towards one of the lighthouses. Upon plugging the place into Google Maps, we were shocked to discover that our options were either a 10-minute drive or an hour and a half walk. For the sake of our already-tanned skin and sanity, we decided to flag a taxi down to the other side of the island.

After piling out of the taxi, we spotted the rather underwhelming lighthouse. With a hefty $5 entrance fee, we were hesitant about going up a lighthouse that was barely taller than some of the houses on the island. My friends and I eventually decided to lounge in the shade of the lighthouse, blasting the tunes of Vanessa Carlton and Drake into the afternoon.

 

Marseilles (revised)

Marseilles, despite its attractive location in southern France, is not the type of place you choose for the idyllic vacation spot – especially if you don’t speak a lick of French.

The adventure begins at the airport, Marseille Provence Airport. It’s already noon. With two main terminals, the airport is simple to navigate. Follow the other frantic-looking tourists to the buses. Take caution, though, as some tourists have organized transportation. Men and women in neon orange vests will set you in the right direction to buy tickets and board the correct bus.

After a 30 minute ride, the bus will deposit you at a two floor train station. Step outside, and on a good day, the view will be breathtaking.

Though the city’s buildings are obscured with graffiti, the sun will peek out in greeting. That elation felt when taking in the city for the first time seems to slowly disappear as you realize just how many steps there are to ground level. To sum it up: too many.

Take a breath or two at the bottom of the steps and make your way to the accommodation. For a college student on a budget, a dingy (read: cozy) hostel will suffice. This humble student suggests Vertigo Centre, the one located next to the train station. Traveling is a breeze, and it’s a short 15 minute walk from Vieux Port.

Ah, Vieux Port.

Make your way there as soon as possible. You’ll be walking down a street with a view of the ocean. However, once you hit the end of the street, you will realize why Marseilles is known for being a city of trade.

Kids are running, laughing and playing in the way schoolchildren do. Fishmongers are displaying their fine catches, ready to swindle you out of a pretty euro. Families gather in line to take a ride on the enormous Ferris Wheel, a treat on a fine spring day.

The people are loud, rowdy even. Shrewd as they are, they know the stench of tourist and seem to gravitate away from it. Even so, make an effort to learn about the fish being sold at the bazaar-like markets.

Take the next boat to Chateau D’If. As you leave the port, the surrounding ripples in the turquoise water and the jagged rock formations seem to transport you to somewhere entirely different. Maybe that’s the point – after all, Chateau D’If is the backdrop to Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo”.

D’If is a spit of an island. Originally, it was a fortress built in the early 1500s. Almost two centuries later, the fortress was converted into a prison. Today, nature reigns supreme on the island. Grass grows in every crevice while seagulls serve as watchdogs of the former prison.

Once you’ve had your fill, take the next ferry back to the mainland. Take a moment to decompress with a steaming shot of expresso – the rich flavors are unlike any other.

As the sun begins to set, you’ll begin the return to the hostel. Marseilles in the dark is not a particular palatable place, but you can’t help but dwell on how much more there is so much more to see. The Calanques offer you the chance of a lifetime to walk into a postcard of views. The Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde boasts killer views of the city – if you’re willing to make the uphill journey.

You will realize that it is not these landmarks that make the city.

Rather, it’s the gritty people. Graffiti-covered buildings. Trash-filled streets. There is a certain resilience about Marseilles that is fascinating.

Marseilles is not the type of place you choose for a vacation spot. Marseilles is the type of place you choose to see what life is like outside of your own realm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Five Restaurants to Visit After a Red Sox Game

Fenway Park serves as a rite of passage for any Bostonian. From the mouth-watering, sizzling Fenway Franks to the ice cold drafts, a day at Fenway will cost a pretty penny. As the Boston Globe reports, Fenway Park takes the gold for one of the most expensive places to catch a baseball game. A family of four can expect to pay up to $300, if not more, with the cost of tickets, food, drinks, and the inevitable souvenir or two.

To (hopefully) celebrate a win and save some dough, here are a few restaurants within walking distance that are sure to satisfy any and all hungry Sox fans:

 

Tasty Burger
1301 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

As the “official burger of the Boston Red Sox”, Tasty Burger is the ideal place to take any group of people, whether that be the kids or a group of college buddies. The prices are as good as it gets in Boston with burgers and sandwiches ranging from $4 to $7 – though beware: fries and onion rings are extra (the investment is worth it).

One of the more distinctive qualities of the restaurant is the seating arrangement: you can choose to sit restaurant style on the inside or sit on one of the benches outside and pick up your food via pickup window. If that isn’t enough, Tasty Burger boasts a free* parking lot – a downright commodity in the Boston area.

*for paying customers only

 

sweetgreen
132 Brookline Ave, Boston MA 02215
Mon-Sun 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Call it the new craze sweeping the nation – sweetgreen has been making headlines around the country for its satisfying and healthy salads.

Now, here me out. I would be the first to snort at the idea of eating a salad, especially after a baseball game. With combinations like “guacamole greens” and “spicy sabzi”, at least one of these creations are sure to catch your eye. The portion sizes are larger than you would think, though the calorie count stays well below 600 cal. The different proteins will help keep you satisfied for a while.

After a cool draft or two at Fenway, sweetgreen is the right move for those working to stay healthy while having a good time.

 

El Pelón Taquería
92 Peterborough St, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Authentic Mexican food on this side of the country? Rare. As a native Angeleno, I can tell the difference. The closest I’ve gotten to the taste is at El Pelón Taqueria.

They carry a variety of dishes including quesadillas, enchiladas, tortas, tacos and burritos – none of which cost over $8. Whatever you do, be sure to get an antojitos (snack) of plantains. The plantains, after being fried to a nice golden brown, are served with their signature fire roasted salsa. Seems like an odd combination, but the mix of sweet and spicy is downright delightful.

If you’re looking for food that packs a punch of flavor, this is your place.

 

Gyro City
88 Peterborough St, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Sun 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Conveniently located next to El Pelón Taquería, Gyro City takes you on a trip to Greece with its Greek fare. Not only will the employees teach you to pronounce the names of delicious Greek foods, but they will also send you off with a plate of fresh, handmade food.

The gyros – filled with your choice of meats, veggies and tzatziki – serve as perfect post-game food. You don’t even have to order fries on the side! The fries are stuffed into the gyros for a very Greek experience.

If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to order some of their homemade baklava or sample some of their Greek yogurt.

 

Wahlburgers
132 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215
Mon-Thur, Sun 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Yes, Wahlburgers as in the reality show featuring chef Paul Wahlberg and his brother and actor Mark Wahlberg.

This restaurant is a must for any Marky Mark fan. The actor graced the restaurant with his presence at its opening, so really, you’ll be taking the same steps Mark Wahlberg took. Oh, and the burgers are definitely worth a visit.

Here’s an insider tip: skip the fries. Instead, go for the house specialty, crispy and golden tater tots with a side of their house “wahl” sauce. For those less keen on meat, Wahlburgers makes an excellent haddock sandwich or portobello sandwich.

Given the name, this restaurant is on the pricier side but worth it if you’re craving the “burger experience”.