Tour guide for Italy

If you’re looking for a personal tour guide when you’re in Florence, Siena or the surrounding area, here’s the contact info of the woman we hired.  She’s very knowledgable, laid out a good itinerary based on our wants and needs, and is relatively affordable.  Obviously, there are hundreds of tour guides in Italy, so if you find another one who you think will give you a good tour for a better price, I won’t sit here and tell you that you HAVE to hire this woman.  But we were perfectly happy with the service she provided.

Elisa Camporeale, Ph.D.
Art Historian — Tourist Guide
Florence, Siena & Provinces

For 10 people, she charged 30 euros per person for the day.  I’m sure you can negotiate a price depending on your group size and the season you visit.


Tuk Tuk – the Auto Rickshaw

A popular mode of transportation in SE Asia is the Tuk Tuk (pronounced “Duk Duk”), which is an auto rickshaw.  Generally cheaper than cabs if you can negotiate correctly, the Tuk Tuk is a fun way to get around.  But know that your heart rate will be accelerated as you ride on them.  Think of it like taking an amusement park ride without the benefit of a safety bar.  And again my mantra for SE Asia — Keep Your Elbows In!

Peru Part II – Inca Trail and Aguas Calientes

No trip to Peru would be complete without seeing the country’s iconic ruins high up in the Andes: Machu Picchu.  There are several ways to go about visiting this legendary place.  For the adventurous backpackers, there are 3 and 4-day hikes on the Inca Trail that finish up at Machu Picchu.  For a less vigorous trip, you can opt for the option we chose:  A one day hike along the last part of the Inca Trail, a night in the small town of Aguas Calientes and a sunrise visit to Machu Picchu the following morning.

Before I get into the “good” of the trip, I want to get the relatively “bad” out of the way.  The tour company we booked our trip through was called Peru Gateway Travel – and I would NOT recommend them.  Now nothing “horrible” happened, but they were very disorganized and did a piss poor job of preparing us for the excursion.  They typically hold pre-trip briefings where a company rep comes to your hotel and goes over what you’ll need to pack, where to be, details, etc.  However, in our case, we were directed to a random address in Cusco to find for ourselves, and relatively late at night.  The thing is: they gave us the wrong address. So my family, while suffering from altitude sickness, was left wandering around a city they don’t know in the dark.  When they got back to the hostel, we had the hotel manager call the company (who gave them an earful) and a representative eventually showed up.  The next problem was that the kid they sent barely spoke English and thought we were going on the 4-day hike.  He was going over all the wrong details, and had no idea what details we needed to hear.  So we ended up bringing way to much of the wrong items for our hike, and all along the way didn’t really have any clue at any given time if we were in the right place or not.

So long story short, like I said, while the hike wasn’t horrible (our guide, Diego, was actually quite good), I’d recommend working with a more organized group.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the trip itself.

We took the Peru Rail to the 104 KM point of the Inca Trail.  The train ride took about 3 hours from Cusco and was surprisingly comfortable.  We got of the train and our guide Diego* commenced to take us on our hike.  Going back to how bad our prep was, we were seriously over-packed so here’s are a few tips:

-Take only what you know you’ll NEED and not what you might need.  Figure out if water and/or food will be provided in advance.
-If you’re getting a travel company to put this together, they’ll probably provide a bag lunch.  Leave extra room in your backpack for that so that you’re not carrying around a one pound plastic bag full of food  on the Inca Trail.  Trust me, it’s super annoying after about 200 meters.
-If you’re not in the best of shape, or would have trouble walking up to the 15th floor of a building at any given point, I’d suggest having a walking stick.

The hike itself is moderate to very challenging at points, including one steep section the locals call the “Gringo Killer”.  You’ll also want to make sure you’re good and acclimated before you go.  Coca leaves, which Peruvians/Incans have been using for centuries to help with altitude sickness, might help you.  But even if they do, it’ll only provide a small amount of comfort.  Once you get going, take the time to enjoy the beautiful mountain ranges, hundreds of different types of orchids along the path and and the unmatched feeling of breathing in the fresh, clean air of the Andes.  Part of the way on the trail we stopped at Winay Wayna, an ancient Incan ruin built up along the mountainside.  This location provided a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

The end of our hike concluded at Machu Picchu, but we only did a quick look since it was towards the end of the day and we would be going to be back the next day at sunrise.

For our evening stay, we made our way down to Aguas Calientes, the teeny, tiny town at the bottom of the Machu Picchu mountain.  This town really isn’t worth visiting on its own unless you’ll be at Machu Picchu for two days.  The town is very touristy and is full of hostels, touristy restaurants, an unbelievable amount of massage parlors, and a ton of backpackers.  Despite the touristy-ness, the town is cute and not a bad place to stay for the evening.  Here’s where we stayed and ate:

Hostel Chaska
Alameda los artesanos #209
Urb. Las Orquideas,
Machu Picchu, Peru
974 789818

The hostel we were put up in was Hostel Chaska which was a perfectly good, above average hostel.  Clean and no nonsense.

Chaska Restaurant
It was “eh”.  Full of backpacking groups and a basic menu of steaks, chickens, and other normal peruvian fare.

Inka Wasi Restaurant
Another “eh” restaurant.  Clearly you’re not going to have fine dining in Aguas Calienetes.  I did try one of the dishes here that I heard I had to try called Cuy, otherwise known as Guinea Pig.  Again, it was “eh”.  Kind of annoying actually.  I’d say it’s worth trying for the amusement of seeing a whole guinea pig (head and all on your plate), but it’s like eating shitty crabs: it’s a lot of work to get to just a little bit of not that great meat.

Cafe de Paris
Actually a pleasant little place to take a load off and have a latte and croissant.  The owner is actually French and you can tell he’s really into his baking (we asked him about the ingredients) which uses Peruvian spices along with European ingredients.

*Diego has been a Inca Trail guide for over 15 years and has hiked the Inca Trail hundreds of times.  His rate to guide a 4-day hike is $500.  So if you are ever interested, contact me and I will send you his email address.

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Who makes the best Philly Cheesesteak?

On a recent trip to Philadelphia the other weekend, a friend of mine and I decided to try our hand at two of the most famous cheesesteak shops in Philadelphia.  Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks are located literally across the street from one another at the intersection where 9th Street, Passyunk Street and Wharton Street meet.  On any given day at any given time that corner is overflowing with people stuffing their faces with bread and meat since both are open 24 hours (so you can get your heart attack in at any time).

Now admittedly, we heard from several locals that these two places are touristy and that some of the best places are actually out in the suburbs (Tony Luke’s for one was a place a local Philly girl swears by).  But since we only had a weekend, we had to see what the hype was about.

Here’s a rundown of how they compared:

Both had similarly long lines and both are Cash Only.  Geno’s by far has the more elaborate looking shop; it looks like something out of Las Vegas, wheras Pat’s has a more local, sandwich hut type feel.   Geno’s easily has the better eating setup: both have picnic tables (about 12 picnic tables or so each), but Geno’s is smart enough to set up standing bar style tables for people to eat along the side of the walls of the shop.   But while Geno’s may have the better seating, they get knocked down a notch because of something that made me feel a little uncomfortable.  When you’re at the casher, there are signs and pictures up of the owner with a “I want my country back” sign and “This is America, we only take orders in English” and shit like that.  Now, I’m not going to use this forum to get too much into it, but as an Asian-American I didn’t feel all that enamoured by that.

Onto the food.  When ordering, both places have the “instructions” on how to order your sandwich quickly.  Probably no one will do anything if you don’t order it like a local, but they may just get a little annoyed if there is a long wait.  You can compare it to putting ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago – they’ll just frown on the out-of-towner.  We ordered the same sandwich, “wiz wit”, at both places.  If you get the cheesesteaks “wiz wit”, which is the cheese whiz, it’s going to be very, very messy.   The steak at Geno’s is a bit more like steak-umm’s flat and solid strips.  The steak at Pat’s is more shredded and a little leaner.  The bread at Geno’s is more like a traditional sub roll like one you’d get from Jimmy Johns, whereas Pat’s break is a lot fluffier and spongier and more like a roll.

In the end the winner is: Pat’s King of Steaks.  You can’t really go wrong with either;  it really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

For good measure, we also tried one of Pat’s cheesesteaks with provolone cheese, peppers and mushrooms and that to me was actually the best out of all of them!  So if you’re up in Philly, enjoy!

Jerusalem – Part II: The Old City

Back to the highlights from Israel.  As I mentioned before, the advantage of staying at the Eldan Hotel is its proximity to the Old City.  Arguably the biggest religious center in the entire world, the highlights of the Old City can be done in a day – but it would be very, very exhausting.  My suggestion would be to give it a day and a half.

***I’ll try and limit the amount of historical background I get into (because quite frankly it would require pages and pages) 

Before you go into the craziness of the Old City, I would actually recommend checking out the Tower of David Museum at the Jaffa Gate.  We visited the museum at the end of our trip through the Old City, but in hindsight doing it beforehand probably would have been more beneficial.  This museum will give you a great history of the city before you go and see the actual sights and can be realistically be done in a couple of hours.

You’ll also notice as you begin your journey into the Old City how remarkably international the environment is.  Jerusalem, and in particular the Old City, really is the most international city that I’ve ever been immersed in with every sort of ethnicity represented.  It just shows you how widespread Christianity, Judaism and Islam are practiced throughout the world.

Christian Section

We started our journey through the Old City at the Jaffa Gate, and made our way into the market to try and find the start of the Via Dolorosa.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Via Dolorosa, it’s the path that Jesus Christ took on his way to his crucifixion.  On the Via Delarosa, there are several checkpoint stations that mark where different miracles/events allegedly occurred during Christ’s walk.  Be prepared to get lost.  Although there are maps and a few signs to attempt to help visitors guide their way through, the Via Dolorosa runs through a very busy and crowded bazaar (much like the one in Fez, but with far fewer shop owners in your face).  While some of the locals will actually try and help you, I’m afraid their kindness gets tainted by the locals who try and take advantage of you and get you in their stores.  What you will find helpful is that there will be tour groups surrounding each of the landmarks, so use that to your advantage.  I really need to find a way to create a perfect map of the Old City, with all the weird little roads and alleys marked.  I’d be a millionaire from the sales off of the tourists.

Expect to see A LOT of religious zealots.  As we were walking up and down the Via Dolorosa, there were several religious groups carrying crosses and chanting.  At the final stop of the Via Dolorosa, the Holy Sepulchre (the site where Christ was allegedly crucified), there were hundreds of worshipers praying and weeping at the locations of the actual execution, where Christ was laid to rest, and his resurrection.  I for one greatly appreciate the historical significance of all these landmarks, but I’ll be the first to admit that I was unsettled by the amount of crying and just 100% pure worship around me.  I did feel in a way like an intruder invading people’s private moments.  And I don’t mean to be insulting, but if I’m going to be honest – I really did think some of the people around me may have been slightly crazy.

Jewish Section

Towards the end of the Via Dolorosa, you’ll approach the Jewish section and the Western Wall (a.k.a. Wailing Wall).  Needless to say, you have to go through tight security to get to the Western Wall courtyard.  My first reaction to seeing the wall was surprise at the size of what was actually left.  I imagined that there was only small portion, but the ruins of the western side of the ancient Jewish temple was much larger than I thought.  There are separate men’s and women’s prayer sections of the wall, so make sure to find a place to regroup after you’re done looking and/or praying (though I heard recently they are considering making the prayer areas mixed).  There is also a dress code: men should have their heads covered and women should be pretty much covered to the knees and over the shoulders.  Shawls and skullcaps are available to borrow.

You’ll notice when you approach the wall that there are thousands, if not millions, or pieces of paper shoved into the cracks of the wall.  These are prayers or letters that have been placed in the wall as messages to God by pilgrims and anyone is welcome to contribute.  Although I don’t practice the Hebrew faith, I still partook in writing a personal note and placing it in one of the cracks in the wall.  God is God, no matter what your faith right?

Muslim Section

Part three of this world religion tour (seriously it was like a straight-up, real-life Epcot Center World Showcase going from religion to religion) was to head to the Muslim section of the city.  Because both Muslims and Hebrews share the Temple Mount, you will literally see a ramp along the Western Wall that will take you to the Dome of the Rock, the site where the prophet Mohammad is said to have ascended to heaven.

There aren’t many signs telling you that the ramp is the way to get to the Dome of the Rock, that’s why I’m telling you now.  Also, there is a long wait – at least 30 minutes – so be prepared for that.  Finally, be sure to figure out what hours the area is open for non-Muslims and plan accordingly.

Once you make it to the top of ramp, you’ll notice how serene the scene is and how impressive the gold dome of the Dome of the Rock stands out.  Compared to the rather crowded Western Wall, there’s much more room to leisurely walk around.  Although non-Muslims aren’t allowed inside, the Dome of the Rock is very impressive on the outside to see and one can imagine how much more impressive the building was centuries ago to the visiting pilgrims.

All in all, seeing this melting pot of religions and nationalities is easily one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had.  It is hard to put into words how fascinating it was to see thousands of people from these three major world religions crash into this one area no bigger than the size of a small town.  It amazes me to think about how much conflict has occurred over the years over this one region and, quite honestly, how much of a shame it is that there hasn’t ever been a way to find a resolution between what are essentially “distant relative” religions.

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Why I Love JetBlue

Hello friends.  Sorry I was silent for a little while there.  As much as I would love to be traveling around the world 365 days a year, I’ve still got that little issue of vacation time to worry about.  That being said – this is a good time to remind all my readers – I ACCEPT SUBMISSIONS TO POST ON MY BLOG.  Obviously, I can’t go everywhere in the world, but with your help we can try and cover each corner of the globe together.  So, if you have any sort of reviews, pictures, stories, tips (especially tips) about any places, restaurants or sights in the world, please feel free to forward them on to me and I’ll load them up.

Moving on now.  The one bit of traveling I did do was going home to Boston for Thanksgiving.  And while I generally hate dealing with the craziness of traveling during that time of the year, one thing made it far more managable: flying on JetBlue.

I absolutely love JetBlue, especially now that it flies in and out of the much more convenient Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. (as opposed to Dulles and Baltimore/Washington airports).   But aside from the convenience, JetBlue in my opinion gets everything right.  Because it’s a smaller airline, and generally flies mainly on the east coast, a lot of people haven’t had the chance to give them a try.  Here’s a rundown of why I think they’re the best.

– Just read this story about what did JetBlue did to help the family of one of the 6-year old victims of the Sandy Hook massacre: 

– Price.  Airline tickets are ridiculously expensive, but JetBlue has managed to keep their prices consistently reasonable.  Like Southwest, the first bag you check is free of charge – without the 100 commercials you DVR fast-forward through.  Though admittedly JetBlue’s ticket prices aren’t gonna be as cheap as Southwest’s in some cases, it’s worth paying the few extra dollars for all of the following…

– Customer Service.  Great customer service on every flight I’ve been on.  The flight attendants are always friendly, and on one occasion I saw the flight attendant help every single female with a carry-on put their bags in the overhead – every single one.  They also provide bottles of Dasani water, Dunkin Donuts coffee along with blue Terra chips and/or cookies, nuts in the gate area as well as on the plane ride.

– 32 channels of DirecTV and SiriusXM satellite radio for free.  I cannot tell you how many times I was so happy to have a chance to watch the end of football games on my flights home on Sundays.  And going back to the customer service thing – my co-worker told me that on her shortly delayed JetBlue flight, they gave all the passengers free access to all the movies as an apology.

– Legroom.  Unlike on the larger carriers, JetBlue’s regular seats have more than enough room to cross your legs without the “can I do this without awkwardly banging my dirty-ass foot into the seat in front of me or the passenger next to me” hesitation.  And those are just the regular seats.  The “Even More Space” seats have so much room, they’re good for parents with little toddlers who want to stand/waddle in front of them.

– The Red Sox.  It’s the official airline of the Boston Red Sox.  That one’s just for me.


JetBlue is essentially that perfect blend of budget airline and big carrier without the annoyingness of the getting loaded onto a plane like a bus, or dealing with such a big airline that you get treated as poorly as your luggage.  I would go as far to say that if I had the choice of a direct flight on something like United or having to have to deal with a layover with JetBlue – I would actually take the layover.

Travel Gifts for Guys

A few weeks ago I posted my friend Ady’s list of some great travel gifts for the ladies.  I would be remiss if I didn’t give the same sort of shopping list for the gents.  Now I’ve read several gift articles in Maxim, GQ, Men’s Journal, etc, and although getting a $400 dollar machete or a $5,000 Swiss military diving watch would be effing awesome – I just don’t see many of us normal people going out and getting these things for the traveling fellas we all know.

So here’s a list of some things you can get the Guy on the Go that you know:

Personalized Leather Flask at Brookstone – Great for a little warm up while camping, the long plane ride, or a day at the beach.

Convertible Pants at REI – Like I said in an earlier post, the versatility of these pants makes them a must have when you’re traveling.  They’re quick drying, light, and will turn into shorts at a moment’s notice.

Garmin Nuvi at Best Buy – Although you could get a $500 version, you could easily get a Garmin around $100.  Really good gift for those guys who travel for business a lot; they’re going to love the “Food” utility that finds restaurants for them within the area.

Swiss Army Knife at Victorinox A nice little stocking stuffer, this handy tool is something that every guy should have in their car or back pocket and you can buy practically any variation of the knife depending on what he would use it for.

TNF Apex Bionic Jacket at The North Face This jacket is the ultimate traveler’s outerwear.  Waterproof, windproof, warm, and light.  The jacket is big enough to have several layers underneath, but will never look bulky.  It works in the city and in the woods.

Aluminum Condom Case – For the guys on Santa’s Naughty List.  You never know who you’ll meet on the road.

Quiet Comfort Noise Canceling Headphones at Bose – These headphones will cancel out the crying baby in the airplane cabin.  Enough said.

Canon Powershot Digital CamerasDepending on how advanced of a photographer your gift recipient is will dictate which version to buy.  But for most, the simple point and shoots will the job just fine at an affordable price.  They’re sturdy, compact, and most come with a decent amount of video time (even in HD).

AirPort Express at AppleThis handy little device is a portable wireless network device (handy for iTouch owners or if you’re stuck in an airport with no WiFi).

Skyroll on Wheels and High Sierra Carry-On WheeledThese days airlines are charging an arm and a leg for checking bags.  These two pieces of luggage are overhead compartment approved.  For the businessman, Skyroll is a suitcase and garment bag wrapped in one.  For the tourist, the High Sierra Carry-On is a suitcase and backpack in one.

Virgin Mobile Freefest Part III

After we escaped the scene in the “Dance Forest” we made our way back to the stage where Ludacris was finishing up.  Up next was M.I.A, whom most of us had on our list to see.   Now I had heard her album Kala a couple of years ago, and like most people know the song “Paper Planes” which was featured in Slumdog Millionaire and Pineapple Express.  But I hadn’t given her newest album Maya a listen yet, which apparently a much more of a techno edge to it.

I’ll say this right off the bat.  M.I.A.’s performance gets top billing for the most interesting show I witnessed that night.  This isn’t exactly a compliment either.  First off, she started 30-45 minutes late.  Her DJ sidekick was up there spinning some dance beats trying to keep the crowd entertained.  Randomly, there were also three “people” up on stage at the microphones, but covered in full body, multi-colored berkas and motionless.  I thought they were mannequins for a while.  I’ll get back to them in a moment.

Eventually, Maya, the lead singer, came out on stage and began performing.  The first few songs I didn’t recognize (actually I didn’t recognize most of the songs in the performance), but they had a good beat to them and most of the crowd was getting into it.  Nothing was really out of the ordinary at first.

Then, Maya started to get a little weird.  She kept asking for the sound people and the audience to turn up the volume.  That itself doesn’t sound that weird, but from the way she kept yelling it, one really started to get the sense that she wasn’t exactly sober.  But that was still speculation at this point.

Things started to get really bizarre in the next few songs however.  Remember those three motionless berka figures that were just standing there?  Yeah, at this point, they whipped out power drills and pretended to start shooting into the audience.  You know that face that Jim Halpert on The Office makes?


M.I.A. - What is going on up there?

That was the look on the faces of most of the people around me.  Oh and before I forget, it was pretty clear someone on stage kept getting a text message (I’d like to think it was Maya just to keep the weirdness going).  And no, the “bleep” noise could not have been part of any of the songs because it happened so randomly. But because the show already took a weird turn, it was probably the least strange thing happening.

So for her “last song”, she actually invited people in the audience on stage with her.  Let’s just say I was holding my breath the whole time while a flood of drunk fans rushed to try and get on stage.  It could have been bad.  Luckily it wasn’t and the group did their best to try and impress the audience with their not-so coordinated dancing skills.  Eventually, Maya finished up and walked off stage with her crew.   Now this is where people were confused.  Was she coming back?  Was there an encore?  This was the Virgin Freefest, so there probably shouldn’t have been an encore because of the time constraints and her already starting late.  But the lights were still down, and the set wasn’t being cleaned up.  So we all stood around for the next 15 minutes to see what would happen.

Our patience was rewarded with Maya stumbling back out.  And I mean, she literally, kinda stumbled back out…in her pajamas…with a bottle of patron in her hand.   Literally her first few words to the audience as she came back out were “I have a bottle of tequila!  I’m in my pajamas!”

So needless to say, I’m giddy as hell watching this.  C’mon, it’s a free show, so I couldn’t really expect too much.  Maya continues to perform, with the bottle in her hand, cell phone going off, and weird berka people still standing behind her.  She tries once again to get people on stage, but this time security puts a wall up in the front row that the Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” would be proud of.  So Maya went into the crowd instead, and performed for her last song “Paper Planes” while rolling on a group of spectators.  Now this is where I can probably say most of the people in my group got disappointed.  After waiting around, and watching the shitshow unfold on stage, I think people were really excited to hear “Paper Planes” and she botched it up.  It’s hard to be on key when you’re crowd surfing with a dude’s hand grabbing your breast.  After she finished singing, the security guard, literally, carried her off stage and her DJ sidekick awkwardly invited the crowd to some bar down the street for the “after party”.  I think after that show, we’d all had enough partying.  My grading here is going to be a little schitzo.   The performance gets a C, but the show from a purely entrainment, “what just happened?” standpoint gets an A.

I don’t even know how to follow up with the fact that we caught the end of the LCD Soundsystem on the way out.  I’ll make three quick comments about them.  From what I heard, I thought they were pretty good.  We caught “Losing my Edge”,but I unfortunately didn’t get to hear “Daft Punk is Playing at my House”.

Once again, the lead singer is nothing like what I pictured.  Even more so then the lead singer from Temper Trap, this guy was not the hipster, nerdy white dude I envisioned.  The dude was a straight-up lumberjack.


Don't judge a book by its cover? I guess don't judge a musician by his/her sound.

Finally, in hindsight, I wish we had left M.I.A. early to catch more of LCD Soundsystem.  From most reports, they had put on the best performance of the entire festival (aside from the random few that loved Pavement. Why were they there again?).  From the fragment I saw, LCD gets a B+.

But all in all, I got to see some great acts, hear performances from artists I wouldn’t normally get to see in real life, and witness things I wouldn’t normally witness on a typical Saturday in September.  So, I feel like I got my money’s worth.  Oh wait a sec, it was free. 🙂

Virgin Mobile Freefest Part I

Last week, those of us in the D.C. area were treated to a free, all day music festival for the second straight year; courtesy of Richard Branson and his Virgin empire.   The line up, while not as impressive as last year’s in my opinion, still had enough acts that I wanted to see that would make the trip up to Columbia, MD worth it.

The event (I just found myself cringing that I used that word, damn you NBC!) was held at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.  The actual pavilion (where normal shows perform during the year) acted as the main stage, and they set up a second west stage about 200 meters away.  There was also a “dance forest” set up – I’ll talk more about that later.

If you ever decide to see a show at Merriweather, here are a couple of tips.  1) Bring a bottle of water.  Yes, they’ll let you bring in one factory sealed bottle – which means as long as that gallon jug of water you want to take in is sealed, it’s all good.  And you don’t want to be paying $7 for a bottle once you’re inside.  2) Park at the Columbia Mall. The mall is literally a stone’s throw away from the back entrance of the pavilion.  State police “tried” to tell people to not park at the mall so that there wouldn’t be congestion, but we got away with it pretty easily.  If you park at the mall, park on the food court side.  You can get out of the area quicker and instead of paying $10 for a shitty plate of 3 chicken tenders (which I ended up having to have to do anyways since I got hungry 6 hours into the festival), you can hit up the food court at the mall before you go in.  Actually the food court is rather impressive with, seriously, pretty much every food vendor available.  This makes the pavilion actually a pretty good place to see a show during the week, since with the mall being right there, you can eat dinner before the typical 7:30 start time.

But back to the Freefest.  Before we went into the show, my group of friends had decided on what acts they most wanted to see.  Since a lot of the bands’ performances overlapped with each other we all did our best to try to plan so that we could get to and from the Main and West stage as well as the “dance forest” at the right times. Since most of the acts were on average 45 minutes, there was a lot of walking around.  But also, because the acts were generally shorter, all the bands played more of their famous songs and crowd pleasers to satisfy the masses.

As we walked in we noticed that the event holders were smart enough to have convenient tents and covered beds for the concert goers to relax in between shows.  There were also several vendors giving away souvenirs such as those plastic back sacks, wristbands and bandannas (that they refreshingly soaked in ice cold water before they gave to you).  Jeremiah Weed was also there with their sweet tea.  Yes, it was $10 for a Dixie cup sized cocktail, but it was damn tasty and damn refreshing on the last hot day of the year.


One of the cozy relaxation beds


(Thanks to the DCist for the pictures, my camera is broken)

Collectively, we all started at The Temper Trap on the west stage.  Most of you probably know the song “Sweet Disposition” from either the Diet Coke commercial, or the movie 500 Days of Summer (good flick to check out btw).  They were a solid B+, and I learned that they have both an Indonesian lead singer (the first of a few vocalists that day that I discovered I had wrongfully pictured in my head) and the most animated bassists I’ve ever seen.

I’ll get to more of the concert in the next post.