Sunday, March 29, 2015

Abuelo's: Explore Your Town Series 3

Abuelo's is my 3rd post for the "Explore Your Town Series." I can also FINALLY recommend at least one local restaurant to fellow travels that I meet through work. (lol)

Abuelo's is located in the Crestview Hills Town Center, in Northern Kentucky. Originally, I went for 2 reasons:
1) I love Mexican food, &
2) My friend said their guacamole was "life changing."

Their guac was indeed life changing, and their salsas were amazing, and their queso was equally delicious. Like all Mexican restaurants, our server brought out our complimentary chips and salsa. Only, we were graced with 3 salsas:

The verde salsa was very mild, but oh so good, then the bright red salsa was the mild salsa, and the dark red salsa was your spicy salsa. I looove spicy salsa, and this did not disappoint. I honestly could not get enough of any of them though. 
We also ordered guacamole and queso. The negative to the queso was how incredibly runny it was. I had queso drops all over the table, and I was being careful. However, the guac truly was life changing. It was the FRESHEST guac I have ever had. 
(Excuse the pathetic guac picture. I had eaten most before I realized I needed a picture for the blog)

The Main Courses: 

My boyfriend ordered a burrito, and his only complaint was that it wasn't enough food for him. I opted for the "choose 3," option of their enchiladas, of which I ordered a cheese enchilada, chicken and spinach. I could taste how fresh, clean and good the chicken was. Of course, the traditional sides were mexican rice and refried beans, but they also offered mashed potatoes. We both opted for the traditional sides. I wanted to do the choose 3 enchiladas so I could report back to you all what was good and what wasn't, but honestly, I can't wait to go back and try even more. Have I gotten across that this place DID NOT disappoint?! 
Durango Burrito

Choose 3 Enchiladas

Of course, I sampled a margarita for everyone:

I ordered the La Grandeza Margarita, which was their house margarita. It was honestly one of the best margaritas I've ever had, and on top of that, it was freaking huge, obviously, for less than $7.

Their menu is a variety of "Tex-Mex." So, there's something for everyone. The prices were reasonable, google has them as "average." AND, they are actually a Texas-based restaurant. So, check their locations for a spot near you!

Go check out some new spots, enjoy your city, and see what you can find!!

Happy travels (local and abroad!)!!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finding the Perfect Hotel

The "Perfect Hotel," is just what you're looking for. Be it family friendly, all inclusive, or just a place to lay your head. All of these are factors to be considered when choosing your hotel.

I personally love Expedia. In my travels, it has been my go-to website for the best deals on rooms. You also have the opportunity to rack up rewards points, and if you travel often, it's worth it.

Secondly, check reviews over at TripAdvisor. A hotel can be 4 stars, and suck-bad customer service, lack of ammenities, etc. I have stayed everywhere from all inclusive resorts, to a Motel 6. Because I did my research, I have never been disappointed.

So let's start at the top:

What's your budget? 
Many sites, including Google, allow you to search by price. Expedia offers a best price guarantee; if you find a lower price within 24 hours, you are compensated.
Have friends or family that work in hospitality? Use their discount! Many hotel chains are moving away from a strictly "family only," policy, extending the discounts to friends as well.

Who's going? 
Staying at a hotel that caters more to businesses, may not be a good fit for a family friendly vacation. Many hotels are geared towards the "family friendly" scene, offering pools, play areas, game rooms, or even indoor water parks. And they're not always as pricey as you would think--just do your research!
You'll find hotels that also cater more towards couples or advertise activities for "Girls Weekends," as well, with spa ammenities, and discounts to local attractions such as wineries.

Cities are huge. Use a map app-google maps, mapquest, whatever you want, but make sure your hotel is in the vicinity of the areas you'll be sightseeing in, visiting, etc. Additionally, sometimes (usually), it is cheaper to stay right outside of the city, and many major cities offer great public transportation alternatives (bus lines, trains) if you won't have a rental car.
Also, here is a great opprotunity for me to plug Uber (or Lyft). Download this handy little app on your smartphone (sorry blackberry users, but you can e-mail blackberry, and they'll send you a link...although mine still only works 50% of the time). You can get fare quotes, tip is included, and Uber (so far for me), has been cheaper than an actual taxi!

If a pool is important, make sure your hotel has one. Hotels offer a wide range of services anymore, from spas, fitness centers, pools, casinos, etc. However, some hotels only offer a few of these ammenties. Check these out. Your vacation should be relaxing, and it's not relaxing if you didn't book that hotel with a hot tub to hang out in!

Feel free to include any questions in the comments, or your own expert (or novice!) advice!!

Happy Travels!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Exotic Feline Rescue Center: Center Point, Indiana

One of my most favorite adventures to date!!

Literally, my favorite selfie EVER

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center is located in Center Point, Indiana, which is approximately an hour southwest of Indianapolis. If you are in the area, I highly recommend stopping by. EFRC operates solely on donations and volunteers!! They are open Sunday through Tuesday from 10a-5p. Admission is only $10/adults and $5/children under 12. Rain or shine!! Totally feasible if you compare it to most zoo admissions!!

From the moment we got there, everyone was truly knowledgeable. If they didn't know "Cat Facts," they at least knew the animals' names, personalities, and why they were acting the way they were. Our guides were amazing. They knew everything about the animals that we saw on the tour. The EFRC offers a home for the rest of these rescued cats' lives. And they are all rescued, either from abuse, abandonment or some other reason. The EFRC is their "furever home," and they ABSOLUTELY DO NOT sell or breed these animals. They do everything in their power to educate the public on each cat that is in their sanctuary, while stressing the importance of why these animals are not "pets." Many animals, and this is not unique to EFRC, arrive at animal sanctuaries because someone thought they'd make a good family pet...until they grew up...and acted like nature intended them too. As of a year ago, this month (March 2014), the EFRC had 212 felines in its care, and you see approximately 60-65 on the tour.

In the future, when I visit Indiana on one of my (hopefully) many trips home, I would like to attend one of their Evening Roar Events.  You get to visit the rescue near dusk, when the cats are most active. However, on my visit to the EFRC, I was fortunate enough to visit around dinner. I heard the lions ROAR, and it was amazing. I had no idea just how loud their roar was. I literally felt the vibrations. It was one of the most intense and memorable experiences of my life! There are a variety of other events as well! They have various fundraisers throughout the state, and a 5k run, and even some kid friendly events as well! 

Check out some of my favorite photos below! You get so much closer than a zoo!!

Once again, DEFINITELY check them out if at all possible!

Until next time!! Happy travels!


P.S. Sorry for the lack of blogging! I have been absolutely slammed at work the last 2 weeks! I'm hoping to set up a few drafts that I can just publish when times like these happen!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February Twitter Round-Up

So, like any "baby blogger," I've started following fellow travel bloggers, in an effort to SEE how best to go about this blogging ordeal. Of course, I've read all of the posts saying, "This is how you Run a Successful Travel Blog." Ok, that's all well and good, but WHO is actually running a successful travel blog, and what are they doing?

Well, Ms. Emily Luxton is doing just that! She had a recent post, February Instagram Round Up. I thought it was brilliant. Slight problem: I own a BlackBerry. If you don't have a BlackBerry, then I cannot express to you how AWFUL "iGrann" is. So, as you can tell from the title of this post, I'm going to do a slight variation and frame it around twitter. While I do have an Instagram, it gets far less use than it has in the past because the platform is just not there on BlackBerry. So, I tweet my little heart out. In fact, I even tweeted Emily to make sure I could "steal," this idea from her. She ever so kindly encouraged my thievery. :)

This round up will re-examine my travels from the month through my non expert photography (ha!), foreign and domestic. It will also give you more of a glimpse into my personal life. So, that you can get to me! I'm fairly personable in all of my posts, but here, you'll actually be able to see what I do with some of my downtime as well!

Expedia Chat
I absolutely love the weekly #ExpediaChat on Twitter (@Expedia). You get to connect with many other travels, and share all of your combined experiences. Well, February had an African Safari themed chat. Well, it's a dream of mine to go on an African Safari, but until then, I suppose the Exotic Feline Rescue Center , located in Center Point, Indiana will have to suffice for now. (Side note: One of the aspects of my ever increasing bucket list, is to visit every Zoo, Aquarium, and Sanctuary in the continental United States.) The EFRC is a non-profit, BIG cat rescue. You can get face to face (with a fence between) of these big cats. They run solely on donations and volunteers, with admission being $10/adults, $5/children under 12. I cannot wait to revisit to the EFRC. Their tour guides were extremely knowledgeable. These cats are RESCUES. It is imperative that you follow the rules. Once you hear some of the circumstances that these big cats came from, I'm sure you'll be more than respectful.  I'm hoping to attend one of their Evening Roar Events, which are when these big cats are supposed to be most active! How exciting would that be?? Here are the pictures I posted to Twitter from my visit at the EFRC:

I did not even have to zoom in. How amazing are these pictures? Check back for a full post of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in the upcoming week! 

In my spare time, I like to cook and bake. Above, you see homemade Chicken and Dumplings: only attempt if you have 3 hours to waste in the kitchen. This is my Grandmother's recipe. So, don't even bother asking for it ;) Below, are cupcakes. They're the perfect snack. I have a tendency to eat 1/4 of a cake if I bake the whole thing-cupcakes prevent that!

I have not had my own luggage, well, ever. I've been looking and researching for the past 2 years, and borrowing my sister's or my father's luggage when I need it. I've gotten by on my domestic travel with duffle bags and back packs. So, when my Dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas (2015, he plans ahead), I told him, luggage. What's the best kind of luggage to buy? My expert opinion is that, that decision is entirely individual. There are pros and cons to all the different types of luggage out there. Eventually, it'll have to be replaced, in my opinion. So, since I'm going on a cruise in April, my father went ahead and gave me my Christmas present WAY early, but THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES: 

OI! I'm in love! It's hardside, with the 4 wheels that spin in every direction. Each suitcase came with it's own lock, the 2 smaller ones are actually small enough to be carryons, yay! I hardly ever check a bag, but I did want a larger one. So, if I ever fly SouthWest, I can check a bag. (See what I did there?)

However, if that doesn't work, I highly recommend: 

  Baths, Candles & Wine are life. 

Baker-Bird Winery
In case you missed, here is my post on Baker-Bird Winery in Augusta, Kentucky. To my knowledge, it is the ONLY wine trail (Back Roads Wine Trail) in the state of Kentucky. Since my boyfriend took me on Valentine's Day (unintentional), he also spoiled me with a bottle of the Kentucky Black Barrel, you know, the one aged in Bourbon barrels. Oh, yum! If you can get it shipped to you, I highly recommend it, if not, come visit, and I'll take you on the Wine Trail-free coaster! ha!

Yes, I actually post things like this on the Internet...twice apparently. My picture was taken at my friend's 80's themed birthday party. The picture of my bengal, Jeter, was part of a larger picture (edited to do a side by side), in which we were celebrating and thanking our follower for reaching 250 on our Instagram. I am the moderator for the Instagram and Twitter for the non-profit Bengal Rescue. Both handles are: @GLBengalRescue

Never Forget

Again, the hashtag (pound sign) was how this was distinguished for my birthday...along with about 5 other hashtags. Anyways, I've kept with the hashtag theme throughout my Twitter, Instagram and Travel Blog. Here is that post, in case you missed that. I like to think it's one of my better blog posts thus far. :) ENJOY!! 

I took enough #selfies to last a lifetime

How could you pass up an authentic #PuertoRicancigar. It was all about the experience!

Banana Boat ride on my birthday #safetyfirst

#TransformationTuesday #birthdaygirl
Since we're often mistaken for twins, I'm on the right in 2010 and the left in 2015. 

Anddd, one final funny. Is this EVER a problem? I swear, the ocean is like a lullaby to me!!

I hope you have enjoyed this Twitter Round Up for February. It was fun for me to go back and look at some of the pictures I had shared with all of my followers, and I am glad to have shared them with you all as well!! 

Puerto Rico was the first vacation that I funded entirely on my own. That was very special to me. It was also my birthday, and the first destination birthday I have ever been on. I am GRATEFUL for that experience, and I am so happy that Puerto Rico has been my unofficial kick off for world travel. I was so happy to get to look back on my visit to the EFRC twice. It was an experience unlike any other, and I am eager to blog about it. I hope you learned a little bit about me as well, and my little shadow of a Bengal, Jeter. He's something else entirely LOL. 

Thank you for visiting! Until next time...


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Baker Bird Winery: Augusta Kentucky

Second in the "Explore Your Town Series," #ExYTS...

Located on the Northern Kentucky Back Roads Wine Trail,** you can find Baker-Bird Winery tucked away in quaint Augusta, Kentucky, right along the Ohio River. The scenery is gorgeous, and the grounds are very well kept up at Baker-Bird as well. (Open Saturday and Sunday from 1:00pm-5:00pm!)

The history tour, (COMPLIMENTARY!!) took place in the old homestead. It's a gorgeous 1800's style home, and aside from electrical wiring done a few years ago, everything is exactly the same. Of course, it has been maintained. Personally, I'm a sucker for historic houses. While learning of the history, there are several pictures, and copies of framed documents-everything from tax papers, news articles, census reports, etc. The Winery is on the following historical lists: United States Historic Registry, Freed Trail, and Civil War Heritage Trail .

The area around Cincinnati and along the Ohio River was largely settled by German's in the late 1700's and early 1800's. In 1850, the winery took home a gold medal for it's Champagne from Paris, France!  Baker-Bird was also the first commercial winery of the United States, with wine distribution beginning in 1856. Then, in 1862, the Civil War Battle of Augusta took place. However, by 1919 Kentucky was the FIFTH largest grape producing state in the United States.

In addition to the award winning champagne (1850), Baker Bird is most noted for their Bourbon Barrel Wine, aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels, which are a hot commodity in the brewing/distilling industry (side note: Bacardi ages their rum in Kentucky Bourbon barrels as well!) The "true" name for the wine, due to the trademark of "Bourbon" is Black Barrel Wine, officially launched in 2014. It has a higher alcohol content, and IS more expensive at $35.00/bottle, but I guarantee you, it IS worth it. Also, noted on their website, they will be introducing Lightening Strike in the near future, Vidal Blanc with a kick of white lightening, also at $35/bottle. I know, I'll be trying that one as well!!

The Cellar...was breathtaking. I heard "wine cellar," and assumed it was your typical, below the basement wine cellar. NO. This was 40ft wide X 40ft tall X 90ft long. Built by hand into the hillside! WOW! Here's a couple of pictures, but I assure you, they do not do the cellar justice at all. It is regal, huge, and it breathes history. If you're lucky, you might get to roll the wine barrel!

The tasting was fun. Everyone that worked there was very knowledgeable, and could answer questions. Wineries vary in their tastings. The tasting was $5, and you got to sip all of the wines. Of course, if you truly didn't want to try something, you could pass. The wine steward had excellent descriptions of the wine. In addition, you were able to taste the Black Barrel for an additional $2, and with it's rich Kentucky roots, I simply could not pass that up. I also purchased a glass of the Ruby Hawk Rose, that I enjoyed in the cellar, where I learned even more about the winery. (so very knowledgeable here!!!) Cheese plates can also be purchased for an additional $10. Baker-Bird also hosts the "Wine is Wonderful is Tour" and "Wine is Wonderful University," (scroll to the bottom past the calendar!) both of which were unique (to me, at least), and I will DEFINITELY be going back in the future to check out these specialized tours (future blogs, yippie!!)

FIVE STARS! It's a must see, must visit, must try! The history tour was beyond interesting. I'm new to the area, AND German. So, it was fascinating to me that this area was largely settled by a German population and, that is also who started the winery. I enjoy tasting different wines and how they vary from state to state and even vineyard to vineyard. Standing in that huge cellar was SO neat. If  you're in Cincinnati or the Northern Kentucky area, hit the Back Roads Wine Trail, and stop in at Baker-Bird. Oh, and Augusta is the birthplace to the devilishly handsome George Clooney. ;)

Ultimately, I purchased 2 bottles, one of which was the Black Barrel Wine, a logo wine glass-to add to my collection of wineries visited, and since this was my last stop on the Back Roads Wine Trail, I received a complimentary coaster. It's the first wine trail I've been able to complete. So, it was a "big deal" for me. I need to go back to the other wineries before I post about them, as some were visited close to a year ago, and my blog is just a baby. :)

Thank you for stopping by! Until next time...


**NOTE: Redman's Farm and Winery is now included in the Northern Kentucky Wine Trail. Though, information has not be updated on the Internet. The Wine Trail passport will have them on there.

#ExYTS1 #Explore #YourTown #NorthernKentucky #Kentucky #ExYTS #Augusta #winery #local #winetrail