There’s the New Orleans stories that everyone knows, like Mardi Gras and Marie LaVeau, and then there’s the hundreds of lesser-known stories—the ones that remain just out of sight, as if wiping away a fine layer of paint or dust to reveal an unexpected work of art underneath.
Sometimes, they take a bit of detective work to uncover—poring over dusty books in old libraries—or, they might present themselves unexpectedly, in a most unlikely place. It’s these latter, usually untold stories, that pique my interest and keep me returning to the city again and again.
I’ve been fascinated with New Orleans for as long as I can remember, the multi-layered history, the slightly edgy, gothic mysteriousness. With the proper research (and proper respect), New Orleans will occasionally let you peek behind the veil, but only on her timetable. She can be a fickle mistress when it comes to revealing her secrets.
I’ve also found that, even if you plan your travel itinerary (or story idea) to a “T,” New Orleans will also invariably have other ideas for you. During my last visit, I had planned to investigate and write about modern-day voodoo culture, but New Orleans wasn’t having it. She created missed interview connections and showed me that (with the exception of Sallie Ann Glassman and Nicole at Erzuli’s), the inner city’s voodoo culture has mostly gone the touristy curio route. But all the while, New Orleans kept steering me toward other interesting, albeit lesser-known, places and stories to pursue, which were happening right under our noses, just waiting to be delved into.
As such, here’s a few new favorite, recently discovered hidden gems. Anyone that’s looking for a one-of-a-kind experience would do well to include these 3 places on their next sojourn to The Big Easy, especially if visiting with a group.
Abiquiu (AH-bi-kyoo) is an artist enclave and historic village, surrounded by juniper and sage canyonlands of incredible natural beauty. It also has been touted as having the best hiking in all of New Mexico. Settled in 1754 atop ruins of an ancient Tewa pueblo, according to locals, Abiquiu was named for the “northern-most” location one could travel and be protected by the Spanish army.
Georgia O’Keeffe and her paintings of its striking landscapes put the small town on the map, and artists and travelers have been inspired by the shifting hues on the Rio Chama and colorful cliffs throughout history. About 48 miles north of Santa Fe, there’s no shortage of natural attractions to explore around Abiquiu. Here are five of the top must-sees.
A 21,000-acre retreat and education center, Ghost Ranch is where Georgia O’Keeffe had her summer home. Take a trail ride to see the landscapes that inspired her, or hike to Chimney Rock for a spectacular bird’s-eye view.
Near Abiquiu lies an anomalous outcropping of enormous white limestone formations that look like something that would be found in a lunar canyon. Plaza Blanca, or “The White Place,” as O’Keeffe called it, inspired O’Keeffe’s painting series and countless movies have been filmed on site. To get there from New Mexico state Route 554, take County Road 155, and use the Dar al Islam main entrance road.
Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert
The most remote monastery in the Western Hemisphere, Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert, is only accessible by a winding 13-mile dirt road through the Santa Fe National Forest, but the panoramic views are worth the trip. Visit the chapel, meditation garden, or gift shop selling monk-made coffee, honey, and Belgian-style ales.
Spanning 5,200 acres, Abiquiu Lake has recreation facilities for picnicking, hiking, swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, and camping surrounded by vermillion sandstone cliffs.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs
Dip into the soothing baths at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, one of the oldest spas in the country. The mineral springs at the foot of the mountain are famous for their rejuvenating, healing waters. The combination of lithium, sodium, iron, arsenic, and soda mineral waters of Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Indulge in a private pool with cliffside views and a crackling Kiva fireplace, creating the perfect atmosphere for stargazing soaks.
Where to stay: Conveniently located on U.S. Route 84, Abiquiu Inn makes an ideal hub for exploring. It has 25 comfortably appointed casitas and rooms with Kiva fireplaces and is next door to the O’Keeffe Home and Studio tour office. Year-round camping for $10/night and scenic slot canyon hiking can be found at nearby Echo Amphitheater. Or find rustic guestrooms, plus tent and RV campsites at Ghost Ranch.
Where to eat: Services are few in Abiquiu, but that’s the point. Cafe Abiquiu (at Abiquiu Inn) is the only bistro-style restaurant, with a newly expanded patio to enjoy seasonally inspired fare. Gelato or scones and tea make for a great midday break at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm and Tea House. Grab a pizza or subs at Mamacita Pizzeria. Stock up on fuel and camping supplies at historic Bode’s General Store, open since 1893.
Gig Harbor may be just a short drive across the Narrows Bridge from Tacoma, but it might as well be a world away. Because of its rather isolated location on the Kitsap Peninsula, Gig Harbor was only reachable by boat or lengthy drive to circumvent Puget Sound until 1940 when the first suspension bridge, nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” for the way it undulated in high winds, was built. There’s been several reconfigurations of the infamous bridge since then, but the wonderful “hidden away” feeling in Gig Harbor remains.
Today, Gig Harbor remains a working waterfront and home port for commercial fishermen as well as a wide variety of pleasure boats, which gives it a decidedly New England feel. In recent years, the area has seen a demographic sea change with young families from nearby big cities like Seattle and Tacoma moving in that are looking for a quieter, more idyllic place to raise their kids, as well as small business owners that embrace the area’s maritime heritage and tightly knit community that supports its own. It’s no surprise that Gig Harbor is often included in “Best Small Towns in America” lists.
What’s even better than eating locally grown foods? Going directly to the food’s source and harvesting your own. On a recent trip to the 28-mile sandy stretch of ocean peninsula in Long Beach, Washington, we did just that.
Next to Willapa Bay oysters, the succulent Pacific razor clam is the Long Beach Peninsula’s favorite and most abundant locally sourced food, with 6 million-plus harvested in 2014. It’s obvious that the town is as serious about its most celebrated seafood (and its preferred method of preparation) from the minute you view the enormous 500-pound cast-iron pan and 10-foot squirting razor clam that stand side-by-side to welcome you to the heart of the city.
Long Beach locals swear that clam-digging is in their blood (and I believe it). But, for the rest of us newbies, how does one get started on their first clam dig?
Read the article in its entirety on ModernDayNomads.com. All photos: © Tiffany Owens | ModernDayNomads.com
Whether it be a Dirty Martini or a Moscow Mule, everyone has a favorite, stand-by cocktail that they always defer to. But, what about when you feel like mixing it up a little or trying something different? Be it a celebratory event or simply a shift in the weather, our capricious palates can experience sudden cravings for something new and fresh—and cocktails are no exception. Beyond your standard-issue Bartender’s Guide, where can you discover some great new cocktail recipes that aren’t just a twist on old Prohibition-era favorites or over-the-top, sickly sweet ‘girly drink’ concoctions that will give you intense sugar-overload (and the ensuing headache that goes with it)?
By far, the best craft cocktail class I’ve attended is Mixology at the newly revamped Jade Bar at Phoenix’s beautiful Sanctuary Resort. Held every Saturday at 1:00 p.m., each Mixology course is centered around a different spirit every week, from tequila or whiskey to rum or vodka, and demonstrates how to make three or four cocktails, plus “tips and techniques along with jade bar’s freshness philosophy, spirit details, cocktail history and tastings of your favorites.” Mixology courses are $30 and limited to 10 participants. Due to their ever-increasing popularity, reservations are highly recommended.
Led by Master Mixologist, Robert Porter, our group was led through a variety of delicious cocktail offerings. A few were of his own invention, but all of which incorporated fresh juices (blueberry, blackberry, yellow bell pepper) to aromatic herbs (sage, basil, mint, thyme, tarragon, rosemary) with an emphasis on savory vs. sweet.
Prior to becoming one of Jade Bar’s premier Mixologists, Porter had previously honed his cocktail-crafting chops for several years at the legendary Trader Vic’s. Now, with the introduction of a new “cocktail culture” by Oregon-based mixologist Ryan Magarian (of Portland’s Oven & Shaker), Porter—along with Jade Bar’s other craft bartenders—have been given free reign to develop their own signature cocktails for potential inclusion on the menu. Judging by the throngs that flock to Jade Bar’s ‘The Pour’ premium daily happy hour (4 to 7pm) to peruse the inventive, ever-changing cocktail menu, it’s an experiment that has exceeded expectations, especially for the discerning cocktail enthusiast.
Porter generously agreed to let me share recipes for some of his tantalizing creations. So, break out the juicer and the muddler—and prepare to wake-up your tastebuds. Cheers!
This delicious concoction was described by Porter as a “Mojito by way of the Mad Hatter.” The whole time I was watching him make it, I’m thinking, “Why have I never thought of juicing a bell pepper before?”
One of Porter’s original creations, The Phoenix is light and refreshing with a high citrus note.
Tired of margaritas? This fruit and ginger-forward drink is a refreshing alternative.
Another of Porter’s creations, this Gimlet made with cucumber-infused gin is (in my opinion) one of the best things on the menu.
Muddle the above ingredients together before adding alcohol:
Double-shake ingredients together, using ice the first time. Garnish with sugar-snap peas that have been infused with gin for 2 weeks (Robert recommends Nolet’s Dry Gin).
Serve and enjoy!
IF YOU GO:
To attend a future Mixology at Jade Bar, check out their upcoming calendar to see which spirit will be showcased that particular week. Then, make reservations by calling: 480.607.2300
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain
5700 East McDonald Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85253