48 Hours in…Charlotte, NC (Beer Edition!)

This past weekend, I continued my nationwide travel tour (or what feels like it anyway!), and headed to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit one of my besties and her husband. Lucky for me, these two love beer just as much as I do, so I got to taste a bit of North Carolina, one handcrafted, custom-brewed beer at a time. And, I’ve got to say…Charlotte has some good beers!

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Get Tipsy on Chocolate with Boston’s Newest Boozy Biz

It’s not often that you find an alcohol-infused truffle, much less actually have the opportunity to make one yourself. But a brand-new business in Boston is now offering that chance. Enter, Tipsy Chocolates.

Another cool thing about Tipsy Chocolates, is that Anne wants to keep it local. She’s focusing on partnering with local distilleries that she can utilize to create her “tipsy centers”, the ooey-gooey, boozy ganache that goes into the center of the truffles! From Apple Brandy to Maple Rum, there’s no shortage of options.

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FYI…I made these!!

To learn more about hosting a truffle-making class, or hopping on a Tipsy Chocolate Tour, head to TipsyChocolates.co. Regardless what option you choose, one thing is for sure…it’s definitely going to be sweet.

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Rule #1…it’s okay to lick your fingers! (Iris Mack Photography)

 

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48 Hours in…Minneapolis, MN

Earlier this week, I spent 48 hours in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prior to this trip, I’d never been. Things I’ve heard over the years about Minneapolis:

  • It’s really cold.
  • It’s in the middle of nowhere.
  • It’s the place that no one wants to go to, but doesn’t want to leave when they get there.
  • It’s really, really cold.
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Palms, Pools, Brews & Views in Key West

The weather in Boston has been all over the place lately. I blogged a couple months ago about how excited I was that spring was almost here, and then just days later we got hit with freezing temps once again (spoke too soon, I guess!). Just this past weekend it was 82 one day and 52 the next. Mother Nature – what is up!?

Having lived in Boston for the past seven years, this is actually something that I’ve become accustomed to. Though let me be clear, it doesn’t get any easier. Thing is, you just have to make the best of it. Which I did! I packed up, and headed down South, where it was sunny and warm. Key West was the destination. What started off as a quick cold-weather escape, turned into an unforgettable getaway that spawned a yearly tradition.


I’ve been to Key West twice before. Once when I was 20. Me and a couple friends went down for Spring Break. Since I was underage, the experience was a bit different, but make no mistake, I still managed get into the bars! 😉  The second time was during a cruise. We stopped there for a day, so not much time to do much of anything. Both times, I didn’t fly straight into Key West, but rather in another form (drove from Miami the first, and cruised in the second). But this time, we flew directly into Key West, and the flight was unbelievable. Absolutely breathtaking. It took me by total surprise! Not sure why, given that it’s an island, guess I just wasn’t expecting to see the incredible colors of the sea so up close and personal!

My friends and I stayed at Parrot Key Resort, a quaint waterfront property equipped with four (!!) pools, a bar/restaurant, a strip of beach and hammocks for days. Upon arrival, our room wasn’t yet ready, but we were greeted with an ice cold glass of Sangria (winning!). We spent the next hour hanging by the pool, sipping our Sangria. We may or may not have (we definitely did…), ordered another drink after that.

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No makeup, pool hair – happy as a clam!

We stayed in the cutest one bedroom Villa that overlooked the garden leading into the adult-only pool. We had a private porch, and little palm to mark our entrance.

The resort was truly beautiful, and the staff was so incredibly friendly. We loved seeing the same people every day – it was such a pleasure! (Shout out to Georgi and our shuttle driver who we called “Brian” because we didn’t get a chance to ask, and we thought he looked like a Brian.)

The on-site restaurant, Cafe Blue, was clutch. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and had a kick-ass happy hour. Two for one drinks! For those that don’t know, Boston doesn’t have happy hour. It’s illegal to discount alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts for things like happy hour. So, sadly, we don’t get to enjoy what I consider, one of the “little things” in life.

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These fish tacos were everything. In fact, they were so good that we ate them three times during our four night stay (ha!). You’d think we would have gotten sick of them, but no. Never. I mean, just look at them!! And the tots were the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae.

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One of the many beautiful doors that lined the walkways and pools inside the tropical oasis.

While we could have easily stayed within the resort the entire vacation, and been happy that we did, we did venture out a few times.

Duval Street, Key West’s “downtown”, is filled with shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques. Given that you can walk around outside with an “open container”, it’s only fitting that you bar hop. Which is exactly what we did.

A couple faves: Irish Kevins, The Lazy Gecko (shout out to Karri Daley who has ridiculous pipes, and absolutely kills it on the guitar!) and Rick’s Bar (go upstairs for one of the best roof decks in KW!).

After our first night out, we stayed poolside all day. But the following day, we were up bright and early, and ready to hit the beach.

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Smathers Beach is one of the only beaches in Key West. The island is surrounded by water, but has very little sand. Thankfully, Smathers is beautiful, so there isn’t really a need for another.

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Of course, while in paradise…an impromptu photo shoot is a must.

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The towel that I’m so professionally modeling (haha!) is from Sand Cloud. If you don’t know about these guys yet, you should! They’re on a mission to save marine life, and they’re doing it one stunningly beautiful towel at a time. 10% of all proceeds from each purchase go towards saving the fishies. If you want one, use my code COURTNEYOSG25 for 25% off!

Though the views from the beach were incredible, we were interested in seeing a slightly different view…

The crew at Sunset Water Sports hooked us up, and took us out on a private boat to go Parasailing. The views were AMAZING. Highly recommend.

All in all, the trip was nothing short of incredible. Once again, a reminder that it’s okay to take time off to relax, and do something for yourself. Every time I have the opportunity to unplug, I do. And I always come back to work feeling refreshed and bright-eyed. That’s a tell-tale sign if I’ve ever seen one!

On that note…

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Key West…we’ll see you next year!

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Mahalo, Maui (a Travel Guide)

Can I just start off by saying…Maui is frikkin’ AMAZING! Seriously though. This past week has been one of the most breathtaking, exhilarating and relaxing times of my life. This trip was my second time in Hawaii, the first being about 10 years ago (a lot has changed in 10 years, by the way!). During my stay, I experienced some amazing things and saw some beautiful sights. Too beautiful to not share!

We stayed at the Sands of Kahana, a resort located right on the beach just north of Lahaina, HI.

The view from our room - the sunsets were incredible!
The view from our room – the sunsets were incredible!
The stretch of beach right in front of our condo.
The stretch of beach right in front of our condo.
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The time change was suuuper weird –  needless to say, I had a lot of energy in the mornings. 🙂

The resort was equipped with two pools, a hot tub, a full restaurant/bar on-site, grills, lawn games and beach volleyball. If you didn’t want to leave the grounds, you definitely didn’t have to. But, what fun would that be?!

The first adventure on our list – snorkeling! If you have the chance to snorkel in Hawaii, TAKE IT! Even if you’ve snorkeled other places before, there’s truly nothing like what you’ll experience in the Hawaiian waters.

There are dozens of companies that offer a snorkeling experience, but we chose to go with the Pacific Whale Foundation. They’re a non-profit organization with a mission to save and protect whales and other marine life from threats and extinction. The work they’re doing is pretty amazing, so it was a no-brainer for us. The staff was very knowledgeable and super helpful. Plus, they fed us! We had a light breakfast and BBQ lunch (with free booze!).

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Beer break – Oluwalu, Hawaii
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The water is so clear…tried to capture it, but didn’t really happen. Still pretty nonetheless! (Molokini Crater)

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While we were out on the water, something amazing happened…we saw a ton of whales!! Come to find out, prime Whale watching season starts in December, so we got the full experience –  without having to pay.

One of the many whales we saw during our five hour cruise.
One of the many whales we saw during our five hour cruise.

The whales on the snorkel trip weren’t the only ones we saw. In fact, each morning while we were having coffee on the patio, we could see whales in the distance right off our beach! It was incredible.

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The next couple of days were spent lounging and exploring all the Maui has to offer, and let me tell you…there are a lot of sites to see!

Walkway to the beach!

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One of our lounge days, we decided to take a drive to the tippy top of the island, not too far from where we were staying, and we found the most beautiful little slice of heaven called Oneloa Beach (also known as Ironwoods Beach).

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Next on our list of “things to do”… a traditional Hawaiian Luau! For this experience, we chose the Myths of Maui Luau at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Lahaina, HI.

Before the Luau starts, you can take a walk around the property, which sits right on the beach - the perfect place to watch the sun go down.
Before the Luau starts, you can take a walk around the property, which sits right on the beach – the perfect place to watch the sun go down.

This Luau is unique in that it takes the audience through the Hawaiian culture including each of its influences throughout history – from Tahiti to Polynesia, and ends with a mesmerizing fire dance. The other major Luau in Maui doesn’t include fire dancers, so if that’s something you’re into, the Myths of Maui is definitely the way to go.

The very next day, we packed up and headed out on the Road to Hana.  This is a 52 mile trip that spans across the East side of Maui – from Kahului to Hana (the town). Hana Highway is extremely narrow and twisty, and filled with so many sweet surprises along the way, so if you go (which I highly recommend!) start early – this is a full day trip, and given the nature of the road, you don’t want to drive it at night.

You can accomplish the Road to Hana in two ways – a guided van tour or DIY via a self-guided tour. We opted to do the tour ourselves and used Shaka Guide, an app that acted as our tour guide. The voice leading the way we called “Shaka Steve” – he was awesome, and not once did he steer us wrong. In fact, a few of the tips he gave, led us to uncovering some incredibly beautiful sites that were “off the beaten path”.

As I reflect on the past week, I learned a really valuable lesson.  The importance of  disconnecting from your everyday. Truly disconnecting, and allowing yourself to relax and enjoy your time. As a publicist, it’s extremely difficult for me to unplug and unwind, but this trip, I did just that. Now, as I prepare to get myself back to into the swing of things, I feel energized, and excited. The island has fueled my soul, and allowed me to recharge. And for that, I say Mahalo, Maui.

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