Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite & Most Popular Travel Posts of 2016

In case you missed any, here is a list (and links) to my favorite and most read blog posts of 2016.

My Favorite Blog Posts

Arusha, Tanzania: Four Days on Safari in Wild Africa
"In the coming decades and centuries, men will not travel to view marvels of engineering, but they will leave the dusty towns in order to behold the last places on earth where God's creatures are ..."

The Nameless Women Who Shaped My Travel Perspective
As I sat staring out the airplane window, I heard the thud of a large backpack landing in the overhead bin. A woman with short dark hair shoved into the seat next to me. She sighed ...

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii: A Civilian "Lost" in the Pacific
Guest Blogger: Stephanie Anderson. I'm on a boat. And while I may not have found myself lost in any foreign countries on my most recent vacation, I did get the chance to get lost on an aircraft carrier ...

Bratsk, Siberia: A Country of Contrast
"Everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash. We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair." Lorde's song "Royals" is bellowing ...

Thimphu, Bhutan: Stumbling Upon or Selling Shangri-La?
Shangri-La: a mystical, harmonious valley; an earthly paradise; a mythical Himalayan utopia where people are chronically happy and isolated from the outside world. For years many have touted ...

Cinque Terre, Italy: The Italian Riviera by Sea
Nothing is more breath-taking than admiring the Italian Riviera by sea. As we cruised down the Ligurian coast in our private taxi boat, we gazed at rolling green hillsides dotted with colorful ...

Most Popular Blog Posts (Based on Page Views)

Imatra, Finland: Fifteen Efficient Facts about the Finnish
Why didn't we think of that? Reflecting upon our two years living in Finland, we've discovered several items the locals have enlisted to make life easier ...

St. Petersburg, Russia: First Fifteen Days of #Fails
In my 36 years I have moved 19 times. While I've been fortunate to experience different places and make friends all over the world, the process of moving is stressful ...

Istanbul, Turkey: The Truth about the Traditional Turkish Bath
For me the thought of a massage conjures up reflections of gentle kneading and peaceful relaxation with the light aroma of lavender swirling ...

Ivalo, Finland: Scouting the Northern Lights from a Glass Igloo
A short drive from the northernmost commercial airport in Finland and tucked well within the Arctic Circle, sits the new world-famous Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort ...

Novi Skomorokhy, Ukraine: Unearthing Treasures in Old Country
"Even if you have to put some in your shoes or the pockets of your suitcase," my mom told me, "bring back as much as you can." Most mothers discourage their children from playing in the dirt ...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bordeaux, France: Sipping our Way through Sauternais - November 2016

The suit-clad concierge circled a region on our tattered map and said with a grin, “Just go here. This is wine country. Knock on the doors; you don’t need any reservations. The locals are friendly and will welcome you in.”

And so just like that we set out to explore the best of France’s Bordeaux wine region. After visiting an overhyped wine museum and twice feasting at the city's best kept secret, we ventured out of the city and headed south towards the towns of Sauternes and Barsac.

The country roads took us past wooden chalets, over winding rivers and alongside sprawling vineyards. At every road crossing, signs decorated with grape clusters listed the wine-makers in the area.

Parking our rental car in a gravel driveway, we mustered the courage to walk up to the first chateau and knock on the door. Upon entering the dimly lit room, we were handed a brochure and delighted to learn that the region was hosting a seasonal tasting and that forty-some local vineyards were taking part.

The Sauternais region of the Graves section of Bordeaux is known for some of the finest sweet white wines in all of France. Made of Semillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot, the wines in this area are distinctively flavored and can be very expensive due to variable production conditions. Often times, the dessert wines from this region are characterized by flavor notes of apricots, honey and peaches, are best served chilled and classically paired with Foie gras.

Over the next few hours, we visited seven vineyards. The friendly locals invited us into their chateaus walking us through the cellars and explaining the wine-making process. We were welcomed to sample a variety of wines at each stop, and several even offered multi-course dinner pairings. At many of the chateaus, local vendors set up tables selling homemade goods from artwork and jewelry, to honey, chocolate and cured meats.

What’s better than spending an afternoon hopping from chateau to chateau sampling some of the finest French wines? Not much, I dare say, and so this is how we spent one beautiful autumn day in southern France.

Bordeaux, France: A Date with Secret Sauce - November 2016

Ideally located across the street from the main pedestrian shopping area in Bordeaux, L'Entrecote can best be found by spotting the long, winding queue of people wrapping around the block.

The flood of locals and tourists begin to amass well before the restaurant opens its doors for the lunch service at noon and again at quarter past seven in the evening, and for good reason. L’Entrecote is known far and wide for having the most delicious meal.

You heard that right: THE most delicious meal. L’Entrecote has a set menu with only one selection which includes fresh baked bread, walnut salad and the main dish of thinly sliced, trimmed sirloin steak served in a secret sauce with a heaping portion of lightly salted matchbox fries.

Swimming in an unknown concoction of velvety butter and dijonnaise, the perfectly prepared beef is the star of the dining event and truly melts in your mouth. In addition to its famous nineteen euro dish, the restaurant also offers both house red and white wine and a full dessert menu for an additional fee.

Conveniently located in the five French cities of Toulouse, Nantes, Montpellier, Lyon and Bordeaux, L’Entrecote has embodied the motto, “focus on just one thing and do it really well,” for its last fifty years in business.

In Bordeaux, the restaurant is a finely tuned machine filling up its four floors with nearly two hundred hungry patrons within minutes of opening and serving up “delish” without delay. During our weekend stay, we visited L’Entrecote twice and are keen to check out the other locations next time we find ourselves in France.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bordeaux, France: Red Wine Rapids & Champagne Waterfalls - November 2016

Touted as the ultimate amusement park for wine lovers, I envisioned La Cite du Vin to be something like an adult Disney World with a Splash Mountain roller coaster gliding through red wine rapids and champagne waterfalls.

At very least, I fully expected the wine to be flowing freely and to come away from the experience with a joyful buzz.

But to my dismay I learned that you can’t believe everything you see on a two-minute online infomercial.

After walking 35 minutes from our hotel in the drizzling rain, at the door steps of the La Cite du Vin we were brutally slapped with reality. There were no roller coasters. No grape stomping. No wine tastings. Not even any wine for sale other than at two very crowed high-priced restaurants.

Instead, we were thrust into a mob of people, shoulder-to-shoulder, exploring what could very accurately be described as a wine museum. I don’t know about you, but I feel there is a big difference between an amusement park and a museum. After purchasing the twenty-dollar entrance tickets, we learned that the workshops advertised online offering wine sampling were sold out.

Nevertheless, equipped with an audio guide to help us navigate the endless maze of interactive video kiosks and glass-enclosed displays, we wandered through the three-story building shaped like an angry snake and were schooled for the next couple hours on the history of wine-making and exporting, and the grape growing process.

Although we walked away from La Cite du Vin thirsty and feeling duped, we do now know a lot about grapes and learned a valuable lesson about internet advertising. Some things in life are just too good to be true. And in the case of La Cite du Vin, do yourself a favor and disregard the hype, erase it from your travel checklist, and instead beeline it to one of the many wine bars in Bordeaux that do in fact deliver on their promises.