About 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
For the serenity seekers among us, imagine a luxury spa in the middle of the ocean with stunning views on all sides? Imagine that in addition to a luxury spa, you have access to heated pools, hot tubs, a gym with the very same stunning view and lots of lounge chairs for relaxing. Imagine that you can order herbal tea as easily as you can a fabulous margarita.
Sound a little more than just enticing? Then, book a cruise with Princess, and experience their Lotus Spa and their Izumi Japanese Bath which was one of my favorite things on the ship.
What’s lovely about this spa is the vast array of services on offer, from teeth whitening (yes really) to doing a detox, losing up to 8 inches of internal toxins in one session. They also have the classic massages as well as a few fun creative ones as well, such as a Bamboo Massage where they use bamboo shoots to massage your muscles, after they soak them in oil. The Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage was very detoxifying — it includes an aromatherapy body mask and wrap, after which they proceed with a more personalized massage depending on your needs, focusing on stress points on the body.
There’s a Coconut Poultice Massage, a Hot Stone Massage, a Cabana Massage (in the cabana where you experience soft ocean breezes, you can choose from Swedish, Deep Tissue, Reflexology or a Couples Massage), and the lovely exotic lime & ginger salt glow that they combine with a massage. They use Elemis Skin, nourishing milk bath and lime and ginger sea salts. It was invigorating and relaxing at the same time.
Like all top notch spas, they offer facials (pro-collagen, oxydermy, tri-enzyme resurfacing and hydralift) as well as a number of spa services. There’s a full salon on site, so you can get hair styling, Phyto hair treatments and scalp massages, conditionings, hair cuts and colorings. Or, you can get a pedicure or manicure after your individualized personalized training session in their extensive gym, the one with the fabulous views! And, apparently Lotus Spa earned the “Best Spa on a Cruise Ship” honors by Spafinder Wellness 365 .
While we’re on the topic of fabulous views, the Princess Izumi Japanese Bath has both indoor and outdoor offerings in which to pamper yourself.
The Izumi pagoda-covered outdoor hydrotherapy pool was a joy to use. Not only did it fulfill its promise to relax my entire body, but the views were spectacular while you took it all in. The Japanese bath is only available on the Diamond Princess ship so be sure to check when you book your cruise that it is available.
This additional spa feature to the Diamond Princess is nothing short of impressive. Apparently, I learned that this 8,800-square foot Izumi Japanese Bath is the only Japanese bath system at sea onboard a Western-run cruise line.
There’s the hydrotherapy pool outside as I mentioned (LOVED THIS), four whirlpools and two saunas, one more classic in its style and the other which is misted and eucalyptus-infused. They have something they refer to as Utaseyu, which are essentially massaging waterfalls and jetted showers which we loved. The men’s and women’s sections of the Izumi Japanese Bath change regularly so you can alternate and use the features included in both.
The indoor whirlpools are separated by two rooms (two in one room and two in the adjacent one), all of them facing the sea and taking in the beautiful at-sea views. While there is an extra fee to use this area, it’s nominal and worth doing a couple of times during your cruise.
Check out Princess Cruises links for more information on how to plan a cruise. They have a great website that allows you to search by destination, length, time of year and so on.
Be sure to check out other posts we wrote on the region, which include the excursions or solo trips we took of the stops on this cruise, Tokyo, Tokyo restaurants in our Japanese Food and Japan restaurants section and hotels in our Japan Hotels (& Lodging) section, which for this trip is focused on the hotels we stayed at before and after our tour in Tokyo. There is also more information, articles, fabulous photos and videos in our Japan (Travel to Japan), Tokyo (Travel to Tokyo) and South Korea (Travel to Korea) section.
Note: I was hosted by Princess Cruises however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary year, Horseman’s Hollow is a haunted experience in the heart of Sleepy Hollow New York that takes the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes. Historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.
A fabulous Halloween-themed event which is a great for kids (above age 10) takes you on a journey beyond the infamous Legend. Haunted house professional Lance Hallowell leads a crew of award-winning makeup and costume designers and a 40-member-strong cast of experienced actors to create an immersive, interactive, pleasantly terrifying experience, with state-of-the-spooky-art special effects.
Custom built set pieces and period-correct costumes help orient the experience in Philipsburg Manor’s traditional time period of the mid-1700s.
Visitors begin walking a haunted trail, stumbling upon scary scenes of a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman. The Hollow’s unfortunate inhabitants are all too ready to keep visitors from ever leaving. Creatures, human and otherwise, lurk in the shadows, ready to terrify the unsuspecting while incredible special effects disorient and unsettle. Elaborate costumes and the work of award-wining feature-film makeup artists make it all too real.
It is located at the Philipsburg Manor, 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow New York. Horseman’s Hollow dates are Oct. 4-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, 31 and Nov. 1. Tickets are $20 ($25 on Saturdays). More information and tickets can be found here.
Additional History on Irving’s ‘Legend’:
Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk offers a dramatic re-telling of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. Flavored with live spooky organ music by Jim Keyes, Kruk’s storytelling takes place in the historic, candlelit setting of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. The circa-1685 stone church is across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park. Performances last about 45 minutes.
Science and Nonduality (SAND) is a five-day immersive experience where leading scientists, spiritual teachers, philosophers, artists, and a thriving international community gather to explore a new paradigm in spirituality, one that is based on timeless wisdom traditions, informed by cutting-edge science, and grounded in direct experience.
Each year, they come together for an annual conference in the states (and one in Europe) and the result is an explosive, miraculous, healing and serene experience – yes, all at the same time. I attended this incredible event in 2012 in Northern California and this year, they are hosting it in San Jose at the Dolce Hayes Mansion on 200 Edenvale Avenue. Be sure to read my write up from the 2012 event.
Science and Nonduality provides a forum where preeminent scientists, philosophers, teachers, artists and a large, international community gather to explore and advance the new paradigm emerging in spirituality, that is both grounded in cutting-edge science and consistent with the ancient wisdom of nonduality — the deep understanding of the interconnectedness of life.
Ultimately, SAND is a playground where these different disciplines explore and share insights or simply reflect on what is emerging in consciousness. Knowing defines life, not-knowing reminds us of the mystery and perfection of each and every moment.
For those not familiar with nonduality at all, here’s a bit of background to bring you up to speed.
Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness.
For thousand of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have came to the realization that there is only one substance and we are therefore all part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.
In the last century Western scientists are arriving at the same conclusion: The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being – consciousness – subsequently arises from it. This realization has ontological implications for humanity: fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.
If in the Bay Area or can be, don’t miss this incredible event. Details here where you can also buy tickets. http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/.
Photo credit: community.omtimes.com
When you think of the South Bronx, you don’t necessarily think of fine cuisine and culinary orgasms, but you may be surprised when you walk through the doors of Charlie’s Bar & Kitchen on Lincoln Avenue.
Charlie’s opened in Spring 2012 and is located in the South Bronx’s premier historic landmark building the Clock Tower—currently home luxury lofts and artists’ studios. In the heart of the Bronx’s Mott Haven neighborhood, the area is starting to see some renovation and changes of late, which is refreshing for a part of the Bronx with such a unique history.
Since they have an open kitchen , peer over the counter and see what the chef is up to, such as this interesting mixture. Southern style meets Funky, Hip and Modern.
Another interesting factoid to note is that they grow some of their own vegetables on the roof. I also learned that rooftop gardens in New York are a growing trends, no grave surprise given the shortage of land/space and the desire to go as organic and local as you can. Why not grow it yourself if you can? Chef Joshua Bedford (originally from Texas) takes great pride in the fact that they can and do grow organic sustainable food on their roof, including root veggies and some of my favorites like peppers and okra.
Two things I absolutely love about this place – the owner is hip and cool (be sure to ask him about his life journey and travels), the place is open till late and has a funky and hip ambiance with the bar at the front of the establishment and the tables in the rear near the open kitchen (lots of brick here because of its historical past – did you know it was once a piano factory?) and third, the food, while southern and a bit heavier than I normally eat, was delicious.
While many of the dishes may be on the heavier side, they do have oysters, and a nice selection of salads, which you can also get vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, impressive for the area. They had a yummy beet salad which I ordered with shrimp. Imagine golden beets, arugula, tomato, goat cheese, pickled okra all tossed in a scallion vinaigrette with jumbo shrimp on top? Yum!! (second photo down)
If you’re not on a diet and want to play full out, there’s the smoked chile pork rinds to start or the beer cheese with a toasted pretzel. On the simpler side, they also offer fish and chicken tacos (Bronx IPA battered of course) and served with cabbage, cilantro slaw and a jalapeno lime sauce. You’ll notice the southern style infusion throughout.
Even so, you can even get those tacos gluten free if you’re gluten intolerant. And sure, they have a burger or fish & chips if you want to have more of a bar experience but if you’re in the foodie mood, I’d suggest the Smoked Game Hen, which they serve with ginger chile glaze and roasted potatoes. Note that they were out of this when we were there, but I have heard good things. Their menu also changes so be sure to check their website for the latest specials and updates before going.
The sweet pea pappardelle was out of this world – served with sweet peas, arugula, parmesan & black pepper!!
There’s also the flounder fried in a Bronx IPA batter, Charlie’s tartar sauce and thick cut fries or the Wolfneck’s Farm cut New York Strip, which is served with roasted tomatoes, mustard seeded potatoes and horseradish sour cream.
Now for something a little special – the Mexican Street Corn. We were so glad we ordered this despite my part of my brain which occasionally controls my waistline saying No, No, No! This delicious corn on the cob was served with queso fresco, sour cream, and lemon thyme. The combination was out of this world as was the presentation. Let’s just say “unique” enough to trek in for this alone, with an accompanying local beer. Ask the chef for the best pairing.
The desserts are a little on the decadent side as well. We finished it off with some hot coffee and a glass of wine. Our only plea is that we hope they expand their wine selection by the bottle and by the glass in the future.
We absolutely loved our experience and were pleasantly surprised to see a restaurant so dedicated to fresh food in the South Bronx. If only they could grow that okra and other vegetables on the roof year round, or at least a little longer than last year if New York doesn’t experience as much snow and ice this year.
On the logistical side, we easily found parking right out front.
Charlies Bar & Kitchen
112 Lincoln Avenue
Bronx, NY 10454
Note: we were hosted by all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
The New York Times Travel Show has announced speakers, events and programming for its 2015 Travel Show, which will take place from January 23-25, 2014, once again at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Friday will focus on their Trade Day which is exclusively for travel industry professionals, and will continue Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th for travel consumers and enthusiasts.
The Trade Day, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, will include 18 “Focus” conferences covering major travel categories, destinations, destination information and trends in travel on topics ranging from Cruising and Culinary Travel to Young Travel Professionals and Travel Bloggers.
The Travel Show will also feature more than 40 consumer seminars, press conferences and features exclusive to The New York Times Travel Show, including:
- Taste of the World, a global culinary showcase where attendees may sample cuisines from around the world;
- Book Signings by world-renowned travel writers; and Meet the Experts, where travel experts meet one-on-one with attendees to answer questions on destinations from Paris and the Baltic Sea to Latin America and Atlantic City.
Experts at the 2015 Travel Show include journalist and TV travel personality Julia Dimon; immediate past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals Doug Duda; Yahoo Travel editor in chief Paula Froelich; acclaimed travel professionals and radio hosts Arthur and Pauline Frommer; travel editor and radio host Peter Greenberg; travel influencer Brian “The Points Guy” Kelly; award-winning travel journalist, broadcaster and TV personality Joseph Rosendo; and budget travel expert and author Matthew Kepnes.
Experts will also present specialty sessions on travel interests including destination weddings and honeymoons, New York state tourism, medical health and wellness journeys, and LGBT travel.
Whether you have the Massachusetts’ North Shore on your list for simple relaxation or a fun family get away, at some juncture, you’ll want to kick back for some fine dining and get a taste of New England’s old world charm.
Nathaniel’s Restaurant in the historical and authentic Hawthorne Hotel in downtown Salem is a perfect stop over, where you get a taste of history with fabulous food and creative seasonal dishes. They even have gluten-free menu options which is rare in older more traditional establishments.
Their menu offers dishes ranging from historic items of a bygone era to contemporary, eclectic fare. Nathaniel’s also offers demi-portions of its most popular items including our signature dish, Scallops Sophia. They’re also known for their very popular weekend Sunday Jazz brunch. They often have music playing in the evenings as well — the piano player takes requests and played all of ours! It was romantic enough where we even decided to dance in the restaurant although truth be told there was only one other table still there when we decided to shake our booties to his relaxing and jazzy piano tunes.
Some menu items worth mentioning include the Crispy Pork Belly, served with house-made ramp and rhubarb chutney, their Seared Scallops fava beans and tiny tomatoes,in a herbed broth, the Salmon Pastrami Napoleon with capers, basil, goat cheese, and rye toasts served with petite arugula salad and their delicious Caprese Salad, fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and basil leaves, dressed with a balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil.
They offer other salad options (try their baby arugula salad with hearts of palm and Manchego cheese) as well as their classic seafood chowder, which is loaded with shrimp, scallops, haddock, clams and potatoes in a creamy New England-style soup. It’s hard to beat!
Other appetizers also impress….
As noted above, their signature dish, the Shrimp and Scallops Sophia is worth a try, which is named after Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. Also on the lighter side is the Poached Salmon served in an English pea broth with fava beans, asparagus, peas and new potatoes and their Roasted Haddock with heirloom tomato pico de gallo, lemony rice, and baby pepper sauté.
More classic and traditional menu items for the region include Grilled Porterhouse Lamb Chops with honey- and cumin-scented milk sauce, farro, and wilted arugula and the Hawthorne Pot Roast, which is served in a red wine- and mushroom-liquor, potato purée and roasted carrots.
There’s also the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with pickled summer blueberries, served with sweet onion and green bean salad, and herbed roasted potatoes or the Beef Tenderloin named for America’s first millionaire, Salem’s Elias Hasket Derby. This rich-beyond-belief tender steak is layered with blue cheese topped with fried oysters and Béarnaise sauce, served with potato-bacon hash, and fresh asparagus.
The desserts were quite a treat as well. A must visit if you are passing through the North Shore or are planning a trip to Salem, which we recommend.
It wasn’t on our radar until we had an opportunity to visit and are so glad we did. A We Blog the World two thumbs up!!
Please be sure to check out our write up on the Hawthorne Hotel as well in our post on Two Salem Hotel Gems, which includes the Hawthorne Hotel and the nearby Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites. They can be found in our Massachusetts Lodging section / Top Massachusetts Hotels / Top New England Hotels of We Blog the World.
18 Washington Square W
Salem, MA 01970
Note: we were hosted by the restaurant however all opinions expressed are entirely our own.
The second annual African Smorgasbord was in full force last night at the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue, a stone’s throw fro Grand Central in Manhattan.
The African Smörgǻsbord is an event driven by APTA and focuses on the Foods and Wines of Africa. Of course there’s music, a raffle, a slide show and products on display as well. Participants included Hugo Uys; Ponty Bistro; Madiba Restaurant; Pierre Thiam Catering; Buka New York; Keffa Coffee; The Seasoned Pot; Rain Africa in NYC; Just Kadi; Lalibela Restaurant; Pearl Naidoo; DGB Wines; Braai Time; Nkosi Distinctive Imported Crafts; Amarula; Nederburg Wine; Two Oceans Wine; South African Tourism and Travel Sommelier.
Prizes included Coffee from Keffa Coffee; autographed book from Colin Cowie; Bag from Just Kadi; autographed book from Pierre Thiam; Goodie Basket from Braai Time; dinner for two from The Cecil; selection of wines from DGB; dinner for two from E&E Grillhouse, Goodie bag from Talier Trading Group.
Every year, I attend the annual Taste of Innovation in Louisville Kentucky, an event I go to as part of the Idea Festival which I’ve been going to now for around five years now. And, each year, I pick some of my favorite foodie experiences in this gem of a southern city, which is usually a mishmash of top picks from Taste of Innovation and restaurant reviews. Be sure to see my top five picks from last year (Top Restaurants in Louisville), my write up from last and this year’s Idea Festival, our write up on last year’s Taste of Innovation, from 2012 Taste of Innovation and 2011. Can you tell that we LOVE this event?
This year’s Taste of Innovation had an interesting twist to it – it was a Taste of Innovation + Bourbon, so fitting for a Kentucky based food event. This food lover’s event is always held at Churchill Down’s Millionaire’s Row, also fitting given that it’s the same venue as the infamous Kentucky Derby where people flock to from around to sip some of the finest bourbon in the country, wear exquisite hats that would make the Epsom Downs attendees jealous and watch horses win races that bring in millions. While every year they have bourbon vendors on-site, this year let bourbon led the way with taste and education.
Top bourbon experts were on site to answer questions and give pours, with Chef Dean Borbett acting as the Master of Ceremonies. With the help of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association and Kentucky Bourbon Trail, tastings were available from major distillers as you also walked through the history of bourbon and bourbon cocktails. Bourbon was also woven into some of the dishes, the best of which was the bourbon braised short ribs prepared Manhattan style by Churchill Downs.
New on my radar this year were two new restaurants I had not seen at previous events – Hillbilly Tea with Karter Louis as the owner and Manny & Merle with Tony Palombino as owner. While Manny & Merle may not be your 5 star dining experience nor do they offer a lot of variety, their tacos are out of this world and they also have live music throughout the week. At Taste of Innovation, they served a green chili pulled pork with green chili jam and roasted garlic crema, and they topped it off with cilantro and lime. Let’s just say that I went back for seconds.
Marketplace served Italian pork meatballs with a tasso ham sauce, polenta, feta cheese and granulated sumac. Everyone was talking about their perfectly made polenta all night and in fact I heard a few say, they’d return just to eat the polenta alone it was so delicious. I couldn’t agree more. Hats off to Chef Dallas McGarity and his team.
Churchill Downs served the bourbon braised short ribs Manhattan style. It didn’t look like much at first glance until you sipped down the juice at the bottom. The juice was made from bourbon, cherry bourbon gastrique (dried cherries, red wine, orange juice and sugar. They cooked it down and then added the Woodford Reserve bourbon to it and voila, your tastebuds pop. Two thumbs up!
I had been hearing about Rye on Market for the last couple of years but never had an opportunity to give them a try. Chef Tyler Morris was on site to wake up my palette with his hay smoked milk braised local heritage Berkshire pork, which he served with broken rice grits, turnips, red raffish and leek ash. The black flicks on top? Black island sea salt of course. It was delicious. My dinner on my last night in Louisville was even better so be sure to see our write up on Rye on Market for more details.
Lilly’s Bistro showed up again and every year, chef Chef and owner Kathy Cary surprises! I always try to get to her booth first since her dishes go quickly. While the Moroccan lamb with a dollop of sour cream on the top was lovely, it was the portobello mushroom soup that had me and everyone else coming back for seconds. A serious two thumbs up!
Proof on Main’s chef Levon Wallace served a fried chicken biscuit tossed in Kentucky honey and spice with a pickle on top. Levon always has some interesting dishes up his sleeves and in addition to his scrumptious dishes, he has a great sense of humor which I discovered this year. He’s also prolific on Twitter so if you follow chefs, add him to your list.
Harvest is known for their fresh farm-to-table approach to cooking and while their centrally located restaurant is somewhat spartan in its decor, don’t be fooled by its down-to-earth ambiance. Their dishes are top notch and will excite most foodies who pass through Louisville — thanks for the share Coby. They served a Tomato Chevre on a sea salt cracker with pepper jam and garlic chips. Yum!!
Provence was surprisingly good, meaning I didn’t expect much from cabbage and bacon. I was wrong! Talk about an unusual preparation – they went for a cabbage salad with a blue cheese vinaigrette, topped with a potato chip (yes, really – remember, it’s southern cuisine influenced), and bacon which they tossed with dark chocolate and a little bit of honey lavender bourbon glaze on the top. OMG! Then, they sprinkled fresh lavender on all of it, leaving a large bowl of it on the table if you wanted to add even more. I did btw and it exploded in my mouth — I left a very happy camper!
While we’re talking about unusual preparations, how about unusual names? Hillbilly Tea is a fabulous name isn’t it? Owner Karter Louis looks at things a little differently and Hungarian chef Arpi Lengyel blended the best of what he knows from his own culture with southern cuisine. The result is over-the-top delicious! Imagine this combo? Buttermilk ash biscuit (made with bamboo charcoal Arpi tells me) served with bourbon barbecue pulled pork, chow chow (pickled cabbage) and garlic mayonnaise on top.
If you are egging to get to Louisville, try to plan it in September so you can take in both Idea Festival and Taste of Innovation in the same week. You won’t be disappointed.
Restaurants we’ve written about over the years include Proof on Main at the well renowned 21c Museum Hotel, where I stayed this year, Seviche Restaurant (loved their seafood bisque – hats off to chef Anthony Lamas, Lilly’s (I love Kathy’s approach to cooking, her sweet potato gnocchi with country ham, kale and bourbon mustard cream sauce from a previous year was to die for as was this year’s portobello mushroom soup, although we have yet to review Lilly’s), Milkwood, Decca, Game (for every kind of game imaginable), La Coop Bistro, Mayan Cafe, Harvest, Jack Frys and The Blind Pig in Butchertown which is no longer open.
This year’s delicious picks include Basa Restaurant for Vietnamese Fusion style dishes and Rye on Market so be sure to read our review write ups we published in October. Also be sure to read our Kentucky Food section for more details. (Top Kentucky Restaurants / Best Food in Kentucky / Best Food in Louisville).
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.