Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Willamette Valley Wine Country

 The Willamette Valley Wine Country is located about an hour south of Portland, Oregon. If you've spent any time around here, you know that wine tasting is one of my favorite things to do. So on our two week RV trip around Oregon, I knew that wine tasting was going to be on the itinerary. We visited four wineries in the Willamette Valley - and despite the dreariness of the day, I truly enjoyed it.

First things first. Willamette is pronounced Willam-ette (rhymes with dammit - like Willamette dammit) and not Willa-mette which is how I was pronouncing it before I went there. The wineries here are known for some of the best Pinot Noir's in the world. And there are over 500 wineries in the Valley so you can probably find one that suits your tastes. Here are the four we visited:

Rex Hill Winery
Rex Hill Winery is located in Newburg, Oregon and is specifically known for it's Pinot's. The wine tasting consisted purely of Pinot's - which isn't my favorite - so I didn't participate. So to say this one wasn't my favorite would be correct. (I've only been to one other winery that had one kind of wine to taste - Croteaux on Long Island with it's Rose- so I wasn't prepared that it was only Pinot) But everyone else who tried it liked the wine - and it was a beautiful tasting room with old world charm. If Pinot is your thing, then Rex Hill is your place.( It's been voted one of the "6 Best Wineries to visit in Oregon"  - so what do I know?)

Penner-Ash Winery
Penner-Ash Winery has a beautiful setting with an award winning building in Newburg, Oregon. They specialize in Pinot Noir, Syrah and Reisling. Run by a husband and wife team, including Lynn Penner-Ash, who was one of the first woman winemakers in Oregon, their winery is sustainable and is a gravity-flow estate with 360 degree views of the Willamette Valley. The fireplace was heating up the inside, but the adirondacks were calling our name outside. We didn't do a tasting here but chose a glass of wine to enjoy outside instead. 

WillaKenzie Estate Winery
WillaKenzie was a unique winery and experience. It's a family owned winery with wines named after the owner's European family members and ski slopes. He passionately believes that "dirt matters" and that Oregon is the best place in the US to grow grapes and produce wine. Named after the two rivers in Oregon - the Willamette and the McKenzie - WillaKenzie, like most in Oregon, is known for it's Pinots. We all did a tasting here that was conducted by one of the most passionate employees at a winery that I've ever been around. She gave us the history of the vineyard, the owner, his family and the wines. It was quite comprehensive. If you're interested in wine making, get yourself to WillaKenzie. You'll be fascinated. And if you really want to do something different, WillaKenzie is included on a wine tasting by helicopter tour called Tour de Vine by Heli. The price starts at $399. Per person.

Fairsing Vineyard
Our last winery of the day was Fairsing Vineyard, which was my favorite. Located on the top of a hill with beautiful views, adirondack chairs and a labrinyth outside it's door, Fairsing  - which means bountiful in ancient gaelic - specializes in pinot's and chardonnay. Unfortunately, we arrived about 10 minutes before the last pour so our visit was rushed. I did do a tasting and Fairsing had my favorite wines of the day - along with the experience. I would definitely go back - and hopefully have time to enjoy.

How about you? Have you been to Willamette Valley Wine Country? Like their wines?

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Linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond,Wednesday Around the WorldOur World Tuesday, and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Looking forward to 2018 - travel plans and a blogaversary!

It's been five years since I started this blog on a whim - and I've truly enjoyed sharing my travels here. This blog serves as my travel diary. I love looking back over the year and seeing where I went - who I visited - and all the wonderful places this planet has to offer. And I truly appreciate all of you who take time out of your busy lives to stop by here - thank you, friends! 

And with that, let's look ahead to travel plans for 2018 - 

The Beach A Month Club
Mr. UR has come up with all our big travel ideas. He thought up the 50 States by 50 Years idea - wherein we traveled to all 50 states by the end of our 50th year. He came up with the Every Other Christmas at Our Kids Place idea. And he had the excellent Mystery Trip idea as our daughter's graduation from college present. His newest vacation idea is the Beach A Month Club. He proposed that we - as beach lovers - spend at least one day per month at the beach. We're going to try to make that happen. Some beach visits will be weekends, some will be just a day and some - hopefully - will be longer. Some may be a stretch - and some may be amazing. Our first scheduled beach trip is in the spring when we are visiting the Florabama shore - Pensacola, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama for a long weekend. Let's roll the dice and see how we do....

A Mystery Trip
Our daughter graduates from grad school in the spring. And just as we did when she graduated from her undergrad studies, we're taking her on a Mystery Trip.(She went to college in Pennsylvania and moved home for the summer after graduation. We made the drive home into a "mystery trip" stopping someplace new along the way every day) She and her dad love this stuff. Me - I like a little more control of where I'm going. But I love planning mystery trips. So I can't tell you where we're going. But she's gonna love it. And I'm so glad that she still likes to travel with the old 'rents! (You can read about the first mystery trip here)

The Mr. made a business trip to Europe several years back and missed going to Oktoberfest due to logistics. He's wanted to rectify that ever since. In fact, it's been at the top of his travel wish list for quite some time. That, and the fact that Bavaria is his favorite area of Europe. So plans are in the works to attend Oktoberfest for our first time - and my first time to Germany. Prost!

I hope to balance these trips out with visits with friends and family. Our youngest will be home from Korea for two weeks in February, my mom turns 90 in March and we will proudly watch our oldest daughter graduate in May from NYU. Along with that, our son and his girlfriend just got engaged so we can start talking wedding planning. Fingers crossed that there may even be a trip to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes play football in the fall with friends. All sound wonderful!

So I hope you'll all stop back here to check up on where I've been, where I am and where I'm going. I hope to give some travel inspiration and ideas to those of you that want - or need - it. Happy 2018! And happy travels!

Linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy New Year!

Hoping that you had a fantastic 2017 - and will have an even better 2018! Thanks for showing up here every week - I'm grateful for all of you! Happy Traveling!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tying 2017 up with a neat little bow!

Travel, travel, travel. I'm in my 54th year and I still get excited about it. From back roads near where I live to dreaming of - and realizing - trips on a grander scale, it's still what I'm all about. And I'm always grateful for the opportunity. Let's see what 2017 looks like in the rear view mirror -

New Orleans
Mr. UR and I, along with friends, made a return trip to The Crescent City for a weekend in February. It's one of my all-time favorite destinations and I would go back anytime.  We were there for the start of Mardi Gras and I experienced my first ever Mardi Gras parade - the nightime Krewe de Vieux parade with it's politically incorrect and saucy view of the world.We also ate dinner on an ironwork balcony on Bourbon Street where we also saw a wedding parade, took an interesting walking tour of The French Quarter, visited the also interesting Mardi Gras World float making factory, devoured King Cake Beignets - which is one of the best desserts I've had to this day - and saw the early morning street sweepers doing their job on Bourbon - a thankless but necessary job I'm sure. We stayed at an Airbnb and made use of public transportation - buses, ubers and streetcars.

Kids grow up and start experiencing their own adventures. Our youngest daughter moved to Seoul a year ago October to teach English. She had spent 6 months here studying abroad when she was in college.And it was such a good time that she decided to move back. Neither I, nor the mister, had been before. A mere 14 hour flight - and Mr. UR's first time to Asia - and we were there seeing her everyday world. We spent 5 days in Seoul seeing parks, the Korean War Museum, palaces, different neighborhoods and even a dog cafe. Then we moved off the southern coast to Jeju Island where we saw a Mongolian Horse Show, enjoyed the famous black pork barbecue, had beers at the Korean offshoot of Brooklyn Brewery and visited my favorite, the Korean Stone Park. Such an interesting country with warm people. I'm only disappointed that we didn't plan our trip to work around the Olympics - I'll get there someday!

Long Island 
My mother-in-law grew up on Long Island and we'd been before but never really explored in depth.Continuing on with the theme of chasing our kids around the globe, this time we were visiting our oldest daughter.We hit up the wineries of the North Fork - one of my favorite new places - the cute little surfing town of Montauk, some grand old houses and gardens and we took a stroll on a windswept day on Howard Beach - where my mother-in-law beached back in the day.

We took a two week drive through Oregon in an RV in June - and oh my, what an incredibly beautiful state! We started in Portland - where I tried VooDoo doughnuts for the first time - worked our way down the coast, saw lots of snow at Crater Lake National Park, completed the Bend Ale Trail, drove the Columbia River Gorge and visited some delightful Willamette Valley Wineries. Along the way we camped at oceanfront parks, state parks where the Oregon Trail followers crossed the river and boondocked in a marina parking lot. We had ash fall on us from a controlled fire and we stayed at one of the most unique hotels I've ever stayed at - of course, there will be more on that later. What a trip! And there is so much more of scenic Oregon that we didn't see. Next time, my friends, next time!

Colorado and Utah
Now it was time to visit our oldest in Colorado. Each year, since he moved there, we've been able to take a few days together and explore a different area of the state. This time we drove west to Grand Junction where we visited wineries, floated the Colorado River, rented a boat on Lake Dillon, saw the Aspen 4th of July parade,ironically drove through Independence Pass on Independence Day, spent a day at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - wow, just wow - and made a day trip to Moab and Arches National Park. That's an incredible amount to pack in for just one long weekend! Colorado -and Utah - has such a bounty of treasure it almost seems unfair to all the other states. Almost.

Pawhuska, Oklahoma
Pawhuska, Oklahoma? Why Pawhuska? Why Oklahoma? I visited Pawhuska on a very quick- and long- road trip to visit the town where the TV personality, Ree Drummond, lives and runs a restaurant. She has a blog, a recipe website, and owns her own restaurant, store and bakery in Pawhusaka called The Merc. Next up she's opening a hotel next to The Merc. She's injected oodles of tourism and economic development to her town. And for the record, we waited in line for 2 hours to eat there - she apparently receives 6000 visitors per day at her establishment so we weren't the only ones to travel to Pawhuska this year.

Puerto Rico
In August - about a month before Hurricane Maria demolished the island - we flew down to Puerto Rico to visit Mr. UR's college roommate. Our oldest daughter, and a friend, met us there. We spent a few days in San Juan sightseeing and beaching it - we brunched in Condado, were tourists in Old San Juan, traveled through the rainforest at El Junque, ate Mofongo in Luquillo and night kayaked the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. Then if was time for some beach relaxation in Rincon - and a little waterfall swimming, mountain view dining and market night walking.

 Unfortunately, the rest of the story is about Hurricane Maria. She wasn't kind to the island, to say the least, and most are still without power and water. I believe schools are up and running in most of the urban areas - but only for half-days as powerless school isn't easy. Our friend has been busy organizing aid for mosquito netting to prevent malaria, battery operated fans and now a toy drive for Christmas as it will be a bit more than bleak this year. He has already received over 2000 toys and is spearheading the effort to distribute them. Please keep the people here in your prayers - and if it fits your pocketbook, please consider donating.

Christmas in New York City
We - Mr. UR, our oldest daughter, our son, his girlfriend and her sister - spent Christmas in a cabin in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and then we spent the few days after Christmas in New York City. I've been to New York several times but never at Christmas - and I have to say it was pretty magical. And cold. Very cold. But we still managed to visit Top of the Rock, saw the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, fought the incredible crowds at the Saks 5th Avenue Light Extravaganza, ate dinner at an Irish pub, saw the Macy's windows, visited Bryant Park's Christmas Market, visited The Strand Bookstore, enjoyed crazy shakes - Oreo Cookie and Brooklyn Brownstone - at The Black Tap, walked around NYU and had cookie dough at Do. Whew. Then the cherry on top of the whole visit was my son's proposal to his girlfriend in Central Park. And it was 14 degrees. What a memorable Christmas. Loved it. Every minute.

Lake life update We're not full-time travelers so in between all of these trips we have daily lives. Regular jobs - for some of us - and time spent with friends and family, on our little cove of the lake we live on, take up the rest of our time. Some of the springtime was spent getting our house ready for sale. When Hurricane Irma came through this past summer, the powers that be lowered our lake by several feet which left us waterless at our dock. A dock mired in mud isn't so enticing for those who want to live on a lake. So  hopefully the lake level will be back up in the spring and we'll - fingers crossed - be thinking of selling again.

Thank you for all of your support this year! How about you? What were some of your highlights from 2017? 

Linking up with: The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!