Michael & I are excited to share that we’re headed to Scotland for the first time next month! We’re taking advantage of a work trip that Michael has in Edinburgh, and will make our way through the Scottish Highlands & Islands once he’s finished up working. Seven or so years later, I still remember the very conversation we had in college when Michael told me how much he’d always wanted to visit Scotland someday, so the fact that we’re making this trip together is extraordinarily special.
The reason for this post is two-fold. First, we love hearing travel recommendations from our readers – your suggestions have led us to more than a few memorable meals and experiences – so if you’ve been to Scotland, we’d love to hear any tips you’d be willing to share. We also thought it might be worthwhile to share some of the resources we’ve been using to plan our Scotland trip, in case you find yourself faced with a similar task.
Isle of Skye was at the very top of our list when we began planning this trip. After reaching out to a lot of self-catering cottages (rental homes) we noticed that almost all of them required a one week stay. While I’m certain that we would have had no shortage of things to experience on Skye for a week, in the end we decided that splitting up our stay in multiple Scottish locations might be a wiser use of our time abroad. If a weeklong stay on Isle of Skye sounds appealing to you, I would look no further than An Airigh or 15 Fiscavaig. I’ve exchanged emails with the owners and they’re delightful people with the most beautiful of properties. The cottages at Lyndale is another spot I would also go ahead and bookmark, and this website was also very insightful.
For Scotland, our Where Chefs Eat book has come in handy once again. Thanks to it, we’re looking forward to a meal at Three Chimneys on Isle of Skye, and Michael will have no shortage of great recommendations to browse for his time in Edinburgh.
Another book that has proven to be quite useful is our copy of The New York Times 36 Hours in Europe. We were both excited to read that we’ll be driving past the Glenfinnan Viaduct (seen in the Harry Potter films) on our way to Skye, and we certainly cannot wait to experience a meal at Kinloch and sample whisky at Talisker (which was also the distillery our podcasting friend, Bo, told us to visit).
A while ago, I bookmarked these photos from Vanessa Jackman’s fall trip to Scotland, for the sole purpose of getting more excited for our own trip. It doesn’t hurt that her food + activity recommendations seem to be almost as lovely as her photos.
Here are some more lovely Skye photos from Olivia Rae James!
As touristy or cliché as it might sound, experiencing firsthand some of the beautiful scenery featured in Skyfall was another must on this trip for us. Our first B&B is located just 30 miles from Glencoe, where Bond’s family’s property was set in the movie.
The final website I ended up using during this process was Further Afield – a site that features handpicked accommodation options that are open to hosting same-sex couples. While I obviously didn’t quite use the site as it was originally intended, I thought Further Afield was too good not to share – the interface is intuitive, they share useful tips about each place, and the properties they feature all appear to be lovely. Plus, some of the properties on Skye I’d originally contacted when we were considering a weeklong stay were listed, which seemed to be a great sign. Seriously, how gorgeous are these Boathouses in Perthshire that I found on Further Afield? (As an aside, we noticed that our adorable inn from our trip to Atlanta was featured on the site as well!)
As I mentioned above, we’d love to hear any thoughts you might have for our visit to the Scottish Highlands and Michael’s trip to Edinburgh in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading along!4 Comments - Leave a comment
Last night Michael and I sat down, over hot fudge ice cream sundaes, and made a list of activities we’re looking forward to completing this spring season. Sometimes we’re so focused on our favorite summer pastimes – yard games, beach visits, making “grown-up” popsicles, and trips to the farmer’s market – that we almost let spring pass us by without taking advantage of its unique offerings. (Truthfully, part of our overlooking the spring season could be blamed on our southern heritage – springtime in the South is a much longer (and warmer!) season than it is here in Maine, but I’d say we’re slowly getting used to making the most of these chillier springs here in New England.)
Our hopes in sharing the list on Map & Menu is that we’ll have a bit of accountability and actually partake in these springtime activities we don’t always get to enjoy. (Our friend Emily does a similar thing by sharing monthly progress on her her 101 in 1001!) If you have any suggestions for our list, we’d love to hear them below. Happy spring, friends!
Play a few games of tennis!
Plant our annual Easter plant, a tradition we’ve had since becoming homeowners.
A lunchtime picnic on the Eastern Promenade.
Open one of our Scribe rosé bottles. (I always jump the gun and start drinking rosé in the spring.)
Celebrate our birthdays!
Polish our julep cups in preparation for many mint juleps – our favorite spring cocktail.
Attend a Portland Sea Dogs game.
Eat our weight in fiddleheads!
Plant our baby bath with herbs.
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This weekend was filled with many of the things we love most in life – lots of good food, cute dogs, and laughter! Friday was just gorgeous, so we decided to cut out of work a bit early that afternoon so that Orvis could stretch his legs on the farm. The next morning we enjoyed another delicious breakfast at Crissy’s in Damariscotta and swung by one of our favorite shops in Maine, Rock Paper Scissors. Abby the shop dog was there that day which, of course, became one of the highlights of our quick trip up the coast.
Back home in South Portland, we decided to pick up a pizza from 158 Pickett Street for a movie night on the couch. The next day was spent working in the yard and playing on the beach with Orvis, soaking up as much sun as possible.
Last night we were treated to an extraordinarily special evening at the home of our friends, Darcy & Carolyn. These two have honestly never prepared anything that wasn’t restaurant quality, and last night’s tangerine margaritas and pulled pork carnitas were certainly no exception. We had a wonderful time with our dear friends and their adorable pups, Hughie & Enzo, and although it was our last meal at their place before they move to Hudson, we left feeling quite optimistic about our future shared adventures between Maine, New York, and beyond.
We hope you all had just as splendid of a weekend!
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Last week, Meredith and I made the quick trip down to Biddeford to try the newly reopened Palace Diner. There had been no shortage of buzz about the delicious food coming from Maine’s oldest diner car in the past weeks, and the social feeds of our friends in the food industry have been overflowing with pictures of heavenly glazed doughnuts and piled-high breakfast sandwiches, so when we finally found a little room on a random morning, we decided it was time to give Palace a try for ourselves.
Co-owners Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell have created something special in the old mill town. Taking one of the most classic of American dining styles and establishments, and then injecting an attention to detail and flavor completely foreign to the prefabricated diner world, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. The menu still has the diner staples holdover patrons have come to expect – pancakes, bacon, eggs, and coffee – but take one bite of the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Deluxe, an english muffin breakfast sandwich with baked eggs and jalapenos, and there’ll be no question about the value added by that extra care for ingredients and preparation. The Brown Butter Banana Bread, Palace Potatoes, and Tandem coffee are just further examples of this that we tried during our visit, but we’d be willing to bet that every menu item holds true to the same standard. After spending some time speaking with Chad and Greg, hearing about the adventure that opening a diner has provided, the passion for creating and serving their take on an American classic, and their excitement about the upcoming Palace dinners, we couldn’t be more impressed with what Palace is quite literally bringing to the table.
The vast majority of us probably have one memory or another about visiting that ‘locals only’ breakfast joint in our hometown as children, maybe that same hole-in-the-wall place every Saturday throughout college, or even that quick stop on the way to work these days. While stepping inside the 1920’s rail car in Biddeford does feel comfortable and familiar in that wonderful déjà vu way, we’re almost certain that your meal will completely redefine the way you look at a diner breakfast going forward.
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Meredith and I often get emails and comments from Map & Menu readers asking for help in planning their own Portland adventures. While we love that people are finding and using the site for the exact reason we created it – to be a tried and true travel resource – we’ve only had a few first-hand accommodation experiences in our hometown of Portland – all from before we moved to Maine, and long before Map & Menu. Thus, when we saw one of our favorite branding agencies in town share some of the recent work they’d done for a new Portland inn, we quickly searched for more information and reached out to its owners to setup a visit.
The Mercury Inn has many of the things that typically draw us to the places we stay on our travels – creative taste, a clean aesthetic, cozy accommodations, and great branding. During our tour of the property, we had the chance to speak to the co-owners, Tim and Jake, about their experience in running, then renovating the previous inn at the State Street location, and their passion for the food and service industries that led them toward owning a bed and breakfast. After managing what was formerly the Wild Iris Inn for part of the season prior to re-opening as the Mercury Inn, Tim and Jake began to renovate according to the experiences they had gleaned from patrons, the property, and the sustainable vision they had brought with them. The design of the interior came from Tim’s sister’s firm, Landing Design & Development and has a clean, contemporary feel that meshes perfectly with the branding done by Might & Main. Details like the custom Sea Bags pillows, roman numeral door lettering, and large-printed shower curtains add fun accents and give the space plenty of its own personality. On top of being within walking distance to some of our favorite restaurants in Portland’s West End and on Congress Street, Tim and Jake use their culinary experience to provide homemade breakfasts to visitors, which we’re looking forward to trying at some future date.
We’re thrilled to add the aptly-named Mercury Inn (Mercury was the Roman patron god of travelers) to our list of places to stay in Portland. We’re sure that given it’s design and comfort it’ll be the perfect fit for many Map & Menu readers in the future.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.Leave a comment
This past weekend seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye! On Friday night we cheered on the Tarheels with our friend Julia, a fellow Carolina alum living in Maine, and eagerly made plans for the following NCAA tournament game on Sunday. The following morning we attended our first spinning class at Rêve which proved to be a great workout and made us feel not nearly as guilty for ordering popcorn at that afternoon’s showing of The Monuments Men. Sunday morning was spent reading the paper and indulging in treats from our neighborhood bakery before I left for Freeport with Orvis and our friend Betsy, to go visit the lambs at Wolfe’s Neck Farm. Watching them gnaw on the wood of the barn and sleep with each other in a pile was too much fun, but seeing Orvis share nose kisses with both a lamb and a sheep was definitely the highlight of our visit! Plenty more college basketball was watched on Sunday evening and after the Tarheels sadly lost their second round game, we decided to drown our sorrows in our favorite takeout from Empire – kale noodles & dumplings.
We hope you all had a wonderful first weekend of spring… even if the weather was less than spring-like for some of us!
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.8 Comments - Leave a comment
When Michael found out that he’d be headed to Atlanta for work, I quickly made plans to join him. Having not been to the city in a number of years, I was excited to reacquaint myself with Atlanta after reading so much about how it has grown and changed, and all of its new offerings. A sprawling city, Atlanta has developed a number of unique neighborhoods with delicious restaurants and delightful shops, mostly within a short ride of one another. Together, between work commitments, and also on my own, we explored so many different places and had an absolutely lovely time. Even with all of the places below, I feel like there’s still so much remaining in this interesting town, and can’t wait to return again (maybe next time with Orvis in tow)!
It’s fitting that a walk in Piedmont Park was the very first thing we did after dropping our bags off at our B&B down the street. After many trips to Atlanta growing up, I’d never visited the expansive 190 acre park, and even on a chilly winter’s day without too many flowers or green signs of spring, the park did not disappoint!
I honestly cannot imagine us planning a return trip to Atlanta that doesn’t include a stay at Stonehurst Place. The inn was stylish and comfortable, and with its close proximity to Piedmont Park and some of Midtown’s best restaurants, the location is surely hard to beat. Although a trip in the height of spring would allow us to enjoy the beautifully landscaped property and spend more time exploring the darling neighborhoods nearby, it’s hard to imagine a time of year that a stay at Stonehurst Place would be anything short of idyllic. Read more about our stay at Stonehurst Place here.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to start a trip to Atlanta than with a meal at Empire State South, easily one of Atlanta’s best restaurants. We’ve been cooking out of chef Hugh Acheson’s cookbook: A New Turn in the South for the better (and more tasty) part of two years. We met one of Michael’s co-workers for an early dinner, and had an amazing time sampling the farm-to-table Southern-inspired dishes. The ‘In Jars’ selection of spreads was perfect to split for the table while catching up and sharing laughs, but judging by the absolute silence once our entrees arrived, I don’t think we could’ve possibly been happier with our meal.
The food scene in Atlanta cannot be beat and the people we met were so kind, but my walk through the Virginia Highland neighborhood is truly what made me fall in love with this sweet Southern city. Read more about the Virginia Highland neighborhood here.
Luckily for me, Design*Sponge published their 24 Hours in Atlanta with Ginny Branch while I was planning our trip. It was an overall great resource, but the very best part of the article was Ginny’s advice to try one of Miller Union’s famed ice cream sandwiches. My chocolate coconut macroon ice cream sandwich easily lived up to the hype, and the pimento cheese & arugula toast I had wasn’t too shabby either. Lunch at Miller Union, complete with the ice cream sandwich, seems like the perfect fuel for an afternoon of browsing Atlanta’s Westside Provisions District.
Visiting wine shops in a new city is one of my favorite pastimes while traveling, even if with shipping/airline rules, it doesn’t make too much sense to purchase anything to take home. I love seeing what wines catch a merchant’s eye, and the different regional tastes of the cities we visit. Although given the style and selection of Perrine’s it was inevitable I’d be a fan, I hadn’t even had a chance to browse their collection before I fell for her shop, as I was greeted by her happy puppy, Maddie. One of the most beautiful wine stores I’ve ever visited, Perrine’s is a gem – I saw wines I’ve never seen outside of California (like Peay), bottles of Banshee that brought me back to our trip to Sonoma, my go-to Poggia Anima varietals, and no less than a dozen I wish I could have taken home with me right then.
The idea of visiting Atlanta and not stopping in the Ann or Sid Mashburn clothing shops was never really an option for me. I’d been wanting to see the eponymous shops of this Atlanta-based wife & husband clothier duo in person since seeing these photographs my friend, Ali, shot for Matchbook Magazine. Visually, both stores are stunning, and the collection in each one is classic and timeless. My only regret is that Michael was working at the time and missed out on visiting Sid Mashburn – something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.
Upon walking out of the lovely Steven Alan shop, the delicious smell of sweet onion confit led me through the doors of the delightful Preserving Place, a beautifully appointed cooking school and preserve producer. I chatted with owner, Martha McMillin, who showed me where the cooking and classes take place and ended up purchasing a jar of Woodford Reserve julep sugar that I thought might be a safer bet for my carry-on than a jar of the sweet onion confit that I can credit for getting me through the door. I can hardly wait for spring to properly arrive in Maine to give it a try!
A recommendation from Atlanta-based blog, The Love List, JCT Kitchen was just the spot we wanted to share with Michael’s friend & co-worker, who wasn’t quite as familiar with the regional cuisine, having grown up in Germany. As we finished our classically southern meals (shrimp & grits for me, fried chicken for the men, and a plate of deviled eggs to share) it became clear why JCT Kitchen and the al fresco bar upstairs seemed to be the place to be in Atlanta on a Thursday night.
This one was an unexpected surprise of the trip! I’ve owned the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook for years and have always wanted to visit the original scoop shop in Columbus, Ohio with my family in the Buckeye State, so discovering that there was a Jeni’s in Westside Provisions was just too much for me. With deliciously creative flavors like Birch + Marshmallows and signature flavors such as The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, we were in heaven – so much so that we may have gone here two nights in a row…
While researching things to do in Atlanta I happened upon this post on the blog of Steven Alan written by the couple of The Southerly and made a point to re-visit Atlanta’s oldest cemetery, a place I’d toured with a school group when I was younger. Although I didn’t have too much time to wander around the historic cemetery, I admired the landscaping and green spaces that make it one of the more beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited.
Across the street from Oakland, and another recommendation from the couple of The Southerly that I really wish I’d been able to share with Michael, the only real coffee drinker of Map & Menu. I cabbed down here on my way to see him speak (!) and instantly regretted my decision to visit Octane before Michael’s presentation, not afterwards when I had an abundance of free time to enjoy the beautiful space, delicious drinks, and scrumptious baked goods.
A sweet instagram follower suggested we visit one of Atlanta’s Yeah! Burger locations and we were so thankful that she did! To celebrate Michael’s successful presentation, we cabbed over to the Virginia Highland location and ate our fill of some tasty burgers & fries. My Yeah! Veggie burger and Michael’s All-American burger with bacon was the perfect excuse to take a long post-lunch stroll around a neighborhood (Virginia Highland) I couldn’t wait to share with him.
The famed oyster bar has been on my must-try list for a year or so, probably since I read about it Bon Appetit or Conde Nast Traveler. At times I’d wondered if I’d built it up in my mind, but now, after eating one of the more memorable meals in my life there, I know that just simply isn’t possible at a restaurant like The Optimist. This final dinner of ours was easily our favorite meal in Atlanta, kicked off with two of the best cocktails we’d had on the trip . Our waiter expertly guided us through his favorites on the menu and even convinced me to try the octopus, which although hesitant from past octopus experience, I tried and loved. Delicious Rhode Island oysters and tasty fried rice accompanied the grouper I ordered and the swordfish Michael selected – both incredible dishes. But the show stopper of the evening, which is truly saying something, just might have been the bite-sized hushpuppies, served “beignet style” with powdered sugar and cane syrup butter. They were most definitely the best hushpuppies I’ve ever eaten, and I’ll undoubtedly be scouring the internet and cookbooks for a recipe in the next few weeks.
As is often the case on these weekend trips, we didn’t have the chance to visit every spot on our list. My biggest regret was missing out on Taqueria del Sol (a favorite of my friend, Alexis), and I also heard great things about Antico Pizza, Ecco (thanks, M!) and Holeman & Finch in Decatur. A trip up the road to Buckhead would have been equally as fun with a stop at one of my favorite art galleries, a tour of the Atlanta History Center, and a meal at King & Duke.
Are there any other Atlanta highlights we missed? Please share them in the comments below – we’d love to hear your favorite spots in what has become a favorite city to visit!
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.6 Comments - Leave a comment
How is it that I visited Atlanta a number of times as a child and young adult without really starting to fall for the city until now, my fourth or fifth trip? It’s probably because my visits were limited to activities like sampling Coca-Cola at the World of Coke or watching Braves games at Turner Field, instead of experiencing some of the city’s delicious restaurants or exploring the quieter areas of town. Regardless, I have a newfound appreciation for this sweet Southern city and it’s largely because of my morning spent wandering around the Virginia Highland neighborhood. (I should also add that the historic Midtown neighborhood I walked through to get there was also lovely, but there’s just something about the charming bungalows of Virginia Highland that I cannot get out of my head.)
I happened to walk up Cooledge Avenue upon entering the neighborhood and I immediately texted Michael, who was working at the time, that I’d found the most dreamlike of streets in Atlanta. Little did I know, there are dozens of blocks just as charming as Cooledge in the neighborhood, although none that I saw with a Little Free Library (pictured below) or street paved with brick.
Photographing the homes of Virginia Highland didn’t come quite as easily as it did for me during our walks through Charleston – the area feels a lot more lived-in than the sprawling mansions south of Broad. I loved exploring the streets of this neighborhood, a part of town named for the intersection of Virginia Avenue and North Highland Avenue, that I ended up bringing Michael back the next day. Together we selected our favorites on each street – a craftsman (or seven) here, a contrasting modern home there – as we walked back towards Piedmont Park.
If you’re in Atlanta and love looking at homes and daydreaming as much as I do, I highly recommend a little walk through Virginia Highland – you won’t be disappointed.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.2 Comments - Leave a comment
Every now and again on our travels, Michael and I feel like we’ve truly stumbled upon a place to stay that simply seems to be doing everything just right. Every detail and design element seems to be carefully thought of, and our trip always ends with mixed feelings of happiness from the comfort of our stay and sadness that it must come to an end. Last week, Michael and I had the opportunity to visit one of these ‘finds’ – Stonehurst Place in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood – and though our stay was short, we left feeling as though we’d discovered a true southern gem of a bed & breakfast, one that we just couldn’t wait to share with y’all!
There’s a surprising amount to cover when describing this six-room 19th century craftsman. Owner Barb Shadomy has done an unbelievable job restoring the home to its original charm, while still providing any and all of the modern comforts one could want. Everywhere one looks, they’ll find a balanced blend of that historical framework, finished with modern accents. The main floor plan is essentially as it was more than 100 years ago, while the furnishings and art enhance the aesthetic in a more contemporary fashion. We took our time browsing the inn’s impressive art collection, an extensive, non-exaggerative “museum-quality” body of work curated by the owner that includes pieces by Andy Warhol & Pablo Picasso, among many others. Our room, the Gables Suite, was open, spacious, and filled with natural light. Details like the lettered room name on the door, the fresh cut wildflowers, large classic wooden desk, and the comfortable leather lounge chair only added to our delight, and it honestly seemed as though the art in our room was made for the two of us.
Innkeepers, Lori & Paul Worrell, were just another wonderful part of our stay at Stonehurst Place. Their warmth & southern hospitality is evident in many aspects of the inn, from the delicious breakfast the couple prepares each morning to the conversations they shared with us and the other guests during our visit. We particularly enjoyed hearing Paul speak of the green initiatives at Stonehurst Place, including the modern rainwater harvesting system which now produces purified drinkable and usable water – the first of its kind for hotel properties in Atlanta.
I honestly cannot imagine us planning a return trip to Atlanta that doesn’t include a stay at the Stonehurst Place. With its close proximity to Piedmont Park and some of Midtown’s best restaurants, the location is surely hard to beat. Although a trip in the height of spring would allow us to enjoy the beautifully landscaped property and spend more time exploring the darling neighborhoods nearby, it’s hard to imagine a time of year that a stay at Stonehurst Place would be anything short of idyllic.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.6 Comments - Leave a comment
The very best part of returning home from any trip – no matter the length – is picking up Orvis from camp. Traveling without him is never easy on us – we’re constantly wondering what he’s up to while we’re away, but seeing his face after a weekend (or week!) away is easily the highlight of the entire trip. I returned home a day early from our trip to Atlanta (where Michael spoke at WordCamp ATL!) and picked up Orvis by myself. After his first bath experience at the dog shop down the street from our house, I started the post-travel spoil routine: lots & lots of treats, some dog yogurt, and plenty of time outside. There might have even been some Sunday morning cuddling on the bed, which is technically not allowed at our house, but something I couldn’t resist after admiring how clean he was… oops!
We have lots more to share about our time in Atlanta, including a peek at one of our newest favorite bed & breakfasts and the low-down on the very best (!) hushpuppies I’ve ever tasted… Check back tomorrow for the first of our Atlanta posts and don’t forget that you can keep up with our adventures on instagram!
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