3 Days in New Orleans

travel - plantation

Dabble’s Perfect New Orleans Itinerary

Day 1

MORNING If you’re staying at Soniat House or the Ritz-Carlton, breakfast is covered. Otherwise, head to the French Quarter and order a chocolate filled or straight up croissant from Croissant D’Or Patisserie. This will surely give you the fuel required to explore and shop the Quarter for the rest of the day. 617 Ursulines Avenue. (504) 524-4663

NOON The courtyard at Cafe Amelie is a perfect spot to lunch before continuing to prowl the Quarter. Once fortified, take a tour of Hermann-Grima house with its 19th century charm. Next, head to the French Market for souvenirs and end the afternoon with the best margarita in the world (yes, the world) at El Gato Negro.

EVENING Taking the streetcar to Upperline is a trip highlight. Getting a warm greeting from the owner makes you feel like a local and a VIP.

Day 2

MORNING Work up an appetite with a 40 minute stroll from the French Quarter to Magazine Street. Once there, breakfast is guilt-free, so stop at the first bakery. Or, cab it to Velvet and indulge in a Spanish latte and a tea cake (aka mini-cupcake). Either way, use the street-by-street guide (above) and shop ’til you drop. 5637 Magazine Street. (504) 450-2129

NOON Sure, it’s a few blocks off Magazine Street but no obstacle is too great for a chance to eat at Atchafalaya. If fried green tomatoes sound intriguing, this is the place to try them. Don’t linger if you plan to see Lafayette Cemetery (in nearby Garden District) as it closes by 3:00 pm.

AFTERNOON There’s more Magazine Street to explore and once that’s finished, stroll the adjacent Garden District with its antebellum homes and star appeal.

EVENING Fish lovers should try GW Fins and pork lovers, Cochon. Either way, end the evening with the joyful music coming from Frenchman Street.

Day 3

MORNING Decision time…is it a day-trip to Oak Alley Plantation or a wander through the National WWII Museum? Oh heck, try to fit them both in. You can rest when you’re back home. Head to the plantation first, then take a cab to the museum and start the tour with lunch in one of the on-site restaurants.

EVENING Finish the New Orleans culinary tour with dinner at Louisiana Bistro. The inventive menu changes frequently. Post dinner, take one last stroll through the French Quarter and Bourbon Street if you’re so inclined.

Where to Stay in Quebec City

Quebec City Fairmont

Experience the old world feel of the city by staying at the Fairmont Le Château Fontenac (ABOVE) which dates to 1893. Québec City is a walking city; after a comfortable night’s sleep you’ll wake up feeling like a king or queen.

Dabble Savvy: While most of the views are lovely, the best is from the Princess Grace of Monaco Suite (Rooms 1401-02).

Québec City is loaded with history, but you’ll enjoy the contrast of a contemporary hotel stay with Hotel Le Germain-Dominion. Custom headboards sport digitalized photography that captures the city’s best architecture.

For many, the Auberge St. Antoine is the best hotel in Canada. From the outside, the unimposing building is deceiving, but enter the lobby and the crackling fireplace wins you over. Upon closer inspection, crisp white walls are an ideal backdrop to historic artefacts housed behind thick glass. The best of old and new Québec.

New Orleans Travel Guide

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New Orleans is a haunted place. However, it isn’t inhabited by ghosts and vampires as popular tours would have us believe. Instead, it’s steeped in a history so rich and vast the present pulses with it. a0 Dabble walked NOLA’s celebrated streets, met its unique characters and discovered its historic and modern charms. Oh… and to had a little fun too.

Where to Stay

Soniat House: Staying at Soniat House is a bit like spending the week with your favourite great aunt. Provided she has fine European antique furnishings, a private courtyard and bubbling fountain and wakes you from a blissful sleep with homemade biscuits. Divine. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570

Hotel Ritz-Carlton: First class is the only style available at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton. If you’re due for a splurge, add club level service to your bill and enjoy an open bar throughout the day, excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner bites and an attentive concierge staff. As you step off the fourth floor elevator there’s even a cookie bar. Heaven. 921 Canal Street. (504) 524-1331

W Hotel: Worldwide, the W Hotel caters to a youthful fashionista set. In New Orleans there are two locations to choose from. W Hotel New Orleans on Poydras is just a little removed from the Bourbon Street fray while the W New Orleans – French Quarter is right in the centre of activity. Both have swimming pools and a lively bar scene. 333 Poydras Street. (504) 525-9444 ~ 316 Chartres Street. (504) 581-1200

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Getting Around

Big Easy Scooter: For $60 a day, the adventurous can rent a Buddy 50 scooter in bright pink or another sorbet colour. Expect to get some envious stares while zipping through the French Quarter and Garden District. 3926 Magazine Street. (504) 269-6465

United Cab: For long treks, grab a cab. United uses only licensed drivers and provides the most reliable ride in town. (504) 522-9771

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What to Do

Honey Island Swamp Tours: Offers a two-hour boat tour that’s sure to satisfy the gator hunter in your family ($23 adults, $15 kids). Visitors to the Cypress River swamp learn about folklore, history and the ecology of the swamp and its inhabitants. 41490 Crawford Landing Road, Slidell. (985) 641-1769

National WWII Museum: History buff or not, a trip to the National WWII Museum is time well-spent. The museum is divided into two distinct sections: one focusing on the European effort and a second centred on the Pacific conflict. Beyond All Boundaries, a new film produced by Tom Hanks, shows daily on a 120-foot wide screen. On-site restaurants, American Sector and The Soda Shop, thrive under chef, John Besh. 945 Magazine Street. (504) 528-1944

Oak Alley Plantation: Historically, Oak Alley Plantation served as a sugar cane estate before the Civil War. Its antebellum (Latin for ‘before the war’) mansion is typical of other estates along the Mississippi River, taking its cue from French Creole and Caribbean plantation design. Though disappointing to learn the slave quarters are no longer there, its architectural and historical significance makes it a worthwhile visit. 3645 Highway 18. (225) 265-2151 Check out Plantation Adventures to book a tour. 1-866-671-8687

Horse-Drawn Carriage: Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter is a must. Choose a floral adorned mare and a chatty driver from the lineup outside Jackson Square. But wait for dark, when the ghost and voodoo stories seem eerily possible.

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Mardi Gras World: For a $20 admission, visitors to Mardi Gras World in the Warehouse District get up close and personal with enormous parade floats while learning how they’re made and what’s involved in this annual tradition. Lead by a knowledgeable docent, the tour begins with a brief video and a slice of king cake (traditional sweet bun with colourful icing). Fun for the whole family. 1380 Port of New Orleans Place. (504) 361-7821

French Market: Set beside the Mississippi River is the permanent location of the French Market, an ideal spot for souvenir shopping. If you love hot sauce, there’s a shop devoted to nothing but the spicy stuff. You’ll also find the feathered Mardi Gras masks for a lot less money than the same versions on Bourbon Street. 1008 North Peters Street. (504) 522-2621

Longue Vue: Quite possibly the best way to learn about interior design and architecture is through historic home tours. Be sure to visit Longue Vue, its Classical Revival home and garden setting a delicious way to peek into the past. 7 Bamboo Road. (504) 488-5488

Hermann-Grima: If you’re keen to step inside a 19th century French Quarter home, then put Hermann-Grima on your must-visit list. The horse stable and functional outdoor kitchen from 1830 are part of the reason it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. 820 Saint Louis Street. (504) 525-5661

Garden District: Stroll the Garden District to enjoy one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in the USA. Located north of Magazine Street. While there, take in the eerily exquisite Lafayette Cemetery. Save Our Cemeteries offers knowledgeable and respectful tours. (504) 525-3377

Shop the French Quarter: Sure Magazine Street has the largest selection of home design, but there’s still plenty to shop in the French Quarter. Nadine Blake is a tiny gem. 1036 Royal Street. (504) 529-4913 For antiques, Soniat House and Ann Koerner carry an impressive selection. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570; 4021 Magazine Street. (504) 899-2664

 

Santa Monica Travel Guide

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Smitten with sun, sand and surf? Then pack your bags and grab your sunscreen. Dabble’s team agrees, Santa Monica is a traveller’s triple threat: coastal chic, healthful eats and an urban beat.Santa Monica’s iconic pier is a colourful backdrop to the city’s liberal politics, healthful living and laid back beach style. We hit the streets, boardwalk and sand to discover what makes this urban beach town tick.

Stay

Picking a single hotel is difficult thanks to outstanding local choices. Ultimately, a design crush on Kelly Wearstler sways us towards the Viceroy Santa Monica with its eye-popping colour and near-beach location. The pool side cabanas are a perfect place to linger after a leisurely day shopping.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel offers a beach side seat near the fire place and a perfect ending to an LA day. The Huntley Penthouse bar gets an honorable mention for its great view and the fun atmosphere for a GNO (girls’ night out).

Shutters on the Beach is hand’s down the best lobby bar in all of LA. Relaxing on comfy sofas, listening to the house pianist and watching sun-dipped patrons is pure bliss. Although it’s a splurge to spend the night, seaside views are unparalleled.

Eat

Main Street has an easy-going vibe that makes a leisurely day wandering the shops feel like a vacation. Take a seat in the outdoor courtyard at The World Cafe and you’ll feel transported to somewhere exotic. Try the poached pear salad.

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day is off to a good start at Cora’s Coffee Shoppe. Sit under the bougainvillea canopy and order the orange pancakes. Huckleberry’s location on Wilshire is not nearly as picturesque, but there’s ample parking in back and the sauteed spinach and roasted potatoes with sunnyside up eggs are divine.

Two out of three dabble contributor’s agree, the Gruyere and spicy mayo burger from Father’s Office is the best they’ve ever eaten. The place is always jumping and you’ll have to share a table, but it’s a great night out. Just don’t ask for ketchup. They don’t have any.

If you’re on a budget, check out Veggie Grill and try the yummy sweet potato fries and vegan Bali Bliss, an Indonesian style tempeh, grilled with chipotle ranch sauce.

Shop

Wander off the main shopping streets and there is still more to see. Make sure to visit Fred Segal on Broadway with its over-the-top housewares section (celebrity spottings are practically guaranteed). On Ocean Avenue take a break from gazing at the ocean to shop at Carlyle Design, which is tucked behind garden gates. The furniture is large scale and nicely tailored without fussiness. They have a great selection of Indian and Turkish style coffee tables and enough small accessories that you’re sure to find something to squeeze into your suitcase.

Fresh fish rules at Santa Monica Seafood Company, a family-owned business since 1939. A retail space, oyster bar, indoor/outdoor cafe and over 70 varieties of fish on ice makes us giddy. Do park in the rear as empty meters are ticketed frequently.

See

Impressive doesn’t begin to describe the hilltop setting or extensive collections at the world famous Getty Center. Richard Meier’s architectural masterpiece is clad in cleft-cut travertine and features a curvilinear design that wanders through a variety of natural gardens. Admission is free but you do need to make a reservation.

Originally a stop on the now-defunct Red Line trolley, Bergamot Station is currently a groovy arts centre with 30 plus galleries, shops, a museum and cafe. Free general admission.

Do

Lining the walls at Salute Wine Bar, is a most unusual sight, an adult version of a soda fountain that dispenses — wait for it — wine samples. A prepaid card lets you choose from 40 different bottles. The martinis are mighty fine too.

The Santa Monica Pier ought to have a star on the walk of fame, it’s been in so many movies: Forrest Gump and The Sting to name two. And, did you know solar panels drive the eco-concious ferris wheel by day, and 160,000 LEDs light it up Hollywood-style by night?

Puerto Rico Travel Guide

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Spanish colonial architecture, a pulsing Latin beat and 580 kilometers of unspoiled coast- line have Kimberley Seldon saying, ‘Que Rico‘ to La Isla del Encanto. After all, they don’t call it the Island of Enchantment for nothing.

Opening my eyes just the tiniest bit, I let the bright sunlight sink into my brain slowly. ‘Right,’ I say to myself with a wee grin, ‘I’m in Puerto Rico.’ And just like that, I skip out on the end of winter in Toronto. ‘Well played,’ I think to myself.

Ramada, Ponce

Stay

The seaside setting of Ritz-Carlton San Juan Casino and Spa is unparalleled.

Casual boutique hotel, Hosteria del Marrents simply appointed beachside rooms. Its onsite Uvva Restaurantis good enough to return to nightly.

Chic and sophisticated nicely describes La Concha Resort. Splurge on an ocean or pool view. If you prefer to overnight in a setting that feels residential, Acacia Boutique Hotel is a charming choice.

A former convent from the 17th century, Hotel El Conventois ideally situated beside the Catedral de San Juan.

True luxury is what guests find at St Regis Bahia Beach Restort. Close to El Yunque National Forest, there’s an adjacent golf course as well.

In Ponce, you can stay at the bright yellow Ramada Ponce. However, golfers will prefer the green appeal of the nearby Hilton Golf and Casino.

Dining in Puerto Rico

Eat

St Germaine is the kind of casual cafe, where locals gather to linger over coffee and gossip. Come for lunch or brunch.

La Mallorca is a not-too-fancy local haunt for sweet buns and hot coffee.

Lusty describes the setting and menu at Dragonfly, Puerto Rico’s first Latin- Asian restaurant. Red walls, beaded curtains and fringed lamps are right out of Shanghai Surprise, but the food is memorable.

Tuna kebobs with cucumber slaw are a perfect match to chilled sangria at Torro del Salao Enjoy both in the lantern-lit courtyard patio.

In perfect harmony with the vibrant white and candy-hued interior, the menu at Marmalade is full of flavour. The white bean soup is muy popular.

Enjoy a rare and blissfully quiet dining experience at 311 Trois Once Cent. As the name suggests, the menu is French.

Foodies will rush to reserve a table at Fern, whose chef is world- renowned Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Order the pechuga relleno de queso blanca y guayaba, aka chicken stuffed with guava and cheese at Dulce Fruta Bistro y Cafe and thank us later. Yum.

Stories above Plaza de las Delicias (Ponce’s main square) is the modern interior of Archipielago. The food is a fusion of Creole and continental. The halibut with coconut rice and vegetable curry is exceptional.

Cueva Clara Cave

Do

Cueva Clara, the largest of the Camuy River Park caves, has visitors arriving early to see the spectacular site. Step onto the tram and journey down to the natural wonder.

If you’re travelling with children, a trip to Arecibo Lighthouse Park can extend the day’s adventures. The small theme park is well kept and its replicas of Columbus’ ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, remind you of all that history you learned back in school.Head to Puerto Rico’s Riviera, Luquillo Beach. This public beach is a crowd pleaser with dozens of the picturesque kiosks nearby so popular in Puerto Rico.

Adventurers will want to explore Puerto Rico’s other islands, Vieques and Culebra. Situated off the eastern shores, head to Fajardo and catch the ferry to either island.

Beach

A must see, the phosphorescence or bioluminescence generated by microscopic organisms (dinoflagellates) causes the water in La Parguera to glow with an eerie blue light whenever the surface is disturbed, an effect that is particularly powerful on moonless nights.The month of February is peak season for Humpback whale watching off the coast of Rincon.

Shopping for Panama hats in Puerto Rico

Shop

If you’re looking for Panama hats, hand-made cigars or folk art, then El Galpon is the place. Dabble Savvy: Above the Calle del Criston shop is an apartment to rent.

Handmade tote bags line the walls at Eco Eco.Owner, Angie Ortiz Rivera is on site and eager to serve.

The owners are rightfully proud of the original, contemporary Caribbean art on display at Galeria Exodo.

Board games are popular in Puerto Rico. At Kamel International Bazaar we found a chess set with nearly naked Ta ed no Indians squared off against the fully armed Spanish army. Not much of a match.

Old San Juan

Design Express

As it turns out, racking up rewards points is a breeze in Old San Juan. Flight, hotel and rental car garner double points, and I still earned a point for every dollar spent on shopping. In total, I earned 8,000 points on my trip to Puerto Rico simply by using my American Express Gold Rewards Card.

Nashville Travel Guide

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With its unique mix of small town charm and big city excitement, Nashville won the hearts (and eyes, ears, and taste buds) of our Dabble travellers.

We all have preconceptions of a city based on its place in history, its politics, the vast generalisation of its people, its traditions and pastimes, food and landscape. Nashville, Tennessee, our first Dabble Does destination, is one of those places that is rife with cliches and presumptions. Home of country twang, the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, southern cookin’ and Miley Cyrus. Music City. Cashville. Nash Vegas. The Buckle of the Bible Belt. The list of sobriquets goes on.

So when our three contributors: Nyla Free (design), Lena Diaz (food) and Eric Parker (travel), scoured the city to uncover its riches, its wealth and diversity surprised them. The eclectic mix of design and art turned Nyla into a shopaholic. Lena’s hunt for the city’s best fried chicken became a discovery of a cuisine tied to its roots but with flavours of the future. And Eric’s love of music opened our ears to a city offering more than just country.

Stay

Stand in the well-dressed lobby and watch case-carrying musicians check in at the fc bercool Hutton Hotel.

Rooms are comfortably sleek with gracious rain head showers and a hopping Nespresso machine on every floor.Union Station, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, is a luxuriously restored 19th century railway station with soaring ceilings and Tiffany-esque stained glass windows. The setting makes you want to dress in your Sunday best.

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Eat

No typical hamburger joint, Burger Up sports industrial chic decor, with mismatched cutlery and dishcloth napkins. Stylish plaid-wearing servers greet you with a smile while you mingle with locals in a community dining atmosphere. Try the fried pickles. Divine.

Locals claim Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is the best and I can’t disagree. A Nashville specialty, hot chicken is battered in buttermilk and cayenne pepper and then pan fried. Better have a beer beside you; when we say hot, we mean hot.

Order a Dark & Stormy (Rum, Lime, Cruzan Black Strap and Ginger Syrup) at prohibitionstyle bar, The Patterson House. To avoid weekend lineups arrive early.

If you can, try and spot the ever-moving Grilled Cheeserie Truck. Once you find it, let me know. I searched for days and never got to try the Brie, buttermilk cheddar, egg and bacon sandwich a friend said is to die for.

Enjoy a late morning coffee at popular brew-tiques like Crema. Celebrities blend in unassumingly; Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman like to hang out at Frothy Monkey and Taylor Swift is a Fido fan.

Do

Visit art galleries like Ovvio Arte, The Arts Company and Gallery One.

The oil painting seen here is by Veta Cicolello, owner Ovvio Arte.

Get to a honky-tonk where you’ll find freeflowing beer and Tennessee whiskey as well as the best live country music in the state. You might even spot a Nashville celeb like Reba McEntire or Tim McGraw.
Visit Nashville for the 2011 CMA Music Festival, June 9-12. It’s the ultimate country music experience. Get there any way you can.
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See

Take a drive to neighbouring Franklin, 30 minutes away, where the countryside reveals humble churches, antebellum homes and amiable design shops like The Iron Gate, Rebecca’s Furniture and Design and Franklin Antique Mall.

The first African American college, Fisk houses an impressive permanent collection in the Fisk University Galleries. In addition to Cezanne, Picasso, O’Keefe and Stieglitz you’ll find important African American artists like Aaron Douglas, whose murals adorn Cravath Hall walls.

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Buy

Vintage dishes, linen tea towels, graphic memo boards and a stunning selection of upscale handcrafts make Knobstoppers & Cake Vintage Table & Home a must visit.Get your hands on some locally produced Olive & Sinclair dark chocolate, available at most coffee shops. Try the Mexican style Cinn-Chily.The letterpress posters at Hatch Show Print are nearly as famous as the acts they’ve been advertising since 1879.

More on Nashville: Dabble does Nashville, Issue 1 Mar/Apr 2011.