A Taste of Boston

Some may find it sacreligious but during my trip to Boston last month, I did not eat any lobster rolls or New England clam chowder. I did however find some tasty eats in the city at Coppa, an Italian eatery, and the Back Deck, a down-to-earth grill.

Coppa

Coppa Italian Restaurant

This quaint enoteca features flavorful dishes with artisanal flair. This restaurant on the corner of Shawmut Avenue and Milford Street has outdoor and indoor seating and large accordion windows that helps create the atmosphere of a street cafe.

If dining with a friend, I recommend ordering two to three items to split for some variety. (Not pictured below are their risotto balls with fontina cheese. Delicious!)

Coppa's Rigatoni Ragu

Rigatoni Ragu

Coppa's Parma Pizza

Parma Pizza with Prosciutto and Arugula

Back Deck

The Back Deck in Boston’s Financial District is literally like sitting outdoors on your back deck. The restaurant door handle is a grill spatula, and the interior is decorated with bird nest lighting fixtures and patio-type seats.

The Back Decl

The Back Deck

The Back Deck

The Back Deck

Back Deck's Bellisimo Burger

Bellisimo Burger with Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Portabello Mushroom and Basil Aioli Sauce

With so many dining options in Boston, it can feel like there is not enough meals in the day. If sweets are more your style, I recommend trying Mike’s Pastry. A favorite among locals and tourists, the line can be wrapped around the block, so plan to be patient for those cannolis!

 

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A Stroll Along Boston’s Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Boston. Really, it’s made up of 16 points of interest. There are many tour companies if you’re interested in a guided tour. My husband and I joined The Freedom Trail Foundation tour. A nice bonus is that they donate $1 from every ticket sale to a preservation fund. A 90-minute tour costs $15 per person and includes 11 sites on the trail.

Like many of the tour groups in Boston, time-period characters lead this one. I recommend Judith Sargent Murray — the first woman in America to self-publish a book and also the first playwright to have a play produced on the American stage. She was very knowledgeable but also added some interesting tidbits in her own witty way.

Here are some highlights from that tour:

Massachusetts State House

View of Massachusetts State House from Boston Common

Boston Common was once used to graze cattle and was sold to colonists from Boston’s first inhabitant, William Blackstone. Today, families and couples picnic in the grassy areas, many unaware that they’re doing so over unmarked graves.

Boston's Park Street Church

Flickr photo @wallyg

Park Street Church is where school children were the first to sing “My Country ’tis of Thee.” Interesting fact: “My Country ’tis of Thee” has the same melody as the British National Anthem.

Granary Burying Ground

Granary Burying Ground

Paul Revere Grave

Paul Revere Memorial (left) and Revere’s actual burial spot (right)

Sam Adams and Boston Massacre Grave Sites

Sam Adams’ burial plot and the plot of the five victims of the Boston Massacre (left)

Skull drawings on graves

Colonists marked graves with skulls as to state, “When you die, that’s it. Live your life right.” To tame it down a bit they added angel wings.

Granary Burying Ground
This is the burial site for three of the Declaration of Independence signers: John Hancock, Sam Adams and Robert Treat Paine. Within Sam Adams’ family plot lie the five victims of the Boston Massacre. Not that the loss of five lives should go unaccounted, but the term “massacre” was clearly a propaganda tactic by the patriots. The most searched for tomb is that of Paul Revere in the back of the graveyard. Interesting fact: Across from the graveyard is the Beantown Pub — the only place where you can have a cold Sam Adams beer while looking at a cold Sam Adams.

Boston Latin School

A statue of Benjamin Franklin marks America’s oldest public school, the Boston Latin School. Today, it’s a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

The Old State House

The Old State House is where the Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time in Boston and where a memorial marks the site of the Boston Massacre. The confrontation actually occurred on State Street across from the Old State House, but city officials figured it wouldn’t be smart to put a marker in the middle of a busy intersection. Interesting fact: The country’s first propaganda piece was Paul Revere’s illustration of the Boston Massacre depicting British redcoats as monsters.

Faneuil Hall

Flickr photo @wallyg

Faneuil Hall
Peter Faneuil built the building to carry on his legacy. He did not have children to do that because he promised his uncle that he wouldn’t marry in order to receive the family inheritance. The first floor houses the country’s first indoor marketplace and atop it all is a grasshopper weather vane. During the War of 1812, you were suspected of being a spy if you couldn’t answer the question, “Do you know what’s on top of Faneuil Hall?” There is also a colonial time capsule in its stomach.

Paul Revere's House

Paul Revere’s House
So … that portrait of Sam Adams on Samuel Adams® beer is actually a likeness of Paul Revere. It was thought that Sam Adams was not very handsome. Do a web search for “Jack Black and Paul Revere.” *This site was not on our guided tour.

Old North Church

Old North Church was immortalized through Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” and played a major role in the start of the Revolutionary War. At this church, two lanterns were briefly hung from the steeple to indicate that the British troops were traveling through Boston by sea. And, so goes the saying “one if by land, two if by sea.” The church still holds service today. Pews are separated like a sport stadium with field boxes. The boxes were purchased by families and decorated to their liking. *This site was not on our guided tour.

U.S.S. Constitution

U.S.S. Constitution
Don’t miss all three levels of this floating piece of history. The boat is taken out to stretch its rudders every now and then and even has an active U.S. Navy crew. *This site was not on our guided tour.

Bunker Hill

Bunker Hill Monument
The battle of Bunker Hill actually occurred on Breed’s Hill. Bunker Hill is the next hill over. The towering monument looks a lot like the Washington Monument. *This site was not on our guided tour.

Lincoln’s Old Kentucky Home

Would you believe that Abraham Lincoln’s story began in a small log cabin in Kentucky? That’s right – he wasn’t born in Illinois! When most people think of the land of Lincoln they think of Illinois; however, Lincoln is originally from Kentucky. Today the little town of Hodgenville boasts their claim to fame as being the birthplace of our nation’s 16th president. It’s on the original farm where Lincoln was born that now exists the Abraham Lincoln National Historic Park. On the site is a visitor center where you can watch a 30-minute video about the memorial’s development and the history of the property. A wall slab of epoxied pennies are a work of art and a piece of history. More than 100,000 people, including school children, gave an average of 31 cents each to help build the memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 1911 by President William Howard Taft.

Steps up to Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial Steps

The log cabin inside the Memorial Building is only a symbolic cabin. It is old and typical to the area, but it is not the original. To this day historians are still not sure where the original cabin stood on the property.

Lincoln Cabin Replica

A peek inside the Lincoln cabin

Old Meets New in Downtown Louisville

Looavull, Luhvul, Lewisville, Looaville, Looeyville and now NuLu. Haven’t heard NuLu before? Short for “New Louisville,” it’s the designation given to Louisville, Kentucky’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Long known for it’s bourbon, Kentucky is aiming to be a place for artists, hipsters, musicians and foodies alike.

Officially NuLu refers to the East Market District, but the revitalization bleeds over to nearby streets in downtown. Former industrial buildings and even an old schoolhouse are transformed into art studios, boutiques, antique shops and restaurants. The effort is bringing new life into a once neglected area and promoting all things local.

West Market Street is a good introduction. Start with a visit to Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery and the Mark Payton Glass Center. It’s here in the Snead Building where you can browse artist’s glassworks for sale and display. Stop by the studio to watch glass artists mold their creations, or sign up to create something yourself.

Glassworks

The Snead Manufacturing Building now houses Flame Run Glassworks and the Mark Payton Glass Center.

Glass vases

Flame Run Gallery and Shop

Glass artist firing work

Glass artist firing work in the Flame Run Studio

Hummingbird glass ornaments

Glass ornaments at the Mark Payton Glass Center

A couple of must-stops along East Market Street include Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons, Joe Ley Antiques, Red Tree Furniture Store, Why Louisville, Louisville Beer Store and Garage Bar.

Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons believes in the spirit of ‘try before you buy.’ At this boutique-like shop you can sample from a weekly wine list for $4 per tasting, and expand your palette with their bourbon selection for $5 per tasting.

Wine selection

Bourbon bottles

At Joe Ley Antiques you can find vintage signs, telephones, glassware and postcards among other things. Bonus: The antique shop is housed in an old schoolhouse.

Joe Ley Antiques

Joe Ley Antiques

Red Tree Furniture has some interesting finds as well. I loved the artisan feel about the place. There are so many unique pieces, ranging from distressed bedside tables to wine bottle chandeliers.

Red Tree Furniture

On your way to Why Louisville gift shop, take an opportunity to be part of an urban art project and pick up a piece of chalk. An oversized chalk board asks you, “Before I die I want to _____.” My husband and I want to live abroad.

Before I Die Chalkboard I want to live abroad

Why Louisville is a quirky gift shop and great place to pick up a Kentucky souvenir. Their display of graphic slogan tees is entertaining. Options include “Keep Louisville Weird” and “Fast Horses & Fine Bourbons.” There’s even a life-like Colonel Sanders wearing an authentic suit.

Colonel Sanders

A former auto service garage, Garage Bar is now a restaurant serving up wood-fired pizzas and craft beers. The outdoor set up makes me dream of warmer weather. Near the entrance is an car collision art experiment (“Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle”) with two cars being slowly pushed together by hydraulics.

Outdoor space at Garage Bar

Car collision art experiment at Garage Bar

Beyond East Market Street, there are a few other places I would recommend visiting while in downtown Louisville: Against the Grain Brewery, 21c Museum Hotel and the Seelbach Hotel.

Against the Grain Brewery is housed within Louisville Slugger Stadium on East Main Street. Stop here for a bite to eat and to sample their craft beers. Beer selection varies upon your visit, but their collection includes over 100 craft beers within six categories: Hop, Smoke, Dark, Malt, Session and Whim. As their namesake indicates, they are not a traditional brewery. Most craft brewers have less than 10 brews that they work to perfect; Against the Grain brews a beer only once. The downside of their creativity is that if you like a beer, it won’t be around for very long. My beer of choice during our visit was a malty, vienna lager “Der Güberhoarker.”

Vienna Lager

Beer Personas

Six beer categories (left to right): Session, Dark, Malt, Smoke, Whim and Hop

21c Museum Hotel is an upscale hotel on West Main Street with a free contemporary art museum in the lobby. Open to the public 24/7, exhibits showcase photography, paintings, sculptures and mixed media.

Art Gallery

Scrap tornado

Anne Peabody’s “Wheel of Fortune”

A visit to The Seelbach Hotel (circa 1905) on 4th Street is a trip back in time. The Old Seelbach Bar is open to the public and is reminiscent of the flapper era. It was quite empty during our visit, but I could picture people socializing, dancing to a jazz band and smoking their cigars. Their bourbon selection is wide, but there are also options for those a bit overwhelmed by straight bourbon. The signature drink, The Seelbach, is a cocktail of bourbon, champagne and orange peel. It was delicious! F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer of “The Great Gatsby,” was pretty fond of the place as well. The Seelbach Hotel was used as the backdrop for Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s wedding in the book.

Seelbach drink

Seelbach Bar

Arts & Drafts

What I thought would be entirely an outdoor getaway in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina ended up to be a foodie’s paradise. There weren’t enough meals in a day for me and my husband to explore all the restaurants, gastro pubs and bars in downtown Asheville.

It started with a quick stop in nearby Morganton for a wine tasting at Lake James Cellars. The winery opened in 2009 in a textile mill building (circa 1915) that manufactured cotton socks.

Cotton Mill Workers

Mill workers pose outside (1930)

Asheville’s River Arts District was hosting its Second Saturday event, where every month artists give a closer look at their work and creative process. It’s amazing how many art studios can fit within four street blocks. Potters, painters, glass blowers and multimedia artists showcase their craft in working studios located within old factories and historical buildings along the French Broad River. The shops, studios, and even a brewery with upcycled metal decor, are bringing life back to the area.

Pizza Pura

Neapolitan-style pizza and pistachio gelato at Pizza Pura

River Arts District

Asheville Ceramics Gallery and gear stools at Wedge Brewing

The indulgences continued at Carolina Bed and Breakfast. The artful breakfast creations, hors d’oeuvres and sweets are highly regarded among guests. There was always an amazing spread for social hour. The house itself was built in 1901 by the same supervising architect of nearby Biltmore, Richard Sharp Smith.

Blackberries and Mango Bread Pudding

Blackberries and Mango Bread Pudding

Asheville was recently named one of the best beer towns in America by CNN. There are several microbreweries in the area, including French Broad Brewing Company. All of their beers are good, but Wes and I liked the Wee-Heavy-er Scotch Ale the most. Wicked Weed Brewing had some decent beers as well. I think I was more fascinated with their barrel stave decor and references to Henry VIII. “Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed.” – Henry VIII 1519.

Henry VIII at Wicked Weed Brewing

Henry VIII at Wicked Weed Brewing

A must stop during an evening walk in downtown Asheville is the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. It’s like a Barnes and Nobles you can drink at. It’s actually encouraged.

Bar and Book Exchange

Bar and Book Exchange

When we weren’t eating we found time to visit Biltmore, America’s largest home, and hike Graveyard Fields along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Which reminds me of another place we ate (seriously, you can’t get away from great food in this town) at the recommendation of a friend. In nearby Biltmore Town is this great barbecue place, Moe’s. They have several hot sauce flavors but only one BBQ sauce. As they say, “we got it right the first time.”

If you plan ahead when visiting the Biltmore, you can get the cheapest tickets off of their website. Buy seven days or more in advance to save $15. Then, I would highly recommend using that savings to do a specialty tour. We did the Butler’s Tour which included flipping through a recipe notebook dating back to 1901. It’s a great tour if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey. The prime of the Biltmore and Vanderbilt family is during the same era as Downton Abbey and the Crawley family.

Biltmore

Biltmore

As for hiking, there are plenty of trails to choose from. Waterfalls, valley viewpoints, strenuous and easy walking. We chose a shorter trail (4 mile loop) with two waterfalls. The name, Graveyard Fields, comes from the windblown and fire charred tree stumps. It’s a pretty easygoing trail with a short walk from the parking lot to the lower fall. The hike to the upper fall takes about 35 minutes at a steady pace. There are flat spots with bridges as well as some stone hopping spots. If the rocks are dry enough, climb up alongside the upper fall.  As you come around the corner, the largest part of the waterfall is revealed.

Upper Fall and Trail Path

Upper Fall and Trail Path

And if you do make a trip to Asheville, stop by the The Soda Fountain at Woolworth Walk and let me know how the bacon milkshake tastes. We never timed our downtown walks with their operating hours. Bacon flavored milkshake dressed with a chocolate covered piece of bacon. Seriously.

A Weekend at Snowshoe

Hello March! The U.S. East Coast is being reminded that winter isn’t over yet! Last week’s winter snowstorm Saturn was a welcomed surprise for my snowboard trip to Snowshoe, West Virginia. With an additional dumping of 12 inches, my husband and I decided to leave a day early to be one of the few on the fresh powder. Driving Tip: If the roads are clear when you reach Staunton, take the back roads starting at Route 250 to save an extra two hour drive on the highway.
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The Slopes
Snowshoe has 60 trails with their longest run being 1.5 miles. In my opinion they have the best conditions in the Southeast year after year (156 inches of snowfall so far this year). The two other resorts relatively close to me, Wintergreen and Massanutten, don’t hold a candle to Snowshoe. They even guarantee their snow conditions. There’s plenty of beginner slopes and enough intermediate and advanced runs to keep you from being bored. I even tried my hand at the small/med terrain park – which didn’t end so well for me. There’s three distinct areas, Snowshoe, Northern Tract and Silver Creek. They offer six terrain parks, including the new Skill Builder park at Silver Creek area. We went to Silver Creek for night boarding, and I was anxious to try the new park since I wasn’t able to land anything at the Progression Session Park in the Snowshoe area. I went down the trail and didn’t see anything remotely close to a terrain park. No jumps, no rails – I was definitely disappointed. They tout it on their website. It must exist. Maybe I was blinded by the whiteout conditions.
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The Village
Restaurants, bars and shops create a Colorado-type atmosphere for us east coasters. Skiers and boarders walk off the slope to grab lunch and come back after a long day for a warm meal. The Village attracts families, couples and bar-hoppers. This season they launched a racing zip-line amongst the buildings. We came off the slopes for a quick bite during the late afternoon and were surprised when we couldn’t just grab something quickly. Most places in the Village are sit-down restaurants and even the option of taking your food to go requires the wait of a sit-down meal. It would be awesome if they had food trucks or stands at the top of the slopes.
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Lodging

The past four years that my husband and I have gone we’ve met up with another couple and stayed at Ridgewood or Mountain Crest at the top of the mountain. It’s extremely convenient to walk two minutes to the top of a run and avoid trying to find a parking space. Parking on the mountain is extremely limited and favors those staying overnight. There is a free shuttle that you can take from your place to the Village if you wanted to eat out or attend any special events. Last week we stayed at Mountain Crest. They have 30 odd rooms in a three-story building with an exterior that mirrors a motel. Inside they’re more like town homes complete with two beds, two baths, loft, living room, fireplace, terrace, and complete kitchen. Wifi is not available at Mountain Crest but it is at Ridgewood. Phone signal can be spotty at Mountain Crest.Eating on the mountain can be expensive. We spent $25 for two of us to eat lunch at the Boathouse at the bottom of the mountain. If you don’t mind taking a break from the slopes, you can walk back to your room and put a pizza in the oven or make a sandwich. With a stove, oven and microwave it’s definitely worth bringing your own dinner supplies as well.There are cheaper options for lodging further down the mountain. The Inn at Snowshoe is a 5-minute drive from the top of the mountain and has comfortable accommodations. It’s also right across the street from Route 66 Restaurant – a must do for breakfast. The dining room is strategically placed in their shop, so you are compelled to look around while you wait for your omelet or pancakes. I do love the vintage signs on the wall though. I would recommend this place for breakfast on your way out. It’s not the quickest place to stop if you’re in a hurry to start your day on the slopes.

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Events-Snowshoe knows how to party
Though it didn’t mirror the MTV Spring Break era, our visit coincided with Snowshoe’s “Ballhooter Spring Break – Midriffs and Chairlifts.” It was Spring Break for college students, and the mountain was keeping the party going with rail jams, slalom races, volleyball and tug-o-war on the snow, concert and comedy shows. It was a laid-back atmosphere that welcomed people skiing in costume, shorts and bathing suits. We were miles from a beach, but that didn’t stop us from having a beach party on the slopes. – beach balls, sunglasses and grass skirts included. We would have liked to see a 21 and up ski area during this event. I think it’s unlikely that staff would hand out jello shots on the slopes when families with their kids are on the trails as well, but maybe it’s a possibility if we’re sectioned off. Maybe next year?

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