Sunday, January 5, 2014

Skiing at Nashoba Valley

For someone living in the tropics and only have summer and rainy seasons, it's always been a wonder how it feels to play with snow. We went to Nashoba Valley today to try either skiing (or tubing but we ended up just skiing due to time) as it will be quite an experience for sure. It has been snowing hard with up to 14 inches of snow in the area the past couple of days and the sun is up this day so it's a good time to go. I've been to Whistler, BC but its more like a sightseeing than for adventure, so this would be my first.

view upon our arrival

There is quite a number of people in the resort today, although I was told there could have been more. Still it didn't stop us from pursuing our plans. We left around 10am-ish from Brighton, MA and arrived in this resort located in Westford, MA almost an hour after and since we were a bit hungry at that time, we had our lunch first before we proceeded.

The number of people were starting to get less at that time and people started to leave, although the food cafeteria is very packed that we had to wait for sometime before we got settled.


After lunch, we immediately signed up for the rentals and lessons. Yes lessons, but more about that later. We paid $92 each, inclusive of lift ticket, ski (or snowboard) rentals and group lesson.

We were lead to an area after to sign some sort of a waiver, formal registration, then had our shoe size taken and we were almost ready to go.

We had a hard time wearing the ski shoes. It is very uncomfortable and tight, and I had a hard time slipping my feet on it. I was told it's really supposed to be tight, but I should have followed my instinct and had it changed to a slightly bigger size because my feet was tired the whole time after.

Wearing the ski shoes itself was frustrating. It took us like 15 minutes or so and needed help from one another to actually have it worn correctly.

Afterwards, we were given our skis and poles and headed out. It was hard to walk with the ski shoes, and slightly harder with the ski blades on it. We went out the ski area and waited for an hour before the lessons started.

I sure am glad we did the lessons, because I don't think I'll have a good time as it is frustrating at first to try to ski. I sure am glad our instructor were very patient with us. I had a hard time though keeping my feet parallel.

An hour of lesson and off we go. We were thought the basics of skiing, walking with skis, maneuvering and most importantly, stopping. I still found it hard to go up the slope by walking and I mostly slide back down that I have to control the sliding with the poles. It was tiring but fun, and felt like I had a workout of weights (for my feet) and cardio right after.

had fun!

It was a fun-filled day. I had a good time actually to finally try to ski minus of course the problem with my shoes but overall, I'm sure glad we did this today. To cap the night, we went to a Yangtze River Restaurant in Littleton, MA nearby IBM Mass Lab - Littleton Campus to reward ourselves for the hard work.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Short walking tour of Boston at New Year's Eve

Nothing much to-do today so I headed to Boston, armed with my CharlieCard and camera, and walked and basically followed the route I took more than 5 years ago during my first time in the city.
Despite the cold weather and light snow, I braved my way even without the proper winter gear. I took the subway train, MBTA green line, coming from Washington Street station (in Brighton) and alighted 17 stations away at Boylston Street station. In less than an hour I was already in Boston (I fell asleep throughout the journey and woke up a couple of stations prior).

As I exited the subway station, the familiar look of the park I've been to a couple of time prior greeted me. Boston Common is said to be the oldest park in the US and the massive 50 acres space is host to a number of walking and jogging paths, playground, and for this season, a skating rink. In fact, Boylston Station where I just came from is also considered the first subway station in the country!

Boston Massacre Memorial

As it is winter, a number of people were skating this afternoon and there was a long waiting line for people to get in.

Nearby sits the TADpole Playground.

They even have ice carvings of the TADPole Playground signage too!

Benches are available to sit and relax within the park as well. I would have stayed if it wasn't for the weather.

Just across the street is the Massachusetts State House. You cannot miss this building as it features a 23 karat gold dome atop.

statue of General Joseph Hooker

another view of the statue and the state house

Nearby, walking distance, is the Granary Burial Ground. Referred to also as the Granary Burying Ground, the cemetery is a burial site for a number of key names in American history, such as those who signed the Declaration of Independence (Sam Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine).

Unfortunately the site was closed today. I was also informed that it seems to be closed most of the times already unlike 5 years ago when we were free to wander inside.

Walking further down the same street is the King's Chapel, an Anglican Parish ordered to be built by King James II.

The first public school in the US is just behind the King's Chapel. Other references also say it once served as a city hall (and thus referred to as Old City Hall).

Walking further down the street leads to these nice older structures, just across Irish Famine Memorial.

Across the memorial is the Old South Meeting House, where the famous Boston Tea Party was held in December 16, 1773. 

Following the arrows pointing to the heritage trail lead me to the Old State House, or Towne House. It is where the Declaration of Independence was read in public on July 18, 1776.

Nearby, perhaps a block or so away is the Faneuil Hall, a marketplace and meeting hall during the old colonial times. There are a number of shops housed inside this building (as well as on the North Market and South Market buildings beside it).

In front of the hall is the statue of Samuel Adams and right in front of it is an ice carving that states "Red Sox, World Series Champions" as a banner for their Major League Baseball title of Boston Red Sox.

Behind Faneuil Hall is the Quincy Market building. Today it is filled with food carts and stalls of all sorts making it a perfect stop to eat something that you may fancy.

inside Quincy Market

At the center of the building is a big dome that is a nice sight to see while you eat at the foodcourt.

I had the daily special form Boston Chowda Co. which includes a lobster roll (cold), soup or clam chowder (but of course!) and a small soda cup for $19.78. The roll was very good and the lobster meat was very plump and juicy. Great to have the hot clam chowder on the side as well to balance it all!

An 83-feet Christmas tree stands proudly just right outside as I exited the other side of the Quincy Market. Nice to look at with the Custom House at the backdrop located just nearby.

The Custom House, a 17th century structure (although the tower was added during the 20th century). It is an icon on its own and can easily be distinguished from afar, specially when you are at the waterfront. Today it operates as Marriott's Custom House, a vacation club/timeshare resort.

Walking towards the waterfront from the Custom House will bring you to see a queer looking hotel called Boston Marriott Long Wharf

Boston HarborWalk or also referred to as Long Wharf is the name of the place that refers to the pier/port nearby which today functions as a docking point for passenger vessels, mostly for tourism. At the end of the wharf is a plaza which has a nice view of the surrounding waters of the area.

Boston is such a beautiful, (and for me) laid-back and quaint city to visit, just for relaxing, without the usual hustle and bustle that would otherwise add stress to your visit.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A day trip to Burot Beach

Our trip today started from an impromptu planning to visit the beach by my neighbor friends in Cavite. Less than 12 hours before the scheduled departure, it has been decided to have an overnight camping trip in Burot Beach and everyone hastingly prepared for the logistics the for our trip with last minute shopping at the mall.
As we came from Cavite, we traversed the route passing through Governor's Drive to roads leading to Tagaytay City (vs. the usual via SLEX or Aguinaldo Highway route). We left past 5AM and in less than an hour and with a convoy of four vehicles, we stopped over in Tagaytay for fuel before continuing our journey for another to Calatagan, Batangas. We have with us a family who have been visiting this place a number of times since earlier this year so they already know the way.
In Calatagan Town Proper, we stopped by the small market behind the Municipal Hall to buy some picnic items and seafood before finally heading over to Burot Beach, passing by a couple cemeteries (Calatagan Municipal Cemetery and Eternal Garden Cemetery) before finally reaching the gate. We stopped at the gate where the security guard recorded our arrival then proceeded to pass by the dirt road of around a kilometer before finally reaching another gate.

At the second gate, another security guard stopped us to collect entrance fees. For day trips, each person is charged PHP60 while for overnight campers, PHP130. The rest of the group planned for overnight camping trip while we opted for a day trip so we paid accordingly.

It was around 8AM when we arrived and there were not a lot of visitors at that time. Trust me, the people on the pictures are not that much compared to later that day, specially right before lunch time when more groups started to arrive. The place was pretty serene and the water was very calm when we arrived.
Our group settled on a shade under the tree by the beach and rented a couple of big tables and chairs (PHP200 per set) where we started to prepare the food and have breakfast soon after.
And just after having breakfast, the kids (and kids at heart) in our group started to go swimming while others are busy preparing food for mid-morning snacks and lunch later that day. It is common for a lot of visitors to prepare food in the vicinity (while others bring in cooked food). We have a portable stove and grill at hand so everything was a breeze. Other guys in the group started the drinking session early on.
grilling fish and eggplants
other huts and tables for rent
There is a small store selling food and items but is a bit expensive. I see a lot of visitors buying from this store though as there are no other options and it's quite far to go out just to buy some necessities.

By lunch time, more people are in and some groups have started setting up their respective tents. The crowd has grown to perhaps a triple or more times from when we came in but a lot are either busy preparing for lunch or eating at this time.
At this point, my son Ethan has taken a break from swimming and started playing with the sand under the scorching heat of the sun.

our group's area with tents already settled and fixed up

For others visiting Burot Beach, the issue with the place is the lack of facilities. Although I expected it to be like it as it is an undeveloped place. The lack of ample comfort rooms, as well as their sanitation has been a problem that day and a lot of visitors are lining up on the few comfort rooms provided. They aren't comfortable at all but good thing is that there is enough water supply.

There are also jellyfishes on the beach. Although it is expected, it may be a turnoff for a few others. Honestly, they aren't that big deal and I don't think there has been serious incidents that day. In fact, the kids happily got one and have put it on a pail for their liking before freeing it back to the sea.
There were also a lot of starfishes and I hate it when a people take the out from the water for a long time. Other groups even had piled up quite a few and effectively killing them. I still believe one must respect the nature and should clean up their own rubbish and take nothing from the natural resources.

By mid-afternoon, the crowd number has started to shrink as a lot of daytrippers started to pack up and leave.
me, Roshie and Ethan

Ethan stayed for around a couple of hours sitting on the tree trunk which he found amusing and refused to come down for quite some time.

By late afternoon however, the water has come down so gradually (low tide) that one has to walk a couple or so hundred meters to reach waist-level water.
I left with my family around 6PM while leaving others behind who are in for camping. I forgot to note that the road leading to the beach is quite scary and seems to be landfilled. Actually it is enough for one medium size vehicle and that when there's another one approaching your way (like a tricycle or worse, another car), it would be hard to get into the side of the road as there are areas where both sides are surrounded by water.

What I don't like about driving to the place is the quality of the road. There were sharp stones all throughout and I felt like it may be capable of puncturing the tires.

At last, I arrived at the gate, about to leave the premises. The guard was very friendly and heartwarmingly bade goodbye after thanking us for coming. By the way, I didn't mention that the guard has an SM logo on his shirt. A few searches over the internet says that the place is owned by the SM group and may be up for development like Pico de Loro in the future. Glad to be able to visit the place before that happens!

Overall, I still find the place nice, despite lacking facilities (specially CR). The sand is soft and is golden white (not as white as Boracay) and the water were very calm. Very family-friendly! Perhaps I would come back when the government does something to the roads leading to the vicinity and that the SM group does something as well on its road inside its property.
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