Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

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In honor of the new Amy Poehler directed movie, Wine Country, that hit Netflix last week, here’s to celebrating some of the best Sonoma Valley has to offer.

Visiting Napa during Memorial Day weekend is a must for my all time festival love, Bottlerock, but I actually almost prefer the less crowded, easy going nature of the Sonoma Valley.   They’re both great.  This is how you know you’re old, by how much you enjoy wine country.

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half of my heart is in havana

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Cuba has always been a mysterious destination to me, an off limits locale due to the long standing US embargo.  And what they say is true, you often want what you can’t have.  Thus, when the travel ban was eased in 2015, Havana shot to the top of my list of places to travel, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit.

Growing up in the US, there was not much information about this large Caribbean nation other than what was very briefly covered in history books, so I didn’t know what to expect.

This turned out to be a good thing because Havana was the best surprise.  I was stricken by its je ne sais quois (or no se que in Spanish…doesn’t really translate ;).  I mean, it’s an incredibly culturally rich and beautiful city.  It is both quaint and cosmopolitan, architecturally divine with its expansive boulevards and thoughtful city planning.  But there’s more to it than that because a lot of cities have those things and they’re not quite as fascinating.

Historically speaking, from pirates to American gangsters, you’re not going to find as interesting a place in these parts.  The country’s rise to immense power due to the sugar trade was astounding and its revolutionary history with its colorful figures is even more intriguing.  And being closed off to American travel for so long?  Maybe that adds to the allure.  Whatever it is, Havana is a really wonderful destination.

As Camila Cabello says, take me back, back, back…

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24 hours in Salt Lake City

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Salt Lake City is a really underrated travel destination.  I mean, a lot of people go there, but I don’t think it’s anyone’s first thought.  Maybe it should be.

First of all, it is probably one of the safest cities around.  Secondly, it’s a great jumping point to get to so many state and national parks (SO MANY).  Zion, Bryce Canyon, Moab/Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Utah has a ton of natural wonders throughout including the Great Salt Lake which gives the capital city its moniker.

As if that weren’t enough, in the winter, there’s world class skiing in Sundance/Park City and Snowbird, making it a great vacation spot.  Delta Airlines has a hub here making it super easy to get to as well.  So if you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?

don’t get too salty now…

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turn down for Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat is one of the great ancient wonders of the world.  The pièce de résistance of the Angkor archeologic complex in Cambodia, this temple is a site of religious worship and has been used continuously through the ages.  It is truly one of the unique architectural delights anywhere.  Just incredible.  I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but the people in these ancient civilizations were so sophisticated and advanced, much more so than anything we could do these days.

This whole region in Cambodia encompasses not just Angkor Wat, but also Angkor Thom another “city” of the ancient Khmer.  The architecture, city planning, irrigation, artistry of these communities were so intricate, and even more marvelous is the fact that this was all built in the middle of the jungle.  They had to bring in the stone from a mountain 50km away by floating it down the Siem Reap river.  Think of how many elephants that must have taken!

And somehow the mossy twisted roots now coursing through the ruins of this ancient oasis has only added to its grandeur.  Everyone has a chance to feel like Lara Croft here.

welcome to the jungle

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MSP: NCAA Championship edition

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Man, it seems like Minneapolis is getting all of the sporting events because of their fancy new stadium.  Of course, the NCAA tourney will be played there on Monday, April 8th.  For those of you heading to the game this upcoming week, here’s a little Minnesota refresher.

you’re gonna make it after all…

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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I know, it’s not for a few more days.  But since St. Patty’s falls on a Sunday this year, take some time to start planning your weekend.  There are celebrations all over the US (Chicago’s green river is a perennial favorite of mine), but it would be a dream (and possibly a little bit of a nightmare) to celebrate it on the Emerald Isle itself.  Here’s a throwback to my day in Dublin…

Get your green on!   Continue reading

i warsaw the sign

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Warsaw, Poland is a wonderful European capital city, with bustling markets, turbulent history, gorgeous architecture and amazing food and culture.  It is a patchwork quilt of a place, its architecture reflecting a storied history: Gothic churches, medieval squares and Soviet bloc gray cube buildings.  It has survived countless invasions and bombings and continues to thrive with its lively, vibrant urban-yet-traditional population.

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Any visit to the city must include a trip to its beautiful Old Town. The heart of Warsaw, this area was bombed by the Germans during WWII, and restored to its former glory after the war ended.  There are lots of outdoor cafes and restaurants in the square now, and you’ll find hordes of locals and tourists alike wandering about.  To really experience Poland, you gotta snack on pierogies throughout the day.  Locals don’t really eat them in restaurants, because they’ve got Polish grandmothers, but for the rest of us, we have to go to town…Old Town that is.  Gosciniec Polskie Pierogi is one of the more well known spots, no frills, really good authentic style dumplings.

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This is a city with lots of monuments and statues commemorating the many historical events that have occurred.  The Warsaw Uprising Monument memorializes an uprising from the Polish underground resistance against the Nazis in 1944, who had been occupying the city for the 5 years prior.  Of course, the Germans weren’t so happy about the uprising, so they basically torched 90% of the city in the years thereafter.  This memorial sits in Krasinski Square, right in front of the supreme court of Poland.  Very symbolic.

A short walk away is the Royal Castle, which is grand on its own, but one of the most notable attractions actually sits in front of it, the Castle Square.  This may  be the most charming cobblestone square in all of Europe, with its perfect pastel colored townhomes and the large King Sigismund topped column at the center (see first photo).

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When traveling in Eastern Europe, there is a plethora of cathedrals and churches to see, if you’re budgeted for time, pick either St. John’s Arch Cathedral or St. Anne’s Church.  Both are walking distance from the Royal Castle.

To cap off your day, head over (by car or bus) to Lazienki Park, Warsaw’s answer to Hyde Park or Central Park.  This large greenspace houses manmade lake, a beautiful palace, villas, and monuments.

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Possibly one of the most famous monuments in the city, there is a bronze statue dedicated to one of Warsaw’s favorite sons, Frederic Chopin.

Nocturne No. 2 is one of my all time favorites (I’m basic, what can I say?) and this statue is one of my favorite monuments, for its weeping willow canopy connecting through his body, into his hands and onto the piano.

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It’s pierogi time again, and surprisingly, chain Zapiecek is actually pretty decent if you want some homestyle eats in a stylized cozy Polish setting.  Or you can opt for any number of traditional folk dinners, enjoying kielbasa and Golabki (cabbage rolls) and sauerkraut.  Wash it all down with vodka, you deserve it!

 

 

Nashville: the only TEN I SEE

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Nashville is one of the best places I’ve ever lived, and I’m lucky that I still have friends that live in town to visit.  Literally, I will visit at the drop of a cowboy hat.  Nashville is a lot like LA, except smaller, more easily navigable, and of course, musically inclined.  I know it’s known for its music, but can we just talk about the food in Nashville?  It’s spectacular.

This city is growing at an unbelievable pace, it seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new high rise or apartment complex.  My old neighborhood in the West End (don’t think this was a coincidence, I love the Pet Shop Boys)/Charlotte is now the gateway to up and coming Nations and Sylvan Park.

I love you, Nashville.

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happy holidays 2: lost in new york

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Remember Home Alone 2?  That’s a holiday classic that never gets old.

New York is my favorite US city when it comes to the holidays, and really for lots of people — that’s why it’s featured so heavily in many movies around this season, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged.  From the Rockefeller skaters to the Rockettes, this city comes alive during the most wonderful time of the year.  Even though it’s colder than Jack Frost, there’s something very magical about rockin’ around this enchanting city while it snows.  Happy Hanukah and here’s to dreaming of a white Christmas!

Tis the season!

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3 days in Boston

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Boston has had a pretty good past few days with the Pats beating my Chiefs on SNF and the Sox defeating the Astros on Sunday.  But today is a new day, and we’ll see if Boston can continue its streak against Houston.  Starting with Beantown, here’s the first in the series of the ALCS/NLCS cities.

One if by land, two if by sea…

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