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The world is going loco. I wrote a 1,000 word joke in response and published it on a website called Bullshit.ist. Maybe you’ll find it funny too. Here’s how it starts… 

Mark Zuckerberg looked down at his Apple Watch to check Steve Jobs’ weather forecast. Since Steve died a few years ago, he’d taken on a more omnipotent role at Apple, chief amongst his new responsibilities, updating the iPhone’s worldwide weather forecasts. Now, whenever anyone opened the Weather app on their iPhone, they were getting Steve Jobs’ analysis straight from his Cloud in heaven. Zuck needed to know how cold it was going to get in Menlo Park that evening so he could pick out the right hoodie for his top secret investors meeting with the Russians. Continue reading at Bullshit.ist.

The pool at The Standard Spa Miami, my pick for the best hotel for locals.

The pool at The Standard Spa Miami, my pick for the best hotel for locals.

 

The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler Lucas Peterson recently paid our fair, seaside city of South Beach a visit and like so many travel writers and first time visitors before him, he fell into the typical tourist traps of Ocean Drive and its surrounding streets, rattling off (for the most part) a list of bars that no self respecting local would be caught dead in. He even called Mango’s the “quintessential” South Beach club experience—uh, not quite, bro. See: LIV, Story.

To be fair, South Beach isn’t the easiest place to penetrate with pockets of coolness hiding in plain sight amidst, well, a lot of weirdness. Having lived in South Beach for the last six years, I’ve created a no nonsense guide distilling down the best locals spots in the ‘hood. And, yes, they happen to be places that I personally enjoy frequenting.

So what makes a spot local? 

First, it’s gotta have a good vibe. We like a place that’s both approachable and stylish with serious quality backing it up.

Second, the price needs to be right. It’s far too easy to drop $80 to $100 a head at restaurants of wildly varying quality on the beach (most places being just okay). We want to pay half that. Also, spare us the $18-$24 cocktails, please! We live here. We need a place we can go any night of the week and not feel totally ripped off and despondent when the bill comes.

Finally, we love anything locally owned and operated. That’s how we’re slowly, but surely building a community on this crazy, neon-festooned, tacky, tourist loving, melting pot of an island that’s slowly sinking into the Atlantic. We like a place where we might run into our neighbors that still feels somewhat undiscovered by the masses who live elsewhere.

The Neighborhood

Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. If you want to know where South Beach locals like to hang, the answer is simple: Sunset Harbour. This picturesque micro-neighborhood (it’s all of about three blocks) overlooking Biscayne Bay is where we grocery shop and work out. It’s also where some of our favorite bars, restaurants and boutiques are found. With a central parking garage, it’s easy to access and everything is walkable.

(The only caveat is that this infant neighborhood is ground zero for Mayor Levine’s resiliency plan to combat sea level rise. From tearing up the streets to raising the sidewalks, it’s been in a perpetual state of construction for, well, as long as the neighborhood’s been on the map with no signs of letting up anytime soon.) What can we do?

These are the best local spots in Sunset Harbour:

Where to Eat:

With its wide-ranging menu (from short rib pappardelle to tofu gado gado) featuring plenty of healthy options, Icebox is my go-to, post-yoga dinner spot. With a solid wine list, cocktail menu and crave-worthy selection of homemade cakes by the slice, you can make a meal here as indulgent as you wish.

The dining room at Paradigm Kitchen

The dining room at Paradigm Kitchen

 

Fast, casual and healthy is the name of the game in South Beach and I love the latest from Jugofresh’s Matthew Sherman. Paradigm Kitchen opened in October, dishing up fresh poke bowls, haloumi salads, lamb kebab wraps and (free!) crystal enhanced water at breakfast and lunchtime. Yes, your chakras will be aligned and your body will be nourished after a meal here.

Locals love anything Pubbelly and Pubbelly Sushi, with its delicious, creative, deconstructed sushi and tapas, reigns supreme.

Al fresco dining at Lucali for the best pizzas on the beach

Al fresco dining at Lucali for the best pizzas on the beach

 

It might be imported from Brooklyn, but South Beach locals have claimed Lucali for their own. Inside an industrial space that still manages to feel homey, Lucali’s brick oven pizzas are the best on the beach. Other standout dishes include their meatballs and kale Caesar salad.

Where to Drink:

And speaking of Lucali, their adjacent cocktail bar Bay Club is my favorite drinking den on the beach. With a well-edited cocktail list, talented bartenders and personal sized pizzas served in a charming indoor-outdoor setting, it’s perfection post-work or late night.

Lights up at the dirty Purdy.

Lights up at the dirty Purdy.

 

And if you’re at Bay Club late, you might as well swing by Purdy Lounge to dance off the pizza and cocktails—and order some high ABV Chimays to keep the party going. This slightly divey bar (lovingly called the “dirty Purdy”) was here before the neighborhood developed into what it is today and longtime Miami locals love it—or at the very least, have fond memories of their younger days here.

Where else in South Beach can you order a locally roasted cup of coffee, set up your laptop and (pretend? to) get to work? That’s what Panther Coffee is here for. Also, for mini Vegan cupcakes.

Where to Exercise:

Amy Dannheim and Paul Toiuszis, Miami's finest.

Amy Dannheim and Paul Toliuszis, Miami’s finest.

 

Two of Miami’s most gifted yoga teachers, Amy Dannheim and Paul Toliuszis, teamed up to open Tropical Vinyasa in September. The bright, airy yoga studio has serious good vibes and a talented, diverse roster of teachers.

Sunset paddles with South Beach Kayak.

Sunset paddles with South Beach Kayak.

 

South Beach Kayak is the neighborhood’s original kayak and standup paddleboard outfitter. Owned by longtime Miami Beach locals, the Sherman family, this is the place to go for a whirl on Biscayne Bay.

Where to Shop:

Selling soft, sumptuous lingerie, loungewear, bikinis and cover-ups, Eberjey, founded in 1996 by Mariela Rovito and Ali Mejia, is one of Miami’s fashion success stories.

Trendy shopping abounds at Frankie.

Trendy shopping abounds at Frankie.

 

Frankie. is where to shop when you’re in the mood to splurge on a trendy outfit for a night out or chic casual wear.

Market is where to shop when you want to save on trendy basics.

On the racks at Sunset Clothing Co.

On the racks at Sunset Clothing Co.

 

Sunset Clothing Co. is where to shop if you’re a dude. (There’s also casual women’s clothing).

 

Local Bars

We like to keep things fresh in South Beach, so when a new cocktail bar pops up tucked away off Collins Park, we’re all about it. Conceived by legendary Miami mixologist John Lermayer, Sweet Liberty serves up a sweet cocktail and food menu (cauliflower nachos, anyone?). It was also named Best New American Bar at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards in July.

You're really cool if you like the Deuce.

You’re really cool if you like the Deuce.

 

A certain breed of Miami hipster dudes take great pride in their love of Mac’s Club Deuce, South Beach’s ultimate dive bar—and for good reason. It’s dark and dingy with a pool table, the drinks are cheap, the jukebox is good and the characters who hang out there are stranger than fiction. We’re talking eye patches and face tattoos. Drink up!

For a bar-lounge-club hybrid—you know, a place where you can have equal amounts of fun on the dance floor or at the bar and still end up getting hit on, head to Bodega or Radio.

 

Local Restaurants

For crepes in a cozy café that transports you to a sidewalk in France, look no further than A La Folie, hidden on the non-touristy end of Española Way.

We like healthy, organic food in South Beach, so we frequent the newly opened fast-casual Dirt for its super fresh and delicious menu of salads, bowls and sandwiches.

After lunch at The Cafe, don't forget to browse the shelves at Books & Books

After lunch at The Cafe, don’t forget to browse the shelves at Books & Books

 

As far as I’m concerned, The CafĂ© at Books & Books is the only palatable restaurant on Lincoln Road (aside from Shake Shack, of course). They serve a wide-ranging menu of salads, sandwiches and entrees. Bonus: You can browse the shelves at Books & Books afterwards.

Some Italian options: Macchialina (helmed by James Beard Award Best Chef semifinalist Michael Pirolo, pasta dishes are only $10 on Thursdays), Via Emilia 9 (with outrageous charcuterie boards and sumptuous pasta) and Sylvano’s(authentic, rustic Italian in a romantic, indoor-outdoor setting off Collins Park).

 

Locally Loved Hotels

I’m anointing The Standard (pictured at top) as the best hotel for locals. Whether you’re a member or not, the place is a picturesque haven on Biscayne Bay, perfect for a spa day, sunset happy hour, yoga class or meditation workshop. It’s one of those places that reminds us how lucky we are to live amidst beautiful weather and beautiful people.

Cool dude Chef Spike!

Cool dude Chef Spike!

 

While its tourist-central location at 15th and Collins stacks the decks against it, I’m rooting for The Hall to become a popular locals spot. With chilled out, surfer dude, celeb chef Spike Mendelsohn behind the menu at pool bar Sunny’s and beer garden Campton Yard, the grub is tasty and priced right. It might be the only place on the beach with a solid cocktail menu at $10, plus they’re wooing locals with a 15 percent discount.

When You Really Want to Get Crunk

DAVINCII!!!!!!

DAVINCII!!!!!!

 

It’s not a total accident that we’ve chosen to live on a barrier island swimming with debauch nightclubs that go hard until sunrise. When we really want to throw down, we head to LIV or Story.  

For a party in a smaller venue that can be just as wild, head to Basement at The Miami Beach EDITION (also see: Rec Room at Gale hotel) where there’s not only a Discobox dance club, but also an ice skating rink and four-lane bowling alley. I’m a big fan of the hotel’s casual dining restaurant Market by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Matador Bar for top-notch cocktails in a sexy setting. Neither, however, are priced for locals.

While the crowd here often skews to bizarre beyond explanation, Faena is still just too damn pretty to completely ignore. See if you can charm your way into their speakeasy Saxony Bar accessed down a spiral staircase to the right of the gilded lobby cathedral for your best shot at a good vibe.

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

Women of Impact dinner honorees

Women of Impact dinner honorees

 

On Sunday evening, I joined a group of 20 Miami women for a special dinner party thrown by Vanessa James of Vanessa James Media and the Lincoln Motor Company. Held at one of my favorite South Beach restaurants, Lure Fishbar at the Loews Hotel, it was an evening to honor multicultural Women of Impact in the arts, media and entertainment industries.

jen-van-shayne

With fellow writer Jennifer Agress and our hostess with the mostest Vanessa James.

 

Vanessa was a gracious hostess and emcee for the evening, bringing us together to connect, share our stories and discuss our triumphs and our struggles.

Check out the fancy recap video above to get an idea for how the evening unfolded.

The evening was also presented by DELL and we were all gifted MantraBands. I got a silver one that reads, “You Got This,” and a gold one that says, “Be you. Love you. All ways. Always.” They’re beautiful and a gift I would definitely give to my girlfriends.

Obvs the first three words you think of to describe me!

Unmatched. Delightful. Inspiring… Obvs the first three words you think of to describe me!

 

As I said in the recap video posted above, “It was a great dinner. It was a great evening to connect with a really dynamic group of women. I learned a lot. I think we really felt like we came together on a lot of common themes.”

smile

Congrats to all the honorees. I was honored to be a part of it.

 

I left with a feeling of solidarity and sense of purpose for the year ahead. Thank you Vanessa James!

champagne

Cheers, y’all!

NaplesSunset

The sunset from a balcony at Edgewater Beach Hotel.

 

Perhaps you just need a change of scenery.

Once you emerge on the other side of Alligator Alley after a two-hour drive, the west coast of South Florida unfurls against the powder white sands of the Gulf of Mexico where Naples is nestled into a corner of the Everglades. Here, you’re never far from a mangrove estuary as herons and brown pelicans swoop peacefully through the sky and you can consistently rely upon dolphin sightings just offshore.

It’s a favored destination of wealthy snowbirds and retirees—their stucco and limestone manses are built waterfront along the gulf and its canals. But there’s also a more down to earth year round locals scene to be discovered.

After a long weekend there, I decided Naples has a touch of sophistication with its neatly landscaped Mediterranean Revival downtown district, and a touch of the rough-and-tumble as locals stream down the avenue on longboards, barefoot in cutoff jeans on their way to the beach.

Where to Beach

ClamPass

The boardwalk to the beach through Clam Pass Park.

 

For Miamians accustomed to the Atlantic Ocean, a trip to Naples should involve the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico if only to be reminded of their difference and, more importantly, to relax. For an experience that feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret stretch of beach, head to Clam Pass Park, a mangrove estuary at the foot of the Naples Grande hotel. After a 15-minute walk through a hardwood hammock along a boardwalk made of recycled milk cartons, I reached the sparkling aquamarine gulf and spotted a gopher tortoise and dune rabbit as soon as I reached the sand. There’s an open air Greek restaurant with shaded patio seating on a wooden deck, adding to the “paradise found” charm.

A popular beach for locals is accessed at the end of Vanderbilt Beach Road near the rowdy Beach Box Cafe. To the north, you’ll find The Turtle Club where you can enjoy dinner or drinks with your toes in the sand and front row views of the sunset and to the south, the Ritz-Carlton’s Gumbo Limbo tiki bar offers a casual, yet chic setting for oceanfront cocktails.

Dining & Nightlife Downtown

DowntownNaples

Fifth Avenue South with its Mediterranean Revival architecture.

 

The thrust of Naples dining and nightlife scene is found downtown along Fifth Avenue South, along with its boutiques and galleries. I met friends at Bistro 821 for pre-dinner cocktails and appetizers where their espresso martini is extremely popular amongst locals. Already starving, I ordered their chili relleno stuffed with garlic shrimp, spicy beef and mozzarella smothered in a refined roasted tomato-chipotle sauce that perfectly hit the spot.

We moved onto Tulia for dinner, with its shabby chic dĂ©cor, earnest cocktail program and sophisticated menu of sumptuous Italian small plates. It’s as close to hipster as it gets in Naples and would easily be at home amongst Miami’s hot spots with dishes ranging from house-made ricotta with artichokes and Meyer lemon to a simple cacio e pepe bucatini with sheep’s cheese and wood-roasted salmon. Across the street is Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub, if you’d like your night to devolve into a drunken spiral in a strange, dimly lit pub-meets-club atmosphere.

Otherwise, The Continental is a short Uber away on Third Street where a chic patio lined in white umbrellas hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights and a sophisticated cocktail menu is organized by the spirit. This stretch of Third Street is worth exploring during the day for its chic shops (ranging from Oscar de la Renta to local boutiques) in a village-like setting. You’ll also find Sea Salt here, one of Naples’ hottest restaurants of the moment, specializing in sophisticated Italian by Venetian chef-owner Fabrizio Aielli.

Avenue Five at the Inn on Fifth offers an exceptionally sophisticated place to sip champagne in a champagne-colored dining room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street. Opt for their Lobster Cobb or duck confit flatbread. A more casual option is Shea’s at Landsdowne Street, tucked away in a plaza across the street from Avenue Five. This newly opened spot serves up a wide variety of sandwiches, salads and burgers alongside an extensive beer selection in a sports bar setting.

Where to Stay

NaplesGrande

A guest room at Naples Grande Beach Resort.

 

Naples Grand Beach Resort – With chic poolside landscaping that includes three pools and a water slide, Naples Grande also boasts a spa, golf course and beach access. Rooms are spacious and chic with balconies and a cool palette of blues, silvers and creams. Don’t miss a meal at The Catch of the Pelican with their decadent and perfectly chilled raw bar, farm fresh salads and prime cuts of steak paired with fine wines and peaceful views. From $246.

Bathroominnonfifth

The chic marble bathroom at Inn on Fifth.

 

Inn on Fifth – For a sophisticated stay in downtown Naples, the Inn on Fifth is decked out in a sophisticated Art Deco motif in black, white and red. Rooms and suites are spacious and stylish with large marble bathrooms. From $169.

Edgewater –This all-suite hotel is situated directly on the gulf for stunning sunset views. Take a paddleboard for a spin from their beach hut where you’ll spot dolphins along the nearby jetty. From $215.

Why Go:

For Miamians, a weekend in Naples offers a relaxed pace, the nature and tranquility of the Gulf of Mexico and some pretty hotels to hide away for a getaway that’s easy to pull off.

The Logistics: Two-hour drive from Miami across I-75 Alligator Alley.

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

TheBreakers

The lobby at The Breakers hotel.

 

It’s all beautiful excess in Palm Beach where limestone mansions peer over manicured hedges to pristine, private beaches on South Ocean Boulevard. It’s here, on this four square-mile strip of a barrier island where drivers instinctually slow down, angling for a glimpse  at swimming pools and tennis courts and maybe a Kennedy beyond the gilded gates.

One of the wealthiest enclaves in the U.S., Palm Beach is a mere hour drive from Miami and while it effuses exclusivity, its riches are there for anyone who pulls into a parking spot on unhurried Worth Avenue, so long as you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with those who drape pastel pink cashmere sweaters over theirs while walking a pair of standard poodles past the Everglades Club.

To get a taste of quintessential Palm Beach, check these five activities off your list for the perfect weekend itinerary.

WorthAve

Kristy and Judy living the Worth Avenue life.

 

1. Shop Worth Avenue

As soon as you set foot on Worth Avenue, you’ll observe a quiet that simply doesn’t exist in Miami. Whether it’s window-shopping or power shopping, Worth Avenue has all the spoils in a beautifully landscaped, Mediterranean setting with high arcades, ivy climbing up storefronts and pocket gardens blossoming with bougainvillea. The street is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, with every designer flagship under the sun, as well as boutiques, like Calypso St. Barth and contemporary fashion labels, like Sandro and Maje.

2. Lunch at Ta-Boo

With its long onyx bar and dark, cool interiors, Ta-Boo, in the heart of Worth Avenue, is a comforting lunchtime respite from that perfect sunny day outside. An icon on par with Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach, Ta-Boo feels like a fabulous fall from Eden with black and white zebra banquettes and leafy potted palms. The amiable owner Franklyn P. De Marco loves holding court at the end of the bar while models from boutiques on Worth Avenue swan through the casual-chic dining room luring the post-lunch crowd and their pocketbooks. The menu of salads, pizzas and sandwiches skews rather traditional with appetizers like shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs, and the wine list figures in just as prominently. Ta-Boo is the kind of place where a large glass of Chardonnay with lunch is de rigueur.

221 Worth Ave., Palm Beach; 561-835-3500

TheColony

Inside a Technicolor guest room at The Colony.

 

3. Cabaret at The Colony’s Royal Room

Step back in time at The Colony hotel’s Royal Room where dinner-and-a-show cabarets ($120 per person) are hosted every night of the week in season and over the weekends in the summertime. Talent ranges from Broadway belters to jazzy crooners singing their way through the American Song Book with a full band. Dress is formal (a suit and tie is required for gentlemen), but the real party starts at the adjacent Polo Lounge post-show. Here, a live pianist keeps the crowd singing and dancing late into the night and the Royal Room’s headliner might just come out for an informal encore.

155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5430

TheCircle

The dessert spread is a highlight of brunch at The Circle.

 

4. Brunch at The Circle at The Breakers

The Breakers is a Palm Beach institution. Founded in 1896 by Henry Flagler, the sweeping resort covers 140 oceanfront acres, and while it’s certainly a grand dame, she’s not stuffy. Independently owned by descendants of Flagler, The Breakers invests no less than $30 million annually into capital improvements, so these hallowed halls are always at the peak of chic. Sunday brunch in The Circle—a dramatic oceanfront dining room with a 30-foot high vaulted frescoed ceiling and grand chandelier—is a Palm Beach tradition. The spread and service is beyond impressive with a dessert bar that could be a meal unto itself. $105 per person.

One South County Rd., Palm Beach; 888-273-2537

5. Visit the Flagler Museum

Not far from The Breakers is Flagler’s Palm Beach estate known as Whitehall, which was built in 1902. Today, it’s a museum dedicated to his life and career as one of South Florida’s earliest developers. The impressive Beaux Arts home boasts original furnishings for a glimpse into the Gilded Age, a time in Florida when Flagler built the Overseas Railroad connecting Key West to the mainland and a slew of luxury resorts at major stops along the way.

One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach; 561-655-2833

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

In an effort to share my travels with you in a more timely fashion, I’m trying out a new column: The Hit List. It’s a fast and dirty rundown highlighting what I’ve uncovered in different destinations. Not meant to be a comprehensive guide, it’s simply a list of recommendations to hit on your itinerary if you go–in a similar vein to the Daily Dose. After all, my first impulse to write about travel came from wanting a few good restaurant and bar recommendations in San Francisco many years ago. So I present you with the first installment of The Hit List… Sedona. 

Sedona

The road leading to Verde Valley School.

 

I recently returned from a week at the inaugural Sedona Summer Artist Colony at the Verde Valley School in the Village of Oak Creek. It was my first time in the high desert of Arizona’s Red Rocks and the experience was pretty magical. I spent the week hiking through energy vortexes, exploring Sedona’s New Age-y side and getting to know a diverse cross section of artists from across the country.

ArtistColony

Daniel & Yona entertaining the group at a farewell party for the Sedona Summer Artist Colony.

 

Trailheads

At first I was a little nervous to set off on long hikes in the desert alone, but I quickly tapped into my Wild (å la Cheryl Strayed) side and relished in the solitude surrounded by this otherworldly nature.

LittleHorse

The view approaching Chicken Point.

 

Little Horse + Chapel – approx. 4.8 miles – This trail is part of the Bell Rock Pathway with crazy views at the end at Chicken Point. I also tacked on the Chapel trail, which takes you to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Modernist church built in the middle of the desert mountains.

Creek

Views up to Cathedral at the creek.

 

Baldwin to the Creek – The Colony was located right by a creek for swimming with views to Cathedral. I went with my new buddies Ashley and Chris.

Cathedral

At the peaks of Cathedral.

 

Cathedral – approx. 1.4 miles – This is pretty monumental, more of a climb than a hike, up the side of the Cathedral rock energy vortex with an incredible payoff at the top.

DevilsBridge

On Devil’s Bridge.

 

Devil’s Bridge – approx. 4 miles – Once you arrive, the name is pretty self-explanatory.

BoyntonVista

My heart-shaped rock with the masculine energy vortex at Boynton Vista in the background.

 

Boynton Canyon + Vista – approx. 8 miles – My friend Betsy tipped me off to this hike, where she said a man along the trail plays the flute and gives heart shaped rocks to people he meets. After a long hike through the canyon forest and back with big yellow butterflies following me, I scaled the vista, hearing the sounds of the flute in the distance. When I reached the top, I looked up to see a man with a thick white mustache. He greeted me: “Welcome, you’ve reached the point of two powerful energy vortexes, the masculine over here and the divine feminine, Kachina. Soak it all in and spread the love.” Then, he handed me a heart-shaped rock and made his way down the trail.

Restaurants

Elote – Upscale Mexican in a laidback atmosphere.

CoffeePot

Bomb town huevos rancheros at Coffee Pot.

 

Coffee Pot – Okay, I loved this place. It’s a cross between a funky diner and a Mexican restaurant. They’re known for their 101 omelettes, but I was on a huevos rancheros kick. After my five mile Litte Horse hike, I was famished. I added chorizo and avocado, plus a side of hash browns, coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ. Heaven.

Local Juicery – Self explanatory.

Chocolate Tree – A chocolaterie/Vegan restaurant. I ordered a ginger lemonade with a shot of wheat grass and the Sedona 2012 wrap, which is basically a Vegan chimichanga. It was delicious and filling. They also have blue corn “se’donuts” baked with coconut oil and maple syrup for dessert, which were kind of gross/good.

New Age-y Stuff

Mystical BazaarIn Sedona, there are more “sacred lights” and “healing arts” centers on the side of the road than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means). And, yes, I stopped in all of them. Ultimately, my energy drew me to the Mystical Bazaar where the woman covered in glitter behind the counter explained that her healers approach their readings without ego, working with abundant white light and accessing the higher angels. Sold. I had my chakras balanced and learned that my third chakra, the solar plexus, has trouble firing up, keeping me from experiencing true joy. Other than that I’m fine.

Crystal Magic – Crystal shops have also run amok in Sedona and Crystal Magic was my favorite. I bought some rose quartz for myself, hoping to attract love, and picked out crystals for my friends that I intuitively matched to their auras.

Stupa

The Amitabha Stupa.

 

Amitabha Stupa – I popped into the McLean Meditation Institute right before a monsoon swept across the red rocks, and I was tipped off to a Buddhist stupa in the middle of the desert. What, you might ask, is a Buddhist stupa? It’s an alter with a little baby Buddha on it that you walk around three times praying for peace and the end of world suffering. I loved it.

PHX Stopover

Sedona’s a two-hour drive from Phoenix where I flew in. Here’s a couple of bomb breakfast spots.

Richardsons

Eggs and rellenos at Richardson’s. This was so good!

 

Richardson’s – My bros Tommy & Casey took me to Richardson’s, a New Mexican restaurant, where I ordered one beef and one cheese chili relleno with eggs over easy, hashbrowns and beans smothered in a green chili sauce. Out of control delicious.

Snooze, an AM Eatery – I had huevos rancheros here.

StrandedonLand

My dear friend Eunique Fowler recently launched Stranded on Land, a website connecting travel and outdoor adventure sport enthusiasts. She was kind enough to invite me to be profiled on her site. Eunique recently embarked on a solo cross-country road trip from Miami to San Diego to put down roots on the West Coast and pursue a new passion. I can’t be more proud of her for having the courage to strike out on her own.

Spearfishing in Bahamas' Cay Sals on one of my most recent adventures. Photo by Ian Miller.

Spearfishing in Bahamas’ Cay Sals on one of my most recent adventures. Photo by Ian Miller.

 

As someone who’s made similar moves, I know that as exciting as it can be, it’s never easy and can also be incredibly scary. In my profile on Stranded on Land, Eunique picks my brain about the moves I’ve made charting a course of independence that revolves around the water. I tell her: “I love having the freedom to pursue my interests, to push myself intellectually and creatively, and I love that I’m in control.” I talk about moving from New York to Key West, learning to sail and surf, and developing my career as a travel and lifestyle writer.

You can read my full interview with Eunique on Stranded on Land. Definitely click around the site for other inspiring stories and photos of the beautiful outdoors and people pushing their boundaries.

Just back from a brilliantly executed girlfriend’s weekend in New Orleans with my besties Lisa and Krista. We hit up so many great spots in the Big Easy for strong drinks, live music and a great party. Here’s where we went. You should probably check them out too. For where to eat, see last week’s post.

Loved this spot for its crazy atmosphere & absinthe frappes.

Loved this spot for its crazy atmosphere & absinthe frappes.

 

Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House: Come for the absinthe frappe, stay for the delightfully convivial dive bar atmosphere on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets. 240 Bourbon St., 504-523-3181; www.ruebourbon.com/oldabsinthehouse.

Mo' absinthe. Look at how fancy that preparation is.

Mo’ absinthe. Look at how fancy that preparation is.

 

Pirate’s Alley: Another den for absinthe tippling tucked away near Jackson Square with the traditional French preparation involving an absinthe water fountain, slotted spoon and sugar cube. 622 Pirates Alley, 504-524-9332; http://piratesalleycafe.com.

Maple Leaf: Next to Jacques-Imo’s, the Maple Leaf is a legendary music venue made famous in recent years as a film location for the movie Ray. On my visit, we heard a transporting, three-piece blues band made up of bass guitar, keyboard and drums. 8316 Oak St., 504-866-9359; www.mapleleafbar.com.

We caught this brass band at the Spotted Cat in the early evening. Photo by Krista Garabedian.

We caught this brass band at the Spotted Cat in the early evening. Photo by Krista Garabedian.

 

Spotted Cat: Frenchmen Street is a top live music destination just outside the French Quarter. Head to the Spotted Cat, a prime listening room for everything from brass bands to jazz. 623 Frenchman St., no phone; www.spottedcatmusicclub.com.

This woman rocked. Her band: Alien Knife Fight.

This woman rocked. Her band: Alien Knife Fight.

 

DBA: Another live music joint on Frenchmen, DBA has a slightly more rock ’n’ roll edge. 618 Frenchmen St., 504-942-3731; http://dbaneworleans.com.

The Swamp: It’s hardly worth distinguishing the venue on a Bourbon Street crawl. Just wander into whichever scene lures you — and remember, the open container laws allow you to take your drinks to go. Still, The Swamp, with its gator theme and neon green lights, is worth a gander for its upstairs, downstairs and outdoor patio space pulsing with a young, good-looking crowd. 516 Bourbon St., 504-528-9400; http://bourbon-swamp.com.

Saints & Sinners: Apparently Channing Tatum owns a bar on Bourbon. With a dude gyrating on the porch in baggy jeans, no shirt and a backwards cap, think of this as a hilarious Magic Mike-themed bar. 627 Bourbon St., 504-528-9307; http://saintsandsinnersnola.com.

Lost Love: A chill local haunt in the newly hip Marigny neighborhood. 2529 Dauphine St., 504-949-2009; http://lostlovelounge.com.

Getting loopdy-loop on that Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone where we stayed.

Getting loopdy-loop on that Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone where we stayed.

 

Carousel Bar: Located in the Hotel Monteleone, the trippy Carousel Bar rotates slowly, throwing off your equilibrium just so. We enjoyed killer Bloody Marys here to start the day on the right foot. 214 Royal St., 504-523-3341; http://hotelmonteleone.com/entertainment/carousel-bar.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Miami Herald. 
Lisa, Krista & me loving life at Lafitte's after catching a parade on Canal Street.

Lisa, Krista & me loving life at Lafitte’s after catching a parade on Canal Street.

 

New Orleans was long on my shortlist of American cities I’d never been to, but was dying to visit. There was something about the lore of the Big Easy, with its free-spirited, jazzy laissez les bons temps rouler mindset that spoke to me.

It was brass bands and zydeco, indulgent dishes, refined or rustic, synonymous with the city — jambalaya, crawfish Ă©touffĂ©e, po’ boys, beignets, sazeracs. The sheer fact that a place like Bourbon Street existed, where you could walk around in the open air with a strong drink called a hurricane or one made of absinthe and go wild, besotted tourists or not.

It was the city’s tempestuous relationship with the muddy waters of the Mississippi and its melting pot of cultures — French, Southern, Creole, Cajun, Caribbean. I knew I wanted to eat and drink my way through New Orleans accompanied by live music. So by the time I finally made it there this January during Mardi Gras with my two best girlfriends, Krista and Lisa, we had a well-vetted itinerary (with, yes, lots of recos from Bobby Stein–are you happy now?). For where to drink and listen to live music, click here.

Garden District Staple

Shrimp 'n grits at La Petite Grocery. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks.

Shrimp ‘n grits at La Petite Grocery. Yes, it tasted as good as it looks.

 

We started our gastronomical exploration at La Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine St., 504-891-3377; http://lapetitegrocery.com) in the breezy, plane tree-lined Garden District. Here, chef-owner Justin Devillier, regularly a James Beard Award finalist, and wife Mia turn out refined New Orleans fare inside a century-old, Creole cottage that was once a coffee and teahouse.

Their award-winning blue crab beignets.

Their award-winning blue crab beignets.

 

We decided to go with their celebrated blue crab beignets, and I couldn’t resist the Gulf shrimp and grits made with shiitake mushrooms and smoked bacon.

The cocktails were the highlight of our lunch. With such tempting options as the LPG French 75 (pear brandy, Champagne, sugar and a lemon twist) and the Cassius Club (gin, Apricot du Roussillon, Steen’s syrup, absinthe and lemon), we were persuaded by our waiter to order off the menu. His concoction, made of tequila, jalapeño, honey and bitters, was perfectly balanced and a stellar recommendation.

Uptown Funk

We ventured uptown for dinner at Jacques-Imo’s (8324 Oak St., 504-861-0886; http://jacques-imos.com/), a rowdy outpost for down-home Creole and soul food run by exuberant New York transplant Jacques Leonardi.

With its no-reservations policy, we were prepared for our 45-minute wait and ordered a round of hurricanes at the bar. I quickly learned that a hurricane is simply New Orleans’ version of the Caribbean’s multitudinous rum punch. When I asked the bartender what went into theirs, she responded, a little bored: four different rums and a mix of fruit juices. Good enough for me. They packed a sweet punch.

With its funky dĂ©cor, local art and no-frills plastic tablecloths, Jacques-Imo’s could just as easily be a delightful pit stop on a drive to the Keys, but the food positions you distinctly in New Orleans. A heaping basket of sweet cornbread muffins swept in garlic butter was a welcome start to the meal. My eyes landed on the eggplant pirogue. Named for a Creole carved-out canoe, the crispy eggplant serves as a “boat” for sautĂ©ed shrimp, oysters and flaky white fish in a rich lemon cream sauce. It is served with a salad and choice of two sides. This is the kind of place where you get a bang for your buck and leave completely stuffed.

Beignets & Cafe au Laits

Any traveler too jaded to enjoy the pleasures of CafĂ© du Monde (800 Decatur St., 504-525-4544; http://cafedumonde.com/) is someone I’d rather not encounter. One of the Big Easy’s most iconic establishments, this haven for powdered sugar-doused beignets and milky-sweet cafĂ© au laits more than lives up to the hype.

It's so nice, we had to come to Cafe du Monde twice!

It’s so nice, we had to come to Cafe du Monde twice!

 

We visited twice during our long weekend and, luckily, never had to wait more than a few minutes to snag a table beneath the green awning overlooking Jackson Square. With a brusque, French bistro vibe, it’s the perfect perch to watch the world go by. We sat and listened to a lone musician’s lilting trumpet before breaking into a heart-rending, a cappella Amazing Grace.

Best of the Besh

The pretty dining room at August.

The pretty dining room at August.

 

Chef John Besh is something of a legend on the New Orleans culinary front with 12 restaurants to his name. It all started with James Beard Award-winning August (301 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-299-9777; www.restaurantaugust.com), an ode to modern French cooking with a kick of New Orleans flavor. Located in a charming 19th century French-Creole corner building, the white tablecloth dining room is refined without being fussy. Sparkling chandeliers hang from high ceilings bolstered by ornate columns with exposed brick walls and picture windows spilling in light from the street.

Some fancy, delicious chocolate situation. The previous courses were so scrumptious, who could stop to snap a pic?

Some fancy, delicious chocolate situation. The previous courses were so scrumptious, who could stop to snap a pic?

 

We dined at lunchtime, when the three-course $20.16 prix fixe menu is a value hard to beat. However, other items on the menu tempted our taste buds: a charred winter green salad with the most perfectly piquant, crispy country ham, a roasted grouper in crab jus with blue crab meat and wild mushrooms, and fried green tomatoes with cold, firm lobster-shrimp remoulade. Every bite was symphonic, especially when chased with a fizzy French 75. It takes the cake for the best meal of our trip.

French Quarter Classic

There are a couple of stalwarts in the French Quarter and we were told that Arnaud’s (813 Bienville St., 504-523-5433; www.arnaudsrestaurant.com) was the one to try. Established in 1918, this massive institution spans an entire city block. With black and white tile floors, mahogany paneled walls, wainscoted ceilings and portraits of the original proprietors gazing down on its diners, the place exudes Old World glamour.

Dedicated to classical Creole fare, the menu has a true sense of place with dishes like turtle soup, alligator sausage and frog legs provençale. Cold Vesper martinis proved to be an effective aperitif and we opted for the escargots splashed with Pernod and topped with flaky pastry poufs, seafood gumbo and the Crawfish O’Connor baked in a brandy-infused Creole tomato sauce.

The Newcomer

Got to have Shaya, mon!

Got to have Shaya, mon!

 

We kept hearing about a new Israeli restaurant in the Garden District called Shaya (4213 Magazine St., 504-891-4213; www.shayarestaurant.com) and decided to see what everyone was buzzing about. Alon Shaya, the James Beard Award-winning chef, draws on his Israeli roots and recent travels to create modern Israeli cuisine influenced by North Africa, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Greece and Middle East flavors. (Unbeknownst to us at the time, Shaya is also a Besh Group undertaking.)

We sat in the lovely outdoor courtyard, past a mirrored cerulean dining room with bright, fresh flowers and managed to order one of everything, starting with pillow soft pita baked onsite in a special oven. We dipped it into tart, creamy labneh yogurt, wood-roasted tahini Brussels sprouts, lutenitsa (roasted red pepper and eggplant puree) and curry-fried cauliflower hummus. We couldn’t get enough! Until, of course, our falafel sandwich, chicken schnitzel and shakshuka arrived and we realized we’d grossly over-ordered. At least the leftovers came in handy after a late night out on Frenchmen Street.

Muffulettas on the Mississippi

Inside Central Grocery were those famous muffulettas are constructed.

Inside Central Grocery were those famous muffulettas are constructed.

 

On our final day, it came down to po’ boys vs. muffulettas. And the muffulettas won. Central Grocery at 923 Decatur St. (504-523-1620; no website), just north of Jackson Square, was founded by Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Lupo in 1906 and claims the original New Orleans muffuletta.

The sandwich is stacked with mortadella, salami, ham, provolone, mozzarella and a pungent olive salad. We took ours across the street to a bench overlooking the muddy Mississippi. We sat wind-whipped, watching the river’s eddies roil past us on its winding journey to the Gulf. And maybe, just maybe, we could hear the far-off whine of a fiddle from a lone musician in Jackson Square.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Miami Herald.

Yes, it’s been like… What? Almost two years since this epic surf trip to Nicaragua. Organized by the “Thankful Crew” (aka ThankYouMiami & ThankYouSurfing), 10 of us shacked up in a gorgeous, just-built 5-bedroom villa called Fort Walker right on the Panga Drops surf break and just down the beach from Colorados.

With my sister in Nicaragua this week and the possibility of my maybe-just-maybe return in May, well, I’ve been Nica dreaming. And I realized I never wrote about this extremely picturesque destination and trip. So… here are a few forgotten snapshots.

SanJuan

The (Partial) Crew: Anouck, Bill, Me, Mike, Melissa, Brad. Day tripping in Granada. Photo by Margarita Wells.

 

chicken

This may look like a humble chicken dish, but this pollo a la plancha spoke to me! Our first meal after touching down in Managua.

 

Hacienda

Welcome home! The entrance to Fort Walker.

 

view

Views of the surf from the infinity pool.

 

backbends

Activities included a lot of time in the pool. Yes, even enough time to pose for a backbend pic! Photo by Margarita Wells.

 

quiver

The quiver of boards. Hey, where’s my 8-foot soft top??

 

BradSurf

A snap of Brad at Colorados. Photo by Margarita Wells.

 

Surfinstructor

I let my surf instructor borrow my board. He was struggling! Photo by Margarita Wells.

 

Big waves!

Big waves! Photo by Margarita Wells.

 

girlspool

Girls will be girls: Anouck, Margarita, Melissa, Me. More pool time! Photo by Brad Wells.

 

girls

Beautiful sunsets. Nothing like frolicking in the surf at dusk on a gorgeous beach all to yourselves! Photo by Brad Wells.

 

running

Let’s go back! Brad, when’s the next trip? Photo by Brad Wells.