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THROWBACK THURSDAY :: Take Us Back To Carmel, CA!

There are certain places that we crave.

Yep, that’s right. Just like we crave a good In-N-Out burger after a long trip, we crave the return to some of our favorite tried-and-true spots. The places that we know like the back of our hand, the places where we can truly relax. One such spot, Carmel-By-The-Sea, is at the top of that list. Not only did we “mini-moon” in Carmel, but we’ve made it a point to return yearly - even with our pup in tow!

The beach at Carmel is one of Sally’s absolute favorites!

So in real #TBT fashion, we thought we’d share exactly why we love Carmel-By-The-Sea, and where we stay, where we eat, and what we do if we were there right now. Because if we can’t be there today, we might as well reminisce...

STAY:

LA PLAYA: This charming, historic hotel is where we stayed when we were on our “mini-moon”, and we keep coming back. Maybe it’s the central location (blocks from the beach and blocks from the town), maybe it’s the cozy lobby and spacious rooms, or maybe it’s the champagne breakfast every morning… Regardless, it’s a gem of a spot. And remarkably enough, it seems to get better with age.

HOTEL CARMEL: New on the Carmel “boutique hotel” scene, this snug and homey  hotel has quickly become a favorite of ours. The rooms have fireplaces, there’s a nightly wine reception, the fire pit is warm and inviting, and nothing beats breakfast in their cheerful little lobby. Plus, they’re dog friendly - which is always a big plus for us!

We Mini-mooned here… and try to come back every year

Love waking up to this view at La Playa

Sally approves

More La Playa room views

The breakfast at La Playa is everything

Could Hotel Carmel be any cozier?

Fireplaces inside and out…

Cozy porches for your morning coffee

EAT:

LA BALENA: We came here on our honeymoon, and ever since then we’ve been obsessed! Delicious homemade Italian food in a hidden courtyard, it’s delightfully tucked away from other touristy options in Carmel.

LA BICYCLETTE: In our opinion, you can’t go to Carmel without dining at La Bicyclette. It’s simply a must. From their made-to-order pizzas to their homemade pasta, everything is fresh and full of flavor. The ambiance is intimate and romantic, and there’s no doubt that you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to Paris.

You can’t go wrong at La Balena

DRINK:

GRASINGS BAR: This is another spot that we first went to on our honeymoon, and have made it a point to stop here ever since! Their cocktails are second to none, and their charcuterie board is out of this world!!! But try to get here early - this quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea bar does have a tendency to fill up quick!

THE INN AT SPANISH BAY: Located on the iconic 17 Mile Drive, the Inn At Spanish Bay is well-known for their stunning ocean front views, and their nightly visit from a bagpiper! Grab a drink at STICKS, their outdoor bar, and wait for the sun to set… Before you know it you’ll start to hear the majestic sounds of a bagpiper. It’s quite the experience - and something we look forward to everytime we visit Carmel!

Grasing’s is magical!

Always bustling inside Grasing’s

Yummy appetizers at Grasing’s before dinner

Cocktails and a sunset… best end to the day at the Inn at Spanish Bay

Epic sunsets and Scottish tunes at the Inn at Spanish Bay

DO:

THE 17 MILE DRIVE: One of our favorite drives in the world (along with Highway 1) is the 17 Mile Drive… It’s full of captivating landscapes, jaw-dropping ocean views, and award-winning golf courses - so what’s not to love?! We recommend starting the drive in the afternoon and catching the sunset at The Inn at Spanish Bay (see above)!

BEACH IT UP! Pop by The Cheese Shop (a legendary little shop chalk-full of mouth-watering cheeses, wines, crackers and more), grab what you want for a picnic, and head to the beach. If you have your pup with you (like we often do), let them play off-leash while you enjoy your snacks and the cool, ocean breeze. It’s heavenly. Now we’ll mentally be there the rest of the day… ;)

One of our favorite spots on the 17 Mile Drive (you may need a helicopter to see this)

We all love the beach here :)

48 Hours in New Orleans

The following post is from a sponsored trip with New Orleans & Company.

If you’re into beautiful architecture, world-renowned cuisine, vibrant nightlife, outdoor activities, and museums rich in history, then New Orleans is your city.

There’s something for every kind of traveler, and every New Orleans neighborhood has its own unique, charming, and surprisingly eclectic personality. All of the endless activities and sights to see can easily make a weekend getaway in New Orleans feel daunting. Where do you even start?!

Well friends, we’re here to help. We just got back from a trip to “The Big Easy” and have come up with a 48-hour itinerary that covers some of our favorite NOLA spots - and will undoubtedly leave you anxious to return! (Keep in mind that it’s jam-packed, so feel free to go at your own pace, and omit spots if needed.) Enjoy!

SATURDAY

MORNING

Start your weekend with brunch at the chic and trendy Willa Jean. Their coffee is strong, the biscuits are perfectly flakey, and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. We highly recommend you try the BBQ Shrimp Toast (their most popular dish) and the Grain Bowl (it’s as Instagrammable as it is tasty)!  

Fight the inevitable food coma with a 1.3 mile walk to the historic French Quarter. Wander around the colorful buildings and see the local artists in Jackson Square. While you’re there, spend an hour or two at The Louisiana State Museum, where you’ll find a moving exhibit on Hurricane Katrina, and a fascinating look inside the history of Mardi Gras.

Just down the street is the iconic Cafe du Monde, and it doesn’t matter if you’re still full from brunch, you ALWAYS have room for beignets! Order an iced cafe au lait and a round of beignets, and you’ll see why this place has been a New Orleans staple since 1862!

Amazing brunch at Willa Jean

Jackson Square!

Jamming in Jackson Square

So much to see in Jackson Square!

Colorful Louisiana State Museum exhibits

Mardi Gras Exhibit at Louisiana State Museum

AFTERNOON

One of the best ways to see and learn about the city (in our opinion), is on a bike tour. The friendly folks at Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours will not only give you a fascinating history lesson of the city, but they’ll also take you to some lesser-known sights, through some quaint neighborhoods, and you’ll even stop for a drink or two at a few local spots. In 3 hours, you’ll learn more about New Orleans than you would in a day on your own… and you’ll get some exercise in, too!

EVENING

Located on the lively Bourbon Street, in the heart of The French Quarter, is the vibrant and classy, Desire Oyster Bar. It’s exactly the type of place you want to be on a Saturday night in New Orleans, as you’ll be able to dine on classic NOLA dishes, with a side of prime people watching! Make sure you sample their famous chargrilled oysters!

After dinner, enjoy an intimate performance at The Jazz Playhouse, where they have nightly shows by some of the best jazz bands and musicians in New Orleans. Sip on a French 75, cozy up in a booth, and get ready for a jazz performance you’ll never forget!

Stay at the historic Le Pavillon Hotel, which is only blocks away from the French Quarter. It’s elegant and ornate without feeling pretentious, and their attention to detail is unparalleled. If you make it back in time, be sure to enjoy their signature peanut butter and jelly sandwich bar (genius, right?), which is free for hotel guests from 10-11pm!

Free Wheelin’ around NOLA

Quick stop for a beer on the bike tour

Oysters!

Amazing jazz at the Jazz Playhouse!

The bar at Le Pavillon serving up some tasty libations

SUNDAY

MORNING

Venture into the Bywater District, for a hearty and tasty breakfast at Elizabeth’s. This quintessential New Orleans breakfast/brunch spot is best known for their praline bacon, but you truly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. And don’t forget to grab a photo by their quirky, art-covered walls!

While you’re in the area, be sure to wander around the Bywater, which is one of New Orleans most creative and ever-changing landscapes. You’ll find colorful neighborhoods, street murals, funky cafes, and even curbside boozy daiquiris (Gene’s Curbside Daiquiris - it’s a must)!

Elizabeth’s for breakfast

AFTERNOON

Make your way back to the French Quarter, (it’s about a 2-mile walk, which we enjoyed, but you could also catch an Uber), and take a stroll through the French Market. Vendors sell everything from “Gator on a Stick”, to Mardi Gras masks, to Louisiana hot sauces!

Right down the street from the French Market is Central Grocery & Deli, home of the original Muffuletta! Consisting of sliced meats, homemade bread, and their family’s Italian Olive Salad, all it takes is one bite of the famous sandwich to understand the hype. It’s been featured on USA Today, The Huffington Post, and The Today Show, among many other media outlets! We suggest sharing a half size (they’re huge), and taking it to enjoy along the Mississippi River!

By this time in the afternoon, a nap might be in order. But if you’re still raring to go, head to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum! This 1823 apothecary turned museum has exhibits of early medicines, superstitious cures, and more… and it’s fascinating. You’ll be blown away by how far modern medicine has come!

EVENING

Experience a different side of the French Quarter, with a romantic and sophisticated dinner at Sylvain. This dark and trendy gastropub serves Southern bistro classics that are elevated and sophisticated, and their wine and cocktail menu is extremely impressive. Make sure you try their Skillet Cornbread and Shaved Brussel Sprouts!

We can’t think of a better way to end a weekend in NOLA than by “taking a spin” at the iconic Carousel Bar! Located at The Hotel Monteleone, this revolving bar has been a long-time New Orleans favorite, and their cocktails are expertly crafted. Speaking of which, The Vieux Carre cocktail was first concocted here!

Muffulettas are ALWAYS a good idea

So much history at the Pharmacy Museum

Tour of the 1823 pharmacy

Probably the best meal of our trip at Sylvain

Revolving Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone

The Vieux Carre was invented here! It was delicious!

Our First Mardi Gras: Tips & Tricks for the Biggest Party of the Year

The following post is from a sponsored trip with New Orleans & Company. Head over to their page for all the Mardi Gras info you can need, including the Mardi Gras bucket list, Mardi Gras like a local, FAQs, etc. Hope we see you there next year!

Mardi Gras.

It’s an iconic event that we’ve had on our bucket list for years. Parades, beads, glitter, costumes, dancing - Mardi Gras is one of the biggest parties in the world, and we finally understand the hype.

We just returned from a trip to New Orleans where we got to experience our first Mardi Gras parade, and it was everything we could have dreamed it would be! We had the TIME OF OUR LIVES - and the joy on our faces say it all!

But that being said, navigating the celebrations can be overwhelming. Choosing which parades to attend, knowing what to wear, where to stand… it’s a lot for newbies like us! So here are some tips and tricks that we learned from our first (and definitely not our last!) Mardi Gras:

PLAN YOUR TRIP ACCORDINGLY

We decided to visit New Orleans the last weekend in February, which happened to overlap with the very beginning of the Mardi Gras celebrations. The city was abuzz with preparations and Mardi Gras decor was everywhere, but crowds were minimal and hotels weren’t at capacity. The deeper into Mardi Gras that you get, the more crowded the city becomes and rates for hotel rooms can reach an all-time high. Mardi Gras “season” starts 12 days after Christmas, and then culminates the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. If it works with your schedule, we suggest planning your trip for early in the season, then you can explore a more mellow New Orleans, but still get to join in with the Mardi Gras festivities.  

In terms of hotels, we recommend staying somewhere within walking distance of all the excitement. We stayed at Le Pavillon, a beautiful four star hotel in the Central Business District that is a 5 minute walk to the French Quarter (We’ll share more about our hotel in our next post!). It’s an even shorter walk to St. Charles Avenue, where many of the Mardi Gras parades roll through! We find it crucial to be close to all the action, but then be able to retreat to a cozy, quiet, and relaxing hotel.

KNOW WHICH PARADES YOU WANT TO SEE

Mardi Gras clubs (officially called “Krewes”) put on dozens of parades, and each one has a different theme. There’s “The Krewe of Iris”, which is the oldest all-female krewe, “The Krewe of Chewbacchus”, which is for lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and “The Mystick Krewe of Barkus”, a parade for pets, and so much more. (Head here to see a full list!)

We saw “The Krewe of Cork” parade, which celebrates food, wine, and a good time - three of our favorite things! The Krewe members wear wine-related costumes, toss necklaces with their cork logo, and are even accompanied by “wine police”, whose motto is “To serve and pour”!

THERE IS NO DRESS CODE

While we highly recommend dressing up for the theme of whatever parade you are attending (something we will definitely do next time), there are no rules when it comes to Mardis Gras! People wear whatever they want, and it makes for some glorious people watching.

Wear comfortable shoes, and if your parade is in the daytime, double check the weather. When we were there it was warm (and humid), so light, loose layers were perfect. Since the timing and weather of Mardi Gras changes year to year, it could chilly and cold, so be prepared! We also suggest stopping by the French Market beforehand, and purchasing some beads to throw around - that’s half the fun! And while we’re on the topic of throwing beads...

MARDI GRAS IS FAMILY FRIENDLY!

That’s right -  there were kids everywhere! Mardi Gras can have an “adults only” reputation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At The Krewe of Cork there were all ages, and the little ones were having a blast watching the parade go by. We were incredibly impressed with how family friendly the entire afternoon was - it felt like one big neighborhood block party! (There are a few adult themed parades, most notably the “Krewe de Vieux”, so just be aware of the themes ahead of time - if your kiddos are in tow.)

FIND A BALCONY

Ask any seasoned Mardi Gras attendee, and they’ll say that the best way to view a parade is from above! It’s people watching at its finest, and throwing beads from a balcony is so much fun. We watched The Krewe of Cork from the balcony at Arnaud’s, but we’ve also heard great things about the event space Bourbon Vieux on Bourbon Street. A ticket will get you access to their large wrap-around balcony, gourmet cuisine, and a premium open bar. In our opinion, that is truly the way to go!

Loving the views with our new pals!

Mardi Gras can feel overwhelming for a first timer, but it doesn’t have to. Order a Mint Julep to go from Napoleon House, throw some glitter on your face, and get ready for the biggest, most eclectic block party you’ve ever seen… chances are you’ll want to make it a yearly tradition!

Distilleries, Speakeasys, Historic Hotels... Oh My! Our Guide to Drinking Your Way Around Downtown Louisville

Affectionately called “Bourbon City”, Louisville, Kentucky is home to some of the most unique and innovative distilleries and bars in the US. From modern and stylish tasting rooms, to underground prohibition-style speakeasies, to charming hotel bars that are dripping with history… Louisville’s drinking scene has something for everyone. Here’s a few of our favorites from every category:

DISTILLERIES:

OLD FORESTER

While Old Forester is famous for being America’s first bottled bourbon, their 70,000-square-foot distillery is one of the newest hot spots on Whiskey Row! They just completed a $45 million renovation on their original building, and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. Tickets for the Old Forester Distillery tour are $16/person, and the tour includes and extensive look inside the history and distilling of bourbon, the bottling process, a tasting, and more. More specifically, you’ll learn about George Garvin Brown, a visionary in the world of whiskey who was one of the first to distill a quality bourbon. You’ll also find out how Old Forester was able to keep producing whiskey during prohibition. Their are the only bourbon continuously distilled before, during, and after prohibition. They must know what they’re doing.  (Reservations are recommended, you can do so here.)

MICHTER’S

Founded in 1753, Michter’s is considered to be America’s first whiskey company, and to this day they make some of the finest single barrel and small batch whiskeys on the market. Their distillery is also new to downtown Louisville, as it just opened its doors after an 8-year renovation in January, 2019! Tickets for the Michter’s Distillery Tour are $20/person, and the tour includes an inside look into the whiskey production process, a whiskey tasting, and a cocktail demonstration in their second-floor bar, “The Bar at Fort Nelson”. Our recommendation is that you spend some time sipping on the Sour Mash - it is fantastic!  (Reservations are recommended, you can do so here.)

EVAN WILLIAMS

Having opened Kentucky’s first distillery on the banks of the Ohio River in 1783, Evan Williams has been around for many years and many whiskey barrels. They produce a quality bourbon that is a fantastic introduction for those that aren’t whiskey drinkers. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will offer the history of how Louisville was settled and became the bourbon mecca that it is today, knowledgeable guides that will share the process of distilling bourbon, and a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. The 1 hour tastings are $14/person, and you can make reservations here. Enjoy!

ANGEL’S ENVY

What we love about Angel’s Envy is that they have taken the bourbon tradition and combined it with their expertise to create a phenomenal whiskey. They hand blend small batches and taste every barrel as it ages. What makes them different is that they finish their bourbon in ruby port casks, and their ryes in rum barrels. Angel’s Envy whiskey emerges with a complex aroma, sophisticated taste, and long, lingering finish. Sorry if that was too much, but Angel’s Envy is special. If you would like to visit,  they have tours by reservation only. It’s worth visiting to see their process and taste some of their fine whiskeys. (You can make reservations here)

SPEAKEASYS

PIN & PROOF

A modern speakeasy hidden behind a moving painting is cool on its own… but throw a bowling alley into the mix, and now we’re really talking! Pin & Proof is located in the luxurious Omni Louisville, tucked away behind a modern painting near the Library Bar. From the moment you step inside you feel as though you’ve entered into a dimly-lit labyrinth. Whether or not you decide to bowl, the bar alone is worth a visit. Try their 1881 Old Fashioned!

HELL OR HIGH WATER

If you’ve ever wanted to step inside a time machine, head to Hell or High Water, a speakeasy located underneath Whiskey Row. Accessible through a little curio shop with no signage, it can be easy to miss - so keep a lookout. The interior is designed to feel like a real 1930’s speakeasy, and they did an incredible job. It’s surprisingly spacious, with hidden rooms and an upper level that’s every bit as picturesque as the bar below. Make a reservation in advance, as it does get busy. (You can do so here.)

HISTORIC HOTEL BARS

THE LOBBY BAR

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Brown Hotel is famous not only for its glamorous architectural features, but for its iconic Lobby Bar as well! You’ll find classic comfort food like Lobster Mac and Cheese, The Hot Brown, and Derby Pie, and you’ll find handcrafted cocktails and bourbon flights that’ll please anyone’s palette. We suggest trying their Mint Julep, featuring Jim Beam bourbon, simple syrup, and lots of fresh mint. The Lobby Bar has been named One of 150 Best Bars in America for 2019, and it’s easy to see why!

OLD SEELBACH BAR

This restored early 1900’s bar not only has an impressive bourbon collection, but some celebrated craft cocktails too! Located in the famed Seelbach Hilton, The Old Seelbach Bar has been visited by many a famous face over the years - most recently Billy Joel was spotted playing the bar’s piano! Try their popular “Seelbach Cocktail”, made with Old Forester Bourbon, cointreau bitters and sparkling wine!

The 5 Most Instagrammable Spots in Louisville

Sure, Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, the Louisville Slugger, Bourbon Distilleries, and more… but it also has some picture-perfect spots for your Instagram feed! From quirky street art, to historic hotels, to underground speakeasies, you won’t be hurting for Instagram content when in this vibrant and colorful city. We’ve broken it down to what we consider to be the 5 Most Instagrammable Spots in Louisville, and here they are!

MURALS OF THE HIGHLANDS

Highland Park is an eclectic neighborhood in Louisville that’s home to trendy restaurants, bars, and an endless amount of small shops and boutiques. It’s also where you can find some of the best street art in town!

The Spirit of the Highlands” mural (1529 Bardstown Road, on the side of Ole Town Liquors) is not to be missed - notice that each letter showcases a unique feature of Louisville!

The Highlands - Weird, Independent, and Proud” (1158 Bardstown Road) is another mural to add to your list. It’s right down the street from Spirit of the Highlands, and it’s so large you won’t be able to miss it!

THE SEELBACH HOTEL

From the moment you step into the Seelbach Hilton (a historic hotel in downtown Louisville), you feel as though you’ve stepped into an old metropolitan hotel in Paris. Its French Renaissance design lends perfectly for photos… and their famous grand staircase looks as though it’s out of a fairytale!

Venture underground and you’ll find their “Rathskeller”, which features magnificent archways and intricate details, making for a perfect photo opp. Spend some time researching the history too, as it’s had its share of notable visitors, like Al Capone and F. Scott Fitzgerald!

HELL OR HIGH WATER

You may find it odd that a speakeasy is on this list, but one look inside Hell or High Water and you’ll understand why it made the list. Make a reservation in advance (you can do so here), and we suggest making it for when they first open, at 4pm. Chances are you’ll have the place (at least mostly) to yourself, and you’ll be able to get some prime pictures as you explore the the surprisingly spacious underground bar. Just try not to disturb anyone, and make sure you order one of their fabulous cocktails (or two)!

VICTORIAN HOMES

Did you know that Louisville has the biggest collection of historic Victorian houses in the US? Well, now you do! These restored, colorful homes are extraordinary on their own, and some of our favorites were located in the Old Louisville neighborhood! Head south on 3rd Street, and after crossing over Broadway you’ll be in an area that used to be known as “Millionaire’s Row”. You’ll quickly know why… enjoy!

PLEASE & THANK YOU

So much more than a traditional coffee shop, Please & Thank You has some of the most Instagrammable backdrops in town! Grab a seat on their cozy leather couch that sits in front of a colorful tiled wall, or venture to the room next door that has bright blue retro bench seating. It’s sure to add the perfect pop of color to anyone’s IG feed!