Why Visit San Antonio Now?

Though the city is over 300 years old, in the past 5 years, San Antonio, Texas has had a major facelift. New developments in hotels, restaurants and events have made this city in the southern U.S. an attractive place for a family getaway. Here are a few reasons I discovered on a recent visit to San Antonio.

Hotel Emma lobby

There’s A Distillery Converted to a Luxury Hotel

If you love architecture, decor and a little funk, Hotel Emma is where you need to rest your head. Once a 19th century Brewhouse, the 146-room riverfront hotel incorporated some of the original machinery and stonework walls, balancing it Moorish chandeliers, modern and Southwestern furniture. Located at the newly developed mixed use space – The Pearl, the hotel is at the doorstep of chef-driven restaurants, trendy boutiques, green spaces and the Texas campus of the Culinary Institute of America. San Antonio’s first food hall and a popular weekend farmers market are also located here.

Mi Tierra bakery, bar and restaurant

San Antonio is a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy

With its confluence of cultures, San Antonio is one of only two cities in the country designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, honoring the city’s culinary history. This means, there are lots of local, family-run, and historic restaurants to eat at. Instrumental figures in obtaining the designation – Chef Johnny Hernandez (as seen on Food Network) has a dozen establishments; and Chef Elizabeth Johnson runs Pharm Table, a cozy cafe serving organic and vegan dishes. For delicious Tex-Mex in a vibrant setting, head to Mi Tierra; and enjoy the best pancakes and waffles in the gardens of an art nouveau-style home that was once home to the founders of Pioneer Flour Mills – The Guenther House.

Battle of Flowers parade at Fiesta San Antonio

There is a Lot of Fiesta

Forget Cinco de Mayo. Every April, San Antonio turns into a family-friendly cultural affair with over 100 events, including festive parades, patriotic observances, music concerts, lively fairs, creative culinary offerings and even, a pooch parade! Elaborate gowns are worn by Fiesta “royalty” and trading Fiesta medals is the norm in San Antonio during this unconventional festival.

Fiesta is a citywide celebration and involves all aspects of the community to organize, attend and host fundraisers. This year marked 127 years since the start of this annual party.

Mission San Jose

World Heritage Sites

Together, with The Alamo, San Antonio’s five historic missions form a UNESCO World Heritage site (the only one in Texas) and are the largest concentration of Spanish Colonial architecture in North America. 

The complexes were built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century and illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. Here you can see archaeological sites, farmlands, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems. 

Casa Rio restaurant at San Antonio riverwalk

A Historic Riverwalk Runs Through Downtown

The Riverwalk is the most popular tourist spot, with hotels, shops and restaurants located along the San Antonio river. Take a cruise with Go Rio to learn about the important structures located here, or rent out a dining boat for a party or proposal. Grab a drink at The Esquire – the oldest bar on the San Antonio Riverwalk (1933), or tacos and margaritas at Casa Rio – the first restaurant to open on the Riverwalk (1946) and still in the same family. The Riverwalk is especially crowded on weekends, when local vendors set up shops along the banks, selling handmade arts, crafts, jewelry and unique items.

What originally started as a project to help alleviate the Great Depression, was later guided by engineers from Disneyland, and became the central hub for visitors to San Antonio.

How To Do a Cheese Themed Dinner Party

Have you hosted a wine and cheese party before? I have! Honestly, I thought of everything I could cook using cheese – lobster mac n cheese with cheddar, Gougeres (cheese puffs) with gruyere, baked brie en croute, arancini with parmesan, and much more. At the end of it, I felt heavy and couldn’t eat cheese for a while!

So when I got an invitation for a cheese-themed dinner from Tillamook Creamery, I got to check it out.

Tillamookis a farmer-owned cooperative dairy brand from Oregon and #1 natural cheese brand in the west. About 100 families are part of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, that have lived and worked on the farm for generations. They have been making award-winning cheddars since 1909 and their products are now available in grocery stores in Atlanta.

Two top chefs created a collaborative dinner at Better Half, a notable restaurant in downtown Atlanta. Surprisingly, the menu was not very cheesy at all!

We started with a housemaid rum punch and tasting of Tillamook Cheese – 9 months aged sharp white cheddar, mild and creamy pepper jack, complex special reserve extra sharp cheddar, robust vintage extra sharp white cheddar, and slightly sweet cape meares cheddar.

The 5-course Pacific Northwest Meets Southern Flavors themed dinner was created by Chef Doug Adams (Executive Chef/Owner of Portland based Bullard, Finalist on season 12 of Bbravo’s Top Chef), and Zachary Meloy (owner/ chef of Atlanta based Better Half).

Passed appetizers included crisp hush puppies and cheese filled taquitos. The first course was a tomato salad with colorful and sweet Georgia tomatoes served on a bed of dill buttermilk and vintage white cheddar. Paired with 2017 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rose, the dish was refreshing and light.

Second was an innovative version of ravioli. A thin sheet filled will pepper jack, set on eggplant puree, and topped with shaved pickled fennel and tomato caramel, it was a great blend of sweet, salt and crunch in every bite. We enjoyed 2015 Poggiobello from Italy with this.

For the meat course, there was slow smoked beef rib melt (which Chef Adams flew with him from Portland), as an open face sandwich on toasted homemade bread with jalapeños and sweet onion jam, and of course extra sharp cheddar. Some of us opted for a vegetarian version, where grilled eggplant was replaced by the beef. With a full bodied Chilean 2015 Lapostolle, it was simply delicious.

Have you tried melted cheddar on apple pie? Playing a twist on this southern tradition, the chefs created a fresh fig and honey tart, and topped it with crumbled medium cheddar and pink pepper ice cream. The cheese and pepper were a bit too savory for me, but the tart was incredible. 2016 Boundary Breaks Riesling was a great alternative to sweeter ports often served with dessert.

Of course we couldn’t leave without Better Half’s signature truffles – coconut and condense milk balls; along with a spiced moonshine made with fresh young coconut. Tillamook generously gave us some coupons to get their cheese from a neighborhood grocery store so I can reinvent my own cheese themed dinner party 🙂

If you are visiting Oregon, head over to Tillamook Creamery, a 2-hour drive from Portland to see how Tillamook Cheese is made. There’s also a Food Hall serving tempura battered cheese curds, fried chicken and cheddar biscuits, and pimento cheeseburgers. The ice-cream menu offers tasty flavors like caramel toffee crunch, Oregon dark cherry, Udderly chocolate, and malted moo shakes.

You may find a deeper appreciation for life on the farm and thank the many farmers that labored to create the delicious cheese sitting in your refrigerator. There are more cattle than humans in Tillamook and a great place to explore the Oregon Coast.

Got any cheese based recipe ideas to share? Post a comment below so we can all enjoy…

Want Fresh, Fast, and Healthy? Purely is the Place to Be

Being Italian, I had high expectations for the gelato at Purely. Non-traditional soft serve gelato sounded iffy at first. But no lie the gelato was so good I shed a tear. Italy will just have to wait for now.

Dominic Leong, owner of Purely, informed me that he studied the art of making gelato n Rimini, Italy, help start and ran the restaurant chain Pino Gelato (one of their locations is at Hartsfield Jackson Airport) for 12 years, and even modified the soft serve gelato machine himself.

Leong is the ultimate renaissance man. He consults and designs restaurants, as he did with Purely (his baby), creates the innovative menu, cooks all the food, and engages customers with his bubbly personality.

The Midtown Atlanta space has tall glass windows looking out to busy Peachtree Street, bright lime green painted walls with eye catching photos of the food, and exquisite glass chandeliers.

The concept of Purely is like other ‘make-your-own restaurants’ where customers design their own meal in an assembly line style. All the meat and vegetables are prepared fresh daily, and customers have the option whether to create their own concoction or choose from already created specialties. Purely’s food is fast, fresh and healthy, which makes it a perfect lunch spot for business people and college students. What’s more, most meals are under $10.

Even the presentation of the food is stunning. Organic vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, kale and mixed greens are showcased in a glass container so customers are more attracted to eating fresh food.

Diners start by choosing their base in a bowl. They have options of white or brown rice, mixed greens and even gluten free pasta. For tacos and salads, customers choose their protein with options such as slow cooked Mexican style pork carnitas and or all natural Caribbean beef barbacoa. After, adding fresh veggies of your choice, top it off with sauces such as creamy chipotle and sweet chili.

Tacos are served in cooked to order warm Chinese steamed buns, but customers also have the option of a traditional corn tortilla. I tried the braised jerk chicken taco served with kale, and a customer favorite – Asian sesame sauce, topped with grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. The taco was sweet considering the sauce, but I was expecting more of a kick since it was jerk chicken. I also felt the kale and the lack of sauce made the taco a little dry.

The spicy chicken teriyaki taco with Purely’s signature sauce (like spicy mayo), fresh red cabbage, well-seasoned chicken, the dish was very different though, hitting all the right notes of spice and texture.

Fun fact, Purely’s bowls are 70% decomposable.

Food bowls have become the new hipster food trend of 2018. Specifically, poke bowls, which are often served with raw fish, salad topping and Asian sauces. I created my own poke bowl and added tuna and salmon with spicy mayo, poke sauce, lime juice, mixed greens, cabbage and edamame. With several competitors out there trying to master the poke bowl trend, Purely’s bowl deserves a spot at the top. The bowl made for a light flavor packed lunch.

Bubble tea has never tickled my fancy, but I decided to give it another try by adding strawberry popping pearls (like tapioca but made of real fruit) to my matcha tea. With one sip, I was in heaven! Purely uses oolong tea as the base instead of water which gives it a more robust flavor. And did I mention the matcha powder is imported straight from Japan?

Purely’s biggest hit are the bubble waffles. Bubble waffles became popular in Hong Kong and are a fancier version of the traditional American ice cream waffle only with batter filled spheres, making it look more attractive. I filled mine with matcha gelato and triple berry sorbet, topped with mango and strawberry flavored popping pearls and fresh peaches.

Sorbet isn’t typically my first choice, but the soft serve gelato version of it made the consistency creamy rather than icy. Although bubble waffle tasted like a regular waffle, it was rather soft than crispy, which can be messy to eat.

What Purely is offering is not totally unique, but having the best gelato, teas, buddle waffles and poke bowls – all in a vibrant atmosphere at affordable prices – is notable. I would return to create new combinations using the fresh, healthy and organic ingredients Purely offers.

~ By Daniella Boik, Go Eat Give summer 2018 intern. Daniella is a journalism student at Georgia State University and has a passion for food, books and skateboards. When she’s not writing, she is drafting her ideas while running long distance. Follow her on Facebook 

11 Fun Things To Do in Myrtle Beach

“Are you going to play a lot of mini golf?” smirked my boyfriend, as I told him about my planned trip to Myrtle Beach, sponsored by the tourism board.

And hey, it’s not a bad question. Actually, Myrtle Beach is known as the “Miniature Golf Capital of the World,” with over 50 courses to choose from.

But that’s not what I would be focusing on for my trip. Instead, my goal was to go beyond the guidebook to discover Myrtle Beach activities beyond the green. And while I did spend time around the “Grand Strand” — Myrtle Beach’s waterfront strip showcasing 60+ miles of beaches — I added other atypical experiences to my itinerary.

Stay: North Beach Plantation

This luxury resort sits on the Atlantic Ocean in North Myrtle Beach. Onsite you’ll find pretty much everything you could need: beach access, free Wi-Fi, restaurants, a 2.5-acre waterpark, multiple indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, a fitness center and incredible spa (tip: get the Fijian Ritual!) and more.

Along with two towers full of various sized condos, they have standalone villas and vacation rentals with shops dotting the blocks, giving it a suburban neighborhood feel. It’s large, and there’s a free shuttle that can help you get around if needed.

Tip: Spring for the waterfront views, especially as even the one-bedroom condos have balconies. They’re actually pretty budget-friendly for what you get, especially if you go in September (about $200 or less per night!).

Airbnb also offers a slew of great Myrtle Beach options! Click here to snag $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

So what kinds of Myrtle Beach activities exist beyond mini golf? Check out the video above. Then, scroll down to read my trip highlights (so you can add them to your itinerary, too!).

  1. Savor Local Wine Culture

While typically vineyards in the US grow grapes like chardonnay, merlot and pinot grigio, in South Carolina there’s only one variety that flourishes: the muscadine. There are over 300 varieties of muscadine, many of which you can try at La Belle Amie Vineyard in Myrtle Beach.

I never expected Myrtle Beach to have a vineyard and winery. A tasting room maybe, but actual rows of grape vines next to olive bushes? I felt like I was in Italy.

Or France, as they also sell wine from their family vineyard in the South of France. You can read the full (and inspiring) story of how that partnership came to be here.

Vicki Weigle, La Belle Amie Vineyard’s owner, believes you only need to know two things about wine: if you like it or if you don’t. This fun philosophy can be felt throughout the property, including Wine Wednesday’s live outdoor music and the creative wines with fun names offered at the tasting bar. How about a glass of “What Was I Thinking?” or an “Ice Queen” ice wine made without freezing the grapes?

By the way, it’s just $5 for six tastings + surprises like mulled wine and wine slushies. Yum!

  1. Learn A New Water Sport

There are so many water sports to choose from in Myrtle Beach! Two on my itinerary were new to me: wakeboarding and surfing.

While inclement weather cancelled the wakeboarding, I did visit Shark Wake Park to see what the course looked like. It’s a controlled pool with ramps if you’re up for doing tricks. Cables pull you as you try to stand on what looks like a snowboard. Sitting back and watching the advanced wakeboarders is also an option.

I did get to try surfing near Springmade Pier at the softest beach I’ve ever stepped on with Jack’s Surf Lessons.

Wow, was surfing hard! The waves were pretty high — about three feet — so it definitely presented a fun and exciting challenge for a newbie.

Actually, here’s me (below) standing for 0.3 seconds until I came crashing down so hard I lost my GoPro to the Atlantic Ocean despite it being on a headstrap tied into my hair. I just hope a school of fish has found it and is putting it to good use. Sigh.

Despite the technical issues, I had a lot of fun trying something new. Plus, Jack is such a cool, laid-back dude he had the group laughing the whole time.

Just leave the GoPro on the beach unless it’s really affixed.

  1. Indulge In Some Boozy Brunch

You know those beautiful wood accented spaces with high ceilings and lots of natural light flowing in? And maybe a case of colorful macarons beckoning you to stay a while? That’s Croissants Bistro & Bakery.

And while they do make some incredible baked goods (salted caramel brownie, anyone?), you also won’t want to miss their savory fare. Of course, shrimp and grits is a local favorite, especially as these grits are laced with pimento cheese. Make it a boozy brunch by adding on a mimosa or Bloody Mary with your choice of vodka!

  1. Get High (Literally)

Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk stretches for 1.2 miles along the waterfront, showcasing quirky restaurants (some jokingly claiming to be the “8th Wonder of the World”), arcades, various Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attractions, rides and more.

While a walk down this wooden stretch is a must on a list of Myrtle Beach activities, another way to take it all in is with a ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.

The giant enclosed Ferris wheel takes you 200 feet high for an aerial perspective of the beach and boardwalk.

While I rode the SkyWheel during the day, I was told by many locals it’s actually best at night when it’s all lit up.

Tickets are $14 per person.

  1. Stretch It Out (On The Beach)

A true highlight of my trip was doing a morning yoga class on the beach with Dawn Yager, owner of Shanti Yoga. I love yoga anywhere, anytime; but there’s something truly therapeutic about going through Sun Salutations while actually being washed in the sun’s loving glow.

I must have felt inspired, because I held Crow Pose for my longest time ever! Just a few simple shifts like moving my gaze beyond my hands and digging my fingers into the ground helped so much.

Tip: If you’re visiting during September, Shanti Yoga offers discounts on classes at their Myrtle Beach studio for National Yoga Month.

  1. Photograph The Gorgeous Live Oaks

You can see Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss all over Myrtle Beach; however, in historic Conway — a city founded in 1732 located about 25 minutes from the coast — you can take a tour of them.

They’re so whimsical; the gnarled branches adding a gothic beauty to the area. In Myrtle Beach they’re prevalent and protected. You can wander the very walkable neighborhood yourself using the free Historic Trail guide (pick it up free at the Conway Visitor Center). Additionally, here is a link to a self-guided Conway tour using a map and/or QR codes.

Tip: After seeing the gorgeous trees, take a walk along the Waccamaw River on the 1.5-mile River Walk.

  1. Savor The Local Craft Beer

While Myrtle Beach isn’t a craft beer hub, it does have some quality beer offerings. Hop heads can check out New South Brewing, featuring a large tasting room with plenty of space to chill with some board games and a nut brown ale, or talk suds with the brewmasters.

While they don’t have flights, 6-ounce pours are only $3. Plus if you book a tour in advance ($7) there are tastings included.

If you try one beer only, make it their famous “White Ale.” The brew is a take on a classic Belgian wheat ale, with notes of coriander and citrus.

They’re also known for their canned beers; in fact, their slogan is “The beer from here. Hand crafted. Hand canned. Hands on.” You can purchase a 6-pack to-go ($9) or create a mixed case ($30).

Tip: The local grocery chain, Lowes Foods, features a Beer Den with craft beers on tap and a growler program!

  1. Wander Brookgreen Gardens

I love wandering without a plan, especially when that wandering involves being immersed in lovely live oaks, inspiring sculptures and gorgeous gardens. Brookgreen Gardens is that place, a sculpture garden (the country’s largest) and wildlife preserve featuring thousands of acres of nature.

Take a pontoon ride on the onsite creek to see alligators and osprey while learning about the property’s rice farming heritage (cultivated by past African and Indian slaves). Made up of four former plantations, one pre-Brookgreen Gardens homestead was actually home to Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia.

While the tour was interesting, my favorite part of the visit was just wandering the gardens without a plan, taking moments to regroup and admire Mother Nature.

  1. Bird Watch In Huntington Beach State Park

Nearby is another natural beauty: Huntington Beach State Park. The two main attractions in this 2500-acre park are the beach and the trails, including a nature walk and a boardwalk over the marsh.

Oh, the Marsh Boardwalk! One of the most peaceful places I’ve ever seen and one of my favorite Myrtle Beach activities. I spotted so many birds — egrets, herons, cormorants — as well as a variety of crabs dancing in the mud. I stood in silence and awe for a good 30 minutes just taking it all in.

Here’s a printable birding checklist for the park if you want to create a fun challenge for yourself! According to the park, a full day of bird watching could very well get you 100 different species sightings.

  1. Try Hook-To-Plate At Wicked Tuna

You’ve probably heard of farm-to-table; but what about hook-to-plate?

Murrells Inlet is where many locals — especially local restaurants — claim the freshest seafood in South Carolina comes from. At The Wicked Tuna they make use of their uber fresh location, employing their own fleet of fishing boats to head out each day and catch what’s served on your plate.

Fresh catch, lobster tails and sushi rolls are all part of the fun, typically with a twist. While the pan-seared scallops might be dressed in a cauliflower puree and tamarind brown butter, a soft shell crab might be topped with cilantro oil and sweet potato flakes.

I was obsessed with my “Dragon Egg” appetizer: a halvedavocado filled with cream cheese, smoked salmon, blue crab, king crab and spicy crab and gowned in tempura sweet potato, spicy mayo and sweet glaze. Paired with my wasabi- and basil-laced “Wicked Lemonade” (pictured above), my taste buds were certainly dancing.

Everything was superb, complimented by a prime waterfront view from the patio!

  1. Indulge Your Inner Carnivore

The name River City Cafe may sound simple; but actually, this meat-focused eatery has a dizzying list of delicious burgers you must try.

While I was tempted to try their Short Rib Cheeseburger featuring short rib meat mixed with prime beef, I had to savor the “Kitchen Sink Burger.” This enormous sandwich showcases two patties topped with chili, hickory-smoked bacon, grilled onions, spicy jalapeños, mushrooms, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and mayo. And that’s not all. That setup is then placed neatly (yea right) between two grilled cheeses, accompanied by fries, onion rings and coleslaw.

Luckily this was a trip full of active Myrtle Beach activities!

Turkey, chicken and veggie burgers are also available for those seeking a healthier meal.

What are your favorite Myrtle Beach activities beyond golf? Have a travel question? Please share in the comments below!

~ By New York city based award-winning travel blogger, Jessica Festa. Find her at Jessie on a JourneyFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest. This post originally appeared on her blog

Have You Tasted These Wines From Brazil?

When I received an invitation to taste the Wines of Brazil by the Brazilian Consulate in Atlanta, I was intrigued. Though I have traveled to Brazil three times, Brazilian wines have not really appeared in my radar as a food critic. Why was that? And what role does wine play in Brazilian cuisine? I wanted to find out.

Held at the famous Brazilian steakhouse chain, Fogo de Chao, the event was a gathering of many wine producers who had traveled from Brazil to talk about their products. There were half a dozen wine tasting stations, each represented by a producer pouring a few kinds of reds and whites.

Turns out that Brazil has a long history of producing wine, dating back to the middle of the 19th century. The real action started several decades later when Italian immigrants arrived and embarked on an ambitious plan. Their plan was ambitious out of necessity, since a wave of German immigration preceded the Italian immigration and the Germans predictably settled on the best available lands. In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, this ended up meaning those lands closer to the coast.

The Italians had to march inland over the gentle slopes of red soils that reach to the Atlantic Ocean, onto the high plateaus and through the hills to found towns with names like Garibaldi and Nova Bassano. They settled into valleys named after homes left behind, like the Vale Trentino.

Brazil’s biggest representatives in the international market are sparkling wines of high quality and exceptional acidity and freshness. Produced through the Traditional or Charmat methods, they both tend to use mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

A typical meal of the Serra Gaúcha region still begins with Agnolotti en Brodo and generally includes polenta and some sort of roasted chicken or pig dish. Older people continue to speak Italian in the region. This vestigial Italian continues to be  widespread, particularly once you get out of the city and into the valleys that surround Bento Gonçalves, and it shapes the wines as much as it shapes the language.

So, what do Brazilian wines taste like? Most people would say they are young, easy drinking, table wines. Brazilian Muscats are most internationally recognizable. Light bodied and flavorful, these can be enjoyed outdoors while the men grill meat for hours and the rest of the families prepare plates of salads, fried yucca, rice and beans.

Among the red varieties, Merlot has been recognized by some experts as the one with the highest potential to represent Brazil in the international market.

The vineyard also talked about the emergence of wine tourism in Brazil. Many travelers head to neighboring Chile and Argentina for wine tasting tours and to stay at haciendas with local wineries. Brazil also offers beautiful landscapes, local cuisine and great tasting wines across the country. Here are some places to check out:

Vale dos Vinhedos

Named by the Wine Enthusiast magazine as one of the 10 best wine tourism destinations in the world, the Vale dos Vinhedos is filled with beautiful landscapes, great wine, plenty of great restaurants and places to simply relax. With around 200 thousand tourists each year, it has become a famous destination in Brazil.

Garibaldi

A city that specializes in the production of sparkling wines and features a sparkling wine tour route. Around 90 thousand yearly visitors come and check the local attractions.

Pinto Bandeira

Besides the impressive landscapes, with native woods, waterfalls, and of course vineyards, the highlight of this Pinto Bandeira is their sparkling wines. Small and intimate, this is a region where the local wineries continue to offer charming gastronomic and lodging options.

Altos Montes

Another young region where the landscape is dotted with cutting-edge wineries, celebrating modern architecture beautifully integrated with the vineyards. An advanced culinary school in the region has helped the cities of Flores da Cunha and Nova Pádua to become the twin gourmet centers of the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Região das Hortênsias

Centered between the cities of Gramado and Canela, this is a region made famous by their well-preserved colonial architecture. While the region has preserved the look of the past, the local hotels and restaurants are very much up to date with a year-round promotional schedule that has been attracting tourist for years.

This Summer, Forget Tiny Houses, Stay in a Luxury Treehouse

Looking for a fun way to spend this Father’s Day weekend? Check out the newest trend in glamping – modern, high tech and sustainable treehouses. The Dove Men+Care Elements 360-square-foot treehouse equipped with a luxurious private bath, climate control, high speed Wi-Fi and a stocked refrigerator is like a “spa in the sky.”

Located at the base of Lookout Mountain near downtown Chattanooga, TN, the Elements Treehouse stands out for its state-of-the-art bathroom constructed of natural elements inspired by Dove’s Elements product range and sweeping forest views.

The treehouse is the second house for rent at a treehouse resort – Treetop Hideaways in Flintstone, GA. Founded by local entrepreneurs Andrew Alms and Enoch Elwell, Treetop Hideaways came about as an idea to allow childhood memories to flourish and for families to experience sustainable living close to the city.

The Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse is designed by architect Pete Nelson, a world-renowned treehouse architect, host of Treehouse Masters and owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply company. It features modern architectural designs surrounded by nature, utilizing the most efficient and sustainable systems.

A wooden staircase leads you to the entryway marked by a living sage wall and Japanese Shou Sugi Ban-style charcoal wood. Welcomed by the aroma of sage, enter a cozy sitting area with furniture made of reclaimed wood, kick off your shoes and browse through the pages of ‘Cabin Porn’ make sure you don’t get confused with the wrong kind of porn or you’ll end up looking through pages like this https://www.tubev.sex/?hl=ko.

In the morning, sip on local MayFly coffee while lounging on the private deck. Feel the cool morning mist, listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the flowing stream on property.

Interior designed by Will Taylor, founder of Bright Bazaar is done in nature-inspired style, with sage bedding, charcoal-etched wall art, and sandalwood accents. Green, white and grey Earth tones create a rustic yet contemporary ambiance. Connect to Alexa to play your favorite music as you nap in the Tuft & Needle queen mattress downstairs or climb to the loft where you can see the tree canopy through the skylights from the comfort of two beds.

The focal point of the treehouse is the spa inspired Elements bathroom with charcoal wood paneling, clay sink, heated flooring, temperature controlled 5-head shower, linen robes, Dove Men+Care Elements toiletries, and a glass enclosed tree in the bathroom with skylight and see-through flooring. Here you can feel like you are showering in the forest, yet have your preferred water heat set on the digital keypad.

Grab a cold beer from the refrigerator and get some steaks or hot dogs started on the outdoor grill. The outdoor fireplace is perfect for roasting marshmallows under the stars and reminiscing about good old campfires.

Chattanooga is quickly becoming a top travel destination voted ‘Best Town in America’ by the readers of Outside magazine. Surrounded by acers of forest, Treetop Hideways is located within minutes of world-class climbing, mountain biking, trail running, caving, and more. Nearby attractions include Ruby Falls, Rock City Gardens, Tennessee Aquarium, Cloudland Canyon State Park and North Chickamauga Gorge.

The Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse is the perfect family friendly retreat to spend summer holidays in nature and comfort.

Dining at The W

Hotel restaurants typically don’t have a good perception when it comes to offering superior quality food or unique cuisines. But the W Atlanta – Midtown is an exception.

Inspired by its Georgia location, TRACE restaurant incorporates southern cuisine in the menu, using seasonal locally sourced ingredients.

The Midtown Atlanta hotel can be described as urban chic at best. Glamorously dressed people can be found getting out of their uber expensive cars into the illuminated car port. The lobby feels like a trendy lounge with live DJ, as patrons cheer their martini glasses.

TRACE is located up a flight of stairs, on the second floor of the hotel. Walking past the bar feels like you have entered a massive den/ library/ man cave. The bar is beautiful, but the stack of cookbooks by local authors displayed on the shelves catches my attention. Krista Reese, Kevin Gillespie, to name a few…

The interior of TRACE is contemporary, yet comfy. Tall glass windows line one of the walls of the room, while the exposed ceiling creates a feeling of a warehouse. Then there are colored pots and pans covering an entire wall, dark wood floors, and giant blue gray screens hanging from the ceiling. I feel like I’m in a 21st century barn!

Cocktails are the main attraction at TRACE. In addition to regional brews and global wines, hand crafts cocktails with unique names are rotated off the menu often. My favorite was Anger Management (perfect after a tough week right?) with mango vodka, agave, pineapple and orange juice. The powdered habanero around the rim of the glass is sure to give you a burn with each sip. Gotta Wear Shades (I told you the names are creative) was also quite refreshing for a bourbon drink. It had fresh blackberry/ blueberry juice, peach bitters and Ridgemont Reserve 1792.

The menu is sectioned into shared plates, salads, entrees and sides. Southern favorites such as fried gulf oysters, deviled eggs, and thrice cooked wings are nostalgic starters. The oysters are fresh are corn flour battered, served with spicy rep pepper jelly aioli. The mushroom and goat cheese toast is hearty and delicious. Grilled salmon is seared crisp on the outside and tender in the center. It feels more of a personal entree than an app plate though. Everything comes with generous portions of healthy greens sourced from GA farms.

The crab and avocado salad was my favorite. Again, a good portion of greens is topped with fresh steamed jumbo lump crab meat is perfect for seafood lovers, and the grilled avocado adds a surprise element to each bite. Gulf catch  of the day, grouper in this case, was chewy, though well seasoned with with black pepper, and sat on some very spicy cooked kale. Another twist I enjoyed was the pimiento mac and cheese. Though the pimento made the dish a bit runny, the toasted bread crumbs added a crisp nice texture.

For dessert, I tried the chocolate mousse cake, a rather rich flourless version with dark creamy mousse. The raspberry and chocolate sauces were a bit runny for my taste, but good enough to lick the plate clean!

Museum of Broken Relationships

The museum of broken relationships in Zagreb is by far the most unique museum I have ever been to. Unlike other museums, it doesn’t carry any antiques, jewels or historic remanences. On the other hand, it displays items donated by patrons from all over the world that hold symbolic value to them personally.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Museum of Broken Relationships

The idea of this museum was coined by two Zagreb-based artists, Olinka Vištica, a film producer, and Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor, after realizing a heartbreak. What started as a personal collection of items leftover from a broken relationship, became a 1000-item traveling museum that received audiences across Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Macedonia, the Philippines, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Items on display include everyday quirky items such as a stiletto shoe, CD’s, laundry basket, toy cars, letter, etc. Each of the items is accompanied by a personal account of the relationship, country of origin and how long the relationship lasted. I found the the notes to be particularly interesting, and rather funny, as people recounted short stories of randomly falling in love, and of inevitable heartbreaks.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Museum of Broken Relationships

One can spend an hour or two seeing the small museum, though the museum also sells books with pictures and stories of some of the items on display. You can also find break ups on the interactive world map and read stories on the blog. Reading stories of broken relationships are perhaps the opposite of reading romantic novels, but surprisingly they don’t get you down or depressed. I feel that reading about real-life relationships that didn’t always end well makes us realize that we live in a realistic world where everything is not always perfect. It makes you feel that you are not the only one who has suffered through a heartbreak. And it makes you smile to read about how people fall in love and cherish the smallest of gifts for years to come.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Museum of Broken Relationships

While the museum is very popular among visitors, it nearly doubles its attendance around the Valentine’s holiday. If you would like to unburden your relationship, send in your item to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

The Museum of Broken Relationships has permanent exhibits in Zagreb, Croatia and Los Angeles, California.

Ten Things I Learned at The Sedona Yoga Festival

Sedona is a magical place, and when I learned that there was going to be a yoga festival taking place in Sedona, I immediately signed up! This was actually the fifth annual Sedona Yoga Festival which generally takes place in February/ March time frame. The festival lasts for 4-days and includes over 200 workshops on a variety of topics, besides yoga, that included spiritism, meditation, communication, sound therapy, healing, nutrition and more.

I have read many books on spirituality, explored different practices, do yoga off and on, and am always open to trying new things. I was excited to be hearing from the 100+ speakers coming to the festival from all over the world and eager to learn more.

Here are my top takeaways from the sessions I attended. Note, a lot of it is my own interpretation of what the speakers might have said.

There’s nobody here or out there who can hurt you more than yourself.

Heather Shereé Titus, Director of the Sedona Yoga Festival advised at the opening ceremony to love yourself, and be the love you want to see in others. It is only your own practices, behaviors and reactions that can cause you the greatest pain. You yourself allow the negative or positive energies to flow into you.

Nourish yourself with asana, meditation and inquiry before helping others.

This applies more to people who teach, help or care for others. Gina Garcia, 500-hour certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Across America (YAA), a non-profit corporation that teaches yoga and wellness educational programs across the country, conducted this extensive workshop. If the idea of teaching yoga is something that has appealed to you, then it could be worth having a look at https://www.siddhiyoga.com/become-certified-yoga-instructor to see the different ways in which you could train.

Avoid prescription medication and alcohol to protect yourself from fallen angels.

I did not know much about unwanted spirits attaching themselves to human bodies in the time when we are most vulnerable. Professional Energy Cleanser Herman Petrick talked about keeping a clear and balanced energy field, and how it can help with depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, re-occurring nightmares, chronic headaches, etc.

Sound is an important vibration that helps relax and quietens the mind.

“Like a dinner bell, the sound of bowls can alert you for meditation,” said Ashana in her hands-on workshop with quartz crystal singing bowls. Though I did not buy any bowls, I have started playing flute, tabla, gamelan, meditation and yoga music during meditation, before sleeping and while lounging, and it has had profound effects.

Make superfoods part of your daily diet.

Until now, I knew what superfoods generally are and tried to eat them now and then. But Jeff Breaker, who represents Purium Health Products, emphasized that eating real food can make you feel better, help recover faster and enhance the spirit. He recommended eating organic greens, whole grains, soaked nuts, and filtered water. Also, eat as much vegan as possible and add a superfood shake to your diet. I have started making my own granola with organic oats, chia, flax, almonds, dried blueberries, agave, honey and coconut.

Energy flows through the gaze of the eyes.

In the session on Drishti by Sara Elizabeth Ivanhoe (yoga spokesperson for Weight Watchers), I learned how to focus on a still image to improve my yoga postures with fluid transitions. The same can be applied to everyday life by working on the third eye to see beyond time and space.

When you want to connect with someone, look into their eyes.

Leah Misty and David Tietje of Thai Love Yoga did an interactive seminar on enhancing communication, which included Sacred Space Ritual, Soul Gazing, Thai Massage, Laughter Yoga, Connection Trio and Affirmation Circle. My husband and I gazed at each other’s eyes, gave each other gentle massages and exchanged words of gratefulness. I found this exercise very useful and repeat it every time I want to convey my message to another person in an assertive yet gentle manner.

Everyone is born with spiritual gifts. Learn to recognize and appreciate them.

I found Sunny Dawn Johnston’s workshop on intuition to be the most interesting as she talked about connecting with the spirit world. Every person has intuition, but sometimes cannot distinguish between mindless chatter and the angelic voice. To exercise receiving guidance we can raise our vibrations (through music, yoga, dance, nature), play intuitive games, and start trusting ourselves.

Chocolate is good for the soul.

Some of you may be delighted to hear that (good quality dark) chocolate heightens your sensations. In Yoga of Chocolate session, instructor Jyl Marie combined yoga poses with 100% organic Chocolate Tree chocolate tastings. Her aim was to use chocolate as a way of encouraging people to slow down and really taste, savor, and enjoy their present moment experiences, whatever they may be.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading this post and will come back for more!

A Guide To NYC’s Best Subway Art

Whether you’re a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the wonders of the city, you’ll no doubt find yourself taking the subway. While there are certainly crazy NYC subway stories that’ll make you crave a cab, venturing into New York’s underground can be unforgettable for good reasons, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. Keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across —  especially when it comes to the five installations listed below!

1. Life Underground

Where: 14 St @ Eighth Avenue station

art in the subway

STOP BY THE 14TH ST/EIGHT AVENUE STATION TO SEE LIFE UNDERGROUND! PHOTO VIA TOM OTTERNESS

This 16-year-old installation, meant to capture “life in New York,” is one of the city’s best pieces of art in the subway. Artist Tom Otterness used over a dozen bronze sculptures to depict everything from the homeless being watched over by police to New York’s famous sewer gators chomping on the head of a wealthy citizen. It’s easy to rush through the city when it comes to a commute, but these playful figures are worth slowing down for!

2. Happy World

Where: Flushing/Main Street

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA IK-JOONG KANG.

Flushing is often noted as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city — a fact that Ik-Joong Kang made a point of celebrating with this art piece. Happy World uses over two thousand hand-painted ceramic tiles to depict various aspects of the large world Kang saw in Flushing and beyond. This includes many different people, events and views of NYC. With so much happening all at once, it can be comforting to see it condensed into a single installation (even if condensed refers to over two-thousand tiles!).

3. REACH

Where: 34th St/Herald Square

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA CHRISTOPHER JANNEY @ JANNEYSOUND

Suspended above the N/R platforms of this station, there is a green bar with sensors that run along its side. While this horizontal rack has a tendency to go unnoticed by commuters, it’s actually a brilliant piece of interactive art in the subway that encourages New Yorkers to communicate with one another, even at their busiest. Waving your hands in front of the sensors causes a light to flicker on, and a sound to come from the rack on the opposite platform.With this unique musical instrument, those on the downtown and uptown platforms can interact without a single word!

4. My Coney Island Baby

Where: Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA MTA

There are a number of creative reasons to make your way down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. NYC street art is one, while the other is the artwork of Robert Wilson. This installation features a wall of glass bricks showcasing silkscreened images. The format of this unusual exhibit makes the pictures — like Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and Coney Island’s famous carousel — especially alluring on sunny days when light streams in, illuminating the images. Just one reason to plan your Coney Island trip for a sunny day!

5. Elevated

Where: Lexington Avenue/63rd St

art in the subway

PHOTO VIA MTA FLICKR

With the Second Avenue Station nearly a decade in the making, artist Jean Shin had to pull out all the stops when planning her contribution. Sure enough, her mural “Elevated” is a standout even among the world class art of this brand new subway line. This piece spans over three levels of the station, depicting the construction done to dismantle the Second and Third Avenue line, along with stills of commuters — all of which are composed of ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. This piece works to connect the past of New York to the present. And this is something you can be a part of for yourself, now that this new subway line is open!

~ By guest blogger, Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters with a passion for writing. She has used programs such as Young Playwrights Inc., The Moth and Girls Write Now to channel these passions, and has done her best to help others do the same as managing editor of her school’s literary magazine, One Pen. When not busied with her tendency to overextend herself with various projects, she can be found with her nose in a book or humming the tune of whatever musical soundtrack she is obsessed with that week. THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON NYC TOURS & PHOTO SAFARIS