From Extreme!

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico: A Gem Not To Miss

Scuba Playa del Carmen
Scuba divers will absolutely love this story. Keep reading…

Written by and photos by Michael A.

We often don’t lump Mexico in as being an exciting international getaway destination. You need to stop this mindset immediately. Born and raised in Los Angeles, but a mere three-hour drive away from the Mexican border, I too was a culprit of this belief. I love my food and I love me some good international travel. I’ve traveled to roughly 40 countries, and other than a brief stint where I got stranded in Tijuana with a donkey painted zebra, I never had any intention of really making a vacation out of Mexico. However, I was absolutely blown away by the food, scuba diving, clear waters, and most importantly, how incredibly affordable Playa Del Carmen is.

Where to stay

The pool at Hacienda Real del Caribe in Playa del Carmen.
The pool at Hacienda Real del Caribe in Playa del Carmen.

For just $33 a night (yes you read that correctly), I’d recommend staying at Hacienda Real del Caribe. It has a beautiful salt-water pool and very spacious rooms. I’m a big fan of flat screen TV’s, which it was lacking, but the location of this hotel is just so perfect that you’ll forget all about that detail. This hotel is literally one block away from all of the night life, a plethora of great restaurants, and only a 5-minute walk to the beach. Ummmm, I think I also mentioned that it was $33 a night…so, yeah…if you’re on a budget, this is an amazing place to go.

A scuba diver’s paradise

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Cozumel constantly gets all of the hype for being one of the most amazing diving spots in the world (and rightfully so), but you have to make sure you don’t miss the Cenotes. I’ve been on some cool dives in the past, but the Cenotes….well….just look at these pictures for yourself. You won’t see much sea life down there, but the colors and the fact that you’re 35 feet under the surface of Earth is a pretty cool and special feeling in its own right. You are literally below the bottom of tree roots.

Ditch Cozumel and stay in Playa Del Carmen

The best chile relleno I've ever had.
The best chile relleno I’ve ever had.

Don’t make the mistake that my buddy and I made and get a hotel on this island. There really isn’t all that much going on there other than the best chile relleno you could possibly imagine! Cozumel is known world-wide as being one of the top dive locations in the world because of its ridiculously clear waters and visibility. However, I strongly suggest just staying in Playa Del Carmen and paying the extra $5-10 to the dive shop to take you to some diving out there. If you really want to spend some time on the island, it’s literally a $20 35-minute boat ride that leaves every hour from two different ports in Playa Del Carmen. Don’t bother renting a car either, since you won’t see very much other than the port and undeveloped areas.

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Don’t touch the Lionfish…

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Do make sure that you go on some dives out there though as the swim-throughs are spectacular and plentiful. If you go within the next couple of years, be ready to see a lot of Lionfish and don’t be an idiot like me and get too close. Yes, they’re beautiful, but they are also extremely poisonous. Enjoy them from afar but don’t try to take that coveted selfie with one. Your underwater selfie can wait until you’ve entered one of the very few shipwrecks in the area. Look for the slightly dirty restroom and make sure you keep your eyes open for some of the biggest eels you’ve ever seen hanging underneath the cracks of the floorboards.

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Overall, Playa Del Carmen is definitely a place you don’t want to miss. The food is great, the stay is cheap, and there is beauty all around you — and under you in the case of the Cenotes.

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The Edwardian Ball in SF is this weekend!

Edwardian Ball SF
Get lost this weekend at The Edwardian Ball.

Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Marco Sanchez

For someone who has slight ADD when it comes to the weekend, I love having a calendar booked with concerts, special meals and day trips. But sometimes a girl’s gotta keep her weekend open and fill it up spontaneously with totally outrageous, typically San Francisco things. It was Tuesday night and I was getting slightly antsy because my weekend was barren. After checking out a couple of my favorite SF weekly calendars, I stumbled upon one of the most exciting events that I knew I had to check out: The Edwardian Ball.

After seeing some stunning photography from past events, I immediately signed up to cover the event. This Friday and Saturday, January 22 and 23, marks the 16th Edwardian Ball in SF. Expect a whimsical festival filled with steampunk enthusiasts, vintage fetish lovers, circus acts, live music and more spiked with Neo-Victorian and Edwardian-era Gothic imagery. Set within the Regency Ballroom, the two-day fest is inspired by macabre cult author, illustrator, cartoonist and comic artist, Edward Gorey. Think Lemony Snicket, Edward Scissorhands and the Addams Family and you’ve got yourself a pretty picture of what to expect when you walk in.

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San Franciscans love any excuse to get dressed up. Show ’em what you’ve got this weekend at The Edwardian Ball.

If you need any excuse for an ornate costume party this weekend, you need to check out The Edwardian Ball.

Along with seeing fellow San Francitizens dressed to the nines, you can expect steam-powered creations, parlour games, absinthe cocktails, a photobooth, mythical creatures performing throughout the venue, and a vendor bazaar where you can find a last minute Edwardian-inspired costume or accessory.

Friday marks The Edwardian World’s Faire and Saturday will showcase The Edwardian Ball. Whether you want to spend your evening in fantastical lands, try your hand at ballroom dancing, or just sit back and enjoy the crazy beautiful performances, this festival is not to be missed. Entertainment varies on both days so do yourself a favor and buy a two-day pass.

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See you there!

Also, make sure to check out The Mystic Midway: Stories of Gold. This interactive game takes guests throughout the Ballroom’s three floors where they’ll hear stories from all kinds of creatures and be awarded for deeds with trinkets and surprises.

Each evening starts at 8 p.m. with the Vendor Bazaar open from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday. For tickets and more information, visit www.edwardianball.com.

We’ll see you there!

 

Alcatraz Night Tour is for history buffs and thrillseekers

Alcatraz night tours
Alcatraz is definitely less busy, yet more eerie, late at night.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

I take pride in myself as being the token friend my peeps go to when it comes to the following phrase: “Hey, I’m going to this place and need off-the-beaten-path recommendations on where to go and what to see and eat.”

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If you’re easily spooked like me, don’t get separated from your group.

That being said, when I got the invitation from one of my girls from back home to go to Alcatraz while she was in town, I had some mixed feelings (sorry Brandie!!). Taking a ferry to check out Alcatraz conjures up images of silly shirts that say “Alcatraz Swim Team” or weird and boring tours led by overly-enthusiastic guides. But, I had the chance to take the Alcatraz Night Tour and it was pretty freaking fun. All of my biased expectations were thrown out the window…And into the chilly waters of the Bay.

If you’re even remotely thinking of visiting Alcatraz while you’re in town, you better get your tickets early. Time slots to visit “The Rock” sell out like hotcakes and it may be nearly impossible if you’re trying to buy tickets for a day out. You can visit the island throughout the day, but I recommend you enjoy the city by day and line up for the Alcatraz Night Tour around sundown.

The ride to Alcatraz is quick so make sure you grab a seat upstairs and outside for the best view. Once you disembark, you’ll be guided on a semi-steep walk up to the entrance into the cell house through the shower house. Grab a pair of headphones and start the self-guided walking tour, available in 11 languages.

Library at Alcatraz.
Take a seat in the Library at Alcatraz.
The hospital walls inside Alcatraz.
Beauty in the details. The hospital walls inside Alcatraz.

The story of Alcatraz is pretty unbelievable and the audio tour is about 45 minutes. It’s all self-paced so if you want to spend some extra time learning about famous inmates or at “The Hole,” you can do that too. Make some time to check out the hospital, which is not part of the audio tour, and see what other programs and presentations are on the schedule.

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Check out the daily schedule for programs, like prisoner escape stories and cell door demos.

While the Gardens of Alcatraz won’t be visible at night, thrill seekers will definitely appreciate the extra time they have peering around the cell block avenues, the library and dining hall. Alcatraz, which spans over 12 acres, is definitely something to experience in person, even for a skeptical like me. While it may look extremely touristy from the outside — or the mainland — it’s definitely something worth checking out at night.

For more information, visit http://www.alcatrazcruises.com.

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Get lost on the rock…

 

 

 

 

 

Folsom Street Fair celebrates more than just leather

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Harnesses, feathers and pecs were out in full force at Folsom Street Fair

Written by Nadia Ibanez, photos by Kevin Kelleher

Disclaimer: This entry is NSFW nor is it safe for readers who are prudish, uber conservative, homophobic, close-minded and uncomfortable with their own sexuality.

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Folsom Street Fair spans across 13 city blocks and a ton of alleys

Everyday I’m learning more and more about this amazing city. San Francisco is for tech nerds, people who want to make waves in their career and for those who innately add an amazing energy to the environment around them. It’s also for people seeking a place and community sans judgement. This past weekend’s Folsom Street Fair celebrates just that, along with “freaks” and fetish lovers at the world’s biggest leather festival.

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IgNight Fire Flow Conference brings Light, Fire and Dance to Joshua Tree

by Andrea Verdin

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The wilderness of the desert brings life to many, especially if they’re looking to improve themselves. There’s just something about the quiet and beauty of the great outdoors. That’s why IgNight Fire Flow Conference is such an amazing experience. Each person attending will develop their abilities in aerial acrobatics classes, archery, astronomy, and yoga.

Of course, you can’t have a conference called IgNight without having elements of flow tools, like lit wicks, flow tools like hoops, poi, fans, staves, torches, wands and swords. The conference features lectures with spiritual teachers from all over the world. The event began today at noon, and will end at 5p.m. Sunday, more than 160 classes will go on during the daytime. A nightly spin jam session allows students to practice and develop their muscle memory.

night-fieldAccording to Michael Engel, lead organizer for IgNight and fire performer with almost 10 years in the flow arts community, the great event truly gets started on Saturday night. Once all of the conferences and classes have finished, the attendees join together into a dance circle and put all that they have learned from the two days into practice. Together, they play music, and dance until sunrise.

In addition to having a great time, the conference goers  take care of the nature they enjoy. IgNight’s leadership works closely alongside The San Bernardino Fire Department to make this, the safest event possible. All participants must attend a mandatory fire safety workshop, which grants them access to the fire spinning area.

In a letter to the IgNight team, San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Curtis Markloff  wrote, “You guys always amaze me on how safe you all are at your event. Thank you for organizing and putting on this event.  I hope that you keep coming back year after year.”

Since IgNight’s inception in 2012, the event has sold out and it is still the only event of its kind and size in southern California. Each time, the rapidly growing contingent of local flow artists transforms it into an epicenter of growth, play and magic.
fire-blow “It’s for everyone to come and learn,” said Engel. “Ultimately, it’s an exercise in community building and community building is always a positive thing.”

IgNight’s location is the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, the oldest and largest center of its kind in the country. The buildings were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, meaning that they are beautiful elements to the backdrop.

The retreat center’s elegant spaces house luxurious amenities: air-conditioned classrooms, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi and shaded meditation nooks to relax and reflect. However, most participants will sleep under the stars in the property’s ample camping space.

The vast, clear desert skies are ideal for stargazing and the Black Rock Observatory will be giving nightly lectures and telescope demonstrations.

With all of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences occurring in one weekend, it’s easy to have a life-changing transformation. These types of arts allow for a better understanding of who you are, and what you are capable of doing.

The IgNight Fire Flow Conference brings an educational celebration of fire, yoga and flow arts to Joshua Tree, CA on May 8-10. Admission is $150.00 and covers all three days of camping, workshops, shenanigans, and music from Friday at noon to Sunday at 5pm. For more information about IgNight, go to http://ignightconference.com, call (310) 497-4775, or check out their Facebook Page.

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