3 days in Napa Valley: Memorial Day Bottlerockin’ edition

My favorite weekend of the year to visit Napa Valley is Memorial Day.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s the annual Bottlerock music festival weekend.  Alas, this year is the first year I am not attending of the past few years, as I’ve moved away from Northern California.  That means I’ll be missing out on the Killers, Bruno Mars and tomorrow’s headliner, Muse (all of whom I’ve seen before, but still).  This is the most civilized of all the festivals, with culinary stages and wineries to boot.

While you’re enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to head out from the festival grounds and explore the valley, one of the best weekender locations in the country!

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: San Antonio (SAT)

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When I heard there was a rhesus monkey that somehow got loose in the San Antonio airport, I thought to myself, that’s so San Antonio.  He was probably just jonesing for some Raising Cane’s (IMO, the best food vendor in the airport).

One of the fastest growing cities in the US, San Antonio is a strange place, often overshadowed by its hip neighbor Austin.  It seems to be a nice place to live and work, and for some reason there are always conferences there.  I myself, have been to San Antonio several times and thus have passed through the airport where said monkey wreaked havoc yesterday.

Located about 8 miles from downtown/River walk, this airport has 24 gates split into two terminals.  Terminal A offers service from Aeromexico, Alaska, Allegiant, Air Canada, American, Delta, Frontier, and Southwest. Terminal B serves American and United flights and there’s a USO for the large military presence in SA.

Remember: ✈️ = Old Man Riverwalk to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = The Big Fundamental

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (not too far and pretty easy to get to from the touristy Riverwalk area)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️:  there’s a steady flow

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Raising Cane’s.  There has been a vast improvement since the first time I visited years ago, but taking off a plane for no whataburger)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fairly well dispersed for a smaller airport)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️ (there a few mall stores, duty free, United lounge, USO)

london calling part 2

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To celebrate the latest Royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, here’s the second half of the London series.  Celebrations are going to be kicking up in high gear soon, so cheers to the happy couple and to all the revelers who will be crowding into the streets near Windsor Castle in less than a fortnight.

Cheerio!

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know before you go: STL

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name a more iconic duo…i’ll wait

Really, the only thing you need to know is that Lambert International Airport (STL) serving St. Louis, Missouri has Ted Drewes custard machines.

This alone should give it a top rating.  These babies serve 6 concrete flavors, ice cold, smooth and creamy deliciousness, I would book a flight there today just for that.  Bold statement coming:  you have not lived until you’ve had Ted Drewes custard.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Lambert Airport (named after a famous STL Olympian and aviator) is one of more historic airports in the country, as it is the site of the first use of air traffic control, and it had close association with Charles “Spirit of St. Louis” Lindbergh.  It has two terminals, Terminal 2 is made up of Concourse E for Southwest and international travel, with WOWAir starting this month to Iceland.

Terminal 1 is slight into 4 concourses:  A serves Delta, United, Air Canada Express, B is vacant and used for events; C is used by American, Frontier, Cape Air and Air Choice One (question mark?), D is mostly vacant except for those renamed as E gates and used by Southwest.  Because many gates are vacant right now, it’s hard to tell how many are actually in use, but probably ~40 active gates.

Remember: ✈️ = E.I. E.I uh-oh to  ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = meet me in st. louis

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (about 14 miles from Downtown, it’s not that close, but it does sit quite prominently on i-70)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s all one long connected strand)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (better than most)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (five ✈️ for Ted Drewes; if you’re eating anything other than a concrete from one of the three vending machines in this airport, you’re just being unnecessary…although I can make an exception for a Schlafly at one of the two brewery locations).

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (can use a little updating, but usually clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available for 60 minutes)

Amenities: ✈️  (Well, you didn’t come here to shop.  There’s an American Airlines Admirals’ Club and a Wingtips common use lounge, but otherwise just find a Ted Drewes to keep you occupied)

A ‘beautiful day’ in Dublin

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Kiss me, I’m Irish.  Or at least I was while I was in Ireland.  Everyone becomes a little Irish when you’re in the beating heart that is Dublin.  The city draws you in, makes you a believer in the spirit and magic that makes the Emerald Isle unique. It’s no one tree hill.

It was a real quick trip (through your wires) there on the way to the UK, but it was a blitz of activity, colors, sounds and sights.  From Guinness to U2, the history of the city provides a backbone to a truly intriguing place whose energy pulses at all hours of the day.  As an aside, Irish history is very interesting, and not so distantly in the past were the Troubles, a very turbulent period for the Irish in general, it’s worth researching a little before you go.

I had a great time, to say the least.  In the words of the magnificent Bono, it was a beautiful day…

Hold me, thrill me, kiss me…

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day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?

3 days in Reykjavik

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Iceland is super trendy.  In the past decade, there’s been a >300% increase in the amount of visitors to Iceland — it’s almost to the point where you barely see any locals.  Because I have the worst FOMO ever, I needed to go here before tourists overrun everything and American chains start moving in.  Everyone in my family had already gone (which is not a reason to travel, but again, FOMO), so off I headed to Reykjavik for an Icelandic adventure.

all is full of love…

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Rome if you want to…

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Rome is a polarizing place.  For some, it represents the peak of romance, beauty and charm. For others, it’s a crowded, tourist-laden nightmare.  I think its real appeal is that it’s both; it’s a city of contradictions.  There is a mix of ancient and modern, sometimes seamless in execution (turning on a busy street and seeing the Parthenon) and others not so much (the futile attempt of expanding the Metro due to delays in the name of archeology). It’s very urban, but yet has simple charms similar to those found in Italy’s most rural countryside villages.  There are so many relics and ruins; it’s often a little overwhelming! But, if you take a step back to enjoy the moment, it’s a city that can leave you breathless.  You will understand why it’s called the Eternal City.

Take a Roman holiday…

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Japan part Ni: kyoto, nara, osaka

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In honor of Sakura, the internationally renowned spring cherry blossom season, we continue our journey through Japan.  Next destination: Kyoto.  One of the most magical cities in Japan, it feels like you’re a character in a novel from eons ago when you’re here.  Literally, if this city does not make you feel like you’re in Memoirs of a Geisha or Shogun, then Sayonara, Felicia.

Kyoto has a dark magic feel to it, the city of geishas.  You just know there’s secrets hidden in the dark, wooded architecture.

If these rice paper walls could talk…

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know before you go: London Heathrow (LHR)

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“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.” — Hugh Grant, Love Actually.

Thus is the beginning to the greatest romantic comedy -with major plot points played out in an airport- ever.  I know, really specific–but that scene with Thomas Sangster Brodie where he’s running through to catch the girl! Love it.

Even though there’s quite a liberal dusting of Hollywood magic in that movie (who would ever cheat on Colin Firth?!?), at least that first scene is accurate.  The excitement always reaches a climax when you walk through that hallway and emerge to see the throngs of people waiting for you. Love is actually all around!

Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world, and has over 200 gates. You can fly just about anywhere, on any airline.  It’s about 14 miles from the city center, and can be reached via Heathrow Express train, the tube, and bus.  Express will get you to the city in 15 minutes; the tube will take 40 minutes, but it’s only ~3 pounds.

There are four terminals split by alliances.  Terminal 2 — the Queen’s terminal — is Star Alliance (United, Aer Lingus, Icelandair), 3 is OneWorld (Virgin, Delta, Emirates, Qantas, etc), 4 is Skyteam (except Delta), Etihad, Malaysia and Qatar, and 5 is British Airways.

Remember: ✈️ = joni mitchell’s blue to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = to me you are perfect

Convenience to city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (although only ✈️ for hotels, catching the Hoppa would be a lot easier if there were signs telling you which stop is designated for each hotel)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️

Convenience of security lines: N/A, but customs line was ✈️✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Gordon Ramsay plane food, a few different coffee options, Wagamama, Fortnum & Mason –although more for souvenirs than eating, Pre-a-manger.  I gave it an extra for an M&S simply food, my fav grab and go London spot)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️ (not too shabby for amount of passenger traffic)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️  (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (lots of airline lounges, a chaplain for every religion, the BEST shopping with Dior, Burberry, Bvlgari, Chanel, Gucci, Harrod’s, Jack Wills, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ferragamo, Mulberry, Saint Laurent, Ted Baker, Stella McCartney, Rolex, Tiffany, Thomas Pink! It’s better than like every mall. Emoji heart eyes x trillion.)