Category Archives: places I remember

Follow Your NOLA (a love letter to New Orleans in pictures)

Follow Your NOLA

For some, there are places in this world that call to them even if they’ve never been. I’d always thought that was the truest definition of wanderlust, a need to go places we’ve never been. A recent trip to New Orleans changed my perspective. If ever there were a person in this word for whom the tagline Follow Your NOLA applied that would be my youngest daughter. 

From a very young age, maybe about six or seven, she’s been fascinated by New Orleans. One might think that came from tales of my travels, but no. Long before my first visit she’d seek out shows on the History Channel or Discovery that talked about the folklore, food, and stories that cling to this city like so much Spanish Moss. It was actually rather sweet to sit huddled on the sofa and shiver at the tales of The Myrtles Plantation. Frankly, I was nearly as enamored.  

After my first trip to NOLA when she was eight the fascination grew. I think she wore beads and a mask to school for a week. Her room began to take on a distinctly French Quarter vibe and by the time her ninth birthday rolled around it was clear the theme would be… Big Easy. 

 I’ve often wondered over the years if perhaps she was drawn to this city not by wanderlust, but by something deeper within her. In my travels, I’ve become certain that there exist in this world people who are simply old souls.

These people seem to have deeper connections to places, customs, and cultures than most of us do. They needn’t have grown up near or been raised within the places and things they love. They are simply a part of them no matter time or distance. My daughter is an old soul and New Orleans her muse. 

She recently celebrated her first double-digit birthday. How? With a trip to her city. 

Never have I seen such instant love. The child who is usually first to start fussing about long walks, couldn’t sit still. She nearly prowled the streets of the French Quarter. Night fell and she lit up like one of the gas lamps that dot the streets. She savored every spice (even tried alligator) lingered to look at every piece of art, got her cards read and sang Ella Fitzgerald songs on street corners with bands from around the globe. 

This is her city and she is its child. They belong together. Here is a short love letter to New Orleans in pictures that she chose. 

Stay tuned for full articles on food, music, history and the unique culture of New Orleans (penned by me) for A Cork, Fork & Passportand Skimbaco Lifestyle

Laissez les bons temps rouler, mon amis!  

 

The Cornstalk Hotel in New Orleans (or that time I spotted a ghost)

The Cornstalk Hotel New OrleansWhen a place has been inhabited since 1840, there are sure to be a few stories infused into its walls.  The Cornstalk Hotel in New Orleans certainly has a few. Here, at the most photographed hotel in one of the most picturesque cities in the country, my ghost story begins. 

Let’s start with a stroll down Royal Street. It’s 1840, New Orleans is a bustling port city cradled in a crescent giving access to both the ocean and the great Mississippi. In a stylish home – not far from Jackson Square — a husband worries that his wife is suffering from a deep longing for her Iowa home.

In one of the most romantic acts, still able to be witnessed well over one-hundred years later, the man commissions an iron-work fence. Wait? What? Stick with me here. The man requests a grand gate made in the shape of the swaying stalks of corn that dominate the landscape of his beloved’s home.  Rising above the sidewalk of Royal Street we can still see this love letter today.

The Cornstalk Hotel New Orleans Famous FenceWhen the rare opportunity for my husband and I to getaway -sans offspring — came up, I chose The Cornstalk Hotel for this story alone. Besides, staying in New Orleans should be an adventure in the extraordinary and staying somewhere this old and ornate is like time travel.

Our stay was lovely. Sitting on the balcony, I felt like a grand dame of New Orleans society, nodding at the endless gatherings of tourists that stopped to snap photos of the hotel. The proprietor joined us on the veranda as we listened to guides from the hourly ghost tours stop to regale their audiences with tales of the rooms we’d be spending our weekend in. 

Perhaps that played into the bumps and knocks we’d hear all weekend. Maybe the flickering lights were just due to faulty bulbs. Buildings settle over time, door frames warp. Could it be that was the reason the door to our bathroom would slowly swing open hours after I know I closed it?

As night deepened and we returned to our room, the sounds of Bourbon street in the distance started to fade. Yet whispers still drifted to our window. Looking out our window hoping to guilt people into moving on quietly! I noticed not one living soul.
The Cornstalk Hotel New OrleansThere are no smartly dressed concierge here waiting to fill your every request. You won’t find marble soaking tubs with relaxing jets. The nearest spa is a stroll away.  The house is old, it has an air of mystery to it. The beds are made of rich woods with ornate carvings. Fireplaces are encircled with stone and gilt ironwork. Victorian touches from chandeliers to window dressings give one the feeling of having traveled back in time.
 
Make time to sit on the balcony. As the sun starts to set, look to the buildings across the street. Do all the people walking by seem solidly in the same plane as you are? I snapped a photo from that spot. The day wasn’t foggy, nor particularly humid. My camera lens was clean, the battery new. Yet I could almost be convinced I caught something or someone, spectral. Judge for yourself…
Haunted Hotels in New Orleans

The Cornstalk Hotel – New Orleans, Louisianan

Address: 915 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Website: thecornstalkhotel.com

Phone: (504) 523-1515

Price Point: $179 – $324 – depending on season and day of the week.

Note: As mentioned, this is an old house. Though it is also a quaint boutique hotel, it isn’t exactly what I’d personally consider luxury. That said, I’d gladly go back again. It really is a very unique place that is worth staying.

If you are planing to visit New Orleans with children, this may not be the hotel for you.  

 

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Spanish Holiday – Hotel Playa de la Luz Rota, Spain

Spanish Holiday - Hotel Playa de la Luz Rota SpainSouthern Spain {Andalucia} has long been a favorite “holiday” destination for European travelers. This makes perfect sense when one considers the lovely beaches, amazing architecture, history, culture and cuisine.  I recall the first time I met a person on, “Spanish Holiday” while living in Spain.  Partly because – as an American– the term, “holiday” means something entirely different, but also because of the place we met – Hotel Playa de la Luz in my “hometown” of Rota, Spain.

Holiday goers -or vacationers, as we call them– flood into Rota during the summer months just as they do nearly all of the coastal towns in Andalucia. The favored casks of La Tintilla in local bodegas take a back seat to hard cider and flowing sangria, skin sizzles to a burnished bronze {in most cases, save the bulk of visitors from the UK and people like me who end up the hue of ripened tomatoes} on the beaches, and the night life rarely gives way at dawn.

What makes Rota differ from this typical Spanish Holiday foray, comes in the form of luxurious oasis just barely outside the city. I’d been living in Rota for nearly a year before setting foot in the Hotel Playa de la Luz, time lost that I’ve come to regret.

Spanish Holiday - Beach front tapas at Hotel Playa de la LuzNestled on a stretch of nearly pristine beach -a welcome change from the beach I leaved near on the other side of town– the hotel is practically a world away from the bustle. Though Rota itself is a small town, Calle de María Auxiliadora being its one fairly busy main boulevard, in high season the crush of people can be difficult to manage. The hotel gives you a place to enjoy the natural beauty of this part of Spain in a simple, yet luxurious setting that is still close enough to the town when you want to stop in at Bar Christina for amazing tortillitas de camarones – or shrimp fritatta– dance the night away, or roam the quaint little shops and gypsy stores.

La Gaviota, the onsite restaurant takes the best of local ingredients and whips up outstanding tapas. As I type my mouth is watering in memory of their alcauciles rellenos, a stuffed artichoke that is worth the airfare from the states. Once you’ve stuffed yourself with Spanish delights you’ll need a way to burn off those extra calories. The hotel features four tennis courts, a gym, and several pools. You can even ask the staff to arrange horseback riding on the beach for you. If you ride, this is a can’t-miss activity. 

For Americans, the rooms by seem small and sparsely decorated. Getting used to that was a tough one for me, but this is pretty much the standard with nearly any level hotel in this part of Spain. I suppose the idea is that you’ll be spending so little of your time indoors, they’d rather focus on elevating the common spaces. 

Playa de la Luz does this really well. Their white-washed facade and intricate Moorish tile work is evocative of old Hollywood glamour.  Take a stroll along the marble inlaid beach walk and you’ll feel as though Clark Gable is waiting on that yacht in the distance to whisk you away.

Spanish Holiday - Luxury Sunbathing at Hotel Playa de La Luz Rota, SpainTips for Families

The hotel features a playground for kids, separate adult and family pools and during the months of July and August childcare services are available.

Day Trips Nearby

Jerez {35 minute drive} visit a Bodega -Harvey’s is one of the more famous ones– stop by the Royal Spanish Equestrian school to see the famed Lipizzaner horses, eat at the Mercado de Abastos.

Cadiz {45 minute drive} Cadiz is one of my favorite towns in all of Spain. It has everything a large metropolitan city could want without the issues that come with being a city of size. To me its a bit of Paris meets Madrid. There are a plethora of galleries and museums, lovely public parks with sculpted gardens, and an immense amount of history as Cadiz is the oldest continually inhabited town in Spain.

Hotel Information

Address:  Avda. de la Diputación S/N
                     11520 Rota (Cádiz) Spain
                     Tel: 1+ (34) 956 810 500
Website: Hotel Playa de la Luz

Reservations line: 1+ (34) 902 418 428

Summer in a Ski Town – The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe

Gorgeous views from the lobby of TheResort at Squaw CreekIt may seem odd to think about visiting a destination best known for world-class skiing when the only snow you’re likely to find is in a cone.  As it turns out some ski towns have nearly as much to offer in the summer. The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe makes for a great base camp to test that theory. 

The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe

All about the lake – Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe itself is the largest Alpine lake in North America. Boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding are just a few of the ways to enjoy this stunning natural wonder with water so clear in some spots that you can see to a depth of around 70 feet.  At times it reminded me of the waters off the east coast of Jamaica.

(photo credit: Squaw Valley Lodge / CC BY-SA 2.0)
(photo credit: Squaw Valley Lodge / CC BY-SA 2.0)

What is there to actually do at a ski resort in summer?

The simple answer? Lots!

Hike through stunning mountainsides dotted with waterfalls, hidden lakes, and a rainbow of beautiful wild flowers. 

Waterfall on the Shirley Canyon Hiking Trail - Lake TahoeTake an aerial tram ride up 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp where a pool, museum, outdoor activities, bar and cafe await with stunning views from an elevation of 8,200 feet. 

Go horseback riding on trails that cross streams and wind up into the mountains giving breath-taking views of protected forest ranges. Who knows, you might even run into a local or two. We met up with a Black Tail deer who could have cared less that we were there, she was so busy munching.

Horseback riding at Alpine Meadows - Lake TahoeOr, you could just hang out by the pool. The Resort at Squaw Creek has large recreation pool, plunge pool, 120-foot water slide, a children’s pool and 3 outdoor all-season whirlpools.

Worked up an appetite? The food scene at Lake Tahoe holds its own with the well-developed tastes of Foodies visiting from the San Francisco bay area. The Resort at Squaw Creek boasts three eateries open year-round, as well as two open seasonally.

Stop in for breakfast at Cascades and indulge in a buffet that features great artisanial eats like local honey, cheeses, and pastries. Don’t miss the build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar. 

Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary BarHave Sweet Potatoes Deli box you up a lunch for your outdoor adventures. Their quinoa and tomato salad is sublime.

Signature cocktails share center stage with gorgeous views, and innovated, gourmet dishes at Six Peaks Grille. Fine dining by the fire? I’m in.

Crispy Duck with Blueberry Confit - Six Peaks Grille at The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake TahoeThe Spa, aaah! In my mind no hotel property should be allowed to call itself a resort if they don’t have a great spa. Squaw Creek earns their “resort” cred with a spa that Condé Nast Traveler named among the Top Five Resort Spas. 

It may not be the biggest, but it melds perfectly into the “nature vibe” of the area making the experience immersive, and unique. I thoroughly enjoyed their Coconut/Honey Sugar Scrub treatment, and highly recommend asking if Norma-Jean has any openings when you book any treatment at the spa.

How are the rooms? It just so happened that during my visit The Resort at Squaw Creek was celebrating it’s 25th anniversary by getting some work done. Rooms are in the process of being updated with modern amenities, like: marble tiled bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and separate showers, and chic resort decor. The rooms are actually more like micro-apartments with a kitchen stocked with utensils, appliances and tableware, making them great for families.

I will say that the refrigerator in my room was odd. The shelves were so narrow that you couldn’t fit a full-sized wine or soft drink bottle in without laying it flat.  

The Resort at Squaw Creek - Renovated RoomThe renovations are being done in two stages, the first complete already with the rest expected to be finished by the time ski season arrives. I’d suggest calling the property to book your room so you can request one that has been updated.

Tips

If you’re flying in from the East Coast, consider departing from New York if you can. JetBlue has recently opened up a non-stop route from JFK to Reno.

The Resort at Squaw Creek is about an hour drive from the Reno airport. Don’t bother renting a car, there is shuttle service from the resort to just about anywhere you want to go. Instead, make a reservation with Sierra-Tahoe Car Service.  Not only will you get a reliable ride in a full-sized SUV with room for your family and gear, you’ll also be able to take in the sites on the scenic drive up to the resort.

The holidays are a great time to stay at the resort. In fact, there are some great sales coming up just for that time of year.  They won’t be advertizing these prices so be sure you’re in the know by signing up for info

Sunset on Lake Tahoe

 

As you know, sometimes I get the opportunity to visit places as a hosted guest of the destination. I was hosted on this trip. That said, I received no compensation and was not required to write a review of any sort. Everything you just read is 100% my honest opinion, because you deserve nothing less!  

 

California Dreamin’ – #IGTravelThursday

California is home, or was. Somehow after over a decade living on the East Coast, I still consider myself a Californian.  It isn’t that I don’t love where I live now, but more that California is a part of me.

That said, I don’t often find myself back home. When I do, I drink it, breath it, take it into me like I might never get back again. Whether it’s toes in the sand on my favorite beach, watching the sun rise out of the desert dunes, or losing myself in the forest, California always sparks the best day dreams – and some of the best Instagram travel stories too.

 

A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

Nothing beats a California Sunset.  


On horseback, one of my favorite ways to explore anywhere!

 

A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

And of course, what is better than a California wine to end any day? Doesn’t matter where you are!

 

A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

The great thing about an Instagram Travel story, is it  stays with you no matter where you are – or how cold it is there!

 

I’ll just pretend I’m back here and ignore the snow outside. #sandiego A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

Finding travel daydreams on Instagram is one of my favorite things to do. Reeta from House of Anais has taken me all over, from Finland to Slovenia, through lush green fields in England. And that’s just in her post for this week! 

Do you have a great Instagram travel story to share, or want to find more? Join the monthly Instagram travel-related linky hosted by Skimbaco Lifestyle, and click through all the Insta-Travel-Awesome below.