Christmas Shopping and Afternoon Tea in London

On my last day of my trip on London I knew there only a few things I really wanted to do: see some Christmas decorations and have an afternoon tea.

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A Sunday in Richmond

Since I had been to London a few times before, this trip was really about seeing new parts of the city that were not the typical tourist attractions. My friend took me to Richmond, a cute little town in Southwest London. I loved seeing how the town was decorated for the holidays and what people typically would be doing on a Sunday away from all the hustle and bustle of the tourists.

We walked through the town and headed towards Richmond Park. The park is the largest of London’s Royal Park and is a deer park!

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Mike’s Pastry in Boston

One of my favorite parts of Boston is the North End. It has the distinction of being the city’s oldest residential community, where people have continuously inhabited since it was settled in the 1630s. Though small, only 0.36 square miles (0.93 km2), the neighborhood has nearly one hundred establishments and a variety of tourist attractions. It is known for its fine Italian restaurants.

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I’ve been to several different Italian restaurants in the neighborhood and I’ve enjoyed everyone one of them. The only thing I like more than good Italian food are great Italian desserts. My sister and I had dinner in the North End during my most recent visit and when I suggested ordering dessert at the restaurant, she balked at me. I thought maybe she was full from the heaping plate of pasta but actually, she really wanted to show me Mike’s Pastry. After living in New York and visiting Little Italy a few too many times, I’ve become jaded about these type of places. The ones you hear so much about but then they never really live up to the hype.

We walked in and there was no real sort of organization. People just wandered up to the counter after they reviewed the countless types of cannolis and walked away with a little box wrapped in string. When it was our turn to wade through the crowd, I saw an espresso cannoli calling my name. We paid and left with our own little box to be eaten back in bed at the hotel.

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I apologize for the hideous photo quality because the picture does not do this dessert justice. First of all, the cannoli was huge, it was bigger than my hand. But I managed to eat the entire thing and still wanted more! It was delicious. A perfect end to an evening in the North End.

Joe’s Shanghai

A friend of mine and I have been making the effort lately to explore more of our great city. New York is known for it’s numerous incredible restaurants across a wide range of cuisines. With a variety of cuisines, it can be very easy to slip into a rut and continue to visit the same, comfortable places over and over again. Over the next few months, we are going to make an effort to branch out and explore new boroughs, new restaurants and really appreciate all the variety in this city’s restaurant scene.

We kicked off this “Dinner Club” with a visit to the Joe’s Shanghai location in Chinatown. This restaurant is an institution in New York, with the original location in Flushing, Queens. In addition to this original location, another location appears in Midtown as well. In order to fill our desire for more of an authentic experience, we decided to visit the location on Pell street.

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After walking into the restaurant, I was immediately caught off guard by a simple yet distinct element. This element happened to be the very unassuming dining experience. My initial shock sprung because many people have spoken highly of this establishment, leading me to except something completely different. Upon entering, you are greeted at the door by an aquarium full of very large coy fish. We were seated immediately, but once again found ourselves surprised when we were seated at a table with four other people.

The drink menu was hilariously limited to four different types of beer. But that was not the focus of the evening. The soup dumplings were the stars of the night. This signature dish is something I’ve dreamed about trying for a while due to its combination for two of my passions: delicious soup and carbs. My friend taught me the technique for slurping the hot broth out of the dumpling before biting into the pork inside. One of the pairs at our communal table only had two orders of the dumplings and beer but I didn’t judge them one bit for that choice – these dumplings were delicious!

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The dumplings were served first, as a first course perhaps. What followed was just as excellent, and it happened to be chicken fried rice and beef with peppers. The only reason I stopped eating before these plates were clear was because the sodium was really starting to make me bloat but that is the cost you pay when enjoying some fine Chinese food.

The service was quick, the atmosphere quirky and definitely a unique experience to have in New York.

A Tale of Two Taverns – Nashville

As a huge fan of country music, Nashville to me is my ideal city but even for non-country fans, Nashville is an awesome place to visit. There is a reason one of Nashville’s nicknames is Nashvegas because there is so much to do and a lot of fun to be had! I’ve been to Nashville two times before but this trip was the first time for a few friends that I was with so we definitely hit the honky tonks on Broadway in Downtown Nashville and experienced what it is all about: Live music.

I don’t have many pictures of the bar crawling on Broadway downtown because like the saying goes, What happens in Nashvegas, stays in Nashvegas. But I do have photos of the other best parts of the trip: the food!

As soon as my friend and I arrived in Nashville, we had our friend that was picking us up, take us straight to a BBQ joint. We were hungry from the early flight and we were ready to the taste of the south.

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All BBQ is technically fast food because it all is slow cooked for hours ahead of time so typically the time from ordering to eating is short. Jim and Nick’s is an interesting BBQ spot because we were in the suburbs, surrounded by other fast food spots and this location even had a drive-thru. Once you walked in the doors though, you were welcomed by the aroma of BBQ sauce.

As usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach so I started off with a salad (trying to get a few greens in before an indulgent weekend) and we shared a plate of nachos. The cheese could have been a bit more melted on the nachos but the chicken on them was incredible. Then came the cheddar biscuits. Usually I try to stay away from the free bread at the restaurants because they are just filler and I want to enjoy the meal I ordered; these were so worth it! At the end of the meal when I thought I was too full for one more thing, I had the final biscuit.

My friends and I all ordered different meals so we could all try the different meats. I’ll give you one guess which plate is mine – the one that is just meat and carbs of course.

Overall, I think the meal was good, especially how quick it was and the service was great! But I wouldn’t say this was the best BBQ I’ve had, even just that weekend!

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Since this was the first visit to Nashville for a few friends of mine, we wanted to experience another type of BBQ restaurant, something bit more ~authentic~. We stopped by Edley’s BBQ in the 12South neighborhood. Aside of the incredible BBQ, this neighborhood would be a great place to visit during a trip to Nashville. Right next to Edley’s is Reese Witherspoon’s boutique, Draper James and the “I Believe in Nashville” mural.

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Edley’s interior is charming and once again the aroma of BBQ gets me every time. Once you order at the counter, you take a number to your table and your food is brought to you. Even with all 6 of us ordering separately, our food was served in less than 20 minutes! I would definitely recommend a visit to Edley’s and the 12South neighborhood.

Something that most visitors to Nashville wouldn’t know about is Pinewood Social. My friend that has been living in Nashville for five years told us about it as an alternative to sit down dinner and a great way to start the night. The space itself is part lounge with a coffee bar, part bar and restaurant with a huge wrap around bar and table seating, and also a bowling alley. We ordered some light appetizers at one of the lanes and this is not traditional bowling alley food! We had some great cocktails and played a few games. The music was great and the vibe was very Nashville: traditional with a twist.

Finally, the reason for the title of this post, A Tale of Two Taverns. One of my favorite restaurants in Nashville is Tavern in Midtown. The space is huge and light, there are tons of TVs for watching football and most importantly, the food and drinks are excellent. We wanted to go for brunch but the restaurant fills up so fast that we had to be waiting at the restaurant when the doors opened at 10am.

The brunch drinks were two for one and I love the system they have at Tavern. I got one awesome bloody mary and then the waitress gives you a chip to claim your second. If you find yourself at Tavern, you must, must order the “white trash hash”. My friends were a little apprehensive at first but when they had their first bites, they were sold. Especially since there were three different hot sauces available on the table.

For my entree, I always, always order Huevos Rancheros when it is on the menu. At Tavern, they have a little twist on the classic. The meal was the perfect size and a great start to a great weekend in Nashville!

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The second Tavern of the weekend was the Peddle Tavern. These peddlepubs have become very popular in many different cities as a spin on a bar crawl. Since our group was only 6 people, we were paired up with some other groups. We had the best “guide/driver” Dan and it was definitely the most fun I had the entire weekend! Once again, no photos from the actual Peddle Tavern but here is a group shot early on in the evening. I demand that if you are in Nasvhille, you do this before your night out at the Honky Tonks!

 

 

Mohonk Mountain House

After living in New York for 5 years, I still struggle with the concept of a “weekend trip” from the city. Without a car, I get a sense of anxiety from planning a trip for a weekend and feeling stranded. There are many places outside of the city in Upstate New York, Connecticut and New Jersey that are beautiful and easy to get to, but being there with just your legs to get around sometimes stresses me out.

When my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend to get out of the city and actually see some nature, he did a lot of research and found Mohonk Mountain House. It was perfect for us because after a short cab ride from the Metro North train station, you did not need a car the entire weekend. Everything including restaurants, the spa, and hiking trails were all on the property.

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All My Exes Live in Texas – A visit to Dallas

Before I visited Dallas in April and May of 2016, I didn’t really understand just how big the city it is. The first thing to understand about visiting Dallas and understanding the magnitude of it is the “Metroplex” which is fancy term to describe the combination of Dallas-Fort Worth area.

During my past two visits, I have spent most of my time in the Uptown area and had a chance to visit Downtown and the Bishops Arts district. If you are interested in learning more about the other neighborhoods of Dallas before I have a chance to visit and report back, visit http://neighborhoods.dmagazine.com/dallas/central-dallas/.

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Bordeaux, France

This most recent trip to Europe coincided with my 26th birthday so my expat friend living in London left it up to me to choose where we should spend the days leading up to it. I knew I wanted to be in France and I had always wanted to see the countryside of France so after much deliberation, we settled on Bordeaux. It doesn’t hurt that Bordeaux is the world’s major wine industry capital.

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Dinner at Lurra in London

One night for dinner while in London, we went to a friend of a friend’s restaurant. I know it’s very stereotypical to say that London doesn’t have good food and that just simply isn’t true. However, on my first two trips, I don’t remember very good meals. That could be due to the fact that I was a bratty teenager that was barely eating vegetables consistently, let alone trying new things.

My friend Claire suggested we go to her friend of a friend’s restaurant, Lurra. It’s Basque style which to me means meat and I am always happy with that. The food was outstanding! We ordered the large sharing plate of beef and it was totally worth it. Not to mention, the drinks were excellent too. That goblet the size of Claire’s head is a gin and tonic. I highly recommend stopping by Lurrafor some good meat while in London!

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