Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • What is a romantic escape? Does it really have to be about time with your significant other? Does is have to be a honeymoon trip or anniversary journey? Is it who you are with or is it about where you go?

    My affair with Ireland began before I visited this magical place. I read about it as a child, with stories of fairies and legends like The Blarney Stone. I read about the mists in history books and her heroes in my romance novels. When the offer was made to travel across the ocean and actually step foot on this island, I jumped at the chance to meet one of my crushes.

    My entire being began to change when I stepped off the plane. My hair curled up, and I longed to start my exploration of the land that inspired so many writers. I visited faery rings, wondering if any of these places were portals into other worlds, like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. I enjoyed dinner at a private residence overlooking the inspiration of Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats while my host read the poem aloud in between courses.

    I visited a seaside spa in Sligo and floated in a seaweed bath, imagining myself as a mermaid. I walked the streets of Dublin late one night, in search of Bram Stoker’s residence where he penned Dracula. I enjoyed a pint of Guinness at Davy Byrnes on Grafton Street, the place where James Joyce used to frequent.

    I learned about my name, Shannon, and the river my mother named me after. I also learned that the Irish don’t name their children Shannon, as it would be like an American naming their child Mississippi or Rio Grande, but the legend of Sinaan and how the river was named is a fascinating story in itself.

    I danced with friends and I danced with strangers all over the island, from Sligo, to Donegal, to Dublin. I enjoyed the food and the drink and the people. I fell in love with Ireland and I discovered a new depth in my soul and even fell in love with myself. I knew that when I returned home to my family I would be able to hold the memories of Ireland dear to my heart whenever I thought my life was dull with dishes, laundry, and carpools.

    Every once in a while, when life gets still, one might be able to find me listening to a bit of Celtic music, drinking a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea, and flipping through photos or reading the poetry of Keats. My romantic affair with Ireland will always be in my heart, never to be forgotten.

    Ireland is a welcoming destination for families, romantic escapes (with or without spouse), girlfriend getaways, and definitely soul-oh trips. When you find the real Ireland, you find yourself. For more information visit DiscoverIreland.com or find your own romantic escape closer to home.

    This article was originally published here on October 26, 2008

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  • Picture yourself at Walt Disney World, pushing a stroller around, possibly on a multi-generational family trip, and you find nap time is quickly approaching – for everyone. You just want a little Me Time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Parents need to stay sane and take advantage of down time, or even treat themselves to a visit to the parks WITHOUT the kids. Family travel can get crazy, so why not
    ask a family member to watch the kids, giving you and your spouse a few moments of adult time.

    Did you know there are nearly 400 places to dine across Walt Disney World Resort? And that’s not counting the portable food carts. In all, more than 6,000 different food items are available. And chances are, if the restaurants aren’t in the Magic Kingdom, they just might have an adult beverages on the menu for you to enjoy. If wine is your poison of choice, then you’ll want to know that more than 600 sommeliers have been awarded the Court of Master Sommelier Introductory Certificate at Walt Disney World Resort, with more than 300 sommeliers currently in restaurants.

    With so many restaurants and dining choices, where should you go for that “special” drink? Here are just of few of our top choices for a cocktail, beer, or wine while at Walt Disney World.

    Epcot’s World Showcase 

    United Kingdom – The Rose and Crown Pub and Dining room brings visitors into Victorian England with its etched glass panels, dark mahogany bar and authentic dart board. If you are looking for hearty ale, this place offers specially designed ale warmer can heat your Guinness to 55 degrees, should that be your preference.

    Mexico – The pavilion features a festive and colorful celebration of the beauty and culture of Mexico that is fun for guests of all ages. “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros” is an excursion by tour boat through the vibrant, eye-filling sights and lively music of Mexico. If you’re interested in margaritas, you should check out ThemeParkMom’s review of inventive margaritas at La Hacienda de San Angel, a new restaurant in EPCOT.

    Japan – In the Matsu-no-ma Lounge, visitors see a majestic view of Future World across the lagoon while sampling sushi, Japanese pickled vegetables, tempura and exotic specialty drinks.

    Germany – Biergarten, an indoor German “courtyard” featuring a German Oktoberfest buffet. At lunch and dinner time, yodelers, dancers and other lederhosen-clad musicians perform an Oktoberfest dinner show. Guests are invited onstage to join in the musical fun. The wine shop nearby offers samples of Ice Wine for a few bucks. Definitely worth a try.

    French Champagne and Wine cart at EPCOT World ShowcaseFrance – Want a glass of vino but don’t want to wait in the long line inside the wine shop? Across from the front of France there is a wine cart serving Champagne, wines, and frozen blends.

    Want more? Check out our extensive list of wine, beer, and cocktails at Epcot’s World Showcase.

    Other Venues at Disney with Alcohol

    Victoria Falls at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Down a flight of stairs from the lobby, this mezzanine lounge serves wine and spirits imported from Africa, including Windhoek beer from Namibia and Imoya Brandy from South Africa. The specialty drink is a Victoria Falls Mist, with tangerine, melon and banana liqueurs. Animal Kingdom Lodge has the largest offering of South African wines anywhere in the US. Be sure to check out Jiko, The Cooking Place, too!

    The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Trendy cocktails are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start the day with a Pomegranate Splash (vodka, pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice and soda water) or the Ultimate Bloody Mary (organic vodka, Bloody Mary mix and a dash of red chili sauce). The Pure-tini mixes organic vodka with organic mango and passion fruit liqueur. The Antioxidant Cocktail features wild berry vodka, black raspberry liqueur, açai juice with agave, lychee, aloe juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

    Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, next door to 50’s Prime Time Cafe, looks like a family den from the ’50s, with black-and-white TVs and campy retro furniture. You can choose kitschy drinks from “Dad’s Liquor Cabinet” such as Uncle Tim’s Melon Margarita, Scooter’s Long Island Iced Tea or an Electric Lemonade. Beer and wine is offered, too. My personal favorite is a Magical Star. Check out this video of inside Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as part of our Cocktail Series.

    Dawa Bar adjacent to Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Sit in the shade and sip a hard-to-find Tusker Beer from Africa or Safari Amber, brewed just for Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. South African wines are on the drink menu, too, along with cocktails like Lost on Safari with rum and fruit juices.

    Dawa Bar at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Mizner’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – A live orchestra plays nostalgic Big Band sounds just outside the doors of this lounge tucked away on the second floor of the hotel. The lounge’s namesake is architect Addison Mizner, whose designs launched a “Florida Renaissance” in the 1920s, so the sophisticated drinks are apropos: champagnes, caipirinhas, mint juleps and cosmopolitans, along with nine vodkas, seven different single malt scotch whiskeys and after-dinner cognacs and ports.

    There are more than 50 lounges in Walt Disney World hotels and three theme parks (no alcohol in Magic Kingdom. Again I stress. No alcohol in Magic Kingdom), making this list just a sampling of the many great place for big kids like parents to have their own magic time at Walt Disney World. If there’s a place you’d like us to know about, be sure to leave a comment, helping our readers discover new places to sample adult beverages.

    If you find yourself wandering around looking for a place to buy alcohol at Disney, all you have to do is ask one of the friendly cast members, who can point you in the right direction.  Be sure to drink plenty of water while you’re in the parks also, as alcohol is dehydrating. Designate a driver or take advantage of Disney’s resort transportation. Cheers!

    All Disney venues selling alcohol have a limit of two beverages per sale per person to limit overindulgence on property. Remember, cocktails can be fun, but this is a family friendly destination and not a place to act inappropriate.

     

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  • I’ve recently been selected to participate in the Lana’ i New Media Artist in Residence program, which excites me to no end! I’ve been to Hawaii a few times, but always on assignment and with no one from home. This will be my first visit to the Island of Lana’ i and I have the chance to experience this journey of discovery with my husband. We’ve contemplated bringing our kids with us, but with their ages (12 and 14) taking them out of school isn’t an option we want to consider. Plus, even though we’re parents, we can’t forget that we’re a couple also.

    manele panorama

    Crystal Pineapple from Four Seasons LanaiI have been dreaming of Hawaii lately, and Lana’ i in particular, ever since I won a beautiful crystal pineapple from @FSLanai on Twitter. When this small, delicate item arrived in the mail, I immediately placed it in my china cabinet, next to my wine and champagne glasses. Every time I relax with a glass of bubbly or vino, I catch a sparkly glimpse of this magical pineapple of travel inspiration and immediately dream of Hawaii.

    Soon, the dream will become a reality I get to share with my man, and it has become his dream also. He’s been exploring the Lana’ i Official website, researching golf courses and outdoor adventures. He knows I’ll have some official things to do while in Lana’ i (like check out the spa), and he plans on making the most of his visit by hitting the links and planning his game strategy.

    We both can’t wait to experience the culture of Lana’ i, the flora, the wildlife, and the natural wonders so that I can share things with you in hopes that you can one day plan your own dream exploration of the Island of Lana’ i. I anticipate a little bit of relaxation, but will be spending the bulk of my time checking out the hotels, food, and attractions of Lana’i for families and couples. I hope to talk story with some of the locals and learn of the people that make Hawaii and Lana’i an inspiring destination. I hope to even add a few new balcony moments to my travel memory library.

    Four Seasons Manele Bay

    Follow along the other new media artists who are also sharing their own experiences through the Twitter hashtag #VisitLanai, the Visit Lana’ i Flickr group, and their own personal blogs. My fingers are crossed that I don’t offend anyone with my attempt at learning the correct way to share the Hawaiian language. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so that I can make corrections.

    Participants Include:

    TravelingMamas.com (this site) – on Twitter: @Cajun_Mama & @TravelingMamas

    Landlopers.com – on Twitter: @LandLopers

    CAroundTheWorld.com – on Twitter: @CAroundTheWorld

    Everything-Everywhere.com – on Twitter: @EverywhereTrip

    GoVisitHawaii.com – on Twitter: @SheilaBeal

    TravelswithTwo.com – on Twitter: @TravelswithTwo

    Lanai New Media Writer in Residence Badge

    Sponsors of this new media project include: Lana’i Visitors Bureau, Four Seasons Lana’i (includes FS Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele), Hotel Lana’ i, and many others TBA. All posts identified with this project will display a graphic stating such. An honorarium and some travel assistance is being provided for participants, but as always you can expect on an honest accounting of this travel experience.

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  • For me, the most comforting concoction during the cold weather is a frothy cup of hot chocolate. It’s comforting and warms me all the way down from my head to my toes. My kids are big fans of hot chocolate also, begging me to make a pot on a Sunday evening, topping it off with whipped cream and chocolate flakes.

    Since New York City is one of the most popular holiday destinations we thought we’d put together a list of some of the best places to grab a hot cup of cocoa, whether you’re viewing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, touring some of the free things to do in NYC, or looking for something to warm you as you watch the tree light up Rockefeller Center.

    Hug Mug at Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man

    Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man – Forget acting like an adult, I want to order something off the fabulous kid menu –  Max and the Secret Chocolate Menu. There is an entire section of Chocolate Potions just for kids. But, if you have to grow up, Max Brenner offers a variety of liquid chocolate goodness served in special containers, like the Hug Mug (you need to hug the mug with both hands to enjoy), the Suckao (an espresso sized drink where you heat the chocolate in the milk), the Alice Cup (for frozen chocolates with a special straw holder), and the Kangaroo Cup (coffee with a pocket to place chocolate to melt on the side). As for me: I’m in love with Max Brenner and the Chocolate Drinking Ceremony. Found At: 841 Broadway

    The City Bakery – One of the most popular hot chocolate spots is just footsteps from 5th Avenue at The City Bakery. Each February they host the Hot Chocolate Festival, where owner Maury Rubin serves a different hot chocolate flavor each day of the month. Last year they served concoctions such as Sunken Treasure Hot Chocolate, Chile Pepper Hot Chocolate, Beer + Brown Sugar Hot Chocolate, and a long list of other flavors. Of course, you can always get the classic cocoa topped with a homemade marshmallow. Found At: 3 West 18th

    The Chocolate Room – Have you ever had a hot chocolate float? What about a Snow Mint Chocolate Float? These are just two of the yummy hot chocolatey treats to be found at The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn. Be sure to sample a slice of their Chocolate Layer Cake which was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2007. Found At: Park Slope, 86 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn

    Cocoa Bar – By day you can sit around sipping a cocoa and surfing the net with the Cocoa Bar‘s free Wi-Fi. By night, stop in for dessert after dinner as this place turns into a wine and dessert bar. The retail shop even offers chocolate spa products to bring the comforting aroma of hot cocoa to your home. Found At: 21 Clinton Street (Between Houston and Stanton)

    Jacques Torres Chocolate – Jacques Torres is quite possibly New York City’s most famous chocolatier. In July, NYCMama toured the chocolate factory with Jacques Torres himself in one of her posts. By looking at the photos, I can almost smell the decadent chocolates offered at this confectionary. Jacques Torres Chocolate offers a variety of hot chocolates, from sweet to spicy. While you’re there, be sure to sample a chocolate crepe or other delectable goody. Found At: 350 Hudson at King Street (1 Block South of Houston)

    Of course, these are just a few of the many places to grab a hot cocoa in the Big Apple. Have we left your favorite spot off the list? Please share it in the comments.

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  • Rainbow Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsHawaii always seems to be in the top choice of destinations on almost any travel list. It definitely was one of those places I could only dream about from my house in Louisiana. A few years ago, Hilton Hotels in Hawai’i invited me to experience one of their most iconic properties in the world. I was excited at the opportunity and felt like I was dreaming when I stepped off the plane in Honolulu and entered the world of Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa – a perfect place for a family vacation in Hawaii, a gathering of gal pals, or a Hawaiian honeymoon.

    I spent every second of my visit exploring this 22 acre property and getting LOST on the island of Oahu, which recently had a cameo appearance in the new Hawaii 5-0. Here are some of the top things I loved about the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa:

    The Beach – Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa boasts the largest hotel beach area in Waikiki and I have to admit that there’s plenty of room to catch some sun. Onsite is also the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, a 5-acre saltwater lagoon with activities and tons of chairs to relax and catch some sun. Each day at 11am is Surfing 101, a fun, 30 minute complimentary session by surfing experts to entertain and inform about the history of surfing.

    Blue Hawaii invented by retired Hilton Hawaiian Village bartender (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsThe History – If knowing that Elvis stayed here and threw albums off the balcony isn’t enough to pique your interest, how about those Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais? The Hilton Hawaiian Beach Resort and Spa sits on the site of the 1928 Niumalu Hotel. A retired Hilton Hawaiian Village bartender invented the famous cocktail, Blue Hawaii.

    The Penguins – Who knew that penguins liked Hawaii? On the hotel property, catch a glimpse of these waddling cutie pies. The penguins and turtles are fed each morning at 8am. Be sure to meet at the Penguin Pool next to the Ali’i Tower to watch.

    Ocean Crystal Wedding Chapel at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsThe Wedding Chapel – If I were getting married again, I would have to put the Ocean Crystal Wedding Chapel on my shortlist. The chapel is set in a lush tropical garden and seats up to 70 guests offering panoramic floor to ceiling views.

    The Activities – There are daily cultural activities for all ages scheduled throughout the day and week. Learn about the history of the Hula, how to make a Lei or Haku Lei wristlet (extra charges apply), and even take Ukelele lessons (minimum age 12 years old). Camp Penguin is a chance for kids ages 5-12 to learn about Hawai’i and her culture through supervised fun and educational activities. There is a charge for Camp Penguin and sometimes there are off-site excursions planned giving parents a chance to enjoy some downtime while the kids are entertained.

    Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa Paradise Pool (c) Hilton Hotels and ResortsThe Pools – The Paradise Pool is the newly re-opened aquatic fun area at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa. The pool is for registered guests wearing a wristband and offers four waterslides (one a whopping 72-foot lava tube), lava rock formations, three waterfalls, and two heated spas. This is only one of the many pools available at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.

    The Fireworks – Each Friday at 7:45 pm fireworks light up the beach and sky at the finale of the Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Revue. Poolside seating can be reserved for $20 per ticket (includes one Mait Tai punch or non-alcoholic drink). My suggestion is to grab a blanket and sit on the beach to watch a spectacular ending to a beautiful day in a gorgeous destination.

    The Cuisine – There are so many dining venues to choose from, that visitors to Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa many not even want to leave the property. I was fortunate enough to dine each evening of my stay at a different venue and explore the other dining options onsite. There’s even a Starbucks for those of you who can’t live without this brand, but I opted to enjoy a fresh steaming cup of Kona Coffee with my breakfast each morning.

    The Rooms – I stayed in The Rainbow Tower in a corner king room with a view of the lagoon area and ocean. The room was spacious, clean, and offered amazing views. I was greeted in my room with a gorgeous ginger lei and the ingredients for a Mai Tai. There are five towers to choose from for accommodations with the Ali’i Tower being the most exclusive and private. Each tower has it’s own personality and decor, with keeping in the standard Hilton line of luxury furnishings and bedding.

    The SpaMandara Spa is a destination in itself, as one of the largest spas in Waikiki. I enjoyed a Balinese Body Polish with Massage and was totally relaxed during my stay. The mosaic tiled private outdoor pool is a perfect spot for a personal retreat away from the every day world.

    A Mama Moment – Sure, there are so many activities and things to do at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, but nothing beats just being in Hawaii, sitting on the beach, listening to the waves lap the shore as children giggle and play nearby. A Blue Hawaii in hand completed my mama moment as I dreamed about pineapples, volcanos, and exotic flora.

    Special thanks to Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa for providing this experience.

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