This summer our granddaughter, Lauren, visited California on her own for the first time. On her last family visit from the Midwest, she was not yet a teen. I tapped friends for recommendations on teen-friendly experiences, and Santa Cruz topped the list. Exploring a quintessential California beach town made sense for a teenage Midwesterner. My husband and I promptly booked the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz. Though her stay in California was shortened by a flight disruption, we made the most of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for twenty four hours .
Mendocino is 1.4 times larger than my home state of Delaware. This may explain why I am always awed by the grandeur of the geography and diversity of landscapes each time I visit Mendocino County. On this trip to the Mendocino coast with my spouse, we stayed in the tiny hamlet of Elk located on a bluff overlooking a driftwood strewn beach. We drove north past rock outcroppings known as sea stacks through Albion and Little River to explore the picturesque village of Mendocino.
Onboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, the staff welcomed us with a refreshing “Napa Valley breakfast,” a mimosa with cranberry juice. As we relaxed into the rhythmic pace of the journey and gazed at miles of verdant vineyards, I felt gratitude for the peaceful ambiance compared to the valley’s frequent traffic and bustling tourist scene.
“The Carneros wine region is like Switzerland,” said Jon Priest, General Manager and Winemaker at Etude winery. “Carneros straddles the southernmost Napa and Sonoma wine countries. Our estate vineyard is on the Sonoma side and our tasting room is in Napa. Much like Switzerland, we need to remain neutral as to which area makes the best wine.” Many visitors to wine country have driven through Carneros without realizing the area has long merited its own American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation. The official name of Los Carneros, meaning The Rams, refers to the region’s heritage of sheep ranches and dairy farms.
At 9,200’ with a view of Pikes Peak, the inspiration for “America the Beautiful,” I got chills on a warm summer evening. From the patio atop Cheyenne Mountain, everything looked majestic and far away, even nearby Colorado Springs. “I can almost see California” joked my husband, Mr. G., referring to our home near San Francisco. With a possible local break in the Covid-19 pandemic, (despite calls for avoiding indoor crowds, social distancing, wearing masks and staying close to home), we chose to risk a safe Western outdoor adventure at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.
When friends ask me to choose my favorite region of Italy, I never hesitate. It is always Piedmont. This usually provokes two responses. What about Tuscany? Or, what’s to see in Piedmont? Friends who like Italian wine respond differently. “Ah, the land of Barbera and Nebbiolo wines. I’ve always wanted to go there.” I love all of Italy from the northern reaches of Alto Adige where German is spoken to the wide expanses of Puglia on the Adriatic Sea. But Piedmont holds my heart. In addition to presenting outstanding wines, the region extends warm hospitality and beautiful landscapes. After a trip four months before the pandemic began, I bonded even more strongly with Piedmont. In the Monferrato area, we visited historic cities, tasted delicious food, stopped by wineries and explored areas designated as UNESCO heritage sites. Bottom line: I fell in love with Piedmont all over again.
My first visit to Chicago years ago was spent in crowded meeting rooms representing my company at an IT conference. In my current role as a food, drink and travel writer, I’ve been hungry to return. This summer, with a group of friends, I explored the city for a few days from high up and on the river and fell in love. At every destination, I was enchanted by the beauty and energy of the city. Along the way, Chicago gave me a generous taste of its heritage, its amazing attractions and most of all, its lively food and beverage scene.