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Mardi Gras is almost here, and it’s fun to imagine the transition New Orleans has made since our visit to Royal Sonesta New Orleans back in December!

This coming week the hotel hosts their annual Greasing of the Poles tradition to kick off Mardi Gras, and it promises to be an exciting and revelry-filled time for all!

New Orleans was definitely one of those places where I took a ton of photos, and the below are a few scenes I wanted to share.

New Orleans

Voodoo shops and ghost tours were definitely on our list of things to do in New Orleans, and a Haunted History tour was a fun way to see the city. The New Orleans Ghost Tour showed us around the French Quarter, where we learned some spooky stories, took in amazing architecture and history, and had a cocktail stop at the famous Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.

LaFitte

This spot was most DEFINITELY haunted. I could feel it all over.

They also made a delicious Dark n Stormy.

New Orleans Ghost TourNew Orleans Ghost Tour

Throughout the tour we learned tales of New Orleans’ most haunted places like LaLaurie Mansion. I think it would have been creepier at night, but I would recommend it at any time!

Drinks to-go were a novelty and freedom that we took advantage of a few times. I am not a fan of sweet drinks, so I skipped the Hurricanes and enjoyed a Mint Julep from Pat O’Brien’s.

New Orleans

We had incredible weather in New Orleans and loved our time admiring architecture like the St. Louis Cathedral and outdoor spaces like Jackson Square, both a short walk from the Sonesta. Everything in New Orleans felt so bright and fresh and vibrant!

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Inside the cathedral offered a beautiful calming feeling; I am not super religious, but I love the peace that comes over me in a church like this.

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Arnaud's

French 75s at Arnaud’s French 75 bar were delicious, and set me on a French 75 kick for the week. We loved the service at the bar as well; it had such a classic old vibe. It also felt pretty haunted; a few times I felt something brushing my face and hair and had a few “out of the corner of my eye” sightings. I love a haunted city!

Cafe du Monde

Coffee and beignets from Cafe du Monde were of course a must-try. We ended up ordering a ton of coffee for home. I liked the beignets, but those at Royal Sonesta New Orleans ended up being my favorite by far.

NOLA

We found music everywhere in New Orleans (and I danced), and it just added to the festive, relaxed vibe of our getaway. Since it was almost Christmas, we saw several parades of local school children singing and playing instruments. It was so sweet.

Armstrong Park

To work off all of those beignets and cocktails and yummy dishes, we explored most of the city by foot. Armstrong Park is a must-visit for enjoying the outdoors, art, and pop up performances. It’s a great escape when the rest of the city feels too bustling for you.

Armstrong Park

New Orleans was quite an experience, and we are excited to plan another visit.

More posts about New Orleans

Lunch at Cochon

Brunch at Brennan’s

Brass-a-holics at Royal Sonesta New Orleans

Cafe Amelie New Orleans

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Tags: cocktails, ghost tour, New Orleans, NOLA, tourism, Travel, travel blog, Travel Tuesday

What is your favorite cocktail? I usually stick to wine or beer, but every now and then I do enjoy a cocktail, and I definitely like to mix it up. Right now, my cocktail of choice is Bushmills and ginger ale, simple but zesty and flavorful. On our recent visit to Northern Ireland, the Bushmills Distillery was a must-stop.  After a long, breathtaking coastal drive, we found ourselves at the centuries-old, still working distillery, ready to tour and taste.

Bushmills

Beyond the parking lot, a complex of old stone buildings sit in front of the River Bush.

Bushmills

Arrows pointed us to the visitor center where we purchased our tickets and did some browsing before the tour.

Bushmills Visitor Center

Bushmills barrels

Whiskey barrels and an old still make up some of the décor in the center, which also houses a café and tasting bar.

Bushmills tasting room

Once inside, we also saw a gift shop, complete with walls of whiskey, whiskey candies like caramel and fudge, glasses, and Bushmills apparel.

Bushmills whiskey

When our designated tour time came, we met our small group and our guide, Peter Wilson, who ended up being completely fantastic. Unfortunately, due to the alcohol vapors in the air, all electronics had to be turned off, lest a spark cause the entire place to explode. Safety first, but that meant no photos of the actual tour. I decided not to risk it for the sake of the blog Winking smile

As we walked through the distillery, we learned that all Bushmills, no matter where you drink it, comes from this little factory in the North of Ireland which gets its source of water from the River Bush. They actually built the distillery over the river, so as we walked through we were walking over the river; we just couldn’t see it!  We got to see (and smell!) the process of making whiskey, which you can read about in their illustrated, step-by-step explanation on the Bushmills website. From the mash to the bottle room, we got to see the birth of new whiskey. The tour ends back at the tasting bar, where participants can choose from several types of whiskey for a taste.

Bushmills whiskey

I opted for the Bushmills 12 year single malt whiskey. Only available at the distillery, Bushmills says the following about this whiskey:

The Bushmills Malt ‘Distillery Reserve’ 12 Year Old, is matured mainly in former Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks which lend a deep amber colour and wonderful dried fruit aromas to this whiskey. Like all Bushmills whiskeys, it is gentle and approachable, with added weight.

Bushmills whiskey

Before we left, we purchased a bottle of Bushmills Black Bush whiskey for Eric’s parents. It was later turned into late-night hot whiskeys, sipped while watching The Quiet Man, listening to the hubby play the piano, and thawing out in front of a fire before bed.

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Sláinte!

Now, tell me, what is your favorite cocktail?

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Tags: Bushmills, distillery, Northern Ireland, tourism, tours, Travel, whiskey

After a post on a Dorchester neighborhood gem, Banh Mi Ba Le, I received a few emails from people interested in exploring Boston’s largest neighborhood and asking if I would put together an itinerary.

The day I have outlined below highlights only a few of the fun things that are going on in Dorchester.

It is a Saturday, preferably a warm-ish one, and you are going to get started bright and early by taking the Red Line to JFK/UMASS station in Dorchester. Due to the nature of the day’s plans, you are best to not drive.

JFK Library

Stop #1 – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

From JFK/UMASS station, take the shuttle bus marked JFK straight to the     John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, open from 9-5 daily. The bus, which runs every 20 minutes, is free and will bring you straight to the museum. Looking back, I am now wondering why the bus driver made me pay $2 each way when I took the bus to Senator Kennedy’s wake. I do believe we were taken advantage of!

The JFK Library, due to its Dorchester location, is something that many Bostonians and tourists miss, and that is an incredibly unfortunate situation. It is incredibly informative, interactive, and moving, a step back in history to a different time and a chance to see an era that shaped America. You will get chills, I promise. And once you are done touring the museum, you are right on the water for some beautiful views.

From here, it is up to you whether you take the shuttle back to the station, or you may choose to stroll along the Harbor Walk. Either way, your next destination is breakfast and sport.

Irish breakfast

Stop #2 – The Banshee

The Banshee is our local pub and the place to sit over cups of tea, an Irish breakfast, and soccer or rugby. If you get there on a Saturday over the next few weeks to catch the 6 Nations Rugby tournament matches, you are in for quite the experience. It can be loud and crowded with people happily downing pints at 11 am, but hey, it’s 5:00 where the match is taking place. . . I find it to be a total blast and something I likely wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t married to my husband and/or living in Dorchester. The Banshee whips up a great Irish breakfast with a vegetarian option for those who cast off the blood pudding (ew!), but they also have all sorts of other breakfast items like veggie omelets. You should be able to find something to please everyone in your group with their diverse menu which has been updated in recent years from really basic pub grub to a slightly more upscale offering.

Sit back, watch a match or two, listen to music, and enjoy a pint. In fact, don’t leave The Banshee until you are hungry again.

Banh Mi Ba Le

banh mi

Stop #3 Lunch at Banh Mi Ba Le

I’ll share this gem again, just because for $3 you can get a filling, interesting, delicious lunch. Still full from breakfast? Share a veggie banh mi, or check out some of the fresh juices or sweets available at Banh Mi Ba Le. If the weather outside is nice, wander down the street while you eat, and check out more of the Vietnamese stores and restaurants that line Dorchester Ave.

Or better yet, head back toward the waterfront, via Savin Hill Ave, and have a walk and a picnic on the beach. Just beware of coyotes!

Stop # 4 Drinks and dinner at dbar

I have dined at Dorchester’s dbar a million times, and would you believe I don’t have any photos. And I know why. dbar is one of those places that is close enough and while really nice, also casual enough for last minute dinners or brunches (their brunch is SO good!), that we often go there when we REALLY need to get out of the house and drop everything for a couple of hours. Their staff has always been incredibly helpful, sweet, and welcoming. dbar has a killer list of fun, seasonal cocktails, great wines and beers, and some of my favorite food in Boston. Their fries are perfection, the day boat scallops the sweetest and freshest, and the three spreads they give you for the bread basket might have you making an entire meal out of bread.

When you finish up at dbar, you might just want to head back to The Banshee for some dancing, if the day has brought enough cocktails Smile Or, be adventurous and head further into Dorchester by taking the train to Ashmont for after dinner drinks by the Ashmont Grill’s outdoor fire.

If you are in the area on a Monday night, definitely check out Ashmont Grill’s weekly wine dinner, $35 for four courses with four glasses of wine. It is an exceptional deal and a ton of fun for groups. Just make a reservation!

So, there ya go, Dorchester in a day! This post doesn’t even touch on the Polish/Eastern European corner of my neighborhood, but I will save that for another day.

Writing this post REALLY made me look forward to spring events and weekend days of wandering.

Besides the warmer weather, what excited you about spring?

Dbar on Urbanspoon The Banshee on Urbanspoon

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Tags: Boston, cocktails, dbar, Dorchester, Food, Harbor Walk, JFK Library, local travel, The Banshee, tourism

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