Lessons Learned at Boston Dive Bars

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When I’m not on the road these days, I’m busy trying to discover some of the best things about my hometown, Boston. First of all, I know I sometimes act all prissy and I DO like to go to the latest HOT SPOTS, that’s no joke. BUT betcha didn’t know I have serious soft spot for dive bars. Always have. It’s just one of those things about me…I like things that are a little rough around the edges and, as I recently found out, there’s a lot I didn’t know and learned during an evening out at a few local dives.

You should come well prepared. By that I mean with cash because apparently the best sketchy dives don’t accept credit cards. Who knew? Many, however, do have ATMs inside.

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You can gamble in dives, well play Lotto, but isn’t this really the same thing?! YES, I had never played the game Keno before my evening out and apparently there are betting rules, even in dive bars. You cannot just get a ticket and fill it out and pay up to the barkeep. No, if it’s proper-like, you gotta go to the end of the bar where the betting is legal. The irony!

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Not only can you get cheap drinks at dives – hello PBR – another Lola favorite that you didn’t know (It’s not all dirty martinis all the time) :P Dives also have cheap drink specials. For instance, at one dive they had the “Kinkytini”. Of course, the name alone intrigued me. Come to find out Kinky Liqueur is super premium vodka distilled 5 times with succulent mango, blood orange liqueur, and passion fruit. Never knew of it before, oh, and its label is hotpink too…need I say more?

If it’s dive worth its weight, it’ll have a juke box. BUT many juke boxes have gone digital. So if you wanna get in on the action of picking your favorite songs you better get the TouchTunes app. Yep, another thing I discovered during my dive night out. If you are like me and don’t know what TouchTunes is, well it’s the largest in-venue interactive music platform, featured in over 60,000 bars and restaurants across North America. Pretty cool, huh?!

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Finally, just because you fit into the “dive bar” category, not all dives are created equal. I sampled 3, my evening out in Boston. The “Classic” Drinking Fountain, which you can really get a taste of all things divey. Pool tables, digital juke box, Keno. You get the picture. The “Institution” Wally’s, a tiny hole-in-the-wall where there’s live music every night! LOVE. And, finally “The Real Cheers” 21st Amendment. This dive establishment located in Beacon Hill is across the street from the Massachusetts State House and has been serving the state’s most colorful characters since 1899.

If you like cheap drinks, interesting people watching and other divey things, you should check these 3 spots out. You can find more dive bar hot spots (90) in “Boston’s Best Dive Bars: Drinking and Diving in Beantown“. Supposedly a dying culture that is a big part of Boston’s drinking history…go support a local dive near you soon. Tell em Lola sent you!

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One Day Stay: Palm Springs, California

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This visit to Palm Springs was my third to celebrate my birthday. I’ve enjoyed each visit for different reasons. The first two were more “resort-like” visits and further removed from the action of downtown. This time I was able to feel more a part of things and could practically walk to everything I wanted to do, which I really loved. Here’s my ‘One Day Stay’ of what I did during my brief visit to Palm Springs.

DROP YOUR BAG

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The Viceroy Palm Springs is a 67-room boutique hotel that seems to have been made for Lola. Merging the best of glamorous old-world Palm Springs with modern cool touches, I LOVED the pops of yellow and all the awesome lighting fixtures throughout the property. On site you will find 3 pools, some of which are ‘Adult Only’, free wifi and an incredibly friendly staff. Let me just say these 3 things made my visit perfect. Well that, and the fact that it was warm & sunshiny every day with gorgeous palm trees above, surrounded by the stunning San Jacinto Mountains. Within walking distance of things to do, eat & drink, I cannot imagine a better spot to rest my head.

DO

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Some come to Palm Springs for the nature, some for the golf, and some come to get pampered at the spa. Luckily for me, Estrella Spa, on property at Viceroy Palm Springs, has been voted one of the top 50 spas in the US by Conde Nast so I didn’t have to go far to get treated right. Carrying the cheery color scheme & design of the hotel over to the spa didn’t hurt in lifting spirits. Just look at the waiting lounge above! With a cool indoor/outdoor luxury setting, I was fully able to relax and enjoy a divine custom massage which was a combination of Swedish and Deep Tissue massages. IT. WAS. HEAVEN.

DRINK

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Always in search of the best cocktails around, I was fortunately pointed in the direction of Lulu California Bistro. This hopping establishment is HUGE and has quite a bar scene going down. That, in itself, might be enough for some but, for me, the true test is in the cocktail. I tried a dirty martini & a Negroni, classics and two of my favorites. Lulu didn’t disappoint Lola!

DINE

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Located in the hip Upper Design District of Palm Springs, Workshop Kitchen + Bar has brought industrial chic to the historic El Paseo building, circa 1926. Along with the urban edgy interior comes a fantastic farm to table concept sourced from local farms all within an hour of Palm Springs. Even their cocktails are handcrafted from local ingredients. I was throughly impressed with the knowledgeable staff and their guidance of Workshop’s delicious offerings. This is one place I would definitely choose to repeat.

While I booked my own trip to Palm Springs to celebrate my birthday weekend, Greater Palm Springs  coordinated and treated me to my Estrella Spa massage ($135) as well as drinks and dinner at Lulu California Bistro. Thank you for your help! Palm Springs is always ‘Lola Approved’ for its great weather and hip scene!

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#TakeWalks with @WalksofNewYork

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As I’ve written before, once upon a time, I was a Manhattanite, a New York City dweller. When I lived there, parts of Manhattan still were very undesirable. Like the Lower East Side. One the best Mexican restaurants was located there and you literally got dropped off in a cab and didn’t emerge back out of the restaurant until your taxi to your next destination had arrived. Today, things are different in many of these sketchy neighborhoods of the past. The Lower East Side is now a hotbed with cool places opening up all the time. So, when I had the opportunity to preview the Lower East Side tour with Walks of New York, I jumped on the chance. This was one neighborhood I knew very little about.

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With Walks of New York’s Lower East Side Stories walk, you can expect to learn how immigrants lived, worked, worshiped and celebrated for the last two centuries here in this important neighborhood. There are several historical sites here including landmark storefronts and synagogues. But there is really no better example than Eldridge Street Synagogue to show the historical significance of this neighborhood in shaping America.

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Opening its doors in 1887, Eldridge Street provided a place to worship and build a community for hundreds of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. This was notable as it was the largest synagogue for Jews plus it represented the declaration that they could worship openly and freely. For 50 years the synagogue flourished until the Great Depression and in the end Eldridge Street declined into disrepair until it was rediscovered in the 1980′s. 20 years and 20 million dollars later, the majestic synagogue was returned to its glory. So much so, Eldridge Street Synagogue was named a National Historic Landmark and given the National Trust for Historic Preservation Award. It truly is a treasure and place not to miss. It made my day to have the opportunity to tour such a special place.

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OH YEAH, I also throughly enjoyed the foodie side of Walks of New York’s Lower East Side tour. Pitstops were made at Kossar’s Bialys, Matzo Factory, Knishery and Doughnut Plant to name a few. My favorite was Pickle Guys, where everything you can think of might be pickled. I LOVED the pickled okra best…MMMM. There really is so much to see and discover in this neighborhood and the 3 hour tour with Walks of New York was the perfect way to catch the best of the best.

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Another Walks of New York walk I was lucky enough to preview was the Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even living in NYC for a few years, I’d only ever been to the MET for drinks on the rooftop or to see a special exhibit. SOOO this was another home run of a tour for Lola. I am not a big museum goer, 1) because I get overwhelmed and, 2) I’d rather be outside discovering than inside for hours looking at collections. However, with Walks of New York, the Met tour was a perfect bite-sized amount of information that takes you through some of the most important highlights and makes sense of it all connecting the collections from beginning to end. I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed by an entire museum with important works…the Met Museum has the world’s most comprehensive collection of art! On this tour connections in art are made starting with ancient Egyptian temples to Greek & Roman works rounding out the tour with European masterpieces and American classics. AND all shared in a concise and entertaining way that you’ll never believe you spent 3 hours covering so much ground.

The Lower East Side Stories walk starts at $43 and Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art walk starts at $49. Check out their website for more information on these tours and others Walks of New York is offering. Whether you’re a first timer to NYC, dweller or repeat visitor, you can be sure that Walks of New York can show you things about NYC you didn’t know!

Walks of New York officially launches this month and is a brand extension of Walks of Italy, the well-known European tour experience that helps travelers avoid long lines and gain special access to popular sites.  Walks of New York will provide the same high-quality, small group insider tours that have won Walks of Italy praise from Fodor’sThe Daily TelegraphAFAR Magazine and USA Today.

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Iceland – Here We Come!

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Iceland has been on my to-do list for a while now and when I heard my pals, Captain & Clark, were heading that way, I promptly invited myself to be a third wheel. Fortunately for me, they didn’t say NO! Next week we will be exploring this mystical country that all three of us have never visited and we’re all very excited.

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Thanks to Sixt Iceland for setting us up with a vehicle so we can get out into the countryside and do a bit of a road trip. We will be staying at various types of accommodations through Icelandic Farm Holidays from guesthouses and farms to more traditional hotels and cannot wait to get a sense of the locals there. We also plan to do a glacier hike as well as hunt for the Northern Lights with the tour company Arctic Adventures. AND no trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon, which is supposedly a great cure for jetlag, so guess what we’ll be hitting upon arrival! ;)

You’ll be able to follow along on our Icelandic adventure through the hashtags #IceQuest and #SexyIceland because we’ll be live posting on all our social channels since we’re being given wifi through Trawire for our journey.

I’m so happy to be making Iceland one of my special trips this year, checking off a new place in the world I’ve never been. It will also be a fun-filled time because of traveling with my amazing friends. BUT I’ll tell you a secret, I think I’m excited most of all to meet the Icelandic people. I have never dealt with a more helpful, welcoming and gracious bunch as I have through planning this trip, including our Icelandic ambassador, Tiny Iceland. I just might never want to leave!

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The Great Escape – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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Welcome to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas is a city at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and is listed as one of the top 5 vacation destinations in Mexico. Located on the Sea of Cortez, Cabo San Lucas or Cape Saint Luke has almost picture-perfect weather year round. Offering all kinds of accommodation options, a wide range in dining and any activity you can dream up, it’s easy to see how Cabo San Lucas is a Mexico top spot for a couples retreat, family vacay or girls getaway!

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This visit was actually my second to Cabo San Lucas but much has changed since I was there many years ago and only for the better. It can be quite a haul from the east coast but I truly feel it’s worth the time investment. Anyone could be happy here, whether you’re a beach goer or an active sort, and I’m thrilled I made it a ‘Great Escape’.

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Edith’s

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Located just steps away from Medano Beach, Edith’s is a charming restaurant with a rustic Californian decor and vibe. Not only did I love the festive lanterns and candles scattered about, but the food, made with local ingredients, was amazing. I went with my usual order of enchiladas and was not disappointed. It probably didn’t hurt that the tortillas were hand-made.

Bar Esquina

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Bar Esquina at Bahia Hotel gives Mexican food a Mediterranean twist. Bar Esquina uses locally grown products, fresh fish from the Pacific & Sea of Cortez and the best meats cooked on a mesquite grill. Great inventive cocktails and live entertainment in the evenings make it that much more appealing. I love a good hotel scene and one sure fire way to guarantee that is to have a bar and restaurant that is a destination not just for the hotel guests but locals as well.

Guaycura Todos Santos

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At Hotel Guaycura Restaurant, member of Small Luxury Hotels of the world, you can take in the sunset on the terrace, while sipping a refreshing cocktail by the pool. Dining alfresco is always fun especially while eating delicious Mexican/Mediterranean influenced dishes. Big on localized fare, Hotel Guaycura is fortunate to get its food supply from the nearby ocean and Todos Santos’ farms. The fresh fruit margaritas are to die for!

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Nikki Beach

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It’s tough to beat a lazy afternoon, lounging on a poolside daybed, being served endless mojitos like they do it at Nikki Beach Cabo San Lucas. Located on Medano Beach at ME Cabo, this Nikki Beach has the same sexy vibe of the jetset see and be seen crowd as the others I’ve visited. I didn’t witness the live music but, if I had, I’m quite sure I would have enjoyed that scene too.

The Office

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Now, if you are looking for a great place to have a drink right on the beach, The Office is your spot. Nothing like having a cold one, while your toes are in the sand, watching the world go by and listening to the waves. It’s casual and cool and definitely a must visit of Cabo! Yeah, I wanna be there right now too.

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Bahia Hotel

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Bahia Hotel and Beach Club’s urban-chic style is completely inline with my vibe and you can feel the great attitude as soon as you step on property. I think it’s a combination of the crisp white flowy décor and the warm welcoming staff. I literally wanted to say ahhhhh when I walked in to the Bahia. This 85 room boutique hotel is located in the heart of the Medano Beach District which means you’re located steps from the most swimmable beach in Cabo, a whole host of activities as well as the best restaurants and nightlife.

Hotel California

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Located in the sleepy town of Todos Santos, it is rumored that Hotel California is the very one the Eagles wrote a song about. Urban myth or not, this eclectic 11 suite hotel is full of charm and has a great little restaurant on property too. Todos Santos is an artist community that has many galleries and artisan store fronts. Hotel California couldn’t be a better fit with its one-of-a-kind style. PS – the pool area is secluded and special.

Las Ventanas

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Las Ventanas al Paraiso is a lovely little slice of paradise 2o minutes outside of Cabo San Lucas. The AAA Five-Diamond awarded property has expansive suites, amazing culinary options and The Spa at Las Ventanas, which has been named one of the World’s Top 50 Spas by Tatler. You can tell this desert beach hideaway is perfect for couples and those wishing to get away from it all. It is a very special property, indeed, with thoughtful touches present throughout the resort.

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Sunset Cruise

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I always say when you are visiting a destination with a body of water, you have to get out on it to see the place from another perspective. A sunset cruise aboard Sun Rider is a perfect way to accomplish that and more. The 2.5 hour long cruise includes a Mexican buffet, open bar, fun music and dancing. Plus, of course, the best sights to be seen of Cabo, like the famous Land’s End Arch, Lover’s Beach and the million dollar villas on the rough Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas. I definitely enjoyed the free-flowing margaritas and shaking my groove thing while aboard.

Stand Up Paddleboard

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CABO SUP is the first Stand Up Paddle Board Club offering lessons, rentals and guided tours on Medano Beach, Cabo’s most swimmable beach. This was my first foray into Stand Up Paddle Boarding and I absolutely loved it. I took a guided tour to Lover’s Beach at the Land’s End Arch. As they say at CABO SUP, there is no right or wrong way to Stand Up Paddle. Just get out on the water, enjoy nature and have fun.
PS – CABO SUP features the only Academy of Stand Up Paddleboard certified instructors in Baja.

Cabo Open of Surf

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The CABO OPEN OF SURF is a week-long newish event to Los Cabos where the destination is positioning itself as a niche location that’s all about surfing and the surf lifestyle. Located at Zippers – Costa Azul, obviously, you will find a surfing competition going on there. Also a part of  the Cabo Open of Surf is a music festival. I quite enjoyed my afternoon lounging on the beach, sipping a cerveza, watching the surfers and people scantily clad stroll by while tunes were playing in the distance. This year’s dates are June 16-22, 2014.

Rates for CABO SUP group guided tours are $30USD. Rates for Sun Rider’s Sunset Cruise are $68USD per person.

A HUGE GRACIAS to Bahia Hotel and Beach Club for hosting and arranging such an outstanding itinerary! You are most definitely ‘Lola Approved’!!

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