After our long rest, we are set to begin traveling again in August. Sure, Covid impacted our ability to travel but hopefully the world has settled down a bit and we can take off again. We fly to Paris in August where we will stay a week or so rediscovering this lovely city before taking a train to the village of Livarot – in the Normandy region of France. Ryan, our youngest and his husband Chris have purchased a property and will be opening a B&B. They are calling it, Le Douet Fleury. Check this out. Our other son, Jason and his family have moved to Germany – specifically Wiesbaden. So given that our family are all now living in Europe, we have gotten an extended stay visa for six months and are heading across the pond.
So, as we begin to travel again, follow along as I hope to post stuff from time to time of interest.
Remember when we could travel without really thinking about all the health issues involved? Well, I do and it causes me to look back to some of our earlier trips to Europe. In October 2011 we landed at Charles de Gaulle picked up a rental car and headed to the Champagne region of France. After spending several days drinking lots of Champagne, we drove to Strasburg and the Alsace region before boarding a River Cruise with Tauck. On the River Cruise, we visited Obernai, Baden Baden, Heidleberg CastleBamberg, Numberg and lots of other places along the way ending in Prague. This Blog is the first of several that will highlight that trip.
Our adventures in the Champagne region were fantastic and clearly a spot I would like to return once all the current craziness is past.
After touring the region for several days, we headed towards Alsace to explore Ribeauville, Colmar and Strasbourg before joining our Tauck river cruise. The next post will include these adventures and then off to Germany on the Rhine River with Tauck with stops along the way ending in Prague.
In April of 2011, Janeen and I flew to Italy – specifically for a week along the Amalfi Coast for a week and then to Rome for several days. During our time we visited a number of places and when we returned home, I created a book highlighting our trip. What follows is that book. I hope you enjoy this adventure from 10 years ago.
I hope you have enjoyed visiting this part of Italy with us – it was a wonderful adventure and a part of the world we would love to get back to for sure.
I can identify the specific person who caused me to start collecting wine (Tom Anderson) and I can point to the person who sent me out to visit various wineries (Bob Michero) but I honestly can’t tell you who was the first winemaker I met. Over the years we have traveled up and down the state of California – from Temecula in the south to wineries nestled in the Redwoods of Northern California and of course the wines of Oregon have been a favorite too. During our trips to Europe, we seemed to have a focus on wine for a least a part of the trip – Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Germany and other parts of the world have all been visited and wines tasted.
Over the years we have collected a number of wines AND have become friends with a number of winemakers. During these adventures I have tried to get a picture of the winemaker and this post is just a little listing of some of those folks we have met – winemakers, owners of wineries and other people significant in the wine world. Enjoy.
At one point we were introduced to WesMar wines and ultimately made the trip to Santa Rosa and connected with Kirk Wesley (Wes) Hubbard and wife Denise Mary (Mar) Selyem. The name Selyem might ring a bell with Pinot Noir lovers from the Russian River Area – yes, Denise is the daughter of Ed Selyem who co founded William Selyem with Burt Williams many years ago. Denise and Kirk met worked together at William Selyem in the late 90’s and decided to start their own label in early 1990. I think we first hooked up with them in 97 or so and have enjoyed their wines very much. With limited production, they have a focus on Pinot Noir and occasionally have made a Chardonnay but the really focus is on Palate Pleasing Pinot Noir. Check them out on their web site https://wesmarwinery.com.
Another favorite in the Sebastopol area is Littorai. Ted Lemmon trained originally in Burgundy and when he came back to the US to make wine he brought all of his experience to his new vineyard. Making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We recently opened a 17 year old bottle of Chardonnay and where blown away by the depth of flavor the fantastic mouthfeel and the after taste went on forever. Truly a producer who is making some great wines. https://www.littorai.com/
Our first venture to the Oregon Wine Country was late 1990’s or so. On that visit we tasted at 3 producers – Argyle, Sokol Blosser and Domaine Drouhin Oregon. We were introduced to these producers by their distributor at the time and thus our visit was top notch. Of the three, we clearly have fallen in love with Domaine Drouhin Oregon. DDO, as it is called, was started in 1988 by a French producer, Joseph Drouhin and more particularly by the Drouhin Family. Bringing their 100 years plus experience in making wine to Oregon was a huge risk but they felt confident enough to build a large production facility in the Dundee Hills and start making wine. During our first visit there was not an actual tasting room or really any facilities for visitors. We were met by Scott Wright (then the GM of the place) who preceded to give us the history of the place and pour a LOT of wine. Over the years we have been back to DDO countless times – summer visits, fall harvest festivals, tasting trips – really any excuse to visit would have us flying up for a long weekend. When they started a wine club, I contacted them and said I wanted to be wine club member number one – and we are! Having collected a lot of this wines over they years, we have hosted two different vertical dinners. At these dinners, we tasted Pinot Noir from every year since they started. Sadly I cannot do this anymore as I’ve continued to drink through the inventory.
As we have visited the site many times we have had the joy of meeting the entire family all of whom are involved in the wine industry. Additionally we have had the pleasure of visiting the Burgundy site – in Beaune France of Joseph Drouhin on a couple of occasions and visited in the cellars.
During our international travels we have visited a number of wine regions and thus tasted our way through various wines. So, to say we are LoversOfWine would be a very true statement. Below are pictures of a number of folks we have met over the years in the wine business. Enjoy.
Lots of things to say about Stoller Vineyards – and Melissa. We have stayed on in a cottage in the Vineyards a couple of times and could not have been more pleased with the experience. Great wines.
I first met Kris Curran when she was at Sea Smoke as the founding wine maker. She is now making wine with Bruno D’Alfonso in Lompoc and doing a fantastic job. This is another winemaker we have followed over the years and have been happy to have their wines in our cellar. https://www.d-cwines.com/
While Steven is a wine maker now he wasn’t always. If you have ever read the book Judgement of Paris: California vs. French and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting by George Taber, Steven is the guy who put that tasting together.
During our first visit to Italy we had a tasting was Capanna Wines. Producing Brunello isn’t easy and they are doing a fantastic job. Still have fond memories of that visit and I think one last bottle in our cellar.
Trimbach wines in Alsace make Riesling – and they make a lot of it and it’s fantastic. They have been making wines for four hundred years! Fantastic visit and certainly a place I want to get back to on our next trip to Alsace.
This is just intended as a tease – we have lots of wine stories to share and people to highlight. Enjoy.
In 1978, with Janeen pregnant with Jason, we moved from Bethlehem PA to Alhambra California. This was ‘coming home’ for us as we met in 1968 while at the University of California Riverside and David started a new position in 1978 at the University of Southern California (USC). While in that position he realized that he could sign up for free classes and decided to take a scuba diving course. After achieving the Advanced Scuba Diving requirements, he became active in a dive club – The California Wreck Divers. This club had as its primary focus diving on shipwrecks. Each year there was a banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of the past 12 months and to acknowledge individual accomplishments. At this banquet, at the end of 1985 the guest speaker was an underwater archeologist – Duncan Mathewson. Duncan had been working with Treasure Salvors from Key West Florida looking for various Spanish shipwrecks with the goal of recovering the treasure they were carrying back to Spain from the New World. Mel Fisher, and his crew, had found The Nuestra Senora de Atocha after nearly a 20 year search.
Duncan shared his experience with Treasure Salvors (Mel’s salvage company) showed off a number of artifacts and generally told us about the wreck. At the end of his presentation, sitting next to David, he casually invited us to come to Key West and dive on the wreck. Well, after much discussion and planning, David took up the challenge and invited 15 or so of his closest dive friends and went to Key West. David created a small business “Diving Adventures” and rented a dive boat (More Bottom Time), bought some 20 scuba tanks and generally organized the entire trip. David continued to stay in touch with Duncan Mathewson even going to New York City where he received the Lowell Thomas Award at the NY Yacht Club and to Jamaica to attend his wedding in 1991. Duncan used our Alhambra home as a stopover spot for trips that took him from Florida to Guam a couple of times. Over the years, contact became limited to exchanging Christmas Cards and occasional emails. However, the adventure all those years ago has remained a significant diving highlight.
What follows are pictures and general information from that trip so many years ago.
While they had all this “free labor” that got us to move a lot of the ballast pile. during this process of moving stuff from point a to point b, David found a silver coin.
After diving on the wreck, we spent a day or two in Key West touring the conservation lab, the museum and the “treasure room”.
In 2014, Nuestra Señora de Atocha was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most valuable shipwreck to be recovered, as it was carrying roughly 40 tons of gold and silver, and 32 kilograms (71 pds) of emeralds.
After leaving Aruba, we motored along the north coast of Venezuela getting read to enter the “cue” for the Panama Canal transit. It took the better part of a day and a half to get from Aruba to Colon the entrance to the Canal.
The main reason to take our cruise in January was to transit the Panama Canal. Sure, it was enjoyable to visit Aruba and be entertained by the on-board activities, but the highlight was clearly the Canal. In anticipation of this adventure we both read David McCullough’s book The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 first published in 1978. This book tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year old dream of construction an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Our passage through the Canal was early morning – really before sunrise but that didn’t stop most of the passengers from being out to view the process.
Having been on a number of river cruises that had to pass through various locks on rivers, the canal passage wasn’t as amazing as it might have been. Sure the size of the ship was significantly bigger but the system operates just the same.
We arrived at the first lock at 5:45 and began the process. I’m guessing our Captain has done this kind of thing before so it went very smoothly. Transit through the first lock took about 45 minutes – most of that time taken up by the inflow of the water to raise the ship. Overall the ship was lifted some 85 feet from sea level and by 7:30 we were through both locks and on Gatun Lake.
This man made lake was the largest man made lake when it was created – 164 square miles. Covering approximately 21 miles of the transit between the seas, it is staging space for ships waiting passage through the locks. We were required to anchor for several hours until our time slot for the next part of the journey.
Once back underway we passed through the Culebra Cut.
This area required one of the most difficult construction challenges: excavating the Culebra Cut through the continental divide to connect Gatun Lake to the Pacific Panama Canal locks. Seen from the deck of the Pacific Princess it’s amazing to think how much mountain had to be removed to create the passage.
Once through the cut it was a quick transition to the Pacific side locks and we were underway.
We passed through the final sections and into the Pacific Ocean by mid afternoon.
Overall the transit took about 10 hours and was a wonderful experience.
If you are going to make plans to go through the Canal, I do strongly recommend McCullough’s book. It really gave some wonderful insights into how it was created and the difficulties involved. Today more than 14,000 ships transit the Canal using both the old locks (which we used) and the new larger locks for the bigger ships.
Aruba was our first port of call on our trip through the Panama Canal.
Aruba is a lovely island in the southern Caribbean and still a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is 19 miles off the coast of Venezuela in the west part of the Lesser Antilles. The island measures 20 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point. Along with Bonaire and Curacao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC Islands.
As a result of its link to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the citizens are all Dutch nationals. Unlike much of the Caribbean, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate clearly has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather – and our visit in January was certainly was beautiful.
Early human presence on Aruba dates back to as early as circa 2000 BC. The first identifiable group, the Arwak Caquetio Amerindians migrated from South American about 1000 AD and there is Archaeological evidence on many parts of the island.
We visited the Ayo Rock Formations – with one area showing rock drawings dating back thousands of years.
The first Europeans to visit the island were from Spain in 1499 – who of course claimed it. The early explorers described Aruba as an “island of giants” as the locals seemed to have a comparatively large stature. Spain began colonizing the island in 1508 and controlled it for the next 100 years or so. The Netherlands seized Aruba from Spain in 1636 in the course of the Thirty Years’ War and it has been under Dutch control ever since.
With not a lot of resources on the island there wasn’t much industrialization. There are ruins of a gold mine but no active work being done at this time. In the 1920’s two oil refineries were built to process crude oil from the vast Venezuelan oil fields. This brought greater prosperity to the island and it grew to be come one of the largest processors in the world. These closed around 2009. Another industry on the island is Aloe.
First planted on Aruba in 1850, aloes seem to love the desert conditions. With a healthy demand for aloe products, it has become a continuing part of Aruba’s economy. One of our tours was to the Aruba Aloe plant where a new modern facility is active and selling a number of Aloe products in their gift shop.
In 1947, Aruba presented its first constitution as an autonomous state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Ultimately the Netherlands Antilles was created that united all of the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean into one administrative structure.
Our visit to the Island included an excursion out and about the island – The Butterfly Farm, Ayo Rock Formations, Aloe Plant and a general overview of the island. As we had some free time before our actual tour, we headed off the ship and walked around the town Oranjestad. Located on the northern end of the Island, it was lovely to walk around, pick up a few post cards and explore. We did find a Starbucks (I was asked to get a coffee mugs for one of Jason’s coworkers) and walked past, but not into, the Casino. We also were able to get a stamp in our passport!
First stop on our tour was the Butterfly Farm (www.buterflyfarm.com).
Started on Aruba in 1999 with hundreds of exotic butterflies from all around the world. Among some of the favorites are the iridescent beautiful Blue Morpho from the rainforests of South America. We started off with an introduction by a
member of the Butterfly Farm Team and learned about all the various examples flying around us in the enclosed area.
Butterflies all around us – landing on us, drinking from the various fruit plates set out for them and generally a lovely environment.
After getting our fill of the beauty of the butterflies, we re-boarded the bus and headed out to Ayo Rock Foundations. It is clear the island is arid – lots of cactus along the way and dry desert plants for sure. The place is so dry they have to import water – and you see lots of rain catching systems on houses to collect what rainfall the do get. Ayo Rock Formations are monolithic rock boulders located around the island mostly on the northern end. While there are a number of areas, the one we stopped to view included an enclosed area with early cave paintings – most likely from about 1000 years ago or so. The boulders have unusual shapes resembling birds and dragons as well as other things we noticed as we traveled along. After visiting the rocks, we went to the Aloe plant.
Located across the street from a major school, and next to a large field of Aloe plants, the Aruba Aloe Company is clearly a going concern.
A demonstration was given on what parts of the Aloe plant are used, how they are processed and what kinds of products are created. The history of the plant, how it’s been part of the Aruba culture for 150 years or so was interesting and filled out the day with a pleasant tour.
Once back to the ship, and everyone on board, we slipped away to continue our adventure towards the Panama Canal.
This past January, we took a Princes Cruise through the
Panama Canal. Our voyage started in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida made stops in Aruba, Costa Rica and two stops in Mexico –
Puerto Chiapas and Cabo San Lucas before ending the journey in Los Angeles
This was a much
different cruse then we experienced over Thanksgiving on Carnival Cruise –
first, this is a small ship, only 650 passengers and didn’t do anything like a
round trip cruise as we did in November.
In fact, we boarded the ship on its first leg of an around the world
trip lasting 111 days. Our part of the
overall trip was only 15 days so just a small piece of the trip being taken by
a lot of the passengers on board. The
entire trip had only the four stops so most time was spent at sea.
We had booked this cruise after a long conversation with our
friends Jim and Sally. They have been on
a number of cruises but never on a small ship such as the Pacific
Princess. As a matter of fact, Jim had
recommended we try this ship for our Alaska cruise that is scheduled for June. After we booked that cruise,he started
looking at it’s overall itinerary and found the Panama Canal leg of the around
the world trip (the ship goes completely around before we re-board it in Alaska
in June). Once he discovered the Panama
Transit trip he booked passage and we did too.
Pacific Princes, as I mentioned, is the smallest ship in the
Princess Fleet – with 11 decks and is 592 feet long as compared to their other
ships with 19 decks and over 1,000 feet long.
The smaller ship still provides many of the same amenities found on the
larger ships, specialty restaurants, bar entertainment and cabaret shows, but
certainly nothing like the crowds for sure.
Yes, there was a small Casino on board – with various game tables (no
craps for some reason) and slot machines but we were not tempted to play.
Our cabin was on deck 7 as was Sally and Jim’s. We had a nice room with a balcony but we didn’t spend a lot of time in the cabin, as there were things to do and places to explore. Dining was either in the dining room with wait service on deck 4 (most evenings were there) or in the buffet on deck 9. Also on deck 9 was the spa (Janeen spent several relaxing hours there) with the pool in the middle. On deck 10 forward was the Pacific Lounge Bar where we met each evening for an adult beverage before dinner or to just hang out and see the sights. A nice library and reading room on deck 10 aft was also a quiet place to enjoy the afternoon. At the opposite end of the ship from the dining room was the Cabaret Lounge with entertainment in the evening and various presentations during the day.
Our Dinner seating was early, 5:30 or so, and we shared the
table with 2 other couples along with Sally and Jim. One couple – Al and Denise – were on board
for the entire adventure of 111 days while the other couple – Ron and
Carol – were getting off with us in Los
Angeles. I would have to say we had a
good group of people at our table and really all the people we spoke to seem to
be having a good time and enjoying the adventure. I did speak with one passenger who was on his
10th around the world cruise (on the same ship!) and he had his
grandson with him as his full time caregiver. I’m not certain about going on a
cruise for 111 days ,but to do it 10 times seems a bit much ,however if you
enjoy it and have the money why not?
Over the next few blogs I will try and give some highlights
about the various port of call and of course the adventure of going through the
Panama Canal. Until then, as Rick Steve’s
always says, “Keep on traveling”.
Well, it’s been a while since I updated the blog. The last blog, done while we were in New Orleans in October seems like a long time ago. Since that time, we visited with friends in Savanna Georgia (Hello to Bob and Linda) and found our way back to our son’s home in Springfield VA.
Well, it’s been a while since I updated the
blog. The last blog we did was from our adventure in New Orleans in October;
seems like a long time ago. Since that time, we visited with friends in Savanna,
Georgia (Hello to Bob and Linda) and found our way back to our son’s home in
Springfield VA. Once we returned to
Virginia, we got serious about buying a home of our own .We purchased a lovely
3 bedroom place in Williamsburg VA – we have room ,so come and visit!
Several months ago, we had agreed to join
several other families and go on a Carnival ocean cruise to the Bahamas over the
Thanksgiving Weekend. This eliminated the need for anyone to actually have to
cook a turkey (although it also meant there were not going to be any left overs
for sandwiches). Joining with about 20
other folks (3 different families with extended relations) we hired a party bus
and headed to Baltimore to join Carnival Cruise for a weeklong trip south to
the Bahamas. It was nice to have the bus
as that meant we didn’t have to drive, find parking and could have an adult beverage along the way!
This was our first “ocean” cruise, having done a bunch of River Cruises through Europe; it was a very different experience for us. Carnival is clearly a party boat and as such there were lots of families and entertainment (and drinks) for all to enjoy.
While we did get off the ship in Nassau (to get a stamp in our passport!), we didn’t get off on the Carnival Island or in Freeport – it was nice to just relax on the ship and let all the “kids” go explore.
There were comedians (not really that good) and other entertainment options. One of the events was a “build a bear” where Katie had the opportunity to pick out something – she created a cat.
All in all it was a nice adventure and I’m sure everyone had a great time.
After the cruise it was time
to actually “visit” our new home, arrange appliances, have our furniture moved
from California and do all the things needed to make it our place – plus of
course get ready for Christmas. We
purchased the place prior to Thanksgiving and by the end of the year we had
slept in our own bed all of 5 nights!
When we left California, we didn’t store much furniture ,basically a bedroom suite, some living room storage units and a carpet or two plus kitchen stuff and artwork. Needless to say, we have some furniture and other things to arrange and have spent a good amount of time checking out the Salvation Army and consignment stores in both the Springfield Area and Williamsburg. So, at this point we have several easy chairs, a dining table and 6 chairs plus some stools for the kitchen counter area. Lots more to get, but we can now sleep in our own bed, and eat meals at a table with real plates and utensils.
Between getting the house set up we tried to squeeze in some Christmas shopping and general holiday planning.
We had a nice family Christmas holiday with our grandkids and closed out the year feeling good about all that happened in the past year. Next up things happening in 2020 including a Cruise through the Panama Canal, a trip to Alaska and other adventures.
On our last adventure in New Orleans, we Traveled back in time to the era of the antebellum South on a guided tour from New Orleans to the Whitney Plantation, a former indigo and sugar plantation on the River Road now dedicated to promoting an understanding of slavery in Louisiana and after lunch, visited Houmas, also known, as Burnside Plantation, a historic plantation complex and house.
These two Plantations couldn’t be any further apart. The Whitney Plantation is a collection of buildings but the main focus is devoted to slavery in the Southern United States. German immigrants Ambroise Haydel started the Whitney Plantation in 1752 and his wife and their decedents owned it until 1867. After the Civil War (1867) the plantation was sold to Bradish Johnson of New York, who named the property after his grandson, Harry Whitney. Over the next 100 years or so it changed hands several times. In 1999 John Cummings, a trial attorney from New Orleans, who has spent more than $8 million of his own fortune on this long-term project, purchased it.
The museum, comprising main portions of the 2,000-acre plantation property contain imaginative exhibits designed by Cummings representing persons born into slavery before the Civil War commissions original.
The site includes the main house, several slave cabins, various out buildings and a church (not original to the property). There is a large memorial that includes the names of number of enslaved peoples that includes their personal histories (where known) on the property.
Not all of them were directly associated with the Plantation but in the general area and time frame. The only interior tour was of the slave cabins and the church – the main house isn’t included at this time. The entire property is dedicated to how enslaved people were treated throughout this dark period of the US history.
By contrast, the Houmas, really is a focus on the plantation owner, not the slave population. Dating from the late 1700s, with the current main house completed in 1840, the Houmas Plantation is named after the Houma people who originally occupied this area of Louisiana. The complex contains eight buildings on about 10 acres. Alexander Latil and Maurice Conway ‘appropriated’ all of the Houma tribe’s land on the east side of the Mississippi River in 1774 to create the plantation.
Similar to the Whitney Plantation, the Houmas was a working sugarcane plantation by the early 1800’s. Purchased by Daniel Clark in about 1805, he began to develop the property and built one of the first sugar mills along this stretch of the river.
Changing hands several times over the years it grew to over 12,000 acres with approximately 750 slaves. After 1900, the house and ground began to fall into disrepair further damaged by the Mississippi River flood of 1927 and during The Great Depression it fall into worse condition.
George B Corzat purchased the house in 1940 and began an ambitious program of restoration of the house and gardens.
In the spring of 2003, the Estate of Dr. George Crozat auctioned off the entire contents of the mansion and grounds. Kevin Kelly, a New Orleans Businessman, purchased the mansion and surrounding grounds and began the task of restoring the mansion and gardens. The mansion, having undergone over 200 years of construction and remodeling by various owners, reflected a multitude of styles. It was impossible to restore the house to a definite period without sacrificing elements from other important periods of its history. The choice was made to select the best features from various periods to showcase a legacy of each family in the mansion. After extensive restorations to the house and grounds, the Houmas re-opened for tours in November of 2003. Mr. Kelly allows tours of the mansion and gardens, however the Houmas remains his private residence, as it was for its previous owners for over 240 years.
The tour of the main house reflects a period of opulence reflective of the ‘gold era’ of plantations in the South. Furniture, artwork and decorations all depict a rich history of the area and are well maintained.
The view out the front porch is quite lovely with stately old Oak trees lined up along the drive. Unfortunately the levee along the Mississippi River is just out the front blocking what would have been a lovely view of the river.
Today the property is used for weddings, film shoots and private events.
This was the final adventure as part of our Road Scholar – Signature City New Orleans: City of Mystery & Intrigue. We had a good time, learned a lot and achieved our goal of learning about this wonderful City. There is no question that we will be back sometime in the future to explore more of this city.