NOLA: a food lover’s getaway

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When you are tasked to go to an event in New Orleans, say yes. Unless it’s flooding. Then donate the cost of your flight to the Red Cross and plan a teleconference instead.
If it’s not flooding, get ready to eat and drink way too much!

My trip to NOLA was very short. It was exactly 36 hours from the time I landed until the time I had to be back at the airport. I didn’t know I could fit so much into 36 hours. And now I’m thinking I can’t fit into my jeans after that 36 hours! But hey, it’s NOLA!

When you’re crunched for time, here are the things I did you might enjoy. Just remember, stay focused but have fun!
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Stay: for such a short trip, pay a few extra bucks and stay on canal street! I stayed at the Astor Crowne Plaza in the French Quarter. This hotel was perfect. Central, safe, clean, and the bell desk was awesome. I couldn’t check into my room when my flight got in so I was able to drop my bags and also leave then there in the morning while I did a few other fun activities before the airport.  The staff were super nice and put up with my multiple trips to my bags and questions about the city.

Transportation: Uber. Parking is nuts. An Uber ride is $33 from the airport to canal street. Once there, you can walk to just about everything(I did!). Plus, most hotels will charge for parking so it’s worth the Uber fare to the hotel. Not using Uber yet?  Sign up here and get a sweet discount!

imagePlay: I highly recommend taking a trip (or two!) to Cafe du Monde. Be a tourist.  Don’t forget your cash because Cafe du Monde is a cash based shop. No cards accepted. Get some beignets and a coffee (or iced coffee) and enjoy the most delicious fried dough and sugar combo you may ever have. Then walk it off. And keep waking. You will likely want more beignets in the morning!  Or at 2am and then you will thank someone from denying you of it then. You can walk along the Mississippi and in and out of shops (tip- the shops have a/c!) NOLA has a lot of history all throughout the city.
Take some sort of history tour. I always go straight for the food tours. Other tours that might interest you could be the river ferry tour or a swamp tour. I would have loved to do a swap tour but time was not on my side for that. Next time!

imageTaste of Nawlins: a walking food and history tour
Do it. This tour is really great. You’ll go to multiple restaurants trying things like jambalaya, gumbo, muffelatas and po boys. I was able to find a groupon for this so it was only $40. Drinks are not included but the waiters are happy to bring you a drink at any of the stops. Not on groupon?  Sign up here.
Check out the raw bar at the Bourbon House.  This is a fun place to talk to other business people who are eating dinner solo. Sit at the raw bar and order ostyers. Ask for a pearl too! You may get one! I made a great friend and met a couple who was from Jacksonville too. Small world!

Pat O’Briens: stop by here for a drink. Specifically a hurricane. It’s super sweet but full of alcohol. A lot of alcohol. Take your pic with the iconic glass and listen to live piano music. It’s a fun time! I didn’t want to go here by myself so I asked a couple from the Taste of Nawlins tour if they wanted to join and they did. We had a lot of laughs that’s for sure!

The Gumbo Shop: The best gumbo in NOLA. imageHands down. I repeat, hands down.  I stopped here for lunch before heading to the airport. The food really was awesome. The service even better. I got a shrimp creole salad which was so delicious and some other yummy sides.

Even though this trip was super short and I was travelling solo, I made the most of it.  I actually had more fun than I thought I would! I have a new appreciation for people who travel for work.  Travel is tiring but opens up the doors to so many new opportunities.  I loved trying a ton of new food and meeting new people.  Next destination?

The Danish Challenge: Prelude

 

IMG_4961A few years ago, I was in a book club and one of the books we read was The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.  Weiner travels the world to 10 different countries in search of the happiest places in the world. He seeks out a Dutch professor, Ruut Veenhoven, who runs the World Database of Happiness (WDH) in Rotterdam to examine his research. As I was going through the book this evening, I stopped at a few pages I had earmarked. One of these contained the findings that Weiner noted from Rotterdam (with the thoughts I had as I was reading): 

“Extroverts are happier than introverts (well at least they look it); optimists are happier than pessimists (duh); married people are happier than single people (well, that’s just great for me); though people with children are no happier than childless couples (? Maybe that’s due to a lack of sleep?); republicans are happier than democrats (ok one in my favor); people who attend religious services are happier than those who do not (amen!); people with college degrees are happier than those without (so my piece of paper includes happiness? Awesome!), though people with advanced degrees are less happy than those with just a BA (MAcc and CPA- nevermind I retract my previous statement); people with an active sex life are happier than those without (no comment); women and men are equally happy; though women have a wider emotional range (see, it’s not just me, this is fact people!); having an affair will make you happy but will not compensate for the massive loss of happiness that you will incur when your spouse finds out and leaves you (thanks Hollywood for proving this one); people are least happy when commuting to work (reason #1 for why I live 5 miles from work 🙌); busy people are happier than those with too little to do (ha! Maybe that’s because we are too busy to realize we could be relaxing on a beach with a book and fruity drink); wealthy people are happier than poor ones, but only slightly (thanks for the added clarification).

One of Wiener’s last comments in the book are “Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors and the woman you hardly notice who cleans your office. Happiness is not a noun or a verb. It’s a conjunction. Connective tissue.”  <– sometimes the happiest person I see all day is that lady who takes my office trash!  True Story.

I found this book intriguing yet obvious, funny yet insightful and now I want to travel.

IMG_4820Fast forward to this past weekend and I started a new book called The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. Russell is witty. I found myself laughing even in the intro and I wanted to read more. (Which is something I rarely say!) Russell shares  the journey of moving her life from London to Denmark because her husband (referred to as Lego Man) landed a job with Legoland and she spends one year committed to living a Danishly- I don’t quite know what that means yet, but I’m soon to find out!

So what does The Geography of Bliss and The Year of Living Danishly have in common? I thought you’d never ask! According to the WDH, Denmark is ranked #1 among 155 nations as having the highest level of “inequality adjusted happiest” which “is measured as a linear combination of the mean and the standard deviation of the distribution of happiness in a nation.” Essentially if everyone in the country was completely happy, the country could score 100. Denmark ranks #1. Take away the technical, mathematical calculation, and I’m pretty sure we can summarize it as the Danes are pretty happy.

Russell knew this as well and set out on a journey to uncover why the Danes are so happy and how she might in turn, become happier by living Danishly. What’s their secret and how happy do they consider themselves??

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Since I really have enjoy this book so far, and have an interest in Danish living, I’m going to embark on my own journey – to learn why and how Denmark is so happy and see if I can incorporate Danish living in the US.

I’m going to call this The Denmark Challenge. Each month I will read and study a new chapter in this book, learn and adapt. The book is broken into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year. I’ll share what I’ve learned and how I’m “living Danishly in America” My hope is that I leave this challenge with much more knowledge of Denmark (not going to lie- I wasn’t even exactly sure where it was on the map) and a full embrace of happiness, which might be the Danish way of happiness, but only time will tell.

I’ll leave each post with a few Facts About Denmark and Living Danishly that I’ve gathered so far in the book and other research. I hope you take this journey with me to “Living Danishly.”

IMG_4736Facts About Denmark

  1. Legoland is in Denmark (some of the hotel rooms are themed and built legos – oh to be child-like again – that must be the key to happiness?!)
  2. Denmark has 5.6 million people
  3. Denmark is a progressive society
  4. Danes tend to look a lot alike- tall blondes (great, just great – dying my hair will not, I repeat, will not make me happy – no year-long test needed for that one) 

Living Danishly

  1. Christian Bjornskov is Denmark’s happiness economist- look him up later
  2. “mere penge, mere problemer.” translate 
  3. They are happy because their high expectations are realistic
  4. More than 70% of Danes believe most people can be trusted – wow. Just wow.

 

PS – After writing this, I now have Bob Marley’s “Everything’s gonna be alright” in my head… okay – not sure what Denmark and Bob Marley have in common but these are nice tunes to jam to as I’m getting ready for bed.

god nat [gohNAT] (good night)

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a view of Nyhavn Copenhagen, Denmark

Napa: Running Swag & Wine Tastings

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This year’s annual girl’s trip lead us to Napa, CA for the Zooma Women’s Half on June 28th.  This was my second half marathon and second destination run.  Last year, I ran the Subaru Distance Classic Half in Jax on Thanksgiving Day and also a women’s 5k in Chicago!  Napa was the perfect girls destination weekend trip!  What’s more to love than great food, amazing wine and laughter with wonderful friends?  Oh maybe perfect weather… Napa had that too!

I took hundreds of pictures and have way too much to say about Napa and all that wouldn’t even do this city justice.  If you love wine, this place is definitely worth the trip!!  In fact, I don’t think you can do it all in one trip and I already have a list of places to see next time!  Napa is about a 1 – 1.5 hour drive outside San Francisco (if no traffic) but feels like it’s a completely different world.  The weather perfect… sunny, warm and low humidity ( <— according to my standards), the people are extremely nice (they drink all day) and calories don’t count!

So here’s a short recap of our weekend and my favorites of this trip!

napa-fume-bistroFirst things first… drink wine.  Eat lunch.  Check and check.  Right around the corner from our hotel, the Napa Winery Inn, was Fume Bistro, a delicious restaurant with great outside seating.  This place was great for late night cocktails, early lunch and everything in between!  We ended up eating here at least twice and brought our own bottle of wine the last night.

So the wine tours (and amazing food) planning process was well under way!

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The first night we  ate dinner at Il Posto, and let me just say, OH MY GOODNESS Italians sure do know how to cook.  The desserts…. well we couldn’t pick just one so we got three… My favorite, hands down, the affogato.  It just sounds Italian, right?! Affogato!  Affogato what I ate for dinner because this dessert was so delicious!

  •  Affogato – vanilla bean gelato, espresso
  •  Tiramisu – coffee, ladyfingers, mascarpone
  • Fiorello’s Sorbeto – strawberry

The next morning we got up super early (thank goodness for carb-loading the night before!) and ran a half marathon!

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This was the first time the  Zooma Women’s Half Marathon Race Series held a race in Napa, Ca.  Seriously, what’s more enticing to women than beautiful weather and wine!? I know, feeling super girly and fun with awesome women and awesome tutus from Tough Girl Tutus!  I love, love Tough Girl Tutus.  This was my first order from this company but I have since placed a second order.  The tutu really is fit for a runner and the colors are so much fun!  I emailed Tough Girl Tutus about shipping times and their response was super helpful.

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The course was beautiful so we thought, why not take a few snazzy pics?! I used my Jenny Collection Handy 10 water bottle during the full 13.1 miles!  This was a great size for the race and allowed me to hydrate with Gatorade between water stops.    I actually run with this often because I hate searching for fluids on runs, especially in Florida!

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After the race, I was feeling pretty tired but the thought of wine tours and more amazing food was enough to keep me going… and so we went!  Off to Yountville!  I would definitely stay in this little town within the Napa Valley.  It has great restaurants and many wine shops with tastings on the main street.

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Wine tasting…

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The last full day was even better!  We went on two tours of vineyards and both could not have been more different from each other.

napa-bell-windery-clone-6Bell Wine Cellars was stunning!  The grounds are beautiful and we even got to drink wine and play bocce ball on the lawn… how fancy can you get?!  I loved learning about the wine making processing and our tour-guide-tasting-teacher-master-wino-extraordinaire, Elise, made it such an enjoyable experience.  <— the wine might have helped a little too 🙂

 

Our next stop was a crazy-interesting-must-go-to-see-for-yourself winery.  Raymond Vineyards.  The wine was amazing, the atmosphere even better.  I don’t think I’m a wine connoisseur and nor can I comment on wine tasting other than my own preference but Napa wine is definitely top notch!

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I feel alittle wine-isticated (<— note to self, not a wino if you use that term!) after this trip and every glass I’ll remember, swirl and sniff!

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Not sure how the next girl’s trip can top this one, but I can’t wait to find out!  Any recommendations for destination races?