About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

The Serious Foodie Guide to Nashville Tennessee

April 19, 2015 by  

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As we made our way into Nashville Tennessee, it was dark and while we were staying only a 20 minute walk from the city center for our first two nights, we were too tired to meander there, even in a 5 minute cab. A stone’s throw from the hotel was Division Street however, home to night clubs and bars, most of which are regularly frequented by college students given the nearby vicinity of Vanderbilt University.

And so, with very little vigor, we became 20 again on that very late evening. The first place that tried to made us youthful again was the fried chicken eatery called Hattie B’s. Known for their extra spicy fried chicken, you can decide from varying degrees of “spicy hot” — Southern (no heat), Mild (touch of heat), Medium (warming up), Hot (feel the heat), Damn Hot (fire starter) and lastly, Shut the Cluck  Up (burn notice).

Casual in every way, you’ll sit at either outdoor or indoor picnic tables. Once you land a table, you’ll be asked to fill out your “chicken” card, choosing your preferred degree of hot and spicy as well as your choice of sides. While the chicken was tender (I preferred the dark meat thighs and legs), my favorite memory of the evening was in fact, their sides – the Southern Greens, Baked Beans, and Homemade Cole Slaw are worth the trip alone.

You know you’re truly in the South when three out of four canisters of iced tea were sweetened and only one is ‘sans sugar.’ Local beer or iced tea were your choices to accompany your baskets of deep fried chicken. Hattie B’s is a bit where classic American diner, fast food and hipster late night converge.

Details: (one location listed below of two locations in Nashville)

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

112 19th Ave South

Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 678-4794

Acme Feed and Seed, which is owned by the same folks who own Southern Steak & Oyster, is uniquely Nashville and in a casual, quirky and artsy way, honors the unparalleled character of the city’s past. Tom Morales transformed the former Acme Farm Supply space into a three-story venue with a honky tonk bar, vintage lounge and rooptop patio.

This massive 22,000-square-foot space offers cocktails, live entertainment, a casual bar scene on the main floor, and two other floors, each with their own unique style.


Their rooftop patio on top of the Acme Building overlooks the entire downtown area, with direct views of Broadway and the Riverfront. I especially liked their unusually prepared cocktails.

Fun and creative choices include a Side Saddle, which is vodka, pomegranate, fresh lemon, St. Germain and orange bitters, the Sunset Grove, which is a combination of Maestro Dobel Tequila, Ginger Simple, fresh lime and Stiegl Radler Grapefruit, the Back Porch, which includes American Born Moonshine Dixie, sweet tea, lemonade and grenadine, The Stable, where you can choose from strawberry whiskey, Corsair Gin or Heroes Vodka with ginger beer and lemon, or the Poor Man’s Fashion, which is made up of Old Forester, orange soda, grenadine and bitters.

Food options are casual but delicious, ranging from the oh so southern Beautina Hash, which is sunny side eggs over slow-cooked brisket potatoes and caramelized onions, banana hotcakes, and fried eggs with seasoned fried pork, black means, plantains and sweet habanero slaw to shrimp and grits, burgers, sandwiches and Heaven-Lee ribs, served with mac n’cheese, collard greens and slaw. Yum!

Details:

Acme Feed and Seed

101 Broadway

Nashville, TN 37201
(615) 915-0888

The Southern Steak & Oyster is on the corner of 3rd Avenue and had a band playing when we arrived for lunch one day. Located on the first floor of the 29-story Pinnacle tower at Symphony Place, The Southern offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, as well as a bustling bar.

The menu features a combination of indigenous flavors and exotic ingredients and they boast fresh seafood, including oysters on the half shell, so I was naturally in heaven. I was surprised just how extensive their oyster offerings were — from Prince Edwards Island’s Cooke’s Cove, Malpeque and Thundercap to New Brunswick’s Beausoleil and Fanny Bay from British Columbia. They also had Shigoku from Willipa Bay Washington, Blue Points from Long Island and Black Duck Salt from Hog Island Virginia, to name a few.

Since it was mid-day and we started with seafood, rather than go for a glass of wine which would be sure to put me to sleep, they encouraged us to try their mixed drinks – it was great choice, btw, as they have plenty of interesting choices. How’s this for compelling? Tom’s Dirty Sock, which is a Myer’s dark rum with orange and lime juice, or the Blackberry Mountain Tea, which is made with Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine, sweet tea and muddled fresh blackberries.

There’s also the Coarse Hair Southern Mule, where you can choose from either gin or vodka and then top it off with ginger beer and lime juice. The Zydeco boasts mango rum, fresh jalapeno, and lime juice and the Hillcrest has Buffalo Trace, white peace, and Vermont maple with bitters. Delicious and oh so refreshing.

Brunch offerings range from healthy and light salads to heavier southern options such as Steak & Biscuit Benedict, Shrimp & Grits (popular in Nashville), Grilled strip steak with potatoes and eggs, a Southern Fried Egg sandwich with Applewood Bacon, fried eggs, cheese and avocado and the Cuban, which is a pork tenderloin, mojo marinated overnight, served with pan fried with black beans, yellow rice, skillet debris and sunny side up eggs.

Below is the Crab Cake salad, which is crab over arugula, shaved fennel, grapefruit, red onions, avocado and dijon vinaigrette.

A cool thing about the restaurant is its open kitchen area where you can watch them prepare food and cut the freshly delivered fish and meat right on-site.

The art on the walls is also tastefully done – be sure to walk down the main hallway to the bathroom and take notice of the paintings on the walls as well as the ever so funky wall hangings to the left of the open kitchen. For country fans, there’s a very tasteful painting of the legendary Johnny Cash.

The entryway is also creatively decorated, from the southern spicy hot bottles of spices and sauces on shelves to the flooring (below). This is the area btw, that they section off for bands to play during brunch. Top notch!

And, anytime of day is a great time for dessert. From red grits (fresh berries, tapioca pearls, vanilla bean sauce and whipped cream), and Strawberry Rhubarb shortcake to Banana’s Foster Bread Putting (caramelized bananas, rum sauce and whipped cream), Chocolate Whiskey Cake (chocolate Jack Daniel’s cake, buttercream, chocolate granache and raspberry coulis) to the variety of port and espresso options, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.

TWO thumbs up! We would definitely return and oh btw, they offer complimentary valet parking and it’s a stone’s throw to many of the more interesting museums and activities in Nashville including the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Details:

The Southern Steak & Oyster

150 3rd Avenue South

Nashville, TN 37201

For high end dining, you can’t beat the AAA Four Diamond rated Capitol Grille at the historic Hermitage Hotel, where we stayed for part of our time in Nashville. The service at this only 5 star property in Nashville lives up to its A+ reputation at both the hotel itself and the attached Capitol Grille on the bottom floor of the property.

Executive chef W. Tyler Brown creates elegant yet creative southern cuisine with an emphasis on the best available local products and we were lucky enough to have the ever so amusing Ian as our waiter, who entertained us with his British accent while educating us on the menu. While we were not planning to order the Sweet Onion Bisque, he talked us into it because apparently it’s a specialty and oh so delicious that we’d be remiss if we left the restaurant without a taste.

The ingredients are simple but purely decadant — imagine and savor the sound of Brie grilled cheese and bacon with chives. It was out-of-this-world!

Quite frankly, Ian helped us with our entire order, starting with our first healthy and light option – the Farm Salad, which is made with fresh beets, pine nuts and goat cheese.

While they had a lighter calorie and fat trout option on the menu, we went for the Lamb Shank served with sea island red peas, turnips, arugula and satsuma and the Painted Hills Short Rib, which they serve with Rye Berry, sunchoke, oyster mushrooms and shallots. OMG!!

The braised button mushrooms and roasted winter root vegetables were beautifully presented and oh so delicious. They also had a wide array of other interesting sides, such as Anson Mills grits with poached eggs and tomato gravy and brussels sprouts with bacon and maple sugar.

It’s worth noting that they take great care in choosing fresh, local and organic as much as possible. They get veggies from nearby Glenn Leven Farm which is farmed by their team at a historical revolutionary land tract four miles from the restaurant. They use their own Red Pole Scottish breed cattle (sustainably raised) for their beef. The lamb on the menu is from Porter Springs Virginia and Double H Farms is the Hermitage Hotel’s sustainable farming project.

Desserts at this conscious top notch restaurant you must put on your Nashville restaurant list, are equally decadent. Thanks to Ian for setting us straight. Could you say no to a Chocolate Pot de Creme, a French macaroon, salted chocolate crumble and passion fruit sorbet or a Coconut Cake made from cream cheese, blueberries and yuzu? No, I’m sure not, and nor could we.

They also offer a Caramel Cake with blood orange candy, anglaise, and ginger gelato, a White Chocolate Semifreddo, which they make with Myer Lemon marmalade, candied pecans, and white chocolate ice cream.

A perfect way to end a night is with one of their Tawny ports, which ranged from 20 years to 40 years old, or the Thomas Jefferson Reserve Madeira. They also offer a nice range of dessert wines and ciders from France, Austria, Canada and California to name a few.

Below, is a fresh fruit selection we had in the very same restaurant the next morning for breakfast.

For recipe fans, I thought I’d include the recipe to the Sweet Onion Bisque, which they were generous enough to share with us. The receipt below serves 4-8 people.

10 Sweet Yellow Onions

1 plugra butter

1 quart of heavy cream

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Like I said, simple, but very decadent and rich. First, you peel and chop the onions into one inch chunks. In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt the butter until it becomes foamy and then add the onions. Add about 1 TBL of salt at this pint and stir to combine all the ingredients in the pot and continue to cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Continue cooking the unions until they have completely softened and exuded the majority of their moisture.

Keep in mind that you really don’t want to get any color on the onions during this process, so if you see it happening, lower your heat a bit more. When the onions are soft, add the heavy cream and heat it through When everything is hot and combined, the final stage is pureeing, using a good quality blender. At the restaurant, they pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer after its pureed but this is not a necessary step apparently, but a recommended one. Enjoy!

We enjoyed our meal here so much that we must have hung out leisurely for at least four hours taking in the well-curated ambiance and exquisite food. Make a reservation just to be safe, or better yet, stay at the Hermitage Hotel as well, so you can dine at the Capitol Grille for both dinner and breakfast. Two thumbs up!

Details:

Capitol Grill (inside the Hermitage Hotel)

231 6th Avenue North

Nashville, TN 37219

(615) 345-7116

Let’s now move to the ever so surprising Kitchen Notes inside the Omni Hotel in the center of Nashville. Adjacent to the Omni, this modern flared bistro restaurant combo serves Southern and sustainable dishes handed down from generation-to-generation made from treasured family recipes.

Kitchen Notes is an innovative farm-to-table concept that meets vintage on its interior The casual but extremely tastefully done dining rooms have been designed with repurposed materials that include décor discovered from local antique stores and flea markets. As for the food, it was so surprisingly good that we had hoped to return for a quick bite before leaving Nashville but didn’t have the time.

I’ll start with our favorite dish by a long shot, however you might be a tad confused when you hear the unusual combination of this very southern styled concoction.

They call it Buttermilk Fried Quail but the eclectic blend of ingredients is what throws you off when you first hear them and later, after you taste the dish. This culinary delight is made with Asher Blue Waffle, then topped with Quail, Asher Blue Cheese and green tobasco mayo with a cabbage and carrot mixture. Glazed on top of this delicious creation is a Tennessee blackberry and honey preserve. OMG is this dish to die-for!!! As rich as it was, we couldn’t put our forks down.


On the lighter side, but not as much fun, is a variety of salad offerings on the menu — organic baby greens with a sherry vinaigrette, kale salad with apple, fennel underneath a roasted garlic dressing, and the incredibly delicious beet salad (I rarely say no to anything with beets), which they serve over wild arugula, Corsair malt whiskey pecans, goat cheese and a maple-balsamic vinaigrette.

Hats off to the chef for two back-to-back winners, and that was before we dove into the homemade Black Eyed pea and Tennessee ham soup. My grandmother, Aunt Betty and Aunt Jo would have all been impressed.


For more classically southern mains, they had a coffee rubbed prime sirloin with bitter greens, cracklin’ Nashville hot pork with collard greens, grits and pickled vegetables and our favorite of the three – the Rustic meatloaf, which they rightfully served with whipped potatoes, housemade Raisin ketchup and green beans.

On the leaner but equally delicious side, is the pan roasted striped bass with braised baby gem roasted cauliflower with a blood orange vinaigrette. The beautiful colors and presentation was also exquisite.

Two thumbs up! If you go to Nashville, make it a must stop, even if it is just to try one of the rarest dishes you may have ever tried – that insanely delicious Buttermilk Fried Quail. Hopefully they’ll never take it off the list.

For desserts, they had a banana pudding with smoked caramel sea salt and marshmallow meringue (banana pudding is very popular in the south), a mud pie with caramel, a warm cast iron cobber, a pie a la mode and a coconut cake with blueberry preserves.

We happily filled our tummies here right before heading off to see the historically famous Ole Grand Opry at the Ryman — be sure to read our write-up.

Details:

Kitchen Notes (inside the Omni Nashville Hotel)

250 5th Ave South

Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 782-5300

A few other restaurants worth noting where we either stopped in briefly or received strong recommendations from locals, include the following:

  • Adele’s on McGavock Street – this establishment is where celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman of New York City’s Barbuto Restaurant now hangs his hat. His style is a mixture of French and California style cuisine.
  • Husk Nashville on Rutledge Street – those who have been to Charleston know of the first Husk Restaurant there…Chef Sean Brock is a James Beard Award winner and specializes in Southern farm-to-table cuisine. Historians will love the fact that the restaurant is housed in an 1895 building, which is registered on the National Registry of Historic Homes. It also has a great view of downtown Nashville.
  • Rolf and Daughters on Taylor Street — Think old world feel with 18 foot ceilings, exposed brick and concrete and iron windows that adds a modern twist to it. Chef Philip Krajeck focuses on fresh and local and its wine list includes both European and American vintages.
  • Josephine on 12th Avenue South – Here, you’ll get refined American farmhouse cuisine but within a hip modern styled restaurant.

 

Note: we were hosted by some of the restaurants above, however all opinions are entirely our own.

2 Fun Foodie Picks in Clarksdale Mississippi

April 18, 2015 by  

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Travel the back roads between American Highways 49 and 61 in search of Lost Superstitions and the spirits of Sam Cooke, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and wind up in Clarksdale Mississippi, the home of the Delta Blues. I covered unique “stays” in this charming southern city (and the photos are fabulous), one of which includes the Shack Up Inn, which has a restaurant called Rust Restaurant – yes, really. That will give you an idea of the ambiance of this oh so not luxurious but oh so authentic place.

In a city that has a restaurant called Rust, you might be wondering what kind of food is served there or anywhere in Clarksdale for that matter, a place music lovers flock to for things like the Juke Joint Festival and authentic blues at RED’s, not for its food. Clarksdale is surrounded by original cotton plantations, so you’d assume there’d be plenty of home grown cooking and southern fare and well, you are right for the most part…..with a twist. We quickly learned that Clarksdale seems to have a lot of surprises and twists!!

Two restaurants foodies should know about are Yazoo Pass on Yazoo Street and Oxbow on 3rd Street, both in downtown Clarksdale, which btw, is only an hour or so from Memphis Tennessee for those who have an inkling to take an easy side trip when in Memphis.

During our ever so delicious dinner at Yazoo Pass, we mainly opted for seafood, which we paired with a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. They offer a delicious seared Ahi Tuna with shaved cucumber, lemon vinaigrette, hummus, wasabi cream and ginger beer sauce, Maple Glazed Salmon which is made with garlic and ginger infused jasmine rice, roasted asparagus and a maple vinaigrette and an exquisite Pan Seared Snapper made with garlic sautéed spinach, brown rice, with a garlic tomato reduction. You’ll notice the southern influence, but on the healthier and lighter side, even with the chef’s tasty sauces, whose nickname is Doc. He was apparently named after Dr. Julius Irving who once played for the Philly 76′ers.

More classically southern choices include a Chicken Basket, which are three hand battered jumbo tenders & pomme frites with a dipping sauce of your choice, Stuffed Shrimp with Lump crab, sautéed mushrooms and bread crumbs, broiled to perfection and the Hot Onion Soufflé Dip which is made with sun-dried tomato relish and homemade bruschetta (Yum!). Also worth mentioning are their Fish Tacos made with blackened snapper, sweet pepper pico and lime creme and their Crab Cakes served with fresh peppers and chives.

Since it is the south, they do have crunchy Pickle Frites and a variety of potato chips varieties but they also offer soups and plenty of healthy salads, including a fabulous baby spinach salad with shaved fresh pears, shredded parmesan, toasted nuts, balsamic vinaigrette and a wedge salad with grape tomatoes, crumbled bacon, grated egg, pimiento cheese croutons and house bleu cheese.

If you want to go for meat, they have filets and ribeyes, which you can get with classic Rustic Mash (love the name), roasted asparagus and mushrooms. They even have sandwiches on the menu as well, such as kaiser rolls, sour dough melted cheese and burgers with crunchy fried red onions and Worcestershire aioli. And, because you’re in the south, go for some real homemade down southern cookin’ regardless of what you order — in other words, don’t forget to order a side of mashed potatoes.

Ambiance at Yazoo Pass, is a mixture of rustic (earthy colors and a massive brick wall facing you as you enter), healthy (salad bar is integral to their menu) and modern. The staff is incredibly friendly and the service top notch! (Thanks to Blake, our waiter for making us feel at home)

The restaurant got started via a unique joint mission. In 2011, a local attorney named John Cocke saw a need for a place that Teach for America folks could come in have coffee and use the Internet.  At the same time, Meri Tenhet, a trained chef, was looking for the opportunity to open a bakery and restaurant.

Together, they opened Yazoo Pass Espresso Bistro the weekend after Thanksgiving of 2011.  For the first couple of years we were only open for breakfast and lunch but they have grown. Even with a deep fryer in the kitchen today, they proudly tout that they use the best ingredients they can get their hands on, including rice bran oil. Two thumbs up!

Details:

Yazoo Pass

207 Yazoo Street

Clarksdale, MS 38614

(662) 627-8686

The Oxbow is tucked away along 3rd Street in the center of town! By tucked away, I don’t mean that it’s off the beaten path, but it doesn’t have a loud or big sign calling you to its entrance. When we arrived in Clarksdale, it was raining, so we ran from our car to get warm and dry at the Oxbow, planning to fill up our hungry tummies with some old fashioned southern fare.

The place is funky and I’d add, rustic in its design and ambiance, completely decorated with salvaged industrial materials repurposed for art and function.  While Oxbow might be about as casual as it gets, wooden picnic tables and all, don’t let that fool you – the food is out of this world! They even have a chalkboard of specials with their Twitter handle prominently displayed, so they’re not behind the times either.

The food experience is so fabulous largely to the talents of chef and owner Hayden Hall, who traveled around and studied culinary arts elsewhere before returning home to bring all that he learned to his hometown. A native of Clarksdale, he runs the restaurant with his wife Erica, their joint passion for food shining through from every dish. We got to hang with Hayden briefly while we were there, and he made sure to soup up a few things for us we hadn’t planned to order, just for fun and hell, why not be surprised by the chef?

 
While I avoid fried food as much as possible and never eat it at home, I do partake in the occasional fried dish, whether that be fish prepared in a uniquely southern way or fries on occasion — love sweet potato fries as one example and who doesn’t love garlic fries? Hayden makes a mean and oh so delicious batch of handcut garlic parmesan fries! A must order when at Oxbow, even if you keep everything else lean and healthy.
And, get this….they’re only $1.95 on the menu at the time of writing this and sodas were only a buck. Mississippi kept taking me back in time in more ways than one and their prices was one of those things — did I mention the $1.77 a gallon gas station prices we saw en route?
Oxbow is only open for lunch and their dishes reflect this — think sandwiches, salads and burgers! That said, what they’re most known for is their Tuna Tacos, where they wok-sear ahi tuna and serve them with a homemade citrus ginger slaw and sriracha aioli on grilled flour tortillas with fresh lime. Yum!!!
Additionally, they have a Southern Salad sampler plate, which includes a scoop of chicken salad, scoop of Pimento cheese and a scoop of pasta salad (also offered as a side) over Balsamic vinaigrette tossed greens.
A side of cabbage anyone? Below, Anthony’s palate is in heaven on that very rainy afternoon.
Hayden’s homemade soups are also to die-for, and have a uniquely southern style, but like most things in Clarksdale, with a twist!
I loved the down-to-earth wholesome ambiance of this little eatery – it’s a unique place with fresh ingredients that remind you how the South is changing as tastes do and as we are hit with more and more global influences in food.  Two thumbs up!
Details:
Oxbow Restaurant
115 3rd Street
Clarksdale, MS 38614
(662) 627-6781
Note: we were hosted by the restaurants during our stay but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Taos New Mexico, Where White Beauty Meets Pure Natural Bliss

April 18, 2015 by  

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It had been years since I had been to Taos and it was for a wedding at the time, the experience full of energy, an energizing dinner and cocktail party and a boat load of fun. If I recall, it was early Spring and I had discovered a few gems on the outskirt of Taos that I had hoped to return to one day and of course, the names of those gems were captured on an old laptop, never to be restored.

For some reason, my mystical illusion of experiencing Taos had to be the gems I had hoped to return to and without those names, it was, well, left up to pure accident of where I’d end up staying and what I’d end up doing, with a little help from the local tourism board of course.

In my mind’s eye were those golden gems however, and not finding them again would somehow make my Taos experience inferior. Hog wash I heard my grandmother saying as I contemplated such a ridiculous thought, and a way of thinking I rarely have, particularly as a long time traveler. Isn’t everything a new discovery and….doesn’t everything happen for a reason? I decided to return to my normal mantra while traveling which focuses on “trust”, a hunger for discovery and being present and once I did, everything quickly fell in place.

Before we hit the ski resort itself, we ended up staying at a charming B&B in town and had arrived just as the flickering snowflakes were at their strongest. While I was dead set on exploring the spiritual side of Taos, as well as it’s foodie and art scene, there was no doubt I was going to ski — after all, it was January and we were greeted with the first snow fall since we left New York more than a couple of weeks prior. And, snow it did, for three straight days.

In and around Taos is beautiful, no, it’s breathtaking — nothing more, nothing less!!  Below is the road we took to head out of town one day for a scenic drive.

Below, on the road towards Taos Pueblo or otherwise referred to as Pueblo de Taos, a must visit when in Taos (see my write-up - it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Only a mere mile or so outside of Taos, you reach Taos Pueblo itself. Below is inside, so you can get an idea of what to expect. Taos Pueblo is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tewa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. My post explains the history and backbone of this gem and has tons of great photos to guide you through the experience of being on-site itself.

And, how’s this for the stunning views you get from Taos Pueblo on a cold winter day?

On the road to the Taos ski resort…

By the time we had started climbing the windy road that led to the ski resort, we realized our car’s wasn’t made for the slippery conditions, something a four wheel drive could have handled easily. Thanks to Adriana, a local who is also instrumental in promoting local tourism, we made our way up and down the mountain with ease in her truck, both for an annual wine tasting event they do every year and to ski.

We also stayed at the Snakedance Condos to get a flavor for the lodging on the mountain and had a scrumptious meal at the traditional Bavarian gem at the top (be sure to read my foodie write up on the restaurant). Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the visibility on the day I was planning to ski couldn’t have been worse.

The downside of course was that I didn’t get those stunning landscape and mountain views that Taos is so known for on a clear day.  The other downside was that it was hard to see, especially with dark tinted goggles, the only ones I had access to that day.

I wasn’t the only one who had a tough time with visibility that day – you’ll notice that because of the weather conditions, I opted to leave my Canon 7D in a dry warm place, rather than cart it around on the slopes. The result is that every shot on the mountain was taken with my iPhone with snow flurries between the view and the camera and the granularity and blurriness of the shots unfortunately reflect that. Despite not being able to produce the best photography on the slopes, you’ll get an idea at just how white and fluffy it was on that January day.

There were times I couldn’t see a thing in front of me, so ended up hooking up with a Brit who was there for the week for several runs, just so I had a bright jacket to follow down the mountain. It was either that, I thought, or end up on some random side of the mountain covered in snow.

The truth is, that despite the poor visibility, my lack of stellar equipment for the day, how utterly exhausted I was from the recent long drives and that it took me forever to get my pass sorted because of that fatigue, I had a blast! I mean, I really had a blast. As tired and blind as I was, there was something truly magical about being on the mountain in such chaotic conditions.

I had to rely on my other senses to get me through and rather than use my sight as my mainstay, I felt the motion of my curves and turns, I felt the snow fall on my face, blocking my view and all and I felt the sensation of Taos in January in the midst of fresh fallen snow and thought yes…..this is bliss, pure bliss!

Useful Resources and Info:

  • Dreamcatcher B&B in the center of Taos: http://www.weblogtheworld.com/?p=196189 and www.dreamcatcherbb.com.
  • Snakedance Condos at the top of the mountain: www.snakedancecondos.com/
  • The Bavarian Restaurant at the top of the mountain: www.thebavarian.net/
  • Taos Pueblo or Pueblo de Taos: http://www.weblogtheworld.com/?p=196254 and http://www.taospueblo.com/
  • Taos Winter Wine Festival: http://www.taoswinterwinefest.com
  • The Taos Ski Resort: https://www.skitaos.org/

 



The All Things Foodie Guide to Memphis

April 17, 2015 by  

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Most foodies may think of Nashville over Memphis when it comes to award-winning chefs and renowned southern dishes and restaurants you’ll want to write home about. While Nashville is no doubt a serious foodie city given its size, the number of celebrities who live there and pass through, Memphis has its fair share of great restaurants worth noting (and adding to your must-eat-at-list) for your next trip to Tennessee. Be sure to read our write-up on the foodie guide to Nashville for our latest picks and take notes on our recommended choices for Memphis below.

Let’s start with the incredibly surprising and delicious Eighty 3 Restaurant in the Madison Hotel, where we stayed while we toured Memphis. Below, find a Max Hussey gem, the latest chef at Eighty 3 — the spicy ahi tuna wonton with avocado, sesame, chili, scallions and red onion.

Other great seafood specialties include the Louisiana crab cake, shrimp beignets with shrimp/pepper jelly, lump crab and shrimp ceviche, his seafood gumbo (crawfish, shrimp, okra, scallop, lobster, rice, clam and seafood stock with creole seasonings), shrimp and grits, and roasted salmon with green tomato pepper ragu, stone ground grits, sweet sun drops and a cilantro glaze. Yum!

At eighty3, Max uses free-style because, he says, “it gets you out of cooking the same menu every night and repeat guests get to try new things.” What was so refreshing about his menu, that while it does have a southern flare, it wasn’t heavy and laden with all the ingredients you love but that tends to add too many unnecessary calories and cholesterol.

Worth noting since it was so unusual (and over-the-top delicious) was their smoked bacon wrapped dates. How could you pass these up?

There’s also a crab and shrimp ceviche with sweet potato, corn and chili pepper water, shrimp beignets with pepper jelly and a Louisiana crab cake, clearly from his New Orleans days, which is served with carrot slaw (MAN, I love Southern slaws), dressed mixed greens and aioli,  Also worth noting is the chicken lettuce wraps, which he does with a hoisin glazed chicken, sauté mushrooms, water chestnut, roasted peanuts and cilantro lime in a crispy iceberg lettuce cup.

Details:

Eighty 3 Restaurant

83 Madison Avenue

Memphis, TN 38103

901.333.1224

Lafayette’s, which also has legendary live music in Memphis regularly, was also a real treat thanks to the culinary craftsmanship of Chef Jody Moyt. Be sure to read our write-up of Barbara Blue‘s performance as well as our culinary experience there in mid-January.

The menu includes such southern influenced dishes as po-boys, shrimp and grits, baked oysters, wood-fired pizzas and made-from-scratch desserts.  The dishes (and the drinks) far exceeded our expectations.  A combination of out-of-this-world food and music make Lafayette’s a must-visit venue for your Memphis agenda.

Details:

Lafayette’s Music Room

2119 Madison Avenue

Memphis, TN 38104

(901) 207-5097

Then, there’s the legendary Arcade Restaurant, which is really more of a diner, but the very same diner where Elvis Presley was known to order his infamous grilled peanut butter and banana concoction — there’s even an Elvis booth in the back dedicated to him.

In existence since 1919, Arcade is Memphis’ oldest cafe serving breakfast and lunch. Speros Zepatos founded the diner in 1919 after immigrating from Cephalonia, Greece. Situated at the corner of South Main Street and G.E. Patterson, the original building was a small, one story, wood framed building. Food was actualy cooked on potbelly stoves.

In 1925, Speros tore down the wood structure and built the Arcade Building in a Greek revival style, complete with retail stores to signify the “Arcade” name.  His son, Harry Zepatos, took the Arcade to a new level in the 1950′s, who made the cafe into the fifties diner that still sits there today. Iconic are the boomerang now faded table top designs, the neon signage, and original storefront motif.

Apparently scenes from Mystery Train, Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Elizabethtown, Walk the Line, and My Blueberry Nights, just to name a few, have all been filmed in this restaurant.

In oh so charming diner style, they serve dishes up from the somewhat open kitchen — everything from burgers, grits and other southern fare to pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs.

They also have a massive choice of salads — from cobb and fried chicken to chef, turkey club, taco and Greek variations. They even have pizza on the menu as well as more traditional classics like country fried steak and eggs redneck with hash browns.

The Elvis sandwich….fried peanut butter, banana and bacon. Yup, I had it exactly as Elvis ate it in his “hey-day” and didn’t even pay for it later.

Details:

Arcade Restaurant

540 South Main Street

Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 526-5757

For those who have been to a BB Kings Blues Club, you know that for the most part, they’re all fun and play great blues music regardless of where they are in the world. It was particularly interesting to visit a BB Kings in the Blues Capital of the world, where live music every night was a notch above the rest of the country and then some. While a popular haunt and perhaps a little touristy, it’s also classically authentic and the musicians are about as down-to-earth as it gets.

It surprised me that the food was quite good as well since we largely went there for the music and the vibe! We secured a table upstairs so it was a little further away from the speakers, yet still had great views of the band. We decided to go for all things fried and southern, as well as order some of the most outlandish sounding cocktails they had on the menu.

Entrees included dishes like their Lip Smacking Ribs, grilled salmon, southern fried catfish, pork chops, filet mignon, glazed ribeye, brisket, meatloaf, shrimp and grits (of course – it’s Tennessee), gumbo (their recipe is smoked chicken, Andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, peppers, onions, and tomatoes), beer chili, crawfish poppers, fried green tomatoes (YUM – see below), black-eyed pea hummus, Memphis wings, nachos and sausage and cheese platters. The venue may be more about the music than the food but the southern style options truly brought it home!!

We tried a few southern appetizers and main course dishes…and of course, we always order at least one salad.

Because its BB Kings, you can get a celebration glass which I haven’t done in years, but we opted to – hell, it was only $2.00 more.

They have a Motown Margarita, a drink called Love on the Delta (pearl red berry vodka, peach schnapps, raspberry liqueur, orange, pineapple and cranberry juices), a Southern Hurricane, which is Southern Comfort, Dark Rum, orange juice, sweet & sour and pineapple juice, topped with 151 rum, and two really great named drinks: the Lucille (Malibu Coconut Rum, Blue Curacao, mixed with orange and pineapple juices) and a Juke Joint (pearl vodka, peach schnapps, melon liquor, sour apple liquor and blue curacao mixed with orange and pineapple juices). Oh yeah baby, bring on the blues!

As for the on-stage bands. Let’s just say we danced all night long!!

Details:

BB King Blues Club

143 Beale Street

Memphis, TN 38103

(901) 524.5464

We were then introduced to a famous RIB joint called Charlie Vergos RENDEZVOUS Ribs.  Located in an alley across the street from The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, Rendezvous is an unassuming restaurant between Holiday Inn Select and Benchmark Hotels.

The Rendezvous has been serving ribs in a downtown Memphis alley since 1948 and has been owned and operated by the Vergos family for three generations. The ambiance is very casual, with picnic-table-LIKE tables with tons of photos and memoirs over the years of the owners with various celebrities who have stopped in during various visits including names like Bill and Hillary Clinton. Think red checkered table cloths and baskets full of fried food and bread with chicken and beef on the way.

Robert Junior waited on us, not to be confused with his dad Robert Senior. Perhaps a whole lot younger than “Senior,” he’s been waiting tables with the Vergos family since 1981 and still looks like a young pup! He had many a historical story to share about the establishment and it’s history. Together with a number of other long time waiters (Percy, who has been on board since 1971), Geno (also since 1971), Albert (since 1973), and Jack (since 1965), they have kept Rendezvous alive with vigor and personality.

The restaurant has been around since 1948, when original owner Charlie Vergos discovered a coal chute and shortly thereafter, started a legend. The coal chute gave him a vent for his talent over a grill and allowed him to expand from ham and cheese sandwiches to ribs. Today, the place is a Ribs Joint legend in Memphis and on average, several thousand people head to Rendezvous Ribs on a Saturday night to sink their teeth into what makes Memphis…..Memphis.

You can order a variety of “Ribs” options but given that we were newcomers, we let Robert Junior order away on our behalf. And so, we went with a beef brisket choice, lamb riblets and pork shoulder, as well as red beans and rice on the side — and plenty of pickles. We had to get a side of slaw of course, as well as potato salad and peppers. All of it was oh so delicious and oh so good! Robert also brought out a sausage and pickle platter before we got to “go” with our main courses as well. (always served with saltines of course)

The deliciously traditional potato salad with paprika.

Two thumbs up and definitely worth a stop, as traditional and classic as it may be. All the waiters are fabulous and have been there for donkey’s years, so you can’t go wrong regardless of who you end up with — ask about the history, order the slaw and oh yeah, go for a pitcher of beer – perhaps the Ghost River or the Wiseacre.

You can also purchase their famous seasoning in a 4.5 ounce jar, their BBQ sauce and their Rendezvous seasoned popcorn on-site. What else is cool is that regardless of where you are in the continental USA, you can order their ribs online at www.hogsfly.com or via phone 888.HOGS-FLY.

Details:

Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous Ribs

@RendezvousRibs

52 South Second Street

Memphis, TN 38104

(901) 523.2746

Suggested Lunch venues in Memphis include the following:

  • Trolley Stop Market @TrolleyStopMkt on 704 Madison Avenue
  • Gus’s Fried Chicken on 310 South Front Street
  • LUNCHBOX eats @LUNCHBOXeats at 288 South 4th Street
  • South of Beale @southofbeale on 361 South Main Street
  • Central BBQ @CentralBBQ on 147 East Butler Avenue
  • The Majestic Grille @MajesticGrille on 145 South Main Street

Also, you should check out Overton Square aka @overtonsquare on “social.” It is a relatively new theater and entertainment district in Midtown Memphis, which is only about a 10 minute drive from downtown and we didn’t find parking to be a problem.

Check out their boutique shopping options in the afternoon and then stay in the area for food and drinks. There are some great restaurants in the square and music venues (Lafayette’s is a combo of both). Both Boscos aka @BoscosSquared on Twitter and Local Gastropub aka @localgastropub, have Happy Hour Specials.

Disclosure: we were hosted by a chunk of venues above during our stay, however all opinions here are entirely my own.

 

 

 

We also had an opportunity to meet executive chef Max Hussey, who just came to Memphis from San Francisco, so we were able to chat about the food scene in the city where I hang my hat more than anywhere else when I’m not on an airplane or driving across the grand United States.

A southerner at heart, he weaves in influences from New Orleans and Boston, and most recently, as mentioned above, San Francisco where he put his Memphis-style spin on Bananas Foster as executive chef at the award-winning Southpaw BBQ, the Southern-inspired restaurant on Mission Street.

At eighty3, Max uses free-style because, he says, “it gets you out of cooking the same menu every night and repeat guests get to try new things.” What was so refreshing about his menu, that while it does have a southern flare, it wasn’t heavy and laden with all the ingredients you love but that tends to add too many unnecessary calories and cholesterol.

The salad selection was extensive and included a butter lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion, panko and gorgonzola, a simple but delicious Caesar with parmesan artisan croutons, anchovies and cherry tomatoes, a wedge salad with beef tenderloin tips, bacon, onions, tomato, gorgonzola and onion tangles, a cherry bomb salad with kale chips, stuffed crispy peppadew peppers, tomato, red onion, carrots and a honey basil vinaigrette, a blackened ahi tuna salad with mixed greens, tomato, red onions and a citrus wonton and the eighty 3 chopped salad with is served with a champagne vinaigrette, apple, avocado, onion, bacon, corn, tomatoes and gorgonzola. Yum!!

 

For a little more traditional southern style, there’s the signature skillet cornbread on the menu served with a delicious honey-jalapeño butter and fall-off-the-bone pork wings with bang bang sauce and onion tangles. Our favorite? Truth be told, it wasn’t a low calorie option at all, but the “to-die-for” smoked bacon wrapped dates are a must try.

 

Spicy ahi tuna wonton with avocado, sesame, chili, scallions and red onion.

 

Find Serenity at the Mountain Harbor Resort & Turtle Cove Spa

April 16, 2015 by  

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When you think of Arkansas as an avid traveler, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t luxury spa treatments. Since we were already planning to spend time in Hot Springs Arkansas, which has a rich historical past and boasts an entire drag dedicated to thermal water bathhouses and spas, we learned about the Mountain Harbor Resort and Turtle Cove Spa from locals, roughly an hour and a half leisurely drive away.

For nature lovers who also like to dip their toe in luxury from time-to-time, this is the perfect oasis to spend time on your alone for pure relaxation, as a romantic getaway or with your family — they cater to all three.

The spa itself sits on one side of the massive property and is surrounded by luscious forest and a gigantic lake where you can boat or swim. It has its own parking and entrance area, which is a lovely blend of rustic and luxury combined. Depending on the season, you could be greeted with flowering trees as well, as you walk through its welcoming entryway that is coated with green ivy.

Here, they have thought of everything to make you relax — from the serene sitting room that is loaded with peaceful reads, Buddha quotes and calming rocks, to the gift shop and the outside porch and patio which delivers stunning views of the lake below. You can sit on the outdoor terrace and meditate to the lake’s tranquility while breathing in the clean Arkansas mountain air.

It was pure heaven. Remember that Ouachita National Forest covers 1.8 million acres in central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma, which is vast and glorious, with plenty of natural surroundings for hikes, camping or a stay at a luxurious resort. Mountain Harbor Resort makes such a perfect choice as it is remotely shut off, so much so you feel as you’re days away from urban life, not hours.

To get to the resort and spa, you need to drive down a long dirt road off the main drag and it’s easy to get lost if you don’t pay attention to the turns and curves or if it’s your first time.  It’s also worth noting that Turtle Cove Spa offers Lake Ouachita’s only lakeside spa experience. Surrounded by the crystal-infused waters of Lake Ouachita, the wide array of spa treatments include massages, facials, body treatments, crystal energy work and holistic therapies, spa pedicures and manicures, and a full-service salon.

I was surprised to get a therapist who was so savvy about skin and body work – I left feeling not just rejuvenated but smarter about healing and self care than when I walked in and I’ve been to many a’ spa over the years. Because of its natural location, you not only feel renewed from the treatment itself but have a unique opportunity to reconnect with nature, which only accelerates and deepens your connection with yourself and the earth around you.  They offer great romantic packages as well as options for groups (think weddings, reunions or family retreats).  

Staying at the lodge is a natural oasis all in itself. Their rustic lodge area with lake view cabins, lake side guest rooms and economy houses seems to have drawn families for decades – I learned through a little digging that some families have been returning to the resort for their summer vacations for four or five generations.

You can choose a guestroom, cabana, suite, or more rustic cottage and opt for more basic amenities or something a little more exclusive.  And, either way you turn, the views are stunning and the nature bountiful.

The restaurant, swimming pool, wading pool, courtyard area, playground, laundromat, office, launching ramp and marina are all within walking distance and it’s worth noting that as remote as it is, wireless internet is available in all of their Lodge units, the restaurant and public areas.

For those of you who grew up around mountain lakes rather than the ocean like I did, you’ll feel at home right away. And, that Arkansas sky gets mighty beautiful at night as well.

Two thumbs up! We would definitely return – our own regret is that we didn’t have more time to explore the area, take long hikes and just sit and gaze at the lake for days on end.

Details:

Mountain Harbor Resort

994 Mountain Harbor Road

Mt Ida, AR 71957
(870) 867-2191

www.mountainharborresort.com 

Note: we were hosted during our stay but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Photo credits: unless otherwise noted by the watermark, photos are courtesy of Harbor Mountain Resort and Turtle Cove Spa – all others Renee Blodgett.

Memphis’ Sun Studio, Where Elvis Hung His Hat & Began His Career

April 16, 2015 by  

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On the other side of town from the infamous Beale Street in Memphis lies Sun Studio on 706 Union Avenue, the same studio where Elvis regularly hung his hat and recorded tunes at the beginning of his career.

It has been said that “if music was a religion, then Memphis would be Jerusalem and Sun Studio its most holy shrine.” As a tourist spot, it’s incredibly unpretentious — in fact, it looks as it has remained untouched for the most part since the 1950′s, and that’s just inside.

Of course, as you walk through the studio, it’s not just the recording studio itself that is awe-inspiring and authentic but they have a number of historical guitars, microphones and original records on display to marvel at….and it’s not just Elvis of course.

There were original recordings by Johnny Cash (see my Johnny Cash Museum write-up including a special video interview and tons of photos), Elvis and others. It was of course Elvis who changed what Memphis meant to the world and to the rock-and-roll industry as well as gospel and country.

In 1954, an unknown Elvis Presley, grabbed a mic and sang his heart out making Sun the most famous recording studio in the world. Below is the original mike he used at Sun Studio.

The impressive guided tour starts at the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll where you will experience outtakes from recording sessions and hear the real story of the studio that launched the careers of not only Elvis Presley, but other greats as noted above Johnny Cash, as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and many others that signed with the Sun label.

The area itself looks and feels like a working class section of Memphis and while mostly urban brick buildings, many run down with graffiti on its exterior, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were in parts of the hometown where I grew up in upstate New York.

What I loved about the area and the studio is just how raw and authentic it was — it wasn’t as if they were trying to paint a sugar coated story to glorify and glamify what it was, making it about as pure as it gets as a recording studio. In fact, at night, it is still used to record songs by up and coming artists today.

I personally got to wind back the clock a bit – they give you an opportunity to touch the original mike that Elvis used when he first walked through the doors in the 1950′s and well, even sing into it if you’d like. Pianos and guitars surround you in the original studio as do photos of musical greats who have inspired all of us at some juncture of our lives regardless of our age.

The entrance to the Sun Studio “museum” and studio itself is a retro diner with red and silver bar stools and tables from the 50′s and 60′s. Behind the counter sits a chalkboard of daily specials, original Coca-Cola signs, posters, retro ketchup and mustard bottles and old fashioned coffee cups.

Adjacent to Union is Sam Phillips Avenue, a sign at the corner says so, named appropriately after the infamous Sam Phillips who started the studio to capture the raw talent of Beale Street at the time and others who rolled in from other parts of the country to record there later on as the studio took off. Two thumbs up! If you love music and history, then this is a must stop on your travel agenda for Tennessee.

Below is a short video clip I shot during the tour – it will give you a flavor of the place. Enjoy!

Meet Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, the Largest Hotel in Arkansas

April 15, 2015 by  

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Driving through America’s middle allows you to take several routes, the classic Route 66 being one of those. Given that it was winter, we geared our journey a little further south than we otherwise might knowing that I wanted to hit Arkansas on the way. Why? I have always been intrigued by Arkansas and figured it would be a blend of midwest and southern hospitality, which frankly was a fairly accurate experience of our time there.

I learned about Hot Springs not from online research, but from looking at an old fashioned map we got from AAA. My priority was finding foodie hot spots or places that focused on wellness and Hot Springs fell into the latter category. The town is known for its traditional hot springs bath houses, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, being the oldest known one in the city and where we stayed for a few days while in Hot Springs.

The Arlington is also the largest hotel in Arkansas with almost 500 rooms and suites. In existence since 1875, think old classic style buried deep in history, with chandeliers in the lobby and hotel rooms, a baby grand piano in the dining room and live entertainment on some nights of the week.  They have hosted hundreds of grand balls and social events over the years, attracting politicians, dignitaries, actors, gangsters and entertainment and sports legends.

You can choose from standard rooms and suites to Mineral Water Rooms, which offer a king or two double beds and a bathtub with hot springs mineral water piped directly into a tub and a shower. Apparently our suite had mineral water piped into the bathroom pipes as well, but the tub was a bit too small for a romantic hot soak, so we opted to use the outdoor pools and hot tub instead.

Below is the bedroom portion of a suite, so you can get an idea of its oh so classic and historical style — it is separated by doors on both sides which leads to a full dining room and living room. Note that the suites face the main drag and it doesn’t appear that they have modern soundproof windows so if you’re a light sleeper, you may want to take that into consideration and request a room in the back of the hotel instead.

Below is the living room/dining room area of our suite, so spacious that it is perfect for family travel. (Above, taken from hotel website)

The hotel’s original wooden structure was three stories high and boasted 120 guest rooms, making it the largest in the state in that era. Gas lights illuminated the spacious rooms and there was a grand court between the structures’ two wings. Colonial porches ran the full length of the building to Hot Springs Mountain. In the late 1880s, some 100 rooms, a new dining room with electric lights, and another parlor were added.

The original building was razed to make way for a new 300-room Spanish Renaissance structure in 1893. At that time, the Arlington was referred to as “the most elegant and complete hotel in America” in Charles Cutter’s 1892 Guide Book. Designed in three sections, but with five levels, they had a spacious veranda with arcades running the full length of the hotel.

Photographs and records in the 1894 and 1896 Cutter’s Guide show a rotunda, grand ornamental oak stairway circling a beautiful glass dome, the lobby, a pink parlor, and grand ballroom. The building however, like so many others at the time, was destroyed by fire in April 1923.

This Arlington, as its counterparts, was designed with bathers and vacationers in mind and had 560 rooms. The Crystal Ballroom, Venetian Room and lobby were part of the 1924 structure. Adjacent to the lobby are the Writing Room (now a Starbucks), Card Room (now called the Magnolia Room) and a Board Room for meetings. The Music Room for the Arlington Orchestra’s performances opened onto the Venetian Room and lobby. The Arlington included an in-house bath house with open, bright separate accommodations for men and women, and 50 rooms had thermal mineral waters piped in. All of these facilities, except the Music Room, are still in use.

They have a traditional spa on the fourth floor, where you can get massages, body wraps, body scrubs and reflexology.

I had a massage as part of my Hydrotherapy package, which includes a thermal mineral water whirlpool bath in a traditional old fashioned bathtub.

They fill it with hot thermal water and there you soak for about a half an hour, after which you spray yourself down and lie on a massage-like table – several in a large room – with white small white towels wrapped around you until you’re ready for a follow on spa treatment.

Their spa is less about luxury and more about healing. Still in use are its old tubs and you can see water stains on the tiles from years and years of use. There’s something very raw and authentic about it.

The towels are small as is the locker room area and while the massage rooms are also very basic in design, their therapists have solid experience.

Since I said I was okay with firm and strong, the woman who worked on me did precisely that. Originally from Russia, I left my treatment feeling a tad sore, but by the next day as the toxins moved through me, I felt like a million bucks as my body began to alkalize and equalize. Some deep tissue work was a godsend after our long drive the day before. They also have a mountainside twin-level heated pools and covered hot tub.

Above, taken from their website.

The lobby is equally decadent but also charming, and the service is top notch.

The outside is old historic but elegant. (photo from hotel website)

Above shot – photo credit: www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net.

Outside the front door is the National Park’s famed Bathhouse Row and a grand stroll through history and beauty, with tons of art galleries and shops en route. Across the street are museums, antique galleries, unique restaurants and live entertainment, and for golf buffs, you can book a tee time at the championship courses at Hot Springs Country Club. A few other bathhouses on the main drag worth mentioning include the following:

  • Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs
  • Lamar Bathhouse
  • Buckstaff Bathhouse (in operation since 1912.)
  • Ozark Bathhouse
  • Quapaw Bathhouse
  • Fordyce Bathhouse
  • Maurice Bathhouse
  • Hale Bathhouse

More information can be found here: http://www.arkansas.com/blog/post/spa-time-in-hot-springs/

Details:

Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa

239 Central Avenue

Hot Springs, AR 71901
(501) 623-7771

Note: we were hosted by the hotel, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

The Amarillo Marriott, a Great Family Stayover on a Cross America Trip

April 14, 2015 by  

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While we didn’t plan to stay and explore Amarillo, Texas, we did use it as a stay over on our cross America trip, which we heavily hashtagged #WBTWxAmerica if you want to check out some of our social media posts (Twitter and Instagram). Amarillo is a known stop over when driving through the center of the country because it’s a major city between Oklahoma and New Mexico.

In downtown Amarillo, the old Fisk Building has been renovated into a Marriott and still retains its historic Gothic Revival exterior. Inside, of course, all the modern amenities have been added that you’d expect from a Marriott. We opted for the Marriott because was told by a long time local that it’s a great downtown location and also has safe and secure parking off-site. It also appeared to be a popular hotel for professional athletes as we could assess from signs in the lobby.

The rooms themselves are fairly standard although you can get rooms with views and/or balconies, which we did, despite it being a bit too cool in the evening to sit outside in January.

All contemporary in style, their 107 rooms and suites are brightly lit and decorated in vibrant colors. Because they have suites as well, it makes for a good option for family travel as well. Included are 42 inch TV’s, free wifi, a hotel fitness center and The Bistro, a restaurant on the ground floor, where you can grab a bite in the evening or breakfast in the morning.

The main lobby area is also incredibly modern and I’d say, “happily decorated.” Nearby the hotel, you can access some of Amarillo’s local attractions like the Amarillo Civic Center and Cadillac Ranch just moments away from the hotel. Family attraction options include the Ross Rogers Golf Course and the Wonderland Amusement Park.

Details:

 Marriott Courtyard Amarillo Downtown

 724 South Polk Street

Amarillo, TX 79101

806.553.4500

 

Note: we were hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed are entirely our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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