Thursday, April 5, 2018

Travel Guide: Weekend in Austin, Texas

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Growing up in California and having lived in Boston for the past 5 years, I've spent the majority of my time on the coast. Apart from driving across the country for my move out here and attending a friend's wedding in Virginia, I haven't seen much of the rest of the country. So I was excited to spend a weekend in Austin, Texas and see what it has to offer!


Travel Guide: Weekend in Austin, Texas


Bat Viewing on Congress Bridge



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Depending on when you visit, Congress Bridge is a fun spot to see bats fly out at night for their dinner! I'm a fan because I like animals and hate insects so this is a win-win for me. Don't go in December if you want to see this! March through November 7-8 PM is the prime viewing time.  


Floats, Sausage and Live music at Banger's



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How fun is this ice cream beer float? Banger's is one of those quintessential Austin spots - it has a huge selection of beer (106 on tap!), great food, and live music. Plus, the Rainey Street area has such a great atmosphere and is the perfect place to people watch and stroll around.

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weekend-travel-guide-austin-texas



BBQ at La Barbecue



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When in Rome! You can't go to Texas without getting some quality BBQ, and La Barbecue does not disappoint. It's a super casual spot where you can get in and get out quickly.  

Torchy's Tacos



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Torchy's Tacos is a local favorite, with a few different locations in Austin. Their illuminated wall does not lie, these tacos are damn good! They have breakfast tacos, a ton of regular tacos (with everything from catfish to shrimp to scrambled eggs), chips and dip, sides, and great small plates like street corn and hush puppies. Plus, they have bottled coke which is always delicious.


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Shopping on South Congress



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From Big Top Candy Shop to cute boutiques, shopping on South Congress is perfect for picking up Austin mementos (which according to spellcheck I've apparently been pronouncing wrong my whole life as momentos), and satisfying your sweet tooth all on the same street.

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weekend-travel-guide-austin-texas

Nightlife on 6th Street


After the sun goes down, head to 6th Street for enjoyable bars, games, and live music! They even close down the street to cars so folks can roam around which makes it a really fun place to hang out.

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weekend-travel-guide-austin-texas

If you're anything like me and enjoy bars with games, Austin has a ton of those! Blind Pig has an open second floor with basketball, skeeball, a giant connect four and tons of other games. Buffalo Billards is great if you like pool and pinball. Rustic Tap is another good one, with giant beer pong, corn hole, and other games.


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Live bands at Stubbs



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Who doesn't love live music? Stubbs is known as a great place to see a live show and get your country fix in!



Spa Resorts


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Austin has a ton of cute hotels, and if you're willing to drive just a little outside of the city you can stay at the Lakeway Resort & Spa along the beautiful Lake Travis! If you missed it, see my review of the resort here.

All in all, Austin is definitely a fun place to visit. From the great food, to people watching and exciting nightlife, there's a lot to see and do for a great weekend trip!



Have you ever visited Austin? What was your favorite part?

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Welcome to the Friday Favorites link up with your co-hosts Liz from Lizzie in Lace and Chelsea from Chow Down USA!

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

McKenzie Deli at Shaw's: A New Year's Resolution

*This is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA! Photography by Brad Bahner.

mckenzie-deli-meats-shaws

Can you believe it's already February? How many of you are keeping up with your New Year's Resolutions? One of mine was to bring lunch into the office more often, since I spend SO much on eating out (it adds up quick)! To keep myself motivated, I'm on a mission to find really delicious recipes and super fresh, healthy ingredients.

McKenzie Deli Meats at Shaw's



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So when I heard about McKenzie deli meats being available at Shaw's Supermarket, I got super excited! They boast some of the healthiest (read: cleanest / most natural) meats you can find, are locally grown in Vermont, and have been in the industry for over 100 years - so they know what they're doing!

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Here's a little more info on what makes McKenzie meats a better choice:

100% Natural
Raised without antibiotics
Sourced from independent farms
No growth hormones
Vegetarian fed
Gluten-free
No added nitrates

mckenzie-deli-meats-shaws

I tried the Roast Beef and Oven Roasted turkey, and they were really good - so fresh and healthy!

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mckenzie-deli-meats-shaws

After watching too many Netflix documentaries about the horror stories of how food is often grown and cultivated, I'm honestly so glad for companies like McKenzie that keep it 100% natural and clean! Now that it's available at Shaw's, it's convenient for me to pick up and create delicious sandos like this for work, thus keeping up with my New Year's Resolutions!

Comment Challenge: Have you tried McKenzie deli meats? What are your thoughts on more natural ingredients? 


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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Travel Guide to Luberon, France: Part 2 - Lavender Museum

*Note: This is a sponsored post, thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA! All opinions are my own.

   
Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

South of France Travel Guide to Luberon Coeur de Provence: Lavender Museum, Chateau du Bois


After exploring the medieval city of Lourmarin, we were excited to visit the Chateau du Bois Lavender Museum to pick up some great scented products. Little did we know, we would actually leave with an eye-opening education in the world of lavender, its beneficial properties, and how to spot the real from the fake!

Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

The first thing we learned honestly blew our mind: The "true" lavender (aka lavande fine or fine lavender), can only be grown in specific regions in France, and this lavender is the only one with beneficial properties (more on those below). 

There are many lavender-scented products sold in the U.S. and internationally which claim to help you relax, get to sleep, etc., but many of those are a hybrid plant (lavandine) which is much cheaper to cultivate and made only to simulate the scent of lavender, without any of its beneficial properties. Crazy, right?

Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

The dark purple on the map above shows where the fine lavender is grown in France. Check for the "AOP" label to ensure that you're buying the real deal! Others (in the light purple area) cultivate the hybrid lavadine, which has a similar scent but with none of the benefits. It's cheaper to make, which is sadly driving out the real lavender industry.

Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

Fine lavender in the form of 100% pure and natural essential oil is said to help with the following:

Insomnia (2-3 drops on your pillow)
Irritability (sprayed into the air)
Headaches (massage on temples)
Stress (5-6 drops in the bath)
Cuts, burns, bedsores, sunburn, insect bites (1-2 drops)
Eczema (2-3 drops on cotton wool smoothed on patch)
Colds (1-2 drops)
Sore throats (1-2 drops on sugar cube or spoonful of honey)
Cramps and rheumatism (rub in several drops)

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Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

These are the outfits that were worn to gather lavender centuries ago.

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Copper still from the 16th century.

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Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

Fun fact: The method for distilling alcohol is the same as that for distilling essential oils like lavender. So provincial farmers would make alcohol in the winter and essential oils like lavender in the summer. 

Napolean called for no tax on alcohol, but when that changed, French police shot holes in the copper stills to make sure no one was secretly making it on their farm. This in turn affected the lavender industry since they were no longer able to use their stills for essential oil distillation either. In the pictures above you can see the bullet holes in the stills.

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Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

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Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

Lavender-Museum-Provence-Luberon-France

Hope you enjoyed learning about the lavender industry as much as we did! Be sure to check your lavender products for the A.O.P. label to make sure you're getting the real deal!

Comment Challenge: Have you ever tried real lavender? How did you like it?
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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Travel Guide to Luberon, France: Part 1 - Medieval Town & Castle of Lourmarin

*Note: This is a sponsored post, thanks for supporting those who support Chow Down USA! All opinions are my own.

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

Luberon Coeur de Provence is a picturesque region in the Provence province of southeastern France. The wonderful Anne took us on a tour of the region, including biking, strolling, and eating our way through some of the most beautiful cities in France, visits to medieval castles, a lavender museum, wine tasting, and the cutest bed & breakfast you'll ever see! Follow along on this five-part travel guide through the South of France! 

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

    

South of France Travel Guide to Luberon Coeur de Provence: Lourmarin


Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

1. Visit the Medieval Town & Castle of Lourmarin


Lourmarin is a charming and picturesque town perched atop a small hill to the south of the Luberon Valley. This village is filled with stone buildings, narrow winding streets, outdoor cafes, galleries, cute boutiques, centuries-old fountains and 3 towers: the belfry, the Catholic church and the "temple," or Protestant church. it is also home to the Ch√Ęteau de Lourmarin, a converted castle from the 12th century! It's hard to even fathom what life was like back then, but strolling through this quaint medieval village is as close to a time machine as you can get.

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

Gazing off at Proches Bastides, a large fortified farmhouse dating back to the Middle Ages. 

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

I got the freshest olives and a soft red sweater from the local farmer's market. 

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

In 1348, the Bubonic Plague wiped out most of the inhabitants of Lourmarin, with the few survivors fleeing the village. In 1475, the Lord of the region Foulques d'Agoult encouraged families from the Southern Alps to settle here, and they began to build the castle. 

The castle has two parts - one was built in the medieval period (1475-1526), and the other was built in Renaissance style (1526-1560), making it the first Renaissance style castle in Provence. 

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

View of the farmhouse and village from the castle.

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Peering down at the old chateau's medieval interior courtyard. 

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

This octagonal tower encompasses a spiral staircase. In medieval times, the stairs always twisted clockwise so that soldiers defending the castle had the advantage over their attackers whose swords, always held in the right hand, would be hampered by the central column. I love fun tidbits like that!

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

These rooms are from the Renaissance wing of the castle, which house a collection of art and furniture owned by Robert Laurent-Vibert, who saved the castle from destruction in 1920. 

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Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

Travel-Guide-Luberon-Provence-South-of-France-Lourmarin

Stay tuned for the rest of the travel guide to Luberon, coming soon!



Comment Challenge: Have you been to Luberon or France? What was your favorite part of the trip?

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