Oct 18, 2022

A clucking good time at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, downtown Memphis, Tenn.

I’ve been making regular stops in Memphis, Tenn., as part of my travels for the better part of 20 years, so I’ve been long aware of the city being credited as the “home” of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.  Nonetheless, I had never visited Gus’s famous downtown location until Punky and I finally checked it off our Memphis to-do list during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now I have to wonder, what took me so long?  Because one visit, and I was hooked.  So, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is now on our list of “regular stops” when we’re in Memphis. Here’s why. 

Sep 28, 2022

Scenes alongside Placencia Road

Part Four:  Pursuing paradise in Placencia Village, Belize 

Call it a natural sense of adventure or curiosity, but when I have the opportunity to spend any extended amount of time somewhere new, eventually I want to get off the beaten tourist path and get a better sense of what “real” life is like for those who live there. 

So, when we went to Placencia this summer, it became clear quickly that meant spending time off the Placencia Sidewalk and on the primary paved street of Placencia Village, known more officially as Placencia Road.  

It’s the same street you take into town from the airport, and going south from there it ends where the land ends, at the municipal pier.  And the closer you get to the pier, the more you’ll see in terms of the daily buzz of activity that keeps the village running. 

Many of the village’s basic “necessities” are located on what I refer to as the northern half of town, such as a couple of hardware stores, the village’s only gas station and, appropriately for the location, a bait shop. 

Aug 23, 2022

Dining and drinking along the Placencia Sidewalk

Part Three:  Pursuing paradise in Placencia Village, Belize

If you spend any time touring Placencia Village, chances are you will become very acquainted with the famous Placencia Sidewalk. 

Billed locally as the “Narrowest Main Street in the World,” this concrete and crushed coral pathway runs parallel to the peninsula’s eastern shoreline from the pier to the northern side of the village, albeit slightly inland from the beach.  It’s considered Placencia’s main street in part because it really was the only paved path in town prior to the 1980s when a road was built to the village and was routed west of the sidewalk. 

As such, many older businesses in Placencia are still easier to access from the Placencia Sidewalk than Main Street, and it remains the main thoroughfare in town for most tourists and many locals.   

Aug 3, 2022

Scenes from Caribbean Beach Cabanas

Part Two: Pursuing paradise in Placencia Village, Belize

Normally, whenever I’m vacationing in one location for more than a few days, I begin to get restless at wherever I’m staying regardless of how much the destination has to offer in amenities and activities.  So, it’s perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Caribbean Beach Cabanas in Placencia Village, Belize, that I rarely felt like I needed to leave the resort. 

Jul 26, 2022

Pursuing paradise in Placencia Village, Belize

Part One: Arrival day and great expectations

When you picture a tropical paradise, what do you usually see?  For me, it’s a picturesque beachfront full of sand, waves gently crashing ashore, palm trees weighed down with coconuts and plenty of empty chairs and hammocks for watching the world go by.  Kind of like what you see below …

Jun 16, 2022

Crisler’s – a satisfying soul food side trip in Crystal Springs, Miss.

It’s rarely a challenge to find good soul food in the Deep South.  But if you really want great soul food, it’s been my experience that you need to skip the cities and get off the beaten path as much as possible.  Punky and I applied this logic on one of our road trips to New Orleans not long ago, and my senses proved to be spot-on after we discovered Crisler’s outside of Crystal Springs, Miss.

Jun 7, 2022

Going Full Blast for brunch in the Big Easy

The older I get, the more I have come to realize how much I enjoy brunch as one of my favorite social activities.  Going out to brunch is the perfect compromise for both the morning procrastinators and those who are afraid to let the day slip away. After all, what’s not to like?  It could be breakfast.  It could be lunch.  And there could be adult beverages involved. 

Perhaps this is why New Orleans seems to have so many brunch-worthy places to dine.  From famous restaurants like Brennan’s to smaller neighborhood bistros, I know of no town with more places devoted to brunch.  And it’s at one of those little neighborhood gems where Punky and I like to go that I first came to this realization – the appropriately named Full Blast Brunch.    

May 3, 2022

A commoner dines at the Cottage Bar & Restaurant, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Not long ago I posted about my first foray into the food and drink scene of Grand Rapids, Mich., at a long-operating family-owned neighborhood bar called the Log Cabin.  That fine experience left me wondering if I could discover some place with just as much history and personality downtown.  Luckily, again with a little online research and a lot of positive reviews, I found just the spot – the Cottage Bar & Restaurant.   

Mar 16, 2022

Get your Irish on year-round at Finn McCool’s, New Orleans, La.

In a city known for its abundance of drinking establishments of all shapes, sizes and varieties, it should not surprise anyone that Irish-themed pubs are pretty easy to find in New Orleans.  The French Quarter alone has several I’m fond of, including Molly’s at the Market, Erin Rose and the Kerry Irish Pub, just to name a few. 

But my favorite Irish pub in New Orleans – and perhaps one of the most authentic – isn’t anywhere touristy at all.  Instead, you’ll find it on the corner of Telemachus Street and Banks Boulevard anchoring a wonderful section of the city’s Mid-City neighborhood.  In fact, Punky and I no longer consider a trip to Nola complete without a stop at this always-festive local watering hole. 

Welcome to Finn McCool’s Irish Pub

Feb 28, 2022

A commoner dines at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans, La.

Some New Orleans restaurants are timeless due to their years of excellence serving up authentic, classic cuisine inspired by the area’s abundance of influences.  Others are timeless due to their reputation as historic landmarks that every food lover visiting the city should seek out.  But few, if any, can compare to Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for its combination of historical significance with classic Creole cooking.  It had long been on my own short list of “must try” places to eat in NOLA, and after going there, it will be an experience I won’t soon forget.  

Located on the corner of Orleans Avenue and Miro Street in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant (or just Dooky Chase, as it has become commonly known) has been a prominent Black-owned family restaurant since 1941.  But what really makes it historically significant is its role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement as place where community leaders could gather and discuss strategy in relative safety.  Frankly, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was too popular to shut down. 

Feb 17, 2022

Settling into the Log Cabin, Grand Rapids, Mich.

When I used to travel for work, I was rarely fortunate enough to visit most locations during what would be considered the ideal travel season.  Case in point:  Grand Rapids, Mich. – a nice city with a lively craft beer culture and a must-visit if you happen to admire hometown hero and former president Gerald R. Ford.  But most outsiders wouldn’t book a trip in the middle of January. 

Nonetheless, January was when my work took me to Grand Rapids.  On my first night in town, I did actually try the closest brewery, which was OK, but I wound up talking with a local who was still obsessed with the aforementioned Mr. Ford (I was specifically told to not forget the “R” when using the full name) and how I just had to visit the presidential library downtown where he and his wife are buried.  I kindly listened, careful to avoid comparisons between hometown presidents (mine happens to be Abraham Lincoln), but drank quickly and decided to skip the brewpubs for the rest of the week.

The next night, I stuck to my tried-and-true strategy of how to really get to know a town and its people … find the nearest highly regarded dive bar.  After a little online searching, I settled on the Log Cabin

Feb 7, 2022

A romantic night by the Moonrise

I’ve often posted about my fondness for unique hotels – and boutique hotels – that make where you stay at least as fun as your chosen destination.  In St. Louis, Mo., there’s just such a place that only enhances any night exploring the West End neighborhood’s bars, restaurants and music venues – the Moonrise Hotel

Wedged between the Pageant concert hall and the Pin-Up Bowl on Delmar Boulevard, the Moonrise Hotel is perfectly located for visiting the West End’s Delmar Loop area.  And, as the only hotel within several blocks of the Delmar Loop, the Moonrise stands out not only for its location (the on-site parking is certainly another plus), but its visibility from the street. 

Jan 25, 2022

Scenes from the Audubon Zoo, New Orleans, La.

It doesn’t take a lot of browsing on this blog to realize how much I love the city of New Orleans.  There’s undoubtedly a lot to like, from the music to the food to the “anything goes” party atmosphere that makes New Orleans in a lot of ways a playground for adults.  Unfortunately, the city’s reputation also leads some people to believe New Orleans is not a family-friendly city.  I strongly disagree. 

Whenever I hear people planning vacations and want to exclude New Orleans out of concern there will be nothing to do with kids, I’m ready to list off several places to take them.  And at the top of that list is the Audubon Zoo.

The site of the Audubon Zoo is part of the even-larger Audubon Park in New Orleans’ Uptown area.  Its origins as a zoo go back to the mid-1880s with its first major expansion taking place during the Great Depression when most of the zoo’s oldest remaining displays were built. 

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...