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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  • Road trips can be a fun time to reconnect with the family, play cheesy road games, or even make random stops along the way. When I hit the road in RedBugg, I always like to seek out the bizarre and kooky roadside attractions that can still be found along America’s highways and byways.

    One site I use to help me find those crazy places is Roadside America, a guide to uniquely odd tourist attractions. Travelers can find sights by state or city and can then read updates by recent visitors. Here are a few of my favorite roadside attractions.

    Rock City -This is a classic stop in Chattanooga, TN that has also been a favorite of my family for generations.

    The Cadillac Ranch – Who knew that colorful Cadillacs could be found sticking out the ground in the middle of a field near Amarillo, TX.

    Mammy's Cupboard copyright 2008 Shannon Hurst LaneMammy’s Cupboard This place is sooo not politically correct, but this Natchez, MS stop has been featured on the Travel Channel and also dishes up lunch Monday through Friday.

    Museum of Appalachia – Yup. We spent hours at this Clinton, TN stop and couldn’t seem to stop looking at things such as a Ukeweewee (Banjo made out of a bed pan) or the morbid collection of death items.

    The International UFO Museum and Research Center – We made a stop in Roswell on a road trip and ate at the space ship shaped McDonalds. The street lights have alien heads on top that lead to the museum. This place is for hard-core UFO researchers and doesn’t offer too much for kids, except a really big gift shop with a lot of alien paraphernalia.

    Old Sparky – The Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) has a museum just outside the prison gates where visitors can see “Old Sparky”, which is a decommissioned electric chair. The museum is free and also showcases homemade prison weapons confiscated over the years. If you want to scare the you-know-what out of your kids to keep them in line, this wouldn’t be a bad stop to consider. I wouldn’t bring little kids, though, as there are some pretty gruesome photos inside.

    Hole N’ The Rock – This Moab, UT cliff dwelling took 12 years to complete. A couple operated a diner out this 5,000 square foot home. It is now a gift shop and museum. Don’t forget to check out the two story outhouse while you’re there.

    This list could go on and on, but shows what crazy things one can discover in the USA on a road trip. So, what are some of the kooky places you’ve seen along your travels?

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  • We polled our readers, fans, and followers and asked them to submit some of their favorite brands and answer a few questions about their travel habits.  We listed the top nominees and allowed open voting, along with an option to write in their own choice, if it wasn’t listed.

    These are our reader favorites for 2010

     

    Favorite Travel Site

    TripAdvisor.com

    Honorable Mentions: Expedia.com and Kayak.com

     

    Favorite Theme or Amusement Park

    Walt Disney World

    Honorable Mentions: Universal Orlando and Cedar Pointe

     

    Favorite Family Hotel Brand if Mentioning to a Friend or Neighbor

    Hilton Hotels and Resorts

    Honorable Mentions: Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn

     

    Congratulations to all of these brands for assisting our readers in making lasting travel memories. Special thanks to our readers who participated in the surveys.

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  • The holiday season will find many travelers on the road, driving to visit relatives for that annual visit. Some travelers may opt to stay with their relatives while many others choose to stay in a hotel or vacation rental near the family gathering place. I know when my family travels, we not only try to pack healthy road trip snacks, but also to save money by not stopping at a drive through for every meal.

    My friends from The Pampered Chef sent me a holiday gift of new and classic items for making meal time easier for me and the family during this crazy holiday time. I’ve been using The Pampered Chef products and recipes for over a decade, as have many of my friends. A few of them even sell TPC products and the home parties are a fun way for friends to gather together, enjoy some new dishes, and learn about ways to make dinner prep time easy and fun.

    Here are some tips and The Pampered Chef items I personally use when taking a road trip.

    The Pampered Chef Twixit Combo PackTwixit! Combo Pack – These little clips are compact and handy for keeping snack bags and chip bags closed when on the road or at home. If you have a number of kids in your family, a fun way to personalize snacks is to use a paint pen to personalize a Twixit! for each family member. This not only makes them personally responsible for keeping their snacks from spilling all over the car, but will help identify snack bag owners so there aren’t as many disagreements. Twixit Combo Pack $5.50

    The Pampered Chef Scoop ClipScoop Clip – Everyone already knows I like to travel with my own coffee. The Scoop Clip not only keeps my coffee fresh and sealed, but it also is handy for measuring the amount of coffee needed for making a fresh pot. This is an ideal product not just for travel, but also at the office. Scoop Clip $5.50

    The Pampered Chef Cut N SealCut-N-Seal – When my kids were just a little bit younger, they insisted on the crust being cut off their sandwiches. The Cut-N-Seal makes sandwich construction easy and fun. I love how it seals the bread around the edges. For the road trip home, make some chicken salad sandwiches, but substitute the chicken with leftover turkey. Cut-N-Seal $9.50

    To celebrate the holidays, we’re giving away the three items listed in the above tips. One randomly chosen winner will win all three items. Just leave a comment with your tips or ideas for holiday road trip snacks or a way you use leftover turkey after the holiday meal. If you need a little inspiration on leftover ideas, be sure to watch the live cooking demonstation on The Pampered Chef Facebook Page on November 11, 2010 at 10:30AM CST or check out all the recipes and products available at The Pampered Chef official website.

    Contest ends November 15, 2010 at 11:59PM CST. US residents ages 21 and older. Current and former contributors of TravelingMamas.com not eligible to enter. Prize provided by The Pampered Chef.

    Disclosure: TPC provided a promotional gift package of new products. This in no way influenced my opinion as I have been a customer of TPC for many years.

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