Ocean Grove, NJ…Off the beaten path

Considering that I haven’t been to a beach ALL summer, I decided it was time. So I went to Ocean Grove, NJ (a Monmouth County beach) with my partner-in-crime Danielle whom it seems I do everything with. Ocean Grove is the quaint, little town that you read about in novels and magazines but you never think exists. It’s just too perfect. Hidden gem is an understatement.
Picturesque sand dunes at OG

Picturesque sand dunes at OG

As the title of this post states, OG is most definitely off the beaten path. It’s walking distance from Belmar (another hoppin’ Monmouth county spot) yet it doesn’t attract the same “crowd” that you would get at Belmar…you know the crowd I’m talking about. It’s very family-oriented and very clean. This is the place to go if you want to truly relax and not have to deal with snot-nose teenagers playing frisbee, kicking sand all over you and your stuff, and dropping expletives at every opportunity (there are a few exceptions here and there where said teenagers will show up). The beach is usually filled with alot of locals as well which adds to my liking of this beach because I know that locals are going to treat their beach right and most likely won’t be ‘acting a fool’ for a lack of more sophisticated terminology.

Absolutely gorgeous colonial beach homes

Absolutely gorgeous colonial beach homes

Horse-drawn carriages roam the quaint streets

Horse-drawn carriages roam the quaint streets

It did cost $7 per person to get onto the beach and while it is cheaper than most other NJ beaches, it makes me rehash my grief with this great state. Why in the hell do we need to pay to get onto our beaches???!!! We pay the second highest taxes in the nation and yet we still have to shell out $20 or more to get on them….ugh. It disgusts me but hey, if all beaches were as pristine as OG, I wouldn’t mind as much. End rant.

Underneath the OG Pier

Underneath the OG Pier

I found a sand dollar

I found a sand dollar

But if I had to rate OG on a scale of 1-10 comparing to other New Jersey beaches, I would give it a 10 easily. It’s clean. It’s scenic. The streets are almost too perfectly lined with trees and antique streetlamps.  It offers a quaint little downtown-esque street full of shops, restaurants, cafes and quite a few antique stores if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re hungry, thirsty, or nature’s calling, all you have to do is thrown on a t-shirt and your flippy-floppys and walk a few hundred feet to Main Avenue and you have everything at your disposal.

Water rolling in

Water rolling in

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Well, that’s it. The secret is out. If you’re looking for an above-average New Jersey beach experience, check out Ocean Grove. Enjoy.
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Night in Hoboken

On Thursday night my girlfriend Danielle, who revels in spontaneity, decided to drive up and surprise me after I got out of work. Of course, I wanted to reciprocate and take her out on a nice dinner. At first I thought, what the heck, let’s just go to Chevy’s and keep it simple. Nooooo, not me…not Andy. I decide to take the 15 minute drive over to Hoboken and go out to a cool restaurant. So that’s what I did.

Historic Lackawanna Station

Historic Lackawanna Station

We drove over in 10 minutes, no problems. Then came the problems. Parking. I drove around the mile square for just about an hour before I found a parking spot 6 blocks away from where I wanted to be. Oh well…we’ll live. It was a nice night to walk.  I decided to go to Teak on the Hudson which is right off the famed Sinatra Drive waterfront. I had been there about three times before but I decided to go back for their half price nights where everything on the menu is…you guessed it…half price. For three drinks, an appetizer, and four sushi rolls, the bill came out to $48 (including gratuity). Not too shabby for a New York City-esque restaurant experience.

Only photo I got inside Teak

Only photo I got inside Teak

As far as the restaurant itself, it’s at Hudson Place which is perpendicular to the waterfront which offers some second-to-none views of NYC (the waterfront, not Teak). If I had to pick three words to describe Teak, they would be artsy, innovative and gutsy. The decor is pretty darn impressive. There is a GIANT exotic fish tank behind the bar chock-full of all types of Koi and other types of colorful, Nemo look-alikes. However, as awesome as the atmosphere is, it can be sort of conflicting. There is quite an amazing and awe-inspiring juxtaposition of styles here. The one side of the place has a Zen-Buddhist feel but when you look across the restaurant, it feels as though you’re stepping into a Gothic/Rennaissance mansion filled with lush tapestries, gilded furniture, Roman-esque statues and tons of dark, aged wood. Honestly, I love it…it’s like a blast from the past. And I embrace the sense of ‘disorder’ if you want to call it that. I don’t feel as though a restaurant has to have one all-encompassing theme.

As far as service goes, there’s nothing too spectacular here folks. Everytime I’ve gone, the tip gets automatically added onto your bill which equates to mediocre (at best) service. I just can’t put my finger on it but it seems as though almost every waiter/waitress I’ve had here is just….indifferent I guess. What I’m getting at is, don’t come here if you’re looking for outstanding hand n’ foot service because judging on four times that I’ve been here, you’re not going to get it.

Overall though, I would say Teak is ‘Good.’ I always say I will only go on half-price nights (call me cheap if you want) but I feel as though it would not be worth it to pay exorbitant prices for food that is good, but doesn’t necessarily differentiate itself from the competition which is key in my book coming from a public relations/marketing background. Food is good, drinks are good, atmosphere is awesome (on a night that isn’t too busy).

My verdict: Go to Teak on a Monday or Thursday (half price nights) and try it out. See if you like it. If you like it, go back on a Monday or Thursday. Pretty simple right? I will also add though, that if you’re into going to restaurants for the ‘experience’ or the ‘ambience,’ then this would be the place to go. If you go to restaurants to eat a quick, decent meal and then skidaddle, this place might not be for you.

Food: 8/10

Drinks: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Ambience/Decor/etc: 10/10

Outdoor Seating: 1/10 (We tried sitting outside at first but they placed us at a table that couldn’t seat two infants comfortably, let alone two grown adults. Pretty ridiculous in my opinion. We then had to wait 20 minutes for an inside table which was right next to a bar full of annoying drunkards.)

 

Here are some other random photos I took while I was out on the town for those of you who have never been. It wasn’t a great photography night for me.

Crazy photo I took of Lackawanna Station

Crazy photo I took of Lackawanna Station

Skyline as viewed from Sinatra Drive

Skyline as viewed from Sinatra Drive

Maxwell's on Washington Street

Maxwell's on Washington Street

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Future of this Blog

So after giving some thought as to what direction this blog is going in, I decided that in conjunction to what I’m already doing, I will begin to do reviews of places that I go. Whether it be restaurants, cafes, stores, barber shops, cities, parks, concerts or anything of that sort, I will do my best to provide in-depth reviews of these places. Secondarily, I will be able to display my photography.

The reason for doing this is simple. I love to get outside and experience different things. And I want to share these experiences with you all along with my personal feelings. Hopefully this can take off…we’ll see. Stay tuned.

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Ode To Bandit

When I got home from work today, I picked up my camera and started shooting some photos of my buddy Bandit. A  canine photo shoot so to speak. As I shot these photos, I thought, ‘Wow…my dog is too cute.’ So I had to make a post about him….Ode to Bandit. He really is just a great dog. All my dog lovers out there, I’m sure you can relate. He’s playful, relaxed, alert and lazy all at the same time. He can sleep allllll day but he can also play up a storm if need be. And he loves being outside…running on the grass, chasing rabbits and squirrels, and picking fights with the other neighborhood pooches. He’s diverse, complex and interesting yet so simplistic and pure. Sometimes I think to myself ‘Man, it must be nice being a dog.’

Bandit at his favorite spot in the house

Bandit at his favorite spot in the house

Over the years, (all 7 of them) it’s been interesting watching him change. His eating habits have changed. His sleeping habits have changed. His play habits have changed. It seems that he’s in tune with us (my parents and I). He goes to sleep when we go to sleep. He eats his Kibbles & Bits when we sit down to eat our rice and beans. As we get ready to leave the house for work, he knows. As we all shuffle through house ironing shirts and packing lunches, he sits and watches…tail between the legs. He knows that we’re heading out for the day and we know he hates it. He loves his family. It’s all he knows. And on certain occassions (ie: trips to Grandma’s house), we’ll take him along. As we get ready to leave, all he needs to hear is three words…”COME ON BANDIT!!” And he shoots out of that front door like a bat out of you know where and into the back seat of the car.

Along with the changes though, there is still a sense of constancy with Bandit. He still becomes overcome with joy when we arrive home after a long day of work. He still has the same lively energy that he had when we brought him home at the tender age of 7 months old. He still genuinely enjoys people and greets them heartily when they enter his home. He’s real….

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So that’s my Ode to Bandit. Man’s (and Woman’s) best friend. One of my best friends. And at the end of day, through thick and thin, no matter what the circumstances, he’ll always be there to greet me at the door.

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Drive to Sleepy Hollow, NY

I took a random trip to Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown, NY yesterday with the girlfriend. And yes, this is the Sleepy Hollow that you’re thinking of…headless horseman, haunted cemetary…yeah this is it. As we’re driving through, my girlfriend Danielle says, “Oh, you know sh*t goes down here on Halloween.” I laughed but I shivered in my boots (aka Chuck Taylors) at the same time.
As we drove, we found this little creek (see photos 1 and 3) situated on the side of a tiny, cramped road and of course, I pull over and decide to check it out. It was pretty unmanicured and much to Danielle’s dismay, I decided that we climb down a little slope covered with dirt, vines, weeds, spiders, miscellaneous creatures, tree stumps, poison ivy and a few other things that could have probably made us cry in order to check out this little, refreshing brook. We kicked off our shoes and waded right in and boy, was it cold…but it felt nice once we adjusted because it was sweltering outside. 
Overall though, not quite what I was expecting. I was thinking it was going to be a nice, quaint little folky town with alot of historic parks and statues and such. Instead, I had to pay $5 to cross the non-picturesque and , to be honest, dirty Tappan Zee Bridge and everything worth seeing (old historic mansions and gardens) cost about $15 per person. We took a pass on that one…
Nonetheless, it was nice and relaxing drive accompanied by some much-needed down time.
Creek at Sleepy Hollow

Creek at Sleepy Hollow

Nice flowers at Sleepy Hollow

Nice flowers at Sleepy Hollow

Old Wooden Bridge

Old Wooden Bridge

Really old tombstones

Really old tombstones

Another old headstone

Another old headstone

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Monmouth Battlefield State Park

This past Friday (8/7/09) I went with the girlfriend to Monmouth Battlefield in Manalapan, NJ to take in the sights and test out my spiffy new Nikon camera. It was a gorgeous day all around so I can’t complain. I’m loving the camera so far but I still have alot to learn…

To be completely honest, this park is amazing…a true hidden gem. For one, it’s free. Two, the views are second-to-none. Three, IT’S EMPTY. I can count on one hand the number of bodies that I saw throughout this 2,928 acre piece of majestic earth. The views are uninhibited and allow you to see for miles. The lands maintain a nice balance between being manicured and being rugged. The farm land is pristine and for the most part, untouched which is rare for the state of New Jersey. There are some remote trails as well and when you walk through them, you instantly get transported to a lush and seemingly tropical locale where plants, flowers and wildlife abound.

It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of everyday New Jersey life. It’s clear to me that many people don’t know about this natural escape…and to a point, it would be nice if it stayed that way… unspoiled, untampered beauty.  So if you’re reading this, SHHHHH…

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Hey World!

This is my first real-deal attempt at joining the blog world. I’ve always been ‘with the times’ but for some reason, I just never got around to joining the blog game. Well here goes nothing…or something…

I guess the point of my blog is to give you all (hopefully someone’s watching, lol) a glimpse of my world and how I see it. Let’s just say I want to do it all, see it all, live it all. I have lofty goals and dreams and want to enrich my life as much as possible through travel, music, and people. Some people think I’m nuts (including my girlfriend) because I want to do so many things that it may not seem humanly possible. I like to think that, instead of nuts, I’m ambitious, driven, ballsy even at times. We’ll see if the powers that be allow me enough time to do all the things that I want to do…I’m pretty confident.

My goal is to give my viewers a front-row seat to witness my life, my adventures, my travels, my people and anything and everything that falls in between. Whatever passes in front of these eyes, passes in front of yours.

Stay tuned and enjoy…

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