Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back to New York

It's that time of year again. The Traveling Hillbilly will be spending the week in New York. The weather forecast doesn't look that great, some websites are predicting rain for the first three days of the week. However, The Traveling Hillbilly arrived today to a beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon. Even the Traveling Hillbilly makes the occasional mistake when booking travel. Somehow, I managed to book myself on a 6:50AM flight to JFK! Do you know what time you have to be at LAX to catch a 6:50 am flight? Too early, way too early for a Sunday!

As we all board the plane, we realize it's sweltering, there's no air on the plane. Suddenly a baby starts to cry out. Even worse, it's just two seats back. Boy it's going to be a long flight. The baby cries all the way to JFK, falling asleep once for about 15 minutes but crying the whole rest of the time. The taxi driver turns out to be a lunatic. Drives like a madman, stops for gas, hollers/chats with his buddy in the taxi in the other lane while we're going 55+ miles an hour down the freeway. Please just let me get to the hotel okay.

Now, the Traveling Hillbilly is sitting in the hotel bar, drinking a cocktail and snacking on some baked goat cheese. Suddenly this Sunday is looking up.

The Traveling Hillbilly has a jam packed schedule while in New York, but hopes to squeeze in a little fun. Any recommendations? If so, please share.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Beautiful Saturday Hike

The Traveling Hillbilly was completely exhausted and wanted nothing but sleep. Unfortunately the Traveling Hillbilly's dogs had other ideas. They were up before 6am and were ready to start their day. After spending 30 minutes trying to go back to sleep, the Traveling Hillbilly decided to just get up and get the day started. Turns out a friend was in the same situation and sent a text about going for hike in Palos Verdes. The Traveling Hillbilly reluctantly agreed and is so glad to have done so. It was a beautiful sunny, day in Southern California. We had a crisp blue sky, the ocean was stunningly blue, the wild flowers were blooming, adding a touch of color to the blue green landscape. It was one scenic hike! Check out the photos here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Do we have to leave?

While the Traveling Hillbilly’s long weekend in Northern California is not over, it is time to leave the Hotel Healdsburg and this lovely wine region. The Traveling Hillbilly is not ready to leave but it is time to head back to San Francisco for a night out with friends. Hopefully we can fit in a stop at Silver Oak before heading out!

Day 2 – A full day of wine tasting!

We decide to join a tour so we can truly enjoy a day of wine tasting without having to worry about driving. Wine tasting is no fun when only one person can truly indulge. We join Platypus tours which usually takes smaller groups and customizes the tour based on the group. Floyd, picks us up at the hotel at 10:30am and then it’s off to pick up two more people. We’ve completely lucked out, there are only going to be four of us on the tour for the day. Another plus of touring on a weekday. Turns out, the other two folks, Andy and Sarah, are a couple celebrating their 4 year anniversary.

The roads are winding, the van ride is bumpy and it turns out the Traveling Hillbilly is the only one on the tour who doesn’t have issues with getting car sick! Things start out pretty rough. For the first 30-40 minutes of the ride, it looked like it might get ugly and messy in the back of the van, but we stopped at our first winery before anyone tossed their cookies! Whew! The first stop, Alderbrook. The Traveling Hillbilly was disappointed in this winery as were the rest of the crew. We were all ready to head on to the next destination. We hopped in the van and headed off to Everett Ridge Winery. We all LOVED Everett Ridge. We got to sit outside with amazing views of the winery, while Ben, who has a true passion for the wines he serves, proceeded to allow us to sample at least 8 different wines! Floyd realizing we were all having a good time and might be staying for a while, stealthily disappeared only to reappear with a nice cheese tray for us to sample with our wines. We all loved Everett Ridge and each bought multiple bottles of wine! All in all it was an amazing place and Ben was key in making it a truly great experience! Thanks Ben!

Next up? We headed to De La Montanya for more tasting and a picnic lunch. While we were engrossed in our tasting, Floyd once again snuck away and started preparing a great little picnic lunch for us. We decided to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with our lunch and all sat outside on this lovely spring day and indulged!

My friend and I really lucked out. Andy and Sarah were a really terrific couple and Floyd was pretty cool too. We all had a great time.

Next up, a cool little winery with a tasting room inside a cave, Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Here, thanks to Sarah’s inquisitive and outspoken nature, we actually got to sample some wine right out of the barrel. While we were checking the cave out, we stumbled upon a man, taking some wine out the barrels to test the taste. Sarah asked him what he was doing and when he told her he was do a taste test, she asked if we could try some too! He politely obliged the request and proceeded to tell us about their wine making process. Little did we know until later, he was actually one of the owners of the winery. Thanks Sarah for making this a little more unique experience for all of us!

The last stop, Raymond Burr Vineyards. Here we got to taste some wine, play with Lucy (a cute and hyper little pup) and have our picture taken holding Raymond’s Emmys. It was a fairly quick stop and the Traveling Hillbilly has to admit, after an afternoon of wine tasting, this last stop is a little fuzzy

Hotel Healdsburg – Day 1

We arrive at the hotel minutes before our spa appointments. We don’t even have time to check in. We pull up to the hotel and tell the valet we’re staying at the hotel, but will have to check in after our spa appointments. He kindly tells us he’ll take our luggage to the room and it will be waiting for us whenever we’re ready. First impression of The Hotel Healdsburg? What great service.

What about those spa appointments? All the Traveling Hillbilly can say is aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Second impression of the Hotel Healdsburg? What great service.

After a relaxing couple of hours at the spa, it’s time to officially check in to the hotel and get ready for dinner. The room is really large for a hotel room. The bathroom is the biggest the Traveling Hillbilly has ever seen in a hotel. The bathroom is probably the size of the Traveling Hillbilly’s guestroom!

We have reservations at the hotel restaurant, The Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant. The dinner was fabulous. The food was delicious, the wine was top notch (cheers to the Sommelier for a great reco) and the service was great. Third impression of the Hotel Healdsburg? What great service. Are y’all starting to see a pattern here? The Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends the Hotel Healdsburg.

P.S. You must try the Guiness Ice Cream. Yum! Yum! Yum!

Getting Arrested in Sonoma?

Turns out my friend is looking for a rental for the summer in the area, so next stop is a house on the potential list. We stop at this amazing house in the heart of Sonoma. We go inside and quickly try to disarm the alarm. Suddenly the alarm goes off and we panic assuming we’re sure to be arrested any moment. Luckily we get a hold of the owner and are able to disarm the alarm. Whhhheeeeewwwwwww! Close call. Time to get back on the road.

The second house was actually located on a vineyard and the Traveling Hillbilly considered it to be more of an estate than a house! It had absolutely stunning grounds with a little brook running through it. As you enter the main gait, there’s a “geese crossing” sign. The landscape was truly stunning.

My friend is going to have a tough decision choosing. Both houses were amazing.

Wine Tasting in Northern California

So the Traveling Hillbilly decides to meet up with a friend in San Francisco for a weekend of wine tasting up north. First on the list is a stop at Domain Caneros, a recommendation from a co-worker that has wonderful sparkling wines. It turns out to be a great recommendation. We sit outside on a fabulous sunny day and have a flight of delicious sparkling wines. The Traveling Hillbilly ponders if life can get any better!