…is ringing out across the nation, laying the foundation for the soon-to-come Mexican-American War and battle for Texas. San Antonio, then a relatively small outpost, begins to rebuild after a brutal battle and the hard work is fuelled by… chilli.
We’ve all fallen in love before and, at some point, have probably fallen in love with a bowl of chilli. Spicy, rich and hearty, chilli comes in many varieties and tops some of the most primo of foods. Quick way to level-up a hot dog? Add chilli.
It doesn’t matter whether you take it with beans, cheese or breadcrumbs, chilli is enjoyed by people all over the world. Well, except for iconic food traveller Anthony Bourdain, for whom it was reminiscent of “a warm bag of crap”. But don’t listen to him on this one—even legends make mistakes occasionally.
In Southern United States, it’s a distinct kind of street food that’s made all the more amazing when you know the history of San Antonio’s chilli godmothers.
A band of women boldly named the ‘Chilli Queens’ once made their way to Alamo and set up shop in its open air market. While mostly Mexican, there were some African American and First Nations women in their band, and together they served up their grandmothers’ secret chilli.
Dressed in colourful dresses, singing songs, and usually accompanied by roving musicians, they would fill the square with song and spice, offering their homemade chilli to a hungry city.
For decades, this band of Queens served their chilli daily from the market, providing a cheap and hearty meal not just to the people of San Antonio, but to travellers who caught wind. Tales of the Chilli Queens were featured in newspaper articles and travel guides, they were mentioned in several novels, including O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi and Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and soon chilli was spreading across the nation, becoming a popular fixture on menus coast to coast.
Sadly, resentment and racism towards Mexican culture forced the Chilli Queens out of business. The city government predominantly to blame after they passed an 1918 ordinance that banned street vendors from selling food. However, the Chilli Queens’ legacy lives on as a San Antonio street staple, slightly reinvented. Enter the Frito Pie.
At some point someone started serving chilli in a chip packet, giving birth to the Frito Pie—a charmingly lowbrow culinary combination that sees corn chips paired with their natural chilli allies. Like yin and yang or Simon & Garfunkel—they’re naturally better together.
No one seems quite sure where this originated. Some say it was a man on his lunch break at a convenience store while others reckon it was the Doolin family (inventors of the Fritos corn chips brand). There’s even talk of the Frito pie originating in the 1960s thanks to a woman named Teresa Hernandez who worked at the Woolworths lunch counter.
What we can all agree on, however, is that this is a distinctly southern American culinary invention, and a San Antonian street snack for the ages.
THE ORIGINAL RUDY’S COUNTRY STORE AND BAR-B-Q
A beloved, if basic, BBQ joint with multiple locations across San Antonio.
As well as offering a delicious Frito Pie topped with chilli and cheese, you can also get the 4 Horsemen burger here, famously dubbed the ‘Hottest Burger on the Planet’ by Man vs Food.
SAM’S BURGER JOINT
A classic burger joint where you can catch a band while you munch on your chilli.
ANY SAN ANTONIO FOOD TRUCK
This is where the purists will tell you to go, find them at any sports stadiums or fairs around the city.
We separate travel experiences by category on this website: do, stay, drink and eat. Level 8 probably ticks all four of these boxes, and then some.
It’s the new behemoth that has transformed downtown Los Angeles.
It’s sprawled across 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space on level 8 of the brand new Moxy Hotel and AC Downtown Hotel, right across the road from where the Lakers play.
It’s a labyrinth that includes a Japanese restaurant, a South American restaurant, burlesque, an opulent poolside party area that looks like a modern Great Gatsby scene, and a luxurious Mexican church-themed bar that includes a confessional booth, which you’ll surely need to visit more than once. There’s even a 24 hour supermarket downstairs.
The cool thing about Level 8 is that it’s everything you need in one – a night out from dinner to a raucous party, to a filthy club boogie and right through to kick ons – without ever leaving the building.
Ambiente™ Sedona describes itself as the first ‘landscape hotel’ in North America. What’s that mean? They allow the environment to take centre stage.
We’re not arguing given the way the hotel blends seamlessly into the dramatic red rock of its surrounds. Staying here feels less like looking at pretty scenery and more like you’re an active participant in the landscape.
Floor-to-ceiling windows bless each room with epic vistas of ancient waterways and the Brins Mesa mountain range. This place is stunning, and so cool. FYI we really thought ‘ambiente’ was going to be Spanish for ambient, but it’s Spanish for environment. Makes sense we guess.
From AU$1,300 per night
Global travel favourite Hawaiʻi has been hit by some of the most devastating wildfires ever seen in the United States in recent weeks.
There aren’t many destinations in the world as universally loved as the Aloha State.
If you’re a traveller heading to Hawaiʻi, or you know someone who is, here’s what you need to know.
Wildfires are still currently burning on the island of Maui, particularly in West Mauʻi, including one in Lahaina, a major tourist destination on the island. They have been burning for around two weeks.
Over 100 fatalities have been recorded and losses are estimated at over U.S. $6 billion. The fires have been labelled “the worst natural disaster in the history of Hawaiʻi.”
No-one should consider travelling to West Maui.
Travellers are still able to visit other areas of Mauʻi, according to Hawaii Governor Josh Green.
“No one can travel to West Maui right now…but all of the other areas of Maui, and the rest of Hawai‘i are safe,” Governor Green said.
“When you come, you will support our local economy and help speed the recovery of the people that are suffering right now.”
Hawaii Tourism is advising travellers to continue visiting the areas of Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena, Pāʻia and Hāna, as well as the other Hawaiian Islands of Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island.
Paying heed to the areas you are advised not to visit is the most important thing any travellers to Mauʻi can do, as well as treating with the island and it’s people with an appropriate understanding of the situation. Around 2,000 people are sheltering at the Kahului Airport on Mauʻi, which remains open.
Visit mauistrong.info for information on where you can make financial donations to support wildfire relief.
The State of Hawaiʻi website is constantly updating with information and news on the wildfires.
The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website is always a solid choice for travel information for Australian travellers.
Imagine telling your grandparents that a holiday in the future would be going to a farm, collecting eggs from the chooks for breakfast and foraging for your own vegetables for dinner. Working, in other words.
But this is 2023, not 1923, and we can see why the fresh air of Wildflower will appeal to those over in the Big Apple only 90 minutes away.
This is a stay that offers break from the grind, the fresh food on your plate – you know it’s fresh when you pick it yourself. Wellness tourism is a growing trend and, although this has traditionally seen as spas and exercise, eating is obviously a major part of being healthy.
This isn’t any old farm, either. No sleeping in hay stacks here; rooms of bespoke luxury are tucked neatly beneath sweeping tree canopies or within wildflower fields, where it gets its name.
Whether you’re into this sort of holiday or not, it is refreshing to see hotels placing a premium on the most basic of human pleasures – like the crisp air of the Hudson Valley.
As a travel agent I have the unique opportunity of speaking with hundreds of travellers as well as my social media followers, giving me a real sense of public opinion on travelling through the Beehive State. Unsurprisingly Mormons, desert and national parks topped the list of interests.
But while Utah certainly has an abundance of all those things, there is so much more on offer here, making it (in my opinion) one of the most underrated frontier states in all of the U.S.
The most surprising thing about Utah – aside from the fact it has the third largest number of national parks in any U.S. state – is that the is that the sheer number of state parks and national monuments are so impressive they rival any of the Mighty Five® which the state is better known for; these are Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks.
If you’re an adventure lover and a fan of the great outdoors, there really is no other place on the planet quite like Utah. One hour you can be swiftly pedalling down ruby red-coloured slick rock, the next you’re wedged between a towering slot canyon, waist deep in crystal clear water. You could be cruising down world-class ski slopes in the morning, and hiking through a wonderland of hoodoos (columns of weathered rock) and pine trees that same afternoon.
Utah shines in every season, with 238 days of sun a year (well above the national average) so when you visit really depends on what you’re hoping to experience. For snow lovers, mid-November through to April is best, especially in January to March if you’re craving deep pow. For hikers, look at the seasons of Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) for comfortable conditions. The summer months (June to August) are best for alpine hiking and water sports.
We laced up our boots in the capital, Salt Lake City, to kick off a monumental road trip. You can take a hike from day one on your visit by heading out to the Great Salt Lake or acquaint yourself with the state’s fascinating Mormon roots by checking out the Temple Square complex. The Utah State Capitol building and the National History Museum are also well worth some time while you’re still in the big smoke, and if you can catch the Utah Jazz basketball team at home, it’s game on!
From Salt Lake City, we ventured through rocky desert landscapes, pristine forests, glistening waterways, and the wild west, all the way down through the deep south of Utah, to Las Vegas, Nevada.
While hiking and landscapes were what we were originally craving on this visit, we found ourselves smiling from ear to ear with charming locals, falling in love with quirky desert towns, and having foodie experiences that still make my taste buds moist at the memories.
If I had to sum up Utah in an elevator pitch, I’d say it’s like a game of pass the parcel. When the music stops and you rip off the next layer of wrapping paper, you’ll be squealing with delight and it’s one of those games where Mum and Dad have packed an epic present in each layer.
Camel up, it’s time to live life elevated.
Here’s five epic recommendations, a detailed road trip itinerary from our creator and the best way to discover (and book) the real Utah with get lost:
It’s not a cliche: it should be a God-given right for everyone to have the opportunity to experience the magic and diversity that Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks offer. It still blows my mind how different each of these parks are, yet they’re so easily accessible to navigate within a week.
TAKE A HIKE
The AU$115 America the Beautiful pass, gives you access to all federally managed land units (national parks, national forests, national monuments, etc.) It’s good for a year from the month of purchase. You can pick one up at any national park entrance station.
Part of the ‘Trail of the Ancients’, this national scenic byway is a roadway that drastically switches back and forth on itself at a mind boggling 11 percent grade, carved into a cliff face. You breathe in while you’re driving this stretch of road simply as a natural protection instinct from the sheer drop. Yet, the views over San Juan River Canyon will balance your adrenaline. It is simply stunning at the top. It was a combination of both these elements that made me really feel alive.
TAKE A HIKE
I went all gung-ho to tick off the Mighty Five® national parks. And while they are certainly pretty epic in their own right, I was floored by how insane the lesser known parks were. I was questioning how they could not be honoured with the same national park status? There are 44 state parks, 9 national monuments, and several other areas defined as really cool landmarks. At this point, I decide that I need to move to Utah to visit each and every one.
TAKE A HIKE
AU$108 for an annual State Park Pass which is a no brainer if you’re visiting a few. They can be around AU$15 per park if you pay individually.
If the aqua coloured truck doesn’t stop you in your tracks as you pass by the town of Boulder, the scent of perfectly cooked Mexican wafting through your window will have you parked up in no time. Sit under the cottonwoods to enjoy their fare, and take some extra away with you to fuel you on your next hike.
TAKE A HIKE
Soda AU$4, taco AU$8, burrito AU$20
You’re in the most adventurous state in the U.S, so it’s time to try something new. Challenge yourself on a higher graded hike, mountain bike, canyoning adventure, bouldering ledge, rock climb, fly fishing trip, ATV, jet ski, water ski, snow ski, snowboard or slackline. If you’ve ever wanted to try something new that will really get your heart racing, Utah is calling your name.
TAKE A HIKE
Choosing to get out of your comfort zone = priceless
GET LOST’S NINE-NIGHT UTAH ITINERARY
get in the know // Utah man Walter Frederick Morrison invented the frisbee in 1948. It was originally called the Pluto Platter.
In a city where there’s no shortage of places-to-be, the Tommie is the new place to be in Los Angeles.
It’s not difficult to see why this Hollywood hotspot has racked up this reputation in six short months. During the day, go full maxo-relaxo at the rooftop pool, a relaxed oasis which feels miles away from the craziness of the day-to-day L.A.
By night, debauchery seekers should head around the corner to the Desert 5 Bar, a hedonistic treat in the form of sweeping city skyline views, endless pitchers of margaritas, live music and a serious, serious vibe.
In between these two bookends you’ve got sleek 1960s-themed rooms to kick back in, and a restaurant with a very meat-strong menu from an award-winning chef (Wes Avila) to eat at.
From AU$263 per person
There might be finer or quirkier places to stay, but nowhere in New York City quite has the bohemian street credit of The Hotel Chelsea, which has re-opened after a four-year renovation.
The hotel probably peaked as a creative hub in the 1960s and the 1970s, when the likes of Patti Smith (pictured below), Jimi Hendrix, Robert Mapplethorpe, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Madonna and a heap more resided at the Chelsea, on 23rd street Manhattan.
Jack Kerouac could often be found there when not on the road. Decades earlier Dylan Thomas drank himself into a stupor in his room, and earlier than that Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again within the confines of the hotel’s grungy walls. Leonard Cohen wrote “I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel…you were talking so brave and so sweet,” in memory of Joplin, forever entwining the two.
The hotel is now a upmarket trip down memory lane, refurbished with new coats of paint and expensive art. The Spanish restaurant has been retained, but upgraded. The rooms are glamorous, featuring restored marble fireplaces, Marshall speakers and retro couches. There’s a spa, a gym and, obviously, a bar. It’s shabby elegance has gone, replaced by a nostalgic elegance.
Colour is splashed throughout, reflecting the building’s colourful history.
Circa Hotel & Casino is a new behemoth property in Sin City, geared entirely towards rabid American sports fans.
The first new casino-resort to open in downtown Vegas since 1980, Circa now sits head and shoulders above its ageing predecessors — both physically and metaphorically — boasting an amphitheatre-style pool dubbed ‘Stadium Swim’, an enormous sports bar (which is, in fact, Nevada’s largest indoor bar spanning 50 metres) and a three-story indoor betting stadium (yes, you read that correctly). This is the hottest ticket in town for America’s sun-seekers and sports lovers. Just be sure to bring a fat wallet for the booze and betting tables.
From AU$225 per night
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YouTube superstar couple, Johnny and Iz Harris are no strangers to visiting unique properties around the world, so when given the opportunity to renovate and design their own forest retreat just outside their home in Washington DC they grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Taking a historic and dilapidated church from the late 1800s, the couple completely transformed the former place of worship into the ultimate entertaining pad with enough room for an entire family. Some properties are just built to be most enjoyed during winter and the Shenandoah Church House is one of those, with its roaring indoor fireplace and outdoor seven-seater hot tub.
From AU$438 per night.
Click here to BE FULL OF PRAISE