Bella Vida by Letty

Spain’s Lizarran Restaurant Launches Miami Food Truck

Lizarran Food Truck

I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Lizarran food truck in Miami. It was quite a treat to sample the menu. Fresh ingredients prepared into great looking flavorful comfort food that are easy to enjoy on the go.  The food truck is huge decorated with twinkling lights, potted plants and painted tiles evoking an authentic Mediterranean feel.

About Lizzaran

Established in a coastal town just outside Barcelona, Spain, Lizarran is transforming the American culinary scene with their fusion of Mediterranean and Spanish flavors. Combining the social and familial element of Spain’s culture creating an inviting and enjoyable dining experience for guests. With over 270 restuarants in Europe and around the world it is finally making it’s way to Miami.

Internationally recognized for the pintxos, cones and homemade recipes, Lizarran infuses fresh Spanish and Mediterranean ingredients, modern culinary technique and inherently Spanish presentation to their innovative dishes.

Foodies can mix and match combination and flavors to satisfy their specific cravings. Tasty ingredients include the finest olive oil, jamon Serrano and fresh seafood.

Lizarran Collage

About the Food

Lizarran’s Spanish Mediterranean cuisine is made up of bite sized recipes which take comfort food to a new level. Pintxos are small snacks served atop sliced bread distinguished by the skewer, a culinary stape of Northern Spain’s Basque region. Cones are handheld dishes that are ideal on the go menu items consisting of croquettes, fries and churros with Nutella.

Lizarran Food Truck

I recommend experiencing the food with friends because there is so much good stuff to sample and plenty to share. The gazpacho is something you must try. It is a creamy cold Andalusian soup with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and garlic bursting with flavor.

The potato salad is quite refreshing and made with fresh ingredients, potatoes, carrots, eggs, tuna, sweet pepper and olives.

One of my favorites are the croquettes witch are the perfect bite sized fritter treats filled with jamon Serrano, cheese or vegetables.

When eating Spanish food another must have is the tortilla Espanola; eggs, Yukon gold potatoes, onions and Spanish ham. So so good.

Lizarran Food Truck

Another of my favorites was the sautéed vegetables; brie cheese, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms and carrots.

Like I said there is so much great food to sample you should definitely bring along good friends.  They will thank you later.

You can find out where exactly to find the food trucks on their facebook page and check out the menu at their website.

 

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10 Fun Things to do in South Beach Miami Florida

Best Things to do in South Beach

South Beach is a neighborhood in the city of Miami Beach, Florida.  Located due east of Miami city between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean it is known for being trendy and attracting rich, famous and beautiful people.   This place is always bustling with locals, visitors and things to do.  Sobe is high energy and attracts large crowds especially on holidays.  I would describe it as stylish, extravagant and luxurious.  At night it is the hottest club scene I’ve ever been to.  Fashion and music merge on the beach with influences from Latin and European cultures.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you bumped into a celebrity or two during your visit.

South Beach is also known as the historic Art Deco District.  A trip to Miami is not complete until you visit and experience this area for yourself. You will be transported to another time surrounded by the interesting architecture, which dates back to the 1920’s.  Everywhere you look you will find fancy details from that long ago era.  Today there are over 800 Art Deco Structures lighting up South Beach in a rainbow of neon and pastel.

What is art deco you might ask?  The Miami Design Preservation League defines art deco as:

“Art Deco was a product of new ideas and movements and found its inspirations in many distinct early 20th Century European design styles such as Cubism, French Art Deco, German Bauhaus and Expressionism, Dutch de Stijl and Amsterdam School, Vienna Secession and others.”

They offer a free historic district sites map on their site.  You can take a guided tour or do it yourself.

South Beach Miami Beach Florida

Ocean Drive

When visiting South Beach I highly recommend both driving and walking Ocean Drive.  This street has served as the backdrop of countless movies.  You will see grand hotels, interesting art deco architecture, the gorgeous beach and when the sun sets the famous neon lights come on.  There are plenty of shops, restaurants and places to stay.  Most restaurants offer outdoor seating.  A great way to do some people watching or just enjoy the ambience and beautiful weather.

Be warned shopping here is more expensive than other spots.  A mixed cocktail can easily cost over $20.00.

A few famous places on the strip are Casa Casaurina, also known as the Gianni Versace Mansion, the Clevelander, Park Central, the Tides Hotel, the Cordozo Hotel and the Waldorf Towers.

Be sure to park your car and hit the beach.  Lummus Park Beach is on the list of world’s most beautiful beaches.  On the boardwalk you can skate, bike, run or take a stroll.  There are places for the kids to play as well as places to exercise and work out.  Out on the sand you will see Miami’s iconic colorful lifeguard stands, soft white sand and gorgeous blue and jade waters.

Lincoln Road Mall South Beach

Stroll along Lincoln mall which built in 1912 as a sophisticated retail spot is also one of the county’s first outdoor malls.  Today you will find casual restaurants, fine dining, high end designers, book stores, bars, theater and a Star Bucks on every corner.  There are art galleries and artist studios which open up for tours, movie theaters, street vendors and all types of street performers.  You can spend hours here.  I suggest having a seat, it’s a great spot for people watching.  You never know what rich and famous person you might bump into.

Head to the beach.  It usually rains in the afternoon during Florida summers.  I recommend heading out early.  I was able to beat the rain on Sunday and enjoy some beach time.  This beach has vendors for just about everything including snacks.  Be sure to get a peek of the famous lifeguard stands.  No two are alike.

Walk down Ocean Drive and see many familiar historic art deco hotels.  This street appears in numerous films and television shows.  There are lots of places to pick up souvenirs.

espanola way

Visit Espanola Way an often overlooked bohemian spot for shopping, dining and art galleries.  The area was modeled after the Mediterranean villages of Spain and France and was originally built as a meeting place by Miami Beach’s wealthiest citizens.  It’s very pretty at night it’s lit up by strings of light bulbs.

If you like music check out the New World Symphony schedule.  Some performances are projected on the buildings huge wall facing the park.  On certain nights they present free outdoor movie screenings.

Visit the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater for live entertainment, concerts, comedy tours and private events.

If you love to dance some of Miami’s most famous nightclubs are on Washington Avenue, Collins and Ocean Drive.

Best Things to do in South Florida Sunset

 

My favorite thing to do at South Beach is to try and catch the sunset.  This photo was taken on the beautiful romantic rooftop of the Tudor as the sun was setting.

You can find more things to do, news and deals by reading my specially curated Florida twitter list.

 

Have you been to South Beach?  

What was your favorite thing to do here?

 

Posted in Featured, Travel

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The Courtyard Marriott South Beach #FloridaWish #Spons   

Courtyard Marriott Miami Beach South Beach

During my many travels I’ve stayed at various Marriott Hotels all throughout Florida and even Georgia.  I continue to patronize this brand of hotels because I can always rely on the cleanliness and great customer service.  As part of the Florida Wish campaign I stayed at the modern and sleek Courtyard Marriott Miami Beach South Beach.  South Beach is a trendy vacation spot where the stylish and cultured come to relax on the sand or indulge in fun and entertainment.  This hotel fits right into the South Beach ambiance.  Its decor is modern and artsy using en vogue fabrics and textures.

There is indoor and outdoor seating all along the lobby.  Being into photography I really loved seeing the framed vintage black and white photographs of South Beach history all throughout the hotel.  I thought it was a great way to balance the new while giving a nod to the history and art deco style South Beach is known for.  The lounge offers free wifi and beautiful workspaces next to a cafe style bistro.  There’s a big multi use space for casual or business to work on laptops, plug in various devices or watch television.

You know I am very active while traveling and enjoy lots of walking.  This is the main reason I would recommend this hotel is because it is smack in the middle of everything good.  A short walk east takes you to the beach, one block south takes you to Espanola Way and just north is the world famous Lincoln Street Mall.  You have fine dining, shopping and entertainment literally at its doorstep.

Another great amenity is the hotel valet service for your car.  Parking in South Beach can be tricky and expensive.  In addition there is new construction going on the roadways right now and you have to take all sorts of out of the way detours to arrive at your destination.  You can just leave your car with the hotels valet service and not have to worry.  Anything you want to do is within walking distance.

After settling in the first thing I did was head upstairs to the rooftop pool.  Wow, what a gorgeous view.  The space is designed to be a luxurious retreat for hotel guests.  There’s the pool and balconies with plush comfortable seating.  I spent a rainy afternoon up there catching up with some reading and writing.  It was so relaxing.  It was some much needed me time.

Lincoln Road Mall South Beach

After charging my batteries I was ready to hit the town for some fun.  Here are some suggestions for fun things to do.

South Beach Itinerary

August happens to be when Miami Spice takes place.  Fine restaurants around town offer three course meals featuring signature dishes created by world renowned chefs.  I was in the mood for Mexican food so I headed to Lincoln Road Mall.

Stroll along Lincoln mall which built in 1912 as a sophisticated retail spot is also one of the county’s first outdoor malls.  Today you will find casual restaurants, fine dining, high end designers, book stores, bars, theater and a Star Bucks on every corner.  There are art galleries and artist studios which open up for tours, movie theaters, street vendors and all types of street performers.  You can spend hours here.  I suggest having a seat, it’s a great spot for people watching.  You never know what rich and famous person you might bump into.

Head to the beach.  It usually rains in the afternoon during Florida summers.  I recommend heading out early.  I was able to beat the rain on Sunday and enjoy some beach time.  This beach has vendors for just about everything including snacks.  Be sure to get a peek of the famous lifeguard stands.  No two are alike.

Walk down Ocean Drive and see many familiar historic art deco hotels.  This street appears in numerous films and television shows.  There are lots of places to pick up souvenirs.

espanola way

Visit Espanola Way an often overlooked bohemian spot for shopping, dining and art galleries.  The area was modeled after the Mediterranean villages of Spain and France and was originally built as a meeting place by Miami Beach’s wealthiest citizens.  It’s very pretty at night it’s lit up by strings of light bulbs.

If you like music check out the New World Symphony schedule.  Some performances are projected on the buildings huge wall facing the park.  On certain nights they present free outdoor movie screenings.

Visit the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater for live entertainment, concerts, comedy tours and private events.

If you love to dance some of Miami’s most famous nightclubs are on Washington Avenue, Collins and Ocean Drive.

All of these activities are within walking distance of the Courtyard Marriott Miami Beach South Beach.  You can find more things to do, news and deals by reading my specially curated Florida twitter list.

If you are traveling to Florida check out Marriott hotel deal click here.

Enter the promotional code SUM into the Corporate/Promotional code box when making your online reservation, or call 1-800-228-9290 in the US and ask for promotional code SUM.  The code is valid until October 5, 2014.

Don’t wait head on over and make your reservations today.

Sponsored post opinions mine

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What to Pack in Your Carry On Bag

Most airlines allow for two carry on bags.  One which can be stored under your seat and a larger one to be stored in the overhead compartment.  Check your airline for their particular size and weight requirements ahead of time.

Make sure your bag is comfortable.  I like using a backpack because it distributes the weight evenly and is much more comfortable to carry.  I choose one with lots of pockets to keep certain things separate.  I don’t want my sunglasses getting scratched.

carry on bag
High Sierra A.T. Gear Ultimate Access 21″ Carry-On Wheeled Backpack Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack,   Travelpro Luggage Crew 9 Business Backpack, Kaukko Vintage Canvas Travel Bag

The first thing I pack are my toiletries.  By now you’ve read the article that went viral where airline staff admitted to how dirty the planes are.  Make sure to have wipes to wipe down the armrest, tray and anything else you’ll be touching.  Do not drink the water.  Not even for coffee or tea.  And do not even wash your hands with it.  Use wipes or hand sanitizer until you arrive at your destination.

Here’s the list of things I pack into my personal carry on bag.

inside my carry on bag
Lenovo Laptop,  Canon Digital SLR Camera, Kindle Fire, Sunglasses Black FrameCashmere Pashmina Solid Scarf, Estee Lauder 7 pcs Skin Care and Makeup Collection Gift setHealthy Snacks,  CHANEL Eyeglasses, Earclip Headphones,  Luckies of London Travelogue Travel Journal, Swarovski Crystalline Ballpoint Pen, AB Earth Genuine Leather Chocolate Hiking Backpack Travel Bag,

Tissue / Lip balm /Hand sanitizer /Toothbrush & toothpaste /Face wipes /Deodorant

Brush / Headband / Hairclips / Makeup /Medications / Small first aid kit

Snacks / Gum

Granola bars / Trail Mix / Apple / Sandwich / Nuts / Cheese &  Crackers / Small Cereal Boxes / Snack Mix

Sunglasses / Reading glasses

Scarf can also double as blanket / Jacket / Sweater/ An extra outfit including underwear

Extra zip bags / small umbrella /Phone chargers / Headphones

DVD player / Laptop /Games /Small journal /Pens / Pencils / Books / Magazines

Camera / Kindle

Do you have any tips for me?  Is there anything else I should take?

 

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate I receive a small commission when purchases are made via the links.  Please use the links.

 

This post was originally written by Letty Rodriguez who blogs at Bella Vida by Letty.  She can also be found on Twitter at @BellaVidaLetty

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3 Streets Not to Miss in New Orleans French Quarter

Royal Street French Quarte

I love New Orleans.  It is one place I will definitely visit again.  I had the best time there.  The French Quarter is one place not to miss.  There is so much to see and do here.

The first time I visited the French Quarter was an early August morning.  I jumped onto a street car which dropped me off on Canal Street.  I crossed it to enter the French Quarter via Royal Street, one of the oldest streets in the city.  As a walked a noisy street cleaner drove by leaving soap trails up and down the streets.  You’ll find out why at the end of this post.

The first thing you notice is how old the city is.  The old Spanish style has been well preserved.  It’s a great place to notice the architecture.  The front facade of the Hotel Monteleone is quite exquisite with its intricate details.  Massive and grandiose true to Beaux Arts architecture you will see symmetry and elaborate ornamentation.

Royal Street French Quarter

Royal Street is a great place to shop.  On this street you will find many antique shops to browse through and inspire you.  I know seeing the antiques sparked my imagination and made me wonder what the French Quarter was like long ago.  It’s a great street where art lovers can get a glance of local artists in the many art galleries.

Also on Royal Street is Cafe Beignet where we had the most delicious Cajun style breakfast.  It’s a small place with great food.  If you get the chance you can sit outside.  More often than not you will get a street performance.

Cafe Beignet  French Quarter New Orleans

If you want to experience New Orleans French Quarter you must visit Frenchmen Street at night.  There is nothing like live music on a pleasant evening.  This is where the locals come out to party and enjoy authentic local jazz bands and performers.  We spent the night hopping the bars and nightclubs.  A few places not to miss on Frenchmen Street are: The Spotted Cat, Cafe Negril and The Maison.

Frenchmen Street French Quarter

Frenchmen Street is where you will find many Creole cottages and townhouses.  A great place to enjoy the architecture of the 17th and 18th century.  The streets in this part of the city curve sharply due to the nearby Mississippi River and branch out in orderly triangular patterns.

Finally the one street in the French Quarter you must not miss is the famous Bourbon Street.  Yes, I know it’s touristy, gaudy, wild and loose.  The later it gets the higher the piles of garbage forming in the gutter lining both sides of the street, etc.  There is so much garbage the city has to clean it up and wash it down each and every morning.  It is NOLA.  The street is lined with bars and strip clubs.  This is where you will find most tourists getting their party on.  I had to see it with my own eyes.  As a matter of fact it is where I had my first taste of absinthe.  I couldn’t have picked a better place.  It was at the Old Absinthe House, a bar that’s over 200 years old.  It looks and smells like it too.

corner french quarter

Have you been down these streets in NOLA?

 

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One of My Secrets for Great Tasting Food: Basic Sofrito Recipe

Sofrito Recipe

Here’s my secret to great tasting food.  There’s nothing that will infuse your dish with flavors that will pop in your mouth more than freshly cut herbs and vegetables.  This is a traditional Puerto Rican recipe handed down in my family called sofrito.  I use this to season foods.  It is the base ingredient for many Puerto Rican dishes.  When I cook my meals are infused with loads of flavor, lots of nutrition and loving intentions.  This is my basic sofrito recipe.

What is Sofrito?

Sofrito is a mix of vegetables and herbs which is a seasoning used to give a certain flavor, aroma and taste.

What can I add sofrito to?

Just about anything:

– Chicken, meats and fish

– Seafood                                  -Pork

– Rice                                         – Beans

– Tortilla Espanola               – Frittata

– Stew                                         – Soups

– Eggs                                         – Tacos

This is my basic sofrito recipe.

1 large bunch of cilantro

3 leaves of culantro

1 clove garlic

1/2 a sweet onion

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Place the cilantro, culantro, onions and garlic in food processor and process until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the olive oil until smooth.

Super Easy Cooking Tip

If you roast the vegetables before chopping them, your sofrito will taste even better.

Super Easy Time Saving Tip

The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  A super easy time saving tip is to freeze it for later use.  You can use an ice tray just remember to cover it so it doesn’t get yucky freezer burn.  Then you can pop them out and place them into a plastic zip lock bag.  So the next time you go to cook you have saved yourself the time of preparing these steps.

Like I said this is my own version of a basic sofrito mix and depending on what I’m using it for I will add more vegetables.  For more ideas here’s a list of fresh ingredients you can add to your sofrito:

Keep calm and just add sofrito

There are many varieties of sofrito.  Do you have a particular favorite?

Did you try the recipe? Tell me what you think.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” W.C. Fields

“Beauty fades, but cooking is eternal.” Cassandra Clare

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”  Julia Child

Posted in Entertaining, Puerto Rico

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How I Travel ~ My Travel Style

my travel style keywords

Several months ago I sold the house our family has lived in for the past fifteen years.  It was a stressful life changing event.  I’m not saying it was all bad because it truly wasn’t.  The move was a natural part of life where I experienced personal growth and development.  One life changing lesson in particular was when I realized that I do not want to place importance on objects anymore.  Instead I am shifting my values and placing importance on having experiences rather than accumulating a pile of ‘things.’  I ended up tossing and donating more than half of what we had.  Not everything of course.  I did keep many sentimental trinkets neatly put away in storage but now I’m not hauling around things I haven’t used in years. 

The move prompted me to question and think about what was important to me; how I wanted to live and what I wanted to do.  As a creative I can work anywhere and something our family has been wanting to do is travel more.  We don’t see traveling as a luxury but a natural way to learn about our world and ourselves.  I am curious about people and places.  My passions are to photograph, write about and document my adventures.  I want to share the beauty I find with others through Bella Vida by Letty to pass on my knowledge and my joy.

My Personality

The first thing I did even before securing our new home was plan a trip to NOLA.  It was a blast and I am compiling all of the posts and turning them into an ebook coming very soon.

When I travel it’s usually for a long weekend so I try to have as much fun as I can pack into these short trips.  This means I do a lot of research about the place beforehand and try to have a few back up things to do in case something doesn’t work out.  I’m passionate about writing and photography and love sharing the best of my travels on this site.  For me these are wonderful reminders of how beautiful life can be.

I do a lot of heavy research before my trips.  First, because I’m grown and I don’t want to waste my time or money.  Second, I want to have the most amazing fun time with the resources I do have.  Mainly I just like to be comfortable.  I don’t like large crowds or waiting in long lines so I find the best times to visit.  I love being among nature but I’m not a daredevil.  I find more thrill in discovering a new shade of blue waters than jumping off a cliff.  I’m a very curious person.  I love learning about the people who have built the city I’m visiting, what they did and what they were like.  I love hearing new accents and the local slang.  I like to learn about the culture and lifestyle of the locals.

Where to Stay

I am very picky about where to sleep.  When I’m deciding on a place I look for a safe area, very clean and quiet location.  I plan as many activities as I can during the day so I really like to relax, get a great night’s sleep and recharge for the next days adventure.

What to Do

I’m interested in experiencing the place as visit as the locals do.  I want to see the architecture, parks and museums.  I want to hear all the historical gossip about the local founders.  I want to see what they are proud of and learn why.  Since I’m into photography I’d rather be outdoors so I tend to visit lots of State parks as well as gardens.

What is your travel style?

I live in the very beautiful large state of Florida and do a ton of road trips.  If you need any tips or advice please feel free to ask.  I love to share.

I will leave you with my travel style keywords:  Easy, cozy, enjoyable, relaxed, satisfying, amusing, delightful, entertaining, fun, delicious, new, gratifying, adventure, fascinating, inspiring, impressive, engaging, beautiful, captivating

Posted in Inspiration, Travel

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Cities of the Dead ~ New Orleans Cemeteries

St. Louis Cemetery Number One

It takes one year for human remains to decompose in the above ground tombs of New Orleans cemeteries.  These vaults are an example of Spanish influence on the city.  Before then citizens tried various methods of interring the deceased but nothing worked because the city built on a swamp is prone to flash floods.  Flooding would cause buried coffins to pop out of the ground and float into the streets of the city.  Not good.  New Orleans cemeteries adapted to this method creating a unique series of tombs and vaults which look like miniature cities, cities of the dead.

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

New Orleans is a great example of a city which celebrates its cultural heritage by preserving its past.  Gone but certainly not forgotten.  There are no less than 42 cemeteries in the metropolitan New Orleans area.  Many remain highly visited tourist attractions.  The largest cemetery is Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery but the most famous is St. Louis Cemetery Number One, the burial place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.  During her life she was revered for her legendary voodoo powers and remains so to this day.

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

Her grave is encircled with gift offerings from believers and non believers making the pilgrimage to visit her tomb in exchange for blessings.  A cluttered pile of odd offerings at the foot of the grave the day I visited consisted of feathers, gum, dolls, beads, flowers and even booze.  I’m imagining some arrived ill prepared and just left whatever they had on them.  The markings you see on the tomb are little x’s but our tour guide discouraged it seeing it as vandalism.  He suggested to knock three times on the tomb instead.  Somehow I just knew I would receive a response if I did.  I didn’t want to bring anything back home with me other than these wonderful photos so I did not knock.

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

The St. Louis Number One is the oldest continuously operating cemetery in New Orleans.  The tombs and vaults range in both size, condition and decor from concrete to brick or wrapped in wrought iron.  The largest belong to the wealthiest or are community vaults designed to share the cost of maintenance.  On its outer walls the cemetery has vaults available for rent to help out those who can’t afford a tomb.  A few world famous buried there are chess champion Paul Morphy, activist Homer Plessy, the family of impressionist artist Edgar Degas.  Actor Nicolas Cage’s pyramid shaped tomb also draws big crowds.

 St. Louis Cemetery Number One

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

Visiting NOLA Cemetery Tips

– Take a tour.  You will learn so much about the city’s rich history rather than looking at a bunch of names on graves you’ve never heard of.  I did the New Orleans Voodoo Cemetery tour which contributes a portion of its proceeds to maintain the site.

– Go in a group.  Some of the cemeteries are in worse shape than others and you may run into a dead end and get lost.  It was also recommended to me because there have been instances of muggings in the more solitary locations.

– Take an umbrella.  It gets really really really hot especially during the summertime months.  An umbrella will help shield you from the bright sun.

– Bring water.  When I was exiting the cemetery I bumped into someone selling water bottles in front of the cemetery but he was not there when I arrived.  There are no fountains and it gets extremely hot when the sunlight reflects off the vaults.

– Plan accordingly.  Not everyone can handle walking in the sun during hot weather.  There were a few people who left our tour early because they were not prepared nor used to extreme heat.

Have you visited a NOLA cemetery?

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

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Posted in Photography, Travel

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Where to Stay in the Garden District of New Orleans: The Hubbard Mansion Bed & Breakfast

Hubbard Mansion Collage Garden District New Orleans

On my first trip to New Orleans, I chose wisely and stayed in the gorgeous Garden District.  Wealthy families set up genteel households beginning in the early 1800’s in this now historic area.  This picturesque neighborhood features mansion lined streets protected and kept cool by giant leafy live oaks where you’ll find beads hanging from their branches leftover from previous celebrations.  Row after row of architectural beauties in altering styles of Greek revival or Victorian elegance.  Some are very old, some are renovated while others are completely new, each one special in their own unique way.  The Garden District is a feast for the senses. You’ll find a new delight on every block whether it be an interesting architectural detail or the fragrance emanating from a colorful well manicured garden.

The drive up to New Orleans from Florida took longer than planned.  Even at night, the Hubbard Mansion bed and breakfast was very easy to find since it’s located on one of the Garden Districts main streets, St. Charles Avenue.  Arriving late in the evening just beyond the wrought iron gates we were welcomed by the soft glow of vintage lamps reflecting off extravagantly large columns of this Greek revival mansion.  The familiar southern song of cicadas rose and fell as we made our way up to the spacious front porch furnished with white wicker rattan tables and chairs.  The perfect place to sip a cool sweet drink, take in the breeze and watch the streetcars go by.

Exhausted from the heat and the long drive I was looking forward to some southern comfort.  Entering through the white double doors was like taking a trip back in time.  Every piece of antique furniture and accessory hand selected to make you feel like you are living in a different time period.  The best part is not having to give up modern amenities because the soothing coolness of the air conditioning was exactly what I needed.  From the chandeliers to the brightly colored area rug, it’s an accurate representation of the elegant lifestyle of well to do New Orleans households of the past.

This grand mansion features five majestic suites for guests.  I felt like royalty staying in the high ceilinged Henry II suite furnished with period pieces, a marble top dresser and gorgeous triple bevel mirrored armoire.  It was the attention to detail like the rose shaped pillow on the Victorian chair that made me feel as though I was visiting a friend’s home.  I had a restful night’s sleep in a luxurious period king sized bed after freshening up in the extra large Jacuzzi tub.

The next morning I was able to catch up on some writing sitting at a wonderful Victorian desk cleverly positioned to receive the best lighting in front of the seven foot window overlooking St. Charles Avenue.  It was very peaceful.  The birds sang, joggers and streetcars passed me by as I typed away.  The bed and breakfast provides wifi allowing me to catch up with my email which can quickly get out of control if I don’t.  Very convenient if you have to work during your travels.

During the day I enjoyed the many details of Hubbard Mansion and found myself making up stories as to what it would have been like to visit during the 1800’s.  This Greek Revival is a newly built replica of a Natchez Mississippi Mansion and is kept in pristine condition.  Every room is filled with curious Victorian antiques, an old radio, a lovely tea set, large fancy  dining room and so on.  There were several hand carved Victorian settee sofas where one could read, gather or daydream.

One of the famous New Orleans streetcar stops is literally across the street.  Taking advantage of the off street parking the bed and breakfast offers allowed me to explore the rest of New Orleans at my leisure.  It was a real convenience.  I recommend taking the streetcar and also walking to get a close up look of the beautiful neighborhood.  There are restaurants a block away in either direction and the grocery store and gas station are just one streetcar stop away if you need supplies.

After my days of exploring in the heat, hustle and bustle of New Orleans the bed and breakfast provided clean comfortable sanctuary where I could recharge for the next adventure.  It’s the reason I wanted to stay in the Garden District.

Hubbard Mansion Postcard NOLA

Have you been to the Garden District?  If you’re looking for a clean, comfortable elegant place to stay during your visit I recommend the Hubbard Mansion bed and breakfast.  When you go be sure to tell your hosts, Don and Shelia Hubbard I said hello.

 

This is a sponsored post. Opinions are mine.

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Exploring the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana

French Quarter Royal Street New Orleans Collage

When visiting New Orleans a trip to the French Quarter is an absolute must.  Stretching from the Mississippi River toward Esplande Avenue and Canal Street up to Rampart Street, the neighborhood is a feast for the eyes and bursting with things to do.  Precisely because there is so much to do and so many interesting facts to learn I recommend taking a tour from one of the locals.  Tours are numerous and are designed to entertain just about every taste.  I did the cemetery Voodoo tour of which a portion of the proceeds goes back into the community to assist in preservation efforts.  That tour was so fun I have to write up a separate post to tell you all about it.

French Quarter Streets Collage NOLA

Leaving our bed and breakfast in the Garden District we took a short ride down St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street in one of the city’s famous streetcars.  For a three dollar day pass you can hop on and off as much as you like.  They are a reliable source of transportation scheduled nine minutes apart.   It was a short walk to Cafe Beignet on Royal Street where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of Cajun hash browns and coffee.   I love to eat and everyone I spoke with told me there was no bad food in NOLA.  They were not lying.  The people of New Orleans are super friendly and treated us well.  After breakfast we window shopped along the antique shop lined street and took in the architecture.

French Quarter architecture Collage NOLA

Founded in 1718 the French Quarter is New Orleans oldest neighborhood.   It was French Canadian, Sieur de Bienville, who came upon this crescent of the Mississippi River deemed safe from tidal surges and hurricanes.  Under his governorship New Orleans, which he named in honor of the Prince Regent of France, became the capital of French Louisiana and this its center.  Today the district is a National Historical Landmark containing numerous historical buildings.  Most of the surviving French Quarter architecture was built during the forty year of Spanish rule which we can see today expressed in colorful pastel walls and elaborately decorated ironwork balconies.  They stand today in part because the Spanish had stricter building codes and eliminated flammable materials like wood.

Jackson Square French Quarter New Orleans  Collage

Our trip coincided with the Red Dress Run, the biggest little red dress event in the world so everywhere we looked there were men and women in sexy red dresses.  The event is held the second Saturday of every August and is sponsored by the New Orleans Hash House Harriers, a social club of self proclaimed drinkers with running problems.  They spilled out of beautiful Louis Armstrong park and onto the streets of the French Quarter in a festive mood.  There was music and drinking going just as you would expect to happen after midnight at ten in the morning.  I must admit, their energy along with the very friendly people of NOLA had me in a such a great mood, the sweltering August heat had no chance of ruining my day.

After our Voodoo Cemetery tour we headed to Riverwalk in search of something cold to drink.  We ended up having a late lunch of scrumptious jambalaya partnered with a cold fruity drink called a Cherry Blossom at River’s Edge.  Following lunch we strolled past local artists displaying their latest works of art along the beautifully manicured landscaping of Jackson Square.  The main attraction is sculptor Clark Mills’s grand statue of Battle of New Orleans hero and U.S. President, Andrew Jackson.  The square is surrounded by historical landmarks like the old St. Louis Cathedral, the Louisiana State museum and the oldest apartment buildings in the United States.

corner french quarter

We then headed back to our quiet, clean and comfortable room in an elegant Greek Revival mansion for a long nap so we could party all night long on infamous Bourbon Street.  Do not miss visiting Bourbon Street, no matter how crowded and obnoxious, it was entertaining to say the least.  I couldn’t think of a better place for my first taste of absinthe than at the Old Absinthe House Bar.  Absinthe reminds me of the anise flavored Columbian drink, aguardiente.  I sipped it slowly so I was all good.  This bar is almost 200 years old and looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in at least 100 and the bathroom at least 300.  I guess the interesting characters that came in and out that night kind of made up for it.  People of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities having a great time together.

You know how I really like to dig in and explore the city.  I had to go back to the French Quarter one more time to visit more than the tourist scene on Bourbon Street.  I had to experience the local jazz music scene for myself.  On my last night we had a blast bar hopping on Frenchman Street.  None of the places had cover charges.  In between stops we ran into an open air art market to inspire my creative side. Every place I visited that night had live music and every single band was great.  Non stop dancing hula hoop girl can attest to that.  We hit up The Spotted Cat, Club Negril and Maison to name a few.  The atmosphere was festive and lots of people were dancing.

horse tie french quarter

I have wonderful memories of the French Quarter and I’m sure I’ll go back one day.

Have you been to the French Quarter?  What are your recommendations?

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“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.”   Mark Twain

“I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy 
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.”  Langston Hughes

“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. 
It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard. 
I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.”   Anne Rice

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