A hotel, a restaurant and an airline

I have three, no wait, FOUR, fantastic recommendations for you. I went to London the other weekend (no, not for the wedding, my invite must have been lost by the Spanish Post) and thoroughly enjoyed my hotel, found a great restaurant and a free product from the hotel which I recently ordered a larger bottle of their fabulous pillow spray.

Let’s start with the airline since I needed one of those to get to London in the first place. This was my first experience with Easy Jet and I was happily surprised at how smooth the transaction was with everything. I thought I had paid for my small suitcase to be carry-on but when I got to the gate she put a tag on it for me to check it when I boarded. In the end the plane wasn’t that busy so I was able to just keep it with me. With the return I did check it in London Gatwick and it was a super easy, do-it-yourself process. Plus the flight was pretty inexpensive and the flight attendants were some of the nicest I’ve experienced in quite awhile. Thanks Easy Jet! I will be a return customer.

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Okay, what do you want to hear about next? How about the hotel. I met Jeannie at the Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel. There wasn’t a single thing I can complain about. The staff was delightful, the hotel was modern and hip, the room was spacious and clean. It’s a 5 star boutique hotel located in the heart of bustling East London, just next to the Liverpool Tube Station. We used the Central and Circle Line for getting around and getting back but it also connects with the Hammersmith and the Metropolitan. Perfect for traveling cheap!

The rooms have free Wi-Fi, a free (non-alcoholic) daily stocked minibar and we were welcomed with a lovely bottle of Prosecco in the room when we checked in. And in the room they also had a free sample of REN & Now To Sleep Pillow Spray. It’s a soothing natural perfume, blending floral notes of lavender with deeply restful Frankincense, to relax both the body and mind. I loved it so much I just bought two larger bottles for my bedtime routine. I’ve been sleeping like a baby.

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You also have free access to the Health Club, where we really enjoyed the steam room. And the free apples for after you have sweated everything out. The last night we were a bit tired and decided to try their sushi restaurant. Try the saki sampler!

But the best thing and maybe it’s just me but the hotel serves complimentary (that means FREE to me) wine and canapes (one night it was small sushi rolls and the other some bread with paté) from 6 – 9 pm. It was lovely to come back from a long day of sightseeing and relax in the lounge area with a snack and a glass of wine. Or two. 🙂 FOR FREE Y’ALL.

And now what I know you’ve been waiting for – FOOD. The restaurant. It was fabulous. If you love Indian food you must go. Dishoom in Shoreditch (they also have a few more locations around London) was where I had the best Indian food of my life. It’s a big restaurant and they only take reservations for parties more than 6. So arrive a little early, put your name on the list and head over to the bar for a tipple or two while you wait for your table. I highly recommend the whiskey sour.

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Jeannie doesn’t eat foods with gluten and they had a large variety of items that she could eat. So feel free to eat your heart out. We shared the Crunchy Pomelo salad (with fresh kale, pink pomelo, pistachios, mint and coriander) and the okra fries (not gluten-free but Jeannie had a few). I haven’t had okra since my Oklahoma days! For the main dish I had the lamb Sheekh Kabab and Jeannie had the Chicken Tikki. It did not disappoint. They are also open for breakfast and the menu and teas look totes amazeballs. Just go already.

And I actually have one more rec for you. The good stuff just keeps on coming! If you do go to the Dishoom Shoreditch locatation and you feel like going out and dancing a bit, stop by Momento Lounge bar for some drinks and good tunes from the live DJ.

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And there you have it. Great times are made even greater with a good hotel, good food and good experiences.

But nothing compares to GREAT FRIENDS. And when you have this kind of happiness and fun together, it doesn’t really matter where you stay or what you eat.

Happy weekend y’all!!

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Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse

Top O’ The Morning To Ya! And Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Are you wearing your green?

On this lovely St. Patrick’s Day of 2018 I thought I would share my experience from Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse. What exactly is this you ask? It is a lovely brewery experience taking you through the history of Ireland’s most famous beer with seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped in the form of a pint of Guinness. The ground floor introduces the beer’s four ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast), and the brewery’s founder, Arthur Guinness.

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The journey continues up the rest of the seven floors explaining the history of beer with stories told through various interactive exhibition areas including ingredients, brewing, transport, cooperage, advertising and sponsorship.

The building in which the Storehouse is located was constructed in 1902 as a fermentation plant for the St. James’s Gate Brewery (where yeast is added to the brew). The building was the first multi-story steel-framed building to be constructed in Ireland. The building was used continuously as the fermentation plant of the Brewery until its closure in 1988, when a new fermentation plant was completed near the River Liffey.

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It’s located in the heart of the St. James’s Gate Brewery which I found completely adorable with it brick buildings and horses around every corner.

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We did the self tour which was perfect. And I really enjoyed learning more about the beer making process and what makes Guinness so special (pssst they have their own famous strain of yeast). Some pics fer ya laddies.

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But the big finale was the Gravity Bar at the top which you can only reach with a paid ticket to the Guinness Storehouse. The ticket does include a free pint of Guinness from the Gravity Bar. Not only do you get to enjoy a perfectly brewed glass of Guinness but you can drink it overlooking Dublin’s famous rooftops with a 360° views of Dublin’s magnificent skyline.

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Dublin is such a fun city! And the beer isn’t too shabby either. I like my Guinness with a touch of black currants. Go to the Guinness Storehouse for a new cold one this St. Patty’s Day! And don’t forget to drink responsibly. Sláinte!!

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Parc Güell ~ Barcelona

The first time I visited Barcelona, I was twenty-one years old with a mission to see as much of Europe as I could. I had bought a month long eurorail train ticket and was trying to visit as many European countries as humanly possible with not much money. Back then I only spent one day in Barcelona and it was a mix of seeing the Olympic Park at Montjuic Mountain (which I found a little boring) and checking out the Picasso Museum (amazing).

But the next time (and the next time and the next time) I returned to Barcelona I had a plan. I knew what I wanted to see, which was pretty much everything created by Gaudí – Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and Casa Battló. And all of these are so remarkable and beautiful that I must focus on each, one at a time. And first up is Parc Güell.

A little history for you – in 1890, the industrialist Eusebi Güell hired Antoni Gaudí to design the park which was originally planned to be a garden city with villas high above Barcelona in an area called Bare Mountain. It was inspired by the English garden city movement and its intent was to exploit the fresh air and enjoy expansive views of the city and the coast. There were sixty triangular lots available for luxury houses but nobody was interested. Only two homes were built on the land (neither by Gaudí), with Gaudí buying one of them and living there from 1906 to 1926, it is now the Gaudí House Museum.

By 1903 the two entrance pavilions had been constructed, as well as the main flight of steps, the shelter for horse-drawn carriages, the outer enclosure, the viaducts and part of the great esplanade, together with the water evacuation system.

The Dragon Stairway:

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The great entrance leads to the Hypostyle room, which was designed to be the market for the estate. It is made up of 86 striated columns inspired in the Doric order. The outermost ones slope in an undulating movement clearly contrary to the rules of classical composition, while reinforcing a perception of their structural role.

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Inside the room the absence of columns in some sections creates spaces that simulate three naves, like a great church. The ceiling is formed of small domes constructed using the traditional technique of clay bricks decorated with original tile-shard mosaics made by Josep M. Jujol, one of Gaudí’s assistants.

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My favorite area (and I think most people’s favorite) is the Greek Theatre but it has more recently been rechristened as Plaça de la Natura (Nature Square). Its original name was due to the fact that it was planned for staging large open-air shows that could be watched from the surrounding terraces. Although Gaudí always respected the lie of the land, this large square is artificial. Part of it is dug into the rock, while the other part is held up on top of the Hypostyle room. The focal point is the long bench in the form of a sea serpent and the views are breathtaking. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere.

This bench is world famous, even Salvador Dalí called the bench once the precursor of surrealism. And he has sat there!

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I mean seriously, check out the view.

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On the eastern side of the Greek Theatre square there is an original iron door which leads to where there used to be the gardens of Casa Larrard, the former mansion that Güell adopted as his own house, but which has been a school since 1931. The route, which runs at a level higher than that of the house, passes through a pine grove with the portico backing onto a retaining wall made from unworked stone. The portico adopts the shape of a great wave atop slanting columns, with a double colonnade that acts as a buttress. It is one of the finest examples of the organic architecture upheld by Gaudí.

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While the park is completely enchanting with all of its, let’s just say “stunningness”, my favorites are always the gorgeous mosaic tiles. Which a lot of were planned and designed not by Gaudí but by his often overlooked colaberator, Josep M. Jujol.

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And the best mosaic of them all, the dragon which guards the entrance to Park Güell – El Drac. A conduit running inside the Hypostyle toom collects the rainwater that filters down from the square, sending it to an underground tank, which uses the dragon’s mouth as its overflow. Genius, I tell you.

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There is a large area of the park that is open free to the public. But all of these areas to visit mentioned above you need to buy a ticket, adults are 7.50€ and children are 5.25€. I would advise to buy tickets online to bypass the long line that sometimes happens with the beautiful park.

I would love to hear about your experience at Parc Güell if you go or if you have been before. I find this such a magical place that it always draws me to it every time I am in the fabulous city of Barcelona.

 

 

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

The cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Have you been? They are breathtaking! So beautiful. We had just finished exploring the Ring of Kerry the day before and headed northwest to check them out the day before we had to head back home. Film buffs will recognize them as the cliffs of insanity from the movie The Princess Bride. (LOVE that movie. so good)

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The cliffs are one of Ireland’s most famous tourist destinations receiving over one million tourists every year. They’re in Clare county and located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region. The cliffs consist of mainly Namurian shale and sandstone and it’s possible to see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through at the base of the cliffs. 300 million years old? Wow.

I was really REALLY wanting to see a puffin. I think they are one of the cutest birds ever. Sadly, we didn’t see any (insert sad face) but maybe you’ll be luckier. If so, please send a picture.

You are free to walk along the cliffs. There aren’t any guard rails so if you have young children please make sure to watch them. I was astonished at so many people sitting on the edge with their feet dangling! It made my stomach drop a bit. Cuz you know, one slip and well, I’d think you’re a goner.

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The day was a bit hazy when we were there. But still gorgeous.

O’Brien’s Tower is located at the highest point of the cliffs. It was built in 1835 by Sir Cornellius O’Brien as an observation tower for Victorian tourists but is also rumored to have been built for a woman he was courting. On a clear day the view can extend as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of Clare and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. Looking north from O’Brien’s Tower on clear days, the Twelve Bens in Connemara, beyond Galway Bay can be seen, and typically the Aran Islands to the west.

The cliffs are a must see when in Ireland. Don’t forget to add them to your sightseeing list. I’m off to watch The Princess Bride again.

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Travel Wishlist

There are so many places I am dying to go. Here are my top 5 places I cannot wait to travel to, where are yours?

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JAPAN – Konnichiwa!! My first travel dream place is Japan. I picture myself walking through Japanese gardens dripping with cherry blossoms that gather at my feet, drinking rice wine and jamming out with my new Japanese friends at a karaoke in Tokyo. Did you see Lost In Translation? I had that movie on repeat for months. You will find me checking out the cool Japanese architecture, Mount Fuji and eating the freshest sushi ever.

 

iceland ICELAND – All I have seen about Iceland is how gorgeous it is. Amazing canyons, hot springs, black beaches, waterfalls and more waterfalls. And that Blue Lagoon that everyone Instagrams with clay on their face. It would be a road trip, which of course I love. In pictures it reminds me a lot of Norway. I would die to see the Northern Lights and would totally fall in love with a Puffin if I was able to find them.

 

 

portugal PORTUGAL. It is so close to me! I feel this might be the next one I actually get to visit. The others are at least a flight away while Portugal I could take the car on the ferry to mainland Spain and drive. Another road trip. I guess our family road trips from Oklahoma to Wisconsin or to Harlingen, TX drove me to love them (drove me – get it?) In Portugal I would drink port wine, explore the beautiful caves, visit a castle or two, snorkel in the Algarve and check out the forgotten temple. I’m getting excited just thinking about the possibility being there soon.

 

sa SOUTH AFRICA. My parents are planning on visiting South Africa for a month. And by golly I will be right there with them! I love traveling with my parents, we always have such a great time together. I’m not sure even a month will suffice, there is so much to see – Cape Town, a safari naturally, the amazing Blyde River Canyon, see the penguins on Boulder Beach, Victoria Falls and I’m sure soooo much more. I’m hoping this one is happening in the near future too. Maybe end of 2018?

 

 

The last one I’m struggling with because there are just way too many places I want to go! South Korea, Cuba, Hawaii, Greece, Turkey, Alaska, Australia but this one made it to number 5.

bali BALI, Indonesia – I want to live in a Bamboo house on one of their many sandy beaches and maybe just do that. But I won’t because there is just too many amazing things to see. I want to stand between the Lempuyang temple at sunset, play with the monkeys in the monkey forest, swing on the Ubud swing over the jungle, slide down the canal water slide. And so many jaw-dropping temples to gaze at for hours and hours.

 

 

 

 

A Weekend In New Orleans

SATURDAY

12:00  MEAUXBAR

You MUST hit this place for two hour unlimited mimosas (offered on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch). And I’m not talking about watered down mimosas that they bring to you. No Sireeee, you get fresh OJ and a bottle of champagne, plus some bitters, tinctures and um, shrubs (I asked about the shrubs but forgot what they said).

IMG_2162 So, you can add shrubs (whatever the heck those are), if you like greenery and want to be fancy. Ha. Okay, sorry. It was fabulous. The food is awesome too. Jeannie had the sweet potato hash and I had the petit dejeuner (the grits! the biscuit!).

The place is chic and the dinner menu looked superb as well.

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Meauxbar  –  942 N Rampart St, New Orleans   504.569.9979

2:30  We meandered around a bit in search of a cold brew coffee. And we ran into this funky camper covered in all kinds of stickers. Pretty fun. Not sure if it’s always parked on N Rampart St or it moves around. IMG_2185

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I promise, Jeannie really is happy. She’s just one cool chica.

We found our cold brew coffee! And headed back towards Bourbon St.

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3:30 Bourbon St to find the web cam

Back on Bourbon St. and it was packed with tourists with huge ass beers. Never saw one with a huge ass burger though. I couldn’t believe people were already drinking. I was only 3:30 in the afternoon! Oh, wait. Ahem.

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The day before we flew to NOLA, there was a hurricane building up and there was a chance it would hit New Orleans. Both of our airlines sent us messages about it and that we could change our flight. We decided to stick it out and thank goodness we did because it changed its path and we had no problems getting into New Orleans. BUT, I wanted ot check out the weather while here in Spain and I found this New Orleans web cam. And naturally it’s on Bourbon St. (it’s pretty entertaining to watch at all times) We were determined to find it and do a dance or something crazy. It’s on the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter. We found it, did our crazy dancing – did you see us? Go do it. Feel the web cam love.

4:00  St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, Café du Monde, some shopping on Decatur St. and finally a Bloody Mary.

Headed south on St. Peter to walk through Jackson Square on our way to Café Du Monde. A must stop for all people! Some great sites to see on the way.

The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the United States, built in 1718. I love cathedrals and this one is gorgeous.

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Jackson Square with of course – Mr. Jackson on a horse (not Michael). That would be Andrew Jackson, our seventh President of the United States. I wonder if this statue will be coming down? He was definitely on the side of favoring slavery and his role in Indian removal. Not what our country should idolize – even though I do understand that it is our history. So, shall it stay or shall it go? That is another blog post entirely.

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Alright, time for some chicory coffee and beignets at the famous Café du Monde. So YUM. The menu is quite simple: dark-roasted coffee with chicory (you can add milk for a café au lait), beignets, white and chocolate milk, hot chocolate, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. And the famous restaurant is open 24 -7, except for Christmas Day and when a hurricane gets too close for comfort.

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans

It’s a scrumdillyumptious as it looks. Now I want to go back immediately for more.

Café Du Monde    800 Decatur Street   504.525.4544

After getting extra caffeinated from our second coffee in a matter of an hourish, plus a nice sugar rush from the beignets we decided to do a little shopping on our way to get a Bloody Mary at Molly’s At The Market. Check out some of these hilarious finds. Decatur street is a fun street with stores, restaurants and for good ole people watching.

Some funny stuff found during our scouring of the stores.

Finally got to Molly’s at the Market for a Bloody Mary.

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7:00  Dinner at Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar

Time for some fried pickles and oysters. And don’t forget the Purple Haze.

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Usually there is a line to get in but it moves pretty fast. And there is not a single bad thing on the menu. My mouth is watering now for an oyster po-boy sandwich.

Felix’s Restaurant & Bar  

10:00   Taxi to Frenchmen St.

There is much more than just Bourbon St. for nightlife in NOLA. Frenchmen St. is pretty happening with lots of bars, music venues, buskers, etc. and here is where you will find the locals. Its more popular section is the two-block stretch in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Our favorite stops where Maison, a live music venue where there is always a good band playing and a busker where you could yell out a word and he word make up a rap to it. We were dying to be chosen and our word for him was going to be …… PLATYPUS. I think he could’ve come up with something good.

I also was almost killed by these women on this portable swing thing. What in the world?

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Busker dude, doin’ his thing. Platypus!!!!

And The Maison. Good tunes.

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SUNDAY

11:30   Brunch at Red Dog Diner

Nothing like hair of the dog to get your day started. And this was a good one. It’s like a salad with your drink.

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My reuben sandwich was really good (but I think the normal rye bread choice would have been better then their choice of focaccia, jeannnie warned me) but Jeannie’s dish was the best – Huevos Rancheros with a side of grits. I stole some of everything when she wasn’t looking.

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Red Dog Diner    3122 Magazine St.   504.934.3333

1:00 Shopping along Magazine St.

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This six-mile-long stretch from the Garden District to Uptown is full of antique stores, boutique shops, art galleries and craft shops. We had probably a bit too much fun in one antique shop where everything we found somewhat scary (think anything with clowns, dolls, and general weirdness) we would hand it to each other saying, “this is for you…” in a creepy voice. It was quite a large store and we found the jackpot near the end. An extremely freaky wicker thing with a baby face coming out of it. Hard to explain and I wouldn’t let Jeannie take a picture for fear it would haunt us forever.

Lots of hip boutiques and the coffee shop across from the Red Dog Diner had great cold brew coffee and free wi-fi.

3:00 Check out a cemetery.

Whether it’s the famous St. Louis Cemetery (voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is buried here plus many other famous New Orleans peeps) or just one you happen to walk by, there are many around, go do a walk around. There will most likely always be someone wanting to give you a tour, your choice, but I think either way I think it’s something to see when in NOLA.

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The above ground tombs are often referred to as “cities of the dead.” Burial plots are shallow in New Orleans because the water table is very high. Dig a few feet down, and the grave becomes soggy, filling with water. The casket will literally float. And nobody wants a floating casket.

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4:30 Garden District

Since we were already down by Magazine St. and had just checked out Lafayette Cemetery we decided to head up to St. Charles Ave and look at all the beautiful homes in the Garden District. You could make this into as long as you want, there are so many gorgeous places. I pretty much wanted to move into every house we saw. I loved the light blue upstairs patio ceiling on this one.

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7:00 Ghost Tour

You know there are ghosts in New Orleans. It’s one of the things they advertise! Ghosts, voodoo, fortune tellers and all that. And I love it all. I might have had to twist Jeannie’s arm to do a ghost tour because I guess it can be a bit cheesy but we did it. And it was so much fun. Plus we had a few ghost encounters on the tour. Are you a believer? Check out my blog post here for the whole scoop on the tour. But here was the place I found the creepiest of all. The Ursuline Convent. Oooohhhhooooooooghheeheh.

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9:30   Dinner at Coop’s Place

Back to Decatur St. for the best fried chicken in NOLA. I love the Zagat’s Guide description “Where the not-so-elite meet to eat”. It’s true. It’s a fun place with wooden bar tables and snarky waiters and a lot of fun and helluva good fried chicken.

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Coop’s Place  1109 Decatur St.

11:30   Fritzel’s European Jazz Club

Okay you guys, this place CANNOT be missed. They have amazing jazz bands here every night playing their heart out. I love listening to the trumpet, the bass, whatever instrument you want to play I am ready to listen. This was our perfect last stop for our fun-filled weekend. It’s the coolest place on Bourbon St. Want to hear the man sing? Click here. Man he is good!

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Fritzel’s   733 Bourbon St.    504.586.4800

Monday morning we hung out at the pool at our hotel – The Roosevelt (nice place! ask for a room higher than the 10th floor for some sort of view). We grabbed a taxi to get a Muffuletta from Central Grocery which is another must during your NOLA trip. You can thank me later. And then sadly our NOLA trip was over and we had to head to the airport.

New Orleans has so much energy and so many things to see and do and drink. Until next trip my friends! I hope you enjoyed the post and places to see as much as I did. xo