Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Springtime Gardens of Long Island

We were headed back to the City from the North Fork of Long Island on a beautiful spring day and we were looking to make a few stops along the way. My daughter started googling things to do and she came up with two lush gardens - with historic houses - to visit. We managed to make a stop at each and still make it back to the airport by dinner time. Come along as we visit both -

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, in Oyster Bay, New York,  includes Coe Hall Historic House and Museum, an arboretum and state park. Planting Fields is the former estate of insurance magnate William Robertson Coe and his wife, Mai Rogers Coe, an heiress of the founder of the Standard Oil Company. It's one of the few Gold Coast Estates of Long Island that still retains it's original buildings and all it's acreage. Admission to the park is $8 per car and admission to tour Coe Hall Historic House is an extra $5 per person. (We elected to tour the grounds and the gardens but not tour the house this time around.) There is a cafe and visitor center in the former stables, a greenhouse to tour, walking trails, the gardens surrounding the house and the Camellia Greenhouse, famous for having the largest collection of camellias under glass in the Northeast.We strolled through the gardens, the greenhouse, the Camellia Greenhouse and around the pool and fountain in the gardens by Coe House. It's a very pleasant place to visit for a nice afternoon outside - and it looks to be a beautiful spot to take engagement or wedding photos.

Old Westbury Gardens
Old Westbury Gardens, in Nassau, New York, includes Westbury House - built in 1908 -  and 200 acres of formal gardens, ponds and woodlands. The estate is the former home of John Phipps, a US Steel Corporation heir, and his family. The entrance cost is $12 for adults and you may take a guided tour of the house and gardens or do so on your own. We visited the house and gardens on our own and watched a tent being dismantled from what appeared to be a large wedding the night before. It's the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon - either in the gardens or visiting the house to see how the other half lived a long time ago.

Jones Beach
Our last stop of the day wasn't a historic house or garden but a beach. My mother-in-law grew up on Long Island and used to frequent Jones Beach in the summer.  I had heard stories of her time there so we decided we had time for one last quick stop before the city. We took a walk on a very deserted and very large Jones Beach. I can't imagine how crowded it is in the summer as there is parking lot after parking lot, but on this day there were a few walkers and a few teens throwing a football around. That's all. I got my beach fix and we needed to get back for some dinner before our flight.

Long Island has so much to offer and I enjoyed my visit there - and I can't wait to go back.

How about you? Have you ever been a tourist on Long Island?

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

California Road Trip: Sonoma Wine Country

In October 2017 devastating wildfires struck Northern California and at least 43 people were killed and 245,000 acres were burned. There are some 900 wineries in Napa and Sonoma and industry officials say that some 20 percent of those suffered damage. Almost all are up and running along with restaurants and hotels. If you are thinking of traveling to Napa or Sonoma, do it now. They need your visits and dollars to help rebuild.

When we last left off on our California Road Trip, we had spent a day in beautiful Napa Valley. The next day we used the information we received at the Visitor Center and visited Sonoma. Many times these two wine countries, which are so close together, are mixed together in one word or thought such as Napa/Sonoma but they are two separate areas - Napa being the more upscale and Sonoma known as being more laid back. 

We started our visit with a drive through the town of Sonoma and Sonoma plaza to get the lay of the land. Sonoma Plaza is the hub of Sonoma and includes tasting rooms, restaurants and shops. But first, we had to enjoy that California delicacy of In-N-Out Burger. Being East Coasters, it's a rare treat to dine here - this time we chose to skip "animal style" but it still didn't disappoint. 

Our first winery stop was the boutique Homewood Winery. Homewood is as close to a one man operation as you can get. David Homewood tries to keep his hand on as much of the wine making process as he can do. This small winery keeps it's production to about 3000 cases of wine per year. We did a tasting here in the small tasting room - there is also an outdoor tasting screen porch with bar. We enjoyed the personal experience - we were the only ones tasting at the moment - and enjoyed the wine so much we purchased a bottle to take to a friend's house for dinner later in the week. If you enjoy smaller wineries with personal experience, then Homewood is your place.

Next up was my favorite winery experience of our two day visit - Larsen Family Winery. Drive down a long, tree lined lane to visit Larsen and enjoy a country winery experience complete with bocce ball courts and two labs lying on the floor. We each did a tasting at the wood bar while enjoying the photos from the 120 year history of the Larsen Family Winery. Then we took a glass of wine to the patio overlooking the vineyards while a multigenerational family was enjoying wine, playing soccer and cuddling babies all while conversing in French. I enjoyed soaking it all in. In fact, I could have sat there the entire afternoon. But we had to make hay while the sun shines and head on down the road. 

Our next visit was to Cline Cellars. Family owned and sustainably farmed, Cline offered free tastings at the time - now it's $10 per person-  and we enjoyed watching guests arrive for a vineyard wedding while we tasted on the farmhouse front porch. (They also offer private tastings for groups over 6 people and you may also reserve a picnic table) They not only own Cline Cellars but also other vineyards in the county, a 150 acre farm, a hotel and casino along with a property in Tuscany - which all started with Cline in the 1970's. Enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the pond and fountain or shop in the gift shop in the farmhouse - I think you'll enjoy your visit to Cline.

You can only visit so many wineries in a day, and now our stomachs were full of wine and empty of food. We couldn't visit Sonoma without spending some time on the Plaza so on a tip, we drove to Roche Winery tasting room on Sonoma Plaza where we could enjoy a glass of wine on their patio but also eat dinner. A nice ending to the day - people watching and munching on a cheese board while we enjoyed the beautiful weather. Sonoma, you're pretty wonderful.

I've had many people ask me whether I preferred Napa or Sonoma while also giving me the answer to their own question - always Sonoma. It's a tough question as I enjoyed both. But Sonoma probably fits my personality more - it's a bit more country, a bit more laid back and less "make reservations" and more" just show up". But honestly, if I had a chance to visit either, I'd take it in a heartbeat.

How about you? Have you been to Sonoma? Do you prefer Sonoma or Napa?

A huge thanks to The California Globetrotter for featuring The Unpaved Road in her Amazing Drinking Trails post. Head on over to read about some of the world's amazing drinking trails including the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, New Zealand's Wine Trail and yours truly's Bend Ale Trail. You can get there HERE

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