Girls’ Guide to Chattanooga 💋

chatty-feb-17-fr-4chatty-feb-17-fr-1chatty-feb-17-fr-5chatty-feb-17-fr-3chatty-feb-17-fr-7chatty-feb-17-fr-6chatty-feb-17-fr-8chatty-feb-17-fr-9chatty-feb-17-fr-10chatty-feb-17-fr-11chatty-feb-17-fr-12chatty-feb-17-fr-13chatty-feb-17-fr-16chatty-feb-17-fr-14chatty-feb-17-fr-15chatty-feb-17-fr-18chatty-feb-17-fr-24^^ our handsome fellas as we wait for our table chatty-feb-17-fr-19chatty-feb-17-web-20^^ I can’t resist capturing a spontaneous sweet moment 💕chatty-feb-17-fr-21chatty-feb-17-fr-22^^ One of my favorite shots 🙌🏻chatty-feb-17-fr-20chatty-feb-17-fr-25

If you’re thinking about a girls getaway, Chattanooga is the perfect all in one place! You can’t scratch the surface of all of Chatty’s awesomeness in a couple of days, but with a quick visit, you can get a taste of what this city has to offer. Recently a few of the besties and I enjoyed a weekend trip where we ate like queens, got a bit of pampering, and found a 👍🏻👍🏻 spot to dance the night away.  Our hubbies tagged along and got their own hotel suite, which made it even more special ☺️ Below are some of the places (broken into categories) that we hit up and come highly recommended for a trip with your own squad 👯👯. ps- Sorry all places mentioned I didn’t get to take photos at!

EATING OUT 

Embargo 62– This Cuban restaurant is a little gem! Great atmosphere, cocktails and of course food. Try the Cuban sampler with a mojito for your starter. If you want to step outside the box a bit, I definitely suggest the braised beef oxtail. It’s fall of the bone tender!

The English Rose Stop in for a traditional British afternoon tea and be sure to order a pot of the Lady Grantham tea…a pleasant twist on the traditional Earl Grey infused with lavender. Sip away and pretend you’re on the set of Downton Abbey ☕️🍰

Easy Bistro & Bar– This place never disappoints for any meal, and it’s all served in the dramatic interior of a century-old building, which was the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling plant. Everything we all ordered was so good we literally just passed our plates around!

Rembrandt’s Coffee House A quaint place to grab a coffee and recharge during the day.  This European style cafe has a wide selection of fresh coffees, breads, pastries and chocolates.  But don’t overlook their sandwhiches.. Their Firebird and The South (which comes with a side of pickled green tomatoes) are seriously so good.

STIR– Hands down one of the best brunch spots. The interior is stunning with it’s aged walls and impressive bar and library ladder.  On Sundays they have a live jazz band and $1 apple mimosas 🥂 All entrees come with as many trips to their family style brunch bar with several savory and sweet sides.

RELAX & UNWIND

Honest Pint This Irish Pub is a great after dinner hang out to play a little pool and darts… or if you are not inclined to be good at either (like myself 😏) just enjoy a drink and relax.

The Spa at the Chattanoogan There are a few spas around the city to choose from, however we chose the spa at the Chattanoogan hotel because you can arrive early or stay after your treatments and enjoy their sauna, pool and jacuzzi.  Can I just say that I think all women deserve a monthly massage…yeah I know, I never get one that often either, but just saying it would be nice!

ENTERTAINMENT & NIGHTLIFE

Regan’s Place– This retro dance bar is the epitome of FUN! We jammed out to everything from Michael Jackson to the Backstreet Boys (and yes I’m not too ashamed to admit I had their CD on repeat when I was 13) 😜 What makes the atmosphere even better is that on big screens above the dance floor they play the music videos to the all the songs and the DJ very dramatically lip syncs and plays air guitar to all of them. You can tell he LOVES his job! lol

Southside Social– We didn’t actually get to make it here this past trip, but I couldn’t leave it off the list.  And in the words of Stefon from SNL “This place has everything!…” Literally..its a bar, restaurant, bowling alley and outdoor courtyard (with a fire pit) with a ton of different activities.

Hope y’all enjoy these recommendations. Happy Friday!

Top 5 Tips: Choosing Accommodations

edinburgh-web-1-11edinburgh-web-1-10edinburgh-web-1-1edinburgh-web-1-9edinburgh-web-1-13edinburgh-web-1-15edinburgh-web-1-3edinburgh-web-1-5edinburgh-web-1-6edinburgh-web-1-4edinburgh-web-1-14edinburgh-web-1-2edinburgh-web-1-8edinburgh-web-1-7

When it comes to planning a trip, especially an international one, the thought can seem overwhelming for many. Several times I have been asked the same questions: “Did you use a travel agent?” “Did you book through an all inclusive group?” “How do you pick where to stay?” From personal experience, I have learned that your accommodations can nearly make or break a trip. Now obviously I’m not referring to those who can backpack across the world and are perfectly content staying in a hostel (honestly I applaud those who can do that!) However, I’m referring to the average family (with kids) who are wanting to travel and make the most of their vacation. And although using an agent or going through a travel company is definitely an option, I pride myself that I  always made our travel arrangements based solely on my research of that particular place.  By researching your destination instead of relying on someone to do the planning for you, you gain a much better knowledge and appreciation of the area you are visiting, plus you can brag on yourself that you did it all on your own! Below I have listed my top 5 tips for picking the best accommodation for your family’s travels.

1. LOCATION LOCATION- I can’t stress enough of where your hotel, flat, apartment etc. is located. For example, if you only have 2-3 days to see a particular city, you really want all your main attractions and “Top Sees” to be in walking distance or in a very short transit from where you are staying. This is particularly true with kids and when you are visiting a large city. The last thing you want, is to have to take a 30 minute bus or taxi ride each time you want to get into the city center, which can just add more stress to your trip. By staying right in the center of things, you can retreat back to your place for afternoon naps (sometimes the parents need them too) or for a quick change of clothes when the occasional accident happen.  You will be able to come and go as many times as you need and spend more time exploring rather than wasting time traveling back and forth. To know exactly the area you need to stay, map out your top attractions and narrow your search by looking at your options in those surrounding areas alone.

2. THINK OUTSIDE THE HOTEL- Before just picking a hotel, think about renting an apartment or flat. More times than not, for the same nightly rate as a hotel room, you can get an apartment that includes more space as well the added bonus of a kitchen and living room. This gives your family much more space to unwind and relax, plus can save you money if you decide to cook dinner or buy a few groceries to use for breakfast or make a picnic lunch for the day. The time we rented an apartment in Paris we really felt we were living like one of the locals.  In the mornings you could here the family that lived across the hallway rushing around to get the kids ready for school. Just hearing the parents yelling in French trying to get them out the door just made me realize no matter where in the world you go, so many people’s daily activities are the same ☺️ Staying in that apartment was a really neat experience. Websites like AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO are all great options when trying to find your home away from home.

3. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE TRIPADVISOR- Before I book any place, I always check the top ranked accommodations for that area.  I take a look at where they are located on the map in relation to the top attractions I want to see. Also take a few minutes to read the reviews…and even though there are 565 excellent reviews, take a look at those 3 or 4 bad reviews too. The reason being, once we booked a room at this amazing family run chateau in the center of Champagne, France.  If only I had read that one bad review about how the guests really insulted the owner by bringing in their own bottle of champagne (since the owner’s family had their own winery) we could have avoided having their same experience! 😳 Tripadvisor also allows you to look at the all the travelers’ photos and not just the ones from the hotel website…which shockingly can be very misleading 😏

4. GOOGLE MAPS-  Ok so here is where you an feel like your inner private investigator comes out lol.  Yes, you may think it’s overkill, but if you want to make sure your place is not located down a sketchy street or that there isn’t some eyesore right in front of it, then take advantage of this tool. Simply enter the address of the location to get an up close view of the entire street.  By also knowing nearby landmarks and the look of the street, it helps you get your bearings beforehand and reassures you that the taxi or uber driver is dropping you off at the right location.

5. SAVE OR SPLURGE?-  When you determine your budget of the trip, you can see whether or not you want to save or splurge a little on where you choose to stay.  Some are firm believers that you just need the basics to be comfortable.  That is true, however, if you find that truly one of a kind place, whether it be with an amazing view or have a lot of history, then you may find it’s worth the splurge for the experience. During our trip to Santorini we decided to rent a house in Oia for our last few nights on the island.  The nearby restaurants would be booked every night because of their view alone.  When we went into one of the restaurants, we realized we had an even better view from our bedroom!  We were perfectly content eating take out on our veranda rather than making reservations at an expensive restaurant 👌🏻Not to mention our rental house was in nearly every Santorini postcard we would come across in the souvenir shops!

The Townhouse at Old Time Chambers  in Edinburgh was definitely one of my favorite places we have stayed. I was fortunate to snag a killer deal on it and it did not disappoint. The apartment spreads over 3 floors and it pre-dates 1490. The master bedroom on the first floor had a vaulted rock ceiling with a roll top bath in the corner. I couldn’t get enough of the second floor bathroom 😍 where there was a second roll top bath, surrounded by exposed brick which are part of the buiding’s original features. Brooks couldn’t get in his bubble bath fast enough!  As you continued your walk up the spiral stone staircase you entered the top floor which was an open living, kitchen and dining area.  It had two large fireplaces and a second adjoining bedroom that included wall art dating back to the 15th Century. The interior design of the living room used the same fabrics that the owners in the 16th and 17th centuries would have used. It was so neat to stay in a place with such medieval history!  If you are ever visiting Edinburgh, I highly recommend this place 😁

I hope these tips help in your holiday planning!

Loch Ness & Glencoe

edinburgh-web-3-3edinburgh-web-3-4edinburgh-web-3-5edinburgh-web-3-6edinburgh-web-3-8edinburgh-web-3-7edinburgh-web-3-9^^ What do you do when your toddler decides to throw a tantrum…while wearing a moose hat?? You snap lots of photos to show later at his graduation 😜😉 edinburgh-web-3-10edinburgh-web-3-11

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0096.JPG^^ One if D’s drone shots! 😱DCIM100MEDIADJI_0094.JPGedinburgh-web-3-18edinburgh-web-3-16edinburgh-web-3-15edinburgh-web-3-17^^Selfies with the bestie 😘😘edinburgh-web-3-14edinburgh-web-3-19edinburgh-web-3-20

So we made it back home to Alabama and I’m currently at my dining room table going back through all of our images for our last 2 days in Scotland. Those days went by so fast! but I definitely think they were the best of the trip. We spent a lot of time in the car driving between locations, but that allowed us to see so much of the countryside! The day we visited Loch Ness the weather was absolutely perfect. We got a glimpse of Urquhart Castle, perched on the side of the loch, and according to what I have read is around the location where most the Loch Ness Monster aka “Nessie” sightings have taken place. Of course I’m not one to fall for the rumors of this mythical creature, however the sheer 755 ft depth of this mirky body of water makes me think someone couldn’t pay me enough to take a swim in it 😳 After looking at the castle we drove down to Fort Augustus, a small village that offers the best view of the loch. We ate a picnic lunch, Brooks fed the ducks and tested how far into the water he could get with his wellies on. I honestly couldn’t get enough of him in that moose toboggan 😍

Our last day we drove through Glencoe, and that’s when I truly felt like were in the Highlands! Even though it was pretty dreary, rainy and cold that day, the snow-capped mountains peeking out of the fog gave the scenery an almost mystical feel. We found a scenic stop along the winding road and got out to take advantage of the backdrop for our best group photo of the trip. We nailed it..everyone was smiling, looking at the camera and no eyes were closed..yess! D also got the drone out and got some pretty amazing shots and video footage. We were all taking in the view when we suddenly heard Brooks yell “muddy puddles!” His face showed pure happiness and excitement as he took a running jump into each puddle.  I have to admit, part of me really wanted to make him stop so he wouldn’t get completely soaked and muddy, but I couldn’t bring myself to destroy his little Peppa Pig dreams. So I just let him go for it! And in the end I jumped in a few with him ☺️ We ended up having to strip him down once we got in the car, and put his pants and socks on the dashboard to let the heat dry them up.  I like to think Brooks got to check “jumping in muddy puddles in Scotland” off of his baby bucket list 😉  I can definitely say on this trip I made some very special memories with some of my favorite people ❤️

Loch an Eilein

edinburgh-web-2-2edinburgh-web-2-4edinburgh-web-2-5edinburgh-web-2-1edinburgh-web-2-3edinburgh-web-2-7edinburgh-web-2-12edinburgh-web-2-9edinburgh-web-2-8edinburgh-web-2-14edinburgh-web-2-13edinburgh-web-2-10edinburgh-web-2-15edinburgh-web-2-11edinburgh-web-2-19edinburgh-web-2-18edinburgh-web-2-16edinburgh-web-2-20edinburgh-web-2-22edinburgh-web-2-21edinburgh-web-2-23edinburgh-web-2-24For our first day in the Highlands, we took at trip to Loch an Eilein..our first loch to see! For a bit of history, Loch an Eilein comes from the Scottish Gaelic and means ‘Loch of the Island’.  In the middle of the loch stands the remains of a small 15th century castle that used to be connected to the shore by a causeway.  As you walk around the surrounding forest, theres seems to be somewhat of a  Little Red Riding Hood feel.  Although I was easily distracted by all the enchanting photo ops, keeping Brooks from falling into the water became top priority. I think he could have stood at the shore and tossed rocks and pebbles into the water all day.  I could just see his little mind  spinning from all the new scenery surrounding him and all the new territory he needed to explore. D was able to get some pretty cool drone shots over the castle, although they are not included in this post…those will come a bit later.

Afterwards we headed into the nearby village of Carrbridge, and saw it’s most famous landmark, the packhorse bridge. Built in 1717, it is the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands.  I kept thinking of how it would be such an amazing photo to get a pic of the family standing along the middle of it…but then again, I thought of the aftermath of it caving in as we crossed, so I quickly though “nah, a quick photo of the bridge itself will do.”  After that, we were ready to find a place to warm up, so we got back in the car and drove into Grantown-on-Spey where we randomly picked a local coffee shop.  We managed to snag a really quaint spot in the back next to a roaring wood burning stove.  Brooks kept insisting on “chocate cake” and once I saw they offered “babychinnos” on the menu, it sounded too cute to turn down.  I think the little cup of frothed milk decorated with cocoa and marsh mellows was more for me than Brooks, but he seemed to enjoy it pretty well too 😜

 

 

Around Edinburgh

edinburgh-web-6edinburgh-web-1edinburgh-web-2edinburgh-web-15edinburgh-web-8edinburgh-web-18edinburgh-web-20Standing in front of Gladstone’s Land where a Falconer would let you take a turn at holding his owl, Hazel.  edinburgh-web-12edinburgh-web-17In front of the castle..this was about the best photo we could get together loledinburgh-web-16edinburgh-web-14edinburgh-web-13edinburgh-web-11edinburgh-web-9At the Scotch Whiskey Experience and standing in front of the world’s largest independent Scotch collection…over 3,000 bottles!

edinburgh-web-10edinburgh-web-19edinburgh-web-7This was our second full day in Edinburgh and I feel like we were able to get much more of a feel of the city than yesterday.  Yesterday was mostly rainy, dreary and a little colder than I would like to just walk around and site see, so we spent most of the day taking 2 different site seeing bus tours, which although cliché they may be, I feel are a great way to get your bearings of a new city. I enjoyed the time to just sit back and relax (away from the cold and rain) see the major sites and get a little bit of history from the tour guide.

Today we took a tour of the Scotch Whiskey Experience, which gave you a fun little education tour of how scotch is made and broke down the different types of scotch into 5 different types, according to watch region of Scotland it was made.  The tour included a sample of a whiskey from the region of your choice, and at the end they boxed up your glass to keep.  Of course I was a little worried about having Brooks in a whiskey tasting room, with breakable glasses surrounding him, but surprisingly he did pretty well.  The staff there gave him his own little mini soda bottle, so he wouldn’t feel left out ☺️.  At one point the guide instructed us to lift our glasses to the light to see the clarity our whiskey sample, and I looked down to see Brooks looking through his Sunkist bottle as he held it in the air…he’s a smart little stinker. We also  visited Edinburgh castle, seeing the Scottish Crown Jewels and also the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to King James IV. Afterwards we went to the Grassmarket area, where we stopped into an authentic kilt shop…there’s several around the city, although most are more touristy and cheap than others.  If you’re looking to buy a nice quality full kilt outfit, it will set you back at least 1,000 pounds! We also stopped into a local cheese shop and then later another souvenir store where I broke down and bought Brooks a little kilt of his own.  I couldn’t resist!  I can’t wait to see what other photo ops I will have with his kilt during the trip.  I know he will absolutely kill me later for this lol! Off to bed now for an early morning.. heading into the Highlands tomorrow!