Travel Guide: New Orleans, Louisiana

A few weeks back, I took my first MOM-cation. This is big guys. I left my sweet baby at home with Russ and hit the road with my bestie for a weekend in the Big Easy and I have been dying to tell you all about it. Mainly because I have never eaten so good in my life but also because I am a firm believer in maintaining your own mental health. Though I missed our sweet girl terribly, I cannot accurately express how relaxing it was to just rest and laugh and stroll the streets of New Orleans with my friends.

This particular Travel Guide is not going to be a wrap up of a Hangover infused trip to a town notorious for debauchery.  This trip was all about walking the picturesque streets, savoring the fine foods and spending our nights glued to whatever street musician was up next in the lineup for the French Quarter Festival. So, get ready, this Travel Guide is a collection of my Top 10 Musts during a short stay in NOLA!

1. Make sure you experience the debauchery a bit and hit Bourbon Street. Day One, we made our way down to the Plymouth Rock of sin.

Did I head to Pat O’Brien’s for a Hurricane? You bet I did. How was it? Ehhhh, not a fan. Did we get a little crazy? Yes. I actually fell. Twice. I’ll own up to it. I know we got a good laugh about it. I’m a lightweight these days and thankfully my only Bourbon Street Battle scars were a few scratches. Overall, a win in my books. Our favorite Hidden Gem: The 21st Amendment. It was hands down, the best bar. Great drinks, amazing live music and the crowd wasn’t wild though we did run into our fair share of bachelorette parties.

2. Eat at Deanie’s! We had a few drinks on Bourbon and decided that it was best that we get some food in our stomachs before we went out on the town. We ordered New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Crawfish Etoufee and Fried Calamari. I honestly cannot tell you whether it was the french bread that we drowned in the BBQ sauce or the helpful locals dropping hints about where to head to next but this place will always be a NOLA staple for me.

3. The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone. We headed here before the night got wild and it was the perfect spot to get away from the drunkards on Bourbon and have an adult cocktail. The 25 seat Merry Go Round Bar is festive and classy in a way that hints at the nostalgia of being at a carnival or circus. We enjoyed the Pimm’s Cup, the Vieux Carre and the French 007.

4. Ahhh, the perfect breakfast. Cafe du Monde. God love the man (or woman?) who came up with the beignet! These powdered sugar covered fried treats paired with a classic chicory infused Cafe au Lait may or may not have magic powers. If they don’t cure your hangover, the sweet and crispy texture of the beignet will at least take your mind to a happy place! Words of advice: Don’t wear black, bring cash and try to hit this spot at an odd hour. Mornings are crazy so head there early or at the end of the night.

5. Immerse yourself in the culture that is New Orleans. We were spoiled because we happened to be visiting the Big Easy during the French Quarter Festival. Unlike Jazzfest, this particular festival is for the locals and NOLA goes all out for their own. Throughout the weekend, we were surrounded by a plethora of musicians, vendor booths for the all-star creole cuisine and too many local artists to count. We ventured into the crowd and made sure to experience a little bit of it all!

6. Head to Jackson’s Square and soak it all in. St. Louis Cathedral towers over this cultural  confluence and we got lucky and managed to catch the end of the Palm Sunday service. Besides attending a Mass, you could take gander at the local artists work outside the church, get your palms ready by the neighborhood clairvoyant or take a stroll towards the great Mississippi River for a glimpse pf the majestic riverboats!

7. Take a Witches Brew Tour. No lie, this was the #1 thing I wanted to do while in Louisiana and I am so happy that we did. I am a bit of a history nut so I was glad we got to squeeze in some time strolling the streets and learning a bit about the ghosts and voodoo queens! Our guide Doug was 1-dressed like William Wallace (FREEDOM!) and 2-was the best tour guide. He was funny, kind and made sure to leave room for plenty of drink stops and photo ops.

8. Two words. Chargrilled Oysters. My Gosh! How did I go my whole life without sampling these delicious morsels?! After much debate with the locals about Acme or Felix or Drago’s, we chose to head to Felix’s Oyster Bar. We may or may not have order 5 dozen different kinds. My personal favorite style was the Bienville (mushrooms and crawfish in some creamy sauce baked on top the oyster). TO DIE FOR. We also tried the alligator and all I can say is that the 30 minute wait was worth it.

9. This is my last restaurant recommendation and I am not lying when I say that this place is the #1 reason I will be heading back to New Orleans. Mr. B’s Bistro Sunday Jazz Brunch was the cherry on top of our trip to the Big Easy. We were celebrating our friend’s birthday and the service went above and beyond to make our meal extra special. The live music was endearing and I still haven’t stopped humming “La Vie en Rose”. The real winner though was the New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp served with fresh french bread. The waiter actually came out into the dining room and put a bib on me. It was messy but worth the struggle. I will be dreaming about this dish for awhile now.

10. Last but not least, please do yourself a favor and hop on the trolley and head to the Garden District. The trolley fee won’t break the bank at $1.50 and the views are simply stunning. Every home exuded southern charm with their black wrought iron fences, the vibrant lantana swaying in the breeze and the leftover Mardi Gras beads dangling from the cypress trees. We got a tip from our Witches Brew Tour Guide and managed to stumble across Anne Rice’s house and I fangirled a little bit.

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Well that concludes this Travel Guide and I hope this helps you plan your next big trip to the Magnolia state. Where would you like to see The Rustie Nail head to next? The beach, the mountains, an island, a cruise? Let me know in the comments!

Travel Guide: Yacht Week in Antigua

Hey guys! It’s been awhile since I put out a new Travel Guide and since our little bambina has restricted our travel this year, I figured I would share a little bit about a trip Russ and I took a few years back. It is Yacht Week in Antigua and I thought ya’ll might want a behind the signs look at all the fun!

Antigua, also known as Wadadli by the native population, is one of two islands in the West Indies. This Caribbean nation is an island oasis with plenty of historical and adventurous journeys to set off on. Russell and I planned a 7 day vacation full of sun and sand and we knew just the place to set up shop. We decided to stay at the all-inclusive and luxurious, Sandals Grand Antigua Luxury Resort in St. John’s.

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With over 11 restaurants to choose from and a plethora of frozen tropical drinks, Russell and I enjoyed the sunsets from a different cabana each night. The food was phenomenal at all the dining options. We enjoyed Eleanor’s and Mario’s Italian Cuisine for dinner most evenings. Barefoot by the Sea featured the comforts of home while Bella Napoli had some pretty great pizza for lunching by the pool. Our favorite meal took place at the Soy Sushi Bar. We had a little bit of everything and then lounged in one of the nearby hammocks. I highly recommend the coconut gelato!!

One day, we choose to take a Circumnavigation Tour around the island. We opted for the Antigua Adventure, a 360 Xtreme Circumnav Boat Tour and could not have been happier with the results. Our first stop was to the Devil’s Bridge, an interesting archaeological site on the eastern side of the island. This trip included a visit to Stingray City. Though Russ was brave and jumped in, I just took photos from the dock!

The next stop on the tour included a private lunch at Green Island. We munched on fresh seafood and rested on the beach for a good part of the afternoon before setting back out on the water again. Word to the Wise: Now is a good time to PUT ON MORE SUNSCREEN!

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Before heading to the infamous Nelson’s Dockyard, we made our way to the Pillars of Hercules for a guided snorkeling trip around the volcanic boulders beneath the surface. Again, I am a chicken so this was more of a Russ thing. I swam close to the boat.

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 Our next and last stop was Rendezvous Bay, an exclusive and extremely secluded beautiful part of this exotic country. We managed to spend 8 hours touring our way around the entire island. This boat ride was worth every penny guys!

Nelson’s Dockyard is the largest of Antigua’s National Parks. In the early part of the eighteenth century, this Dockyard was used by the Royal British Navy because this particular harbor provided a safe place to dock your boats during the hurricane season. What can you do here? Well, I recommend taking a tour of the Admiral’s house, grabbing a bite to eat or just taking a gander at the sailboats and yachts that find their way into this historical landmark.

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Half Moon Bay Beach is beautiful stretch of crystal pink sand beach. We chose to leave the resort for a day and head out to somewhere more secluded and this happened to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. The views were outrageous and it was nice to get away from the resort crowd for a little bit. Our driver dropped us off with a cooler of beers and we posted up in this quiet. After a few hours of swimming and lounging out, a rain storm hit and we ran for cover at a nearby restaurant, The Harmony Hall and managed to grab some appetizers and a few glasses of wine for lunch.

Ffryes Beach had some of the most beautiful waters we saw on the entire island. It was bright turquoise and the snorkeling opportunities were out of this world. We saw so many different types of marine life. We had a wonderful time exploring this crescent of the island. Where to eat: Dennis Beach Bar and Restaurant . Try the grilled lobster or if you are lucky, try to attend the pig roast. You won’t be disappointed.

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Though we stayed close to Dickenson Bay, a fairly popular area on the island,  Runaway Beach was idyllic. Located on the Northwest coast, we enjoyed the exploring the rocky Corbinson Point. If you are looking to make a day out of visiting this beach, make sure to grab some jerk chicken off the side of the road before you get there. We had no trouble finding a local vendor and I still dream about this chicken.

What most people don’t know about this island is that several celebrities have chosen to make this island getaway their own private getaway. The late Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey and even Eric Clapton have contributed greatly to the island community. In fact, Eric Clapton owns a crazy gorgeous property near Hercules Pillars and helped found the Crossroads Centre. The Crossroads Centre is a 12 Step Treatment Facility dedicated to drug and alcohol rehabilitation in a therapeutic and supportive environment. The locals had a lot of positive things to say about this centre and the impact Eric Clapton has made on the island.

We spent our last day in Antigua by venturing to Shirley Heights. This famed lookout point featured a Jamaican steel drum band, a Sunday BBQ and yummy rum punch. We had the pleasure to meet new friends to share the sunset with and after all these years, we still keep in touch. We watched the sun set over the harbor and said goodbye to our time in the sun.

We hope to travel back to this beautiful island one day and soak up more sunsets, rum punch and jerk chicken!  Until then, stay tuned for more Travel Guides in our #Travel Tuesday Series. Coming up soon…A Weekend in New Orleans, Fall Break in Idaho Springs, Colorado and Farallon, Panama.

Travel Guide: The Perfect Layover in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Awhile back, Russ and I took a small trip to the North Pole. You may have read about our experience North in our Iceland Travel Guide. On our way there, we managed to stop in Baltimore for an afternoon on the East Coast! So many of us traveling from Texas across the pond have to make a stop somewhere along the coast and the Charm City is a heck of a place to start an epic journey.

With the Inner Harbor being only a short drive/train ride from BWI, you’ve got a few hours to kill. Take a walk into the beginnings of our great nation and let the harbor be your playground for the day. Our layover was about 9 hours, which at first, seemed daunting but we managed to pull off a full day of feasting on fresh seafood, sipping on Natty Bohs and exploring the cobblestone streets of one of America’s first ports.

Top 5 Things You Should Absolutely Do while Visiting Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

5. Head to the National Aquarium or Ripley’s. Both are out of this world and a super easy way to spend an afternoon killing time. I loved the jellyfish exhibit. Added bonus, options for lunch in every direction of the bay. You name it, they’ve got it. Head down to Fells Point and grab yourself a Crabcake!

4. Best Breakfast? Get fat. Go get doughnuts and Zeke’s coffee at Diablo Doughnuts. Go nuts, get the Unicorn Fart. You know you want to. The dude pictured below is pretty awesome, too. He’s the owner and the last time we were visiting Baltimore while on a Girls’ Trip, this fella hooked us up with stickers and sat and talked with us while we tried the box variety. Best surprises? Captain Chesapeake and Maple Bacon were some of the group favorites.

3. Make time to take a gander at the U.S.S. Constellation. Our country has built some pretty amazing ships and this one is impressive to say the least. This sail-only warship is the last of its’ kind built by the United States Navy. The price of admission is $5/adult and $25/family if you want to spend some time in the Museum.

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2. Head to the last place Edgar Allen Poe was seen alive, The Horse You Came In On Saloon. Legends tells it that ole Eddie died from consumption right on the street outside this infamous saloon. His picture still hangs above the bar alongside about a million Jack Daniels bottles. Grab a Natty Boh (local favorite beer, aka National Bohemian) and listen to the live music from the saddle you sit in.

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1. Go get a lobster roll at Thames Street Oyster House. I’m not kidding. This is the #1 thing you should do while visiting the Harbor. It was the best thing I have ever eaten. I dream about it sometimes. I know it’s $25. I don’t care. Spend that moolah and get yourself the best damn sandwich you are ever gonna have. Or get the crab cake, because it’s bomb too.

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Travel Guide: Fall Break in Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Hey guys! You guys are all probably thinking, “Hasn’t she already done a Travel Guide for Broken Bow?” Well yeah, I did, back in the spring, whenever everything was green and it was warm enough to lay out by the waters. Well, this go around is a little different.

We managed to make our way back to the Hochatown to see the Ouachita Mountains in all their fall glory. Everyone we had talked to said that the Talimena Scenic Byway, a road passing through the Ouachita Mountains into Arkansas, was a must-see for those wanting to soak in all the colors of October! For those of you planning Fall Break, this should be on your list. Or even stop by this summer, the lake is great.

For us, Broken Bow plays the part of a retreat. We all know that Dallas Fort Worth can feel like a concrete jungle at times so we feel lucky that we found this oasis in the southeastern corner of the Sooner state. There is just so much to do.

You can go horseback riding, kayak down the Lower Mountain Fork, head to the Girls Gone Wine Boutique or the new, Beaver’s Bend Brewery or even try your hand at zip lining with Rugaru Adventures! We’ve hiked the trails at Beaver’s Bend State Park, toured their Historical Museum and even partaken in some Big Foot Hunting (totally joking though this is a thing). Whatever the rhyme or reason, I feel like you could custom design a trip to this part of the country to suite your needs. You have the option to rest and relax by the lake or take on a whole new kind of adventure. The options are endless.

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Where and What to Eat:

  1. PIZZA at The Grateful Head! This is seriously some of the best pizza I have ever had. My favorite is the Tree Hugger. Those whole olives, spinach and cherry tomatoes make this a must-eat in Hochatown!
  2. Anything from the Moon Tower Bar and Grill. CHOPPED winner, Tabb Singleton has opened a bar and grill near Broken Bow Lake and this menu is worth drooling over. I snagged the  MTBG Loaded Fries, braised beef short rib, herbed potato fries, Wisconsin cheese curds and brown gravy. Imagine Poutine Fries topped with hearty short ribs…mouth watering. Russ snagged the Mountain Fork Burger, an 8 oz American Waygu Beef burger, small batch bacon, beer braised onions, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, sunny side up egg, choice of mayo or mustard or both on a brioche bun. Both were out of this world.
  3. The Turkey Bacon Avocado sandwich from Adam & Eve’s Coffee Shop. This was the perfect lunch stop. We snagged 2 of these bad boys and headed down to Paddle Beaver’s Bend to grab our kayaks. Halfway down the Mountain Fork, we busted these guys our for the perfect lunch on the water.
  4. Hochatown BBQ!! Just go ahead and order one of everything. The pork and brisket were sooooo good. Add some potato salad and few jalapeños and you’ve got yourself an excellent dinner for a great price.

PHOTOGRAPHERS:

For you photographers out there, Beaver’s Bend State Park plays the part of your dream back drop. I managed to sneak in a Senior Portrait Session with these two lovely ladies while I was visiting the area. We rented canoes, blew off a few smoke bombs and even made smores by the Lower Mountain Fork River. To see the Tucker Twins Senior Portraits, head here.

GOLF:

Cedar Creek Golf Course at Beaver’s Bend was most definitely the highlight of the trip for Russ. I kept joking that I was gonna start offering Golf Mini Sessions for guys who want to work on their swing. This course is beautiful, but I will admit that it was find to hard the ball. The foundation of the Ouachita Mountains consists of a lot of white shale so looking for a white ball in a bed of white rocks can be a little daunting though the scenic views down each fairway were worth every penny. The views of the lake are phenomenal and we saw our fair share of wild life, including a 12 point buck!

Traveling in Oklahoma in the Fall is somewhat magical. Just a short 3 hour drive from Fort Worth, this trip is worth taking. We love the outdoors. Having grown up in the lush greenery of Pennsylvania, this trip is my opportunity to bask in the autumn leaves and get all nostalgic about how much I love nature. The ever-changing weather also provides the most magical sun rises and sunsets. Our view from the deck at Lakeview Lodge is the perfect place to chow down on the complimentary breakfast and watch the deer run around the lake. I always make sure to snag a few extra muffins and cereal to pack in our bag for hiking snacks.

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 HOW I GOT THE ITCH FOR TRAVEL JOURNALISM & WHERE ARE WE HEADED TO NEXT:

In the spring of 2016, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Anderson, a landscape photographer based out of New Alexandria, Pennsylvania. After our chat, I made it a point to try my hand at capturing the highlights of our adventures. We traveled so much in 2016. Our East Coast Girl’s Trip was my first attempt at Travel Journalism and since then, we’ve traveled all around Colorado, through the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and to Broken Bow, Oklahoma in the spring. This year, we have visited Reykjavik, Iceland and Edinburg, Scotland and recently, Yellowstone National Park, so keep your eyes out for the next Travel Guide!

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IS THERE SOMEWHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE RUSTIE NAIL TRAVEL TO? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS BELOW!

Travel Guide: Top 20 Musts in Yellowstone National Park & the Grand Tetons

Hey guys!! Russ and I just got back from an awe-inspiring trip in the Midwest. We traveled between 4 states over 6 days to see some of the prettiest part of this country and I wanted to share a little behind the scenes action about our trip with you guys just in case you’ve been itching to plan a trip here too! Below, I have listed some of my absolute must-sees if you are interested in making the most of an adventure of this magnitude. Because, trust me, there is just so much to see.

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  1. Fly into Salt Lake City in the afternoon and Book a place in Island Park, Idaho.  It’s a little under 4 hour drive but the sunsets in Utah are worth it.  Island Park is a small recreational town located in Targhee National Forest conveniently located 30 minutes outside of the West Yellowstone entrance. Salt Lake City, Utah

Day One:

2. Once you’re settled in, make the drive from Island Park to Mesa Falls.  The Upper Falls of the Henrys Fork River measure at 114 feet high and 200 feet wide. It is is impressive to say the least.  There is a small museum and gift shop located on the property that adds to the history of this beautiful place.

3. Spend your first day in Yellowstone National entering through the West Yellowstone Gate and head North. We bypassed the Norris area and headed straight to Mammoth Hot Springs to see the boiling water rush over the travertine terraces. The short drive above them is a safe vantage point for those with little ones. We chose to stay on the boardwalks of the Lower Terrace.

4. Next stop, the Lamar Valley, where we hit a traffic jam. The buffalo were feet away from our car.  As they grazed, I hung out the window and took photos. Though there were some brave souls who were getting WAY TOO CLOSE to these wild animals, I had no plans of being stampeded or worse. These animals are unpredictable, wild. I can’t stress that enough.

5. After spending the afternoon in the Lamar Valley, we headed back to the Roosevelt Lodge and then on to Tucker Tower. This is where we caught our first glimpse of the Yellowstone River. I also snagged a few ornaments at the gift shop because I do this everywhere we go. Our tree is getting quite cluttered.

We made our way south to one of the park’s biggest attractions, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We didn’t have the best light in the afternoon so I’d recommend aiming for closer to sunset but it was a sight to see. Though we stopped at multiple vantage points, Artist’s Point was the last stop and where we spent the majority of our time.

6. From Artist’s Point we headed to the Artist Paintpots. This particular stop was full of geothermal features such as boiling mud pots, geysers and fumaroles. We hiked the whole path, staying on the boardwalks AT ALL TIMES. Again, DANGER. This place is full of unpredictable elements. Trust me, you don’t want to be the one who slips off the boardwalk into one of these bad boys. Also, don’t read Death in Yellowstone. You’ll have nightmares like I did.

7. Spend the rest of your drive back to Island Park stopping to see animals. At dusk, these guys are all over the place. We saw coyote, moose, elk, deer, you name it. Also, carry Bear Spray if you plan on walking around in this backcountry.

8. Put some time aside to enjoy the sunset on your way out of West Yellowstone. This one goes out to all my photographer friends. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. The animals are one thing but we had the opportunity to view an impressive sunset too!

Let’s Recap: Enter West Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, animal sightings in the Lamar Valley, Grand Canyon, Artists’ Paintpots & Sunset! On our way out, we stopped at Wild West Pizzeria. The pizza was the perfect pair for a pitcher of PBR and I kid you not, it is a Steelers bar! 6 Time Super Bowl Champs baby!

Day Two:

9. Wake up early and head back into the Park through the West Entrance and head straight to the Upper Geysir Basin. If you hit it early enough, you don’t have to see another person while you view this impressive landscape. We chose to stop and walk the boardwalks to view the geysers and geothermal pools.

10. The Grand Prismatic Spring. I had seen photos of it but until you are in its’ presence, you couldn’t possible appreciate its’ beauty. We opted to skip the up-close and take the hike to Fairy Falls. At just under 2 miles, this short hike gave us the opportunity to view the Spring at a more aerial view. Though I did huff and puff making my way up to the viewing platform, I am so happy we got to see this. The colors were so vibrant. Seriously, don’t miss this.

11. Old Faithful! This is probably the park’s largest attraction. We didn’t hang around for the explosion but you get the gist. Stop at the famed Lodge for lunch and wait out the 90 minutes in between eruptions to see this natural phenomenon in all its’ glory.

12. We couldn’t resist heading south for a glimpse of the Grand Tetons. We chose to have lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge. We split the burger and pickled veggies. After lunch, we made our way to Jenny Lake for a scenic cruise. Though the wildfires in Montana made our view nearly impossible, the smoky haze somehow enhanced the raw beauty of the mountains’ jagged edges. Tip for first timers: Bring a jacket or a blanket for the ride.

13. After our boat ride, we exited the park and made our way to Mormon Row, a famed photographic must-see. This abandoned barn is located on a dirt road that directly backs up to an impressive view of the Grand Tetons.  We encountered pronghorn and a small family farm lined with a colorful assortment of blooms.

14. Once the sun had gone down, we began making our way towards Jackson Hole. We took a drive around town and decided to start making our way towards Idaho. We made it back to Island Park just in time to grab a pitcher of PBR and a chicken sandwich at the Trout Hunter.

 Let’s Recap: Upper Geysir Basin, hike Fairy Falls to view the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge, Grand Tetons, Jenny Lake scenic boat cruise, Mormon Row, drive around Jackson Hole and dinner at the Trout Hunter.

Day Three:

15. We woke up late after a long night at the campfire and chose to spend the day exploring Idaho & Wyoming. We headed to Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake, a historic site known as the Night of Terror. When an earthquake hit around midnight on August 17th, 1959, 28 people died in the aftermath when Hebgen Lake shifted 19 feet and the quake swallowed its’ surroundings. Though exquisitely beautiful, this place still has an eery feel to it. After exploring a portion of the Madison River, we stopped at the Happy Hour Bar for a quick Arnold Palmer and relaxed by the lake for the first time!

16+17. We spent our morning touring lakes and we spent our afternoon kayaking 2 of Island Park’s wonders, the Box Canyon and the Snake River. Thankfully, the latter brought us right back to our dock. During our float, we saw Moose, Osprey, Elk and a whole lot of trout. Whether you’re in the mood to fly-fish or to animal watch, this place had more than enough options.

18. After a long day on the river, we chose to have dinner around the campfire with our host. He gave us a tour of his property including his sheep camp! This antique was used by Basque immigrants who worked the land as shepherds and farmers as cozy, mobile shelters. In fact, it was so comfortable, we couldn’t get his dog Colter out of the bed.

19. After dinner, we made our way down to the dock to let our hosts’ dog play in the Snake River while we watched the sun set. Colter frolicked along the dock and we watched the osprey fly over the vibrant sky. #19 Don’t Miss a Sunset! This is the one thing I was most thankful for on this trip. Time to sit back and enjoy the night rolling in.

Let’s Recap: Drive to Hebgen and Quake Lake, stop at Happy Hour Bar, Kayak Box Canyon, Kayak the Snake River, photo shoot with my favs on the dock during sunset, beers around the campfire.

Day Four:

20. Last, but not least…Idaho Falls! On our way to the airport in Salt Lake City, we pitstopped for lunch along the riverwalk in Idaho Falls. August had been kind to the flora surrounding the impressive falls. We stopped to see the Latter Day Saints Temple and reflected on what an amazing trip this has been!

I hope this article was helpful to anyone who is planning a trip in this area! If you have any questions about this wondrous place or any of the other places we’ve been this year, feel free to reach out. Email me (therustienailhead@gmail.com) with any and all inquiries because I would love to help you plan your next big adventure! Where would you like to see The Rustie Nail head to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Travel Guide: Kansas City

This past week, I had the opportunity to check a few more states off my list when I visited Kansas City! My brother and his favorite lady moved here about a year ago and it was past time that I check out what Kansas City is all about. Our first stop after flying into MCI was the National World War I Museum in downtown. From the top, you have an amazing view of the metropolis.

Our next stop was to walk around in a shopping and dining district dubbed Country Club Plaza. This area had so much to offer. Fine architecture, elaborate fountains around every corner and an assorted array of florals line the ornately decorated streets. We spent time walking near a canal and then proceeded on to lunch.

Where to Eat? Located on a corner lot in Country Club Plaza, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue was our first choice. Every blog and website suggested that Kansas City BBQ should be on the top of our list so I trusted my brother’s judgement when he said that this place had the best Burnt Ends in town. And, he wasn’t lying. I had the Corn and Half Chicken. I recommend asking for the spicy BBQ sauce too. It was lip-smacking good, especially on the lamb ribs!

We spent that night ordering Pizza Hut and watching scary movies on the couch but the next day, we were determined to have an adventure. We headed to Black Hoof Park, a recreation area located adjacent to Lake Lenexa, a 35 acre, deep water lake. The dam and spillway at the park are an architectural feat. We spent time walking my brother’s pups around the lake and photographing the flora. We managed to see a few fishermen and even a kayak out on the water, something I will have to remember for the next time I visit.

After the park, we headed to a Mexican restaurant in Gardner, Kansas for lunch. Fronteras had a $2.50 Margarita Special and an appetizer plate that my bro and I scarfed down in a matter of minutes. We spent the afternoon sitting under the cabanas on the patio laughing about our crazy family and planning our next adventure.

That night, we headed into downtown Kansas City. Our first stop was Manifesto, a speakeasy with some premium bar drinks. My favorite was the Beautiful Red Bell, a gin martini that tasted exactly like a red bell pepper. It was delicious! Lit by nothing but candlelight, this place has a 1920s vibe and some classic drink choices.

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After drinks, we headed into the Kansas City Power and Light District. We strolled through the massive venue and then made our way to dinner at the Yardhouse up the street. After throwing back a few Boulevard Heifewiezens, I munched on the Ahi Tuna Poke Stack and a few of my brother’s girlfriend’s nachos! Everything was really yummy!

I was told over and over that the Kansas City sunsets were beautiful. And, I bet they were. I just kept napping on the back porch every night and missing it. But, I did get to catch the sunrise on the morning that I left. 4:45 came bright and early and with it, a gorgeous display of color and a gracious reminder of time. How fast it flys by and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to stop and enjoy it every now and then.

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We have got a lot more travel guides coming up in the next few months but I don’t want to ruin the surprise just yet. Where would you like to see The Rustie Nail head to next? The beach, a national park maybe or an amusement park you’ve been dying to check out! I love hearing suggestions on where to head to next. Leave you’re comments below!

Travel Guide: 3 Days in Edinburgh, Scotland

Alright y’all. It’s past time I share all the goods on our trip to the United Kingdom. Truth be told, this would be my first trip across the pond and I was beyond giddy about traveling internationally for the first time. After having spent 3 days in Iceland, we jetted out of Keflavik and straight into Edinburgh, Scotland. Did we have a set plan? Not really, but what unfolded was an incredible look into the world of J.K. Rowling, a few happy tears while photographing the stained glass that ornament the halls of St. Giles Cathedral and a whole new appreciation for the architecture of the past.

Day One:

We arrived bright and early on a Friday morning and immediately headed out into the city. Our plan was to get dropped off at Waverley Bridge and make the hike through the Princes Street Gardens to our hotel in the Grassmarket, doubly name The Grassmarket Hotel. This place was the perfect place to start our day. The receptionist, Stephen, was so helpful. He made “the best fish and chips” suggestion (City Restaurant is BOMB) and even booked us a few tours for the following day.

 A few friends had suggested we stay in Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and boy are we glad we did. The curved cobblestone streets and quiet closes could be found around every corner and our hotel was in walking distance of all the major attractions on our to-do list.  The pubs on Victoria Street were just an added bonus.

The best advice we got was to jump on the Hop On Hop Off Tour. For $19, we managed to snag a 24 hour pass that tours the city and introduces you to the history of this ancient town. Though it was a bit chilly sitting on the top, my camera was loving the natural light and the surreal views. This is a MUST DO if you are traveling in this area.

After chowing down on some mushy peas and cod, we headed down the Royal Mile. At first, we were just walking around, taking it all in. But then, I remembered reading a Blog that said for a few Euros, you could take photos inside St Giles Cathedral. We headed in that direction, I snagged my permit and I set up my camera inside the massive beauty where Franciscan monks had once occupied. To say I cried is an understatement. The stained glass ornamenting every wall, the woodwork of the Thistle Chapel, the structure of the organ, it was all just so beautiful. Not gonna lie, I spent a good amount of time soaking it all in. I had never seen anything quite so enchantingly detailed.

We even headed back that Sunday for the 1st Lenten Mass. Their service was enlightening and the choir was incredible. The acoustics of this space + 30 out-of-this-world voices makes for one awesome concert. No matter your faith, I highly recommend attending a service.SCOTLAND-66

Day Two:

After a few G&Ts and an incredible dinner at The Doric, we hit the hay early and started Day Two fresh. We had booked a tour with Rabbies through Viator to view Stirling Castle and a portion of the Highlands. Most of you will recognize Stirling Castle as the site of the William Wallace statue (cue Mel Gibson donning blue facepaint and screaming FREEDOM). Though most of Braveheart can be taken with a grain of salt, the  importance of the Forth River during the Independence Wars and the ancestral houses that reigned here still linger with a royal importance. Stirling’s history is laden with baptisms, marriages and parties of grandeur. We toured the Castle for over an hour and then headed down the cafe to snag a coffee and some treats to tide us over until lunch. I highly suggest the Millionaire Shortbread and the Caramel Apple Loaf.

Though Mel Gibson is full of crap when it comes to embellishing the history of Scotland, a few things remain true. The history of Mary Queen of Scots is felt in every inch of this fortress. At just 5 days old, she became Queen. However, her life was ill fated and plagued by those who wished to unseat her. After a life of tragedy, her son, King James VI/I became the King of both Scotland and England. His style and borgias appreciation made Stirling an impregnable palace.

Once we were done gobbling down the Scottish treats, we jumped back on the bus and headed to Duone Castle. Featured in hit TV shows like Outlander and Game of Thrones, this castle lies in the midst of a small town. After seeing the Red Lion Inn along the main drag, I understood how this place came to be Tywin Lannister’s Casterly Rock.

Our next stop on our tour led us to Aberfoyle, a quaint town in the Highlands. Though most of this area is littered with “summer homes” aka PALACES, one can certainly feel the country vibe. There are sheep roaming most fields and hairy coos along the side of road. I was most excited to see the irises and various wild flowers popping up outside. We stopped for lunch at The Forth Inn and I had the local salmon with a red pepper pesto. Yummy.  Acclaimed for the Faerie-Tree and the likes of Rob Roy, this small town had a cozy holiday feel to it.

After lunch, we made our way to Loch Lomond. It was a dreary day but the calm of the water was the perfect spot to stretch our legs and grab an afternoon beer at the local pub. We traipsed our way around the Loch until our driver said it was time to hit the road.

That night, we headed back to City Restaurant in downtown Edinburgh. Russ munched on yet another “fish and chips” dish while I chose the Antipasta Platter. Goodness gracious! After dinner, we headed back to our hotel which was appropriately located next to the busiest pub on Grassmarket, Biddy Mulligans! We chatted up with a good deal of other travelers and danced the night away to the live music.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to the sound of bagpipes out of our hotel window. Though loud, it was an awesome reminder of how little time we had left to enjoy this country and its’ culture. We downed a bunch of Advil and headed out into the city to explore.

Day Three: 

Once I figured out that Edinburgh is basically the home base for the inspiration behind the Harry Potter Series, I went in search of J.K. Rowling’s muse. So, we headed GreyFriar’s Kirk to search the tombstones that inspired the professors names (Dumbledore and such). This was eerily cool. We strolled along the real-life Diagon Alley. As we passed the Magic Shops, book stores and a man holding an owl, I found myself wishing I had a wand to hunt down the Leaky Cauldron. We headed to the Elephant Room, a coffee house where J.K. Rowling began working on the Philosopher’s Stone. Looking out the front window of the shop, you have Edinburgh University in front of you, Potter’s Row to your left and 1000s of children in their uniforms walking past. One could only describe it as magic or the beginnings of an epic tale.

As we walked around the city, we stumbled into Mimi’s BakeShop for Mars Bar Muffins, stopped to admire the architecture of High Street and put our butts on a double decker bus to Queens Ferry to check out the famous Forth Bridges.

Our last stop was Edinburgh Castle.  I guess you could say we saved the best for last. High atop a volcanic edifice, this castle houses a destructive powerhouse, Mons Meg, and the Crowned Jewels of Scotland. We leisurely toured every inch of this place. From the dungeons to King James nursery room to the Chapel built in the 1400s, we explored the history of this great city.

Why Scotland? Well, our number one reason was the flight. Out of Keflavik, our trip to Scotland only cost us $120 Round Trip. Secondly, my husband is a tad obsessed with golf so we had planned on heading to Saint Andrews. Lastly, they speak English. We only had a short window of time and we wanted to skip the language barrier in order to enjoy the most of our vacation.

Though we did not get to see everything that we wanted to while we were there, we hope to head back. Russ wants to attend the Highland Games and head to St Andrews for a round of golf and I would like to head to the Isle of Skye and the Botanist Distillery. Scotland has so much to offer and I can not wait to see where this adventure takes us next!

HOW I GOT THE ITCH FOR TRAVEL JOURNALISM & WHERE ARE WE HEADED TO NEXT:

In the spring of 2016, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Anderson, a landscape photographer based out of New Alexandria, Pennsylvania. After our chat, I made it a point to try my hand at capturing the highlights of our adventures. We traveled so much in 2016. Our East Coast Girl’s Trip was my first attempt at Travel Journalism and since then, we’ve traveled around and through the state of Colorado, through the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Mr. Norris and I just got back from Reykjavik, Iceland and Edinburg, Scotland so keep an eye out for our Travel Guides for those trips in 2017!

IS THERE SOMEWHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE RUSTIE NAIL TRAVEL TO? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS BELOW!

If any of you out there have more questions about our trip, feel free to email me at therustienailhead@gmail.com.