Atlantic City: The Original Vegas

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Saturday was so beautiful in the Northeast. It was the perfect kind of day to spend in the garden, or divert the car towards Atlantic City.

So that’s what we did.

Eighty degrees, cloudless sky and a nice sea breeze. Add that to the smell of funnel cake, sunscreen and slurp down the experience with fresh lemonade, while strolling the boardwalk and recognizing street names you normally see on your Monopoly board.

Steel Pier, Atlantic City

Atlantic City is a diverse mix of people, but it has most everything that Vegas touts, except there’s an ocean and expansive boardwalk. No, Celine Dion isn’t playing Atlantic City every night and I’m ok with that, but there are shows to be seen. There are glitzy and glamorous nightclubs, casinos and hotels. The amusement rides may not be as sparkly and the exterior decor may be a little more worn, but there’s something to be said for the city by the sea.

I grew up being fascinated by films of ladies jumping their horses off diving boards next to Steel Pier and photos of the old timers who wore their Sunday best as they wandered the boards in the early 20th century. I’ve also watched a lot of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, and though I know its primarily fictional stories written for entertainment, I have no doubt that Prohibition brought waves of crime and corruption that still linger today. Feeling that way does take away from the nostalgia of flapper girls and their shiny cigarette cases and replaces it with heroin chic society types that rival fashion models of the 90’s.

Atlantic City is an accessible city. It is a little less sparkly but nice equivalent to a five hour plane right to Nevada from the East Coast. But just like Vegas, don’t wander too far off the “strip” in Atlantic City; unless you’re looking for some non-fiction CSI type experiences. Also, get some saltwater taffy; it’s so good and the remnants of it can be tasted for days since it’ll be stuck in your molars. That might be an exaggeration, but in all honesty, stop at James’.  If taffy isn’t your thing, drop by the Whiskey Tavern in the new Revel casino, order an Old Fashioned and slip into shiny 1925 subway tile heaven.

James’ Salt Water Taffy

Irish Whiskey on the Horizon

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Saint Paddy’s Day will be here soon. Last year I spent the holiday having major surgery. The anesthesiologists told me that the stuff I’d be getting was much stronger than my Irish whiskey. They were right.

Although St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal for our family, I hadn’t been too devastated because we had returned from Ireland only a couple months before. My husband still swore he’d dress in his annual Leprechaun costume for the occasion, but luckily he didn’t. Though part of me would have liked to see the looks on people’s faces as he sat in that surgical waiting room, in one of the country’s best hospitals, with tights and a top hat.

We enjoy Irish whiskey any time of the year, but the Irish season is amongst us in America and I thought about our trip to Bushmills in Northern Ireland. Alongside many brands of Irish whiskey, Bushmills is a classic.  Most startling was when we took the tour and saw Jameson bottles being pushed along the rolling conveyor belt.  Come to find out, that Jameson drives tanker trucks from the southern tip of Ireland to the northern one, as they have a deal to use Bushmills as a bottling plant.  I find it hard to believe this economic reasoning, but whatever it is, it is humorous to have the #2 Irish whiskey in the world, bottling the #1 guy’s stuff.

We also discovered the greatest job in the world; if you enjoy whiskey that is.  Bushmills whiskey is blended, with other malts and derivatives of other flavored casks for the best flavor.  The master blender, Helen, tastes and tests the blends of Bushmills.  That is her job.  Our guide said she’s picked up and driven home each day because her job is to drink whiskey.  Whether that was a bit of Irish humor or not, I like to believe that Helen has the greatest job in Ireland.

We had such a great day at Bushmills.  My husband and I only take tours that truly interest us, and not for the sake of adding admission tickets to our scrapbook.  I can’t remember a time that we didn’t connect with the guide and develop further conversation as the day progressed.  We ask questions and honestly want to learn.  This day was no different.  We ended up having our complimentary tasting and a few more, thanks to the generous tour guide when we went back to the tasting room.  We sat amongst a gigantic copper still and enjoyed some of the greatest things Ireland has to offer; whiskey and banter.  Our love for Ireland doesn’t end with these two things, but we’ll save more for another day.

Slainte.