I love to travel. I make lists and watch shows about the places I want to go. I ask people around me about places they have been or are from. I dream of a time I can visit all of these places. Where should I go next?

At this point you might be asking “I thought this was a cigar article”? Well, it is. Let’s go.

As soon as I get settled at my hotel, I go online and find the local cigar shops. You may think I am a little obsessed. You might want to tell me there are a lot more things to do in any city than go to a cigar shop. You are right of course, until you realize it is the best place to go to find out about the true gems of any city.

I don’t mind going to tourist places. However, I really want to go where the locals go for great food, drinks, to socialize or to visit. I don’t want to eat at a chain restaurant; I want to eat at a place very few people go unless they are from there.

When I went to New York, the first place I stopped was the Nat Sherman cigar lounge. I met a wonderful brother of the leaf, Jeff. He told me several things to see and how to see them. He took me to a little secret garden tucked away in the middle of downtown where you can have a cigar and a meal. It was made by a lover of the leaf who could not find a spot to smoke his cigars. I tell anyone going to New York to go to Paley Park. A gem I will never forget.

While in Washington, D.C. my friend and I found a hip bar and cigar lounge. The people there invited us in to watch the NFL playoff games. We spent rest of the night having some great banter, drinks and food with the regulars. Oh, and delicious cigars, of course.

My sister and I went to Palm Springs last year. One evening after we finished dinner, we went for a walk. Within a few steps I noticed a lounge. We went in and I recognized the manager from Facebook. We met up with him the next day and spent hours talking with him. He told us of great places to shop and to eat. I had the best bowl of Pho the next day.

Recently, I went to Nashville for a business trip. One of the regulars at my lounge told me of a couple of lounges to visit while there. The first night I went to Primings Cigar Lounge and Bar. It was like a speak easy; comfortable, relaxing and great drinks. The manager treated me so well. One of the regulars was into soccer, so I spent a couple of hours talking about the English Premiere League. Later that week, I went to another one he told me about. I needed to stop for dinner but could not find anything that interested me. I decided just to go to Casa de Montecristo. I parked and there was this hole in the wall BBQ restaurant. I stopped in and had the best ribs. A few days later a friend and I drove out to a small town to visit and found a nice little lounge called Screaming Eagle Lounge. We went in and had a lot of great conversations and got to know more about the town. It was getting late and I needed to get dinner and one of the gentlemen there told me about a Cajun restaurant that I had to go to. I was skeptical. A good Cajun restaurant in Tennessee? He was right. It was so very good. I had Shrimp and Grits, lemon drop martini, a Grasshopper and bread pudding.

People tell me all the time that they can get a cigar for a couple of dollars cheaper online. I tell them that may be so, but you cannot get online what you can get at your local lounge. They are missing the best part of smoking a cigar: the people you meet. I have had some of the best food and visited some of the best places because I go to a local lounge and talk. The extra dollar or two I pay for the cigar is worth it. I have made friends all over the US and can’t wait to meet more people across the world. Support your local cigar lounge; it really is worth it.

By Tara Lee Maloney

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