The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

Ireland to Luxembourg (and a Stop in Between) January 6, 2017

Filed under: Family,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 2:39 pm
Tags: , , ,

On the morning of the seventh day of our trip, Ian and Friday got up unfathomably early so they could get to the airport with ample time to catch their flight home. Michelle and I were continuing on our trip to meet my family in Luxembourg and had a later flight. So, we groggily bid our husbands goodbye and slept for a few more hours.

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Pylons in Dublin kind of look like small people wearing bowler hats.

We Ubered to the airport, got there  plenty early for our flight, and decided to spend some time souvenir shopping. I think just being in the airport elicited premature end-of-vacation panic in me, and I had to continually remind myself that I still had a few days of vacation remaining, lest I buy all the things before leaving Dublin.

Once we were en route to Amsterdam, it began to dawn on me that the connection to our flight to Luxembourg City was pretty tight. Living in Chicago, I guess I’m a bit spoiled by having direct flights available for most of my travels So, when I booked the tickets, I didn’t stop to think that making a connecting flight in 40 minutes, while not impossible, was not terribly realistic. Still, our flight out of Dublin left on time, and I tried not to fret. We even landed in Amsterdam on schedule, so I was still hopeful we’d make it as we taxied for what seemed like a really long time…ah, but that was just my anxiety, right? It probably just seemed like a long time.

The plane parked at a gate, and we were finally about to be let off when an announcement informed us that there were problems with the jetway. People were working on it, and it shouldn’t be long. Deep breaths.

Eventually, we got off of the plane and rushed toward our gate, still hoping we could make our connection. We followed the signs that pointed us toward the right terminal but gave no indication of the distance to our gate (which I believe, although don’t quote me on this, was about 17 miles). Our hearts and stomachs sank a bit when we saw the line at passport control (so much for easy movement between EU countries), but our flight was still listed as boarding by the time we made it through. So we ran. We ran until we couldn’t run anymore, then speed walked for a bit, and ran again. I had seen people running through airports before, and whenever I did, I felt glad not to be them. I hate being late for things. But alas, I was now one of those people–running awkwardly, dragging luggage behind me, sweating, and gasping for breath.

Insult was added to injury when we reached our terminal only to encounter a broken people-mover, which could have shaved precious seconds from our journey if it had been operational. Still not about to give up, we ran some more. Breathless, we arrived at our gate to discover that our plane had not yet departed, but its doors had been closed, and we weren’t going to be allowed to board. Disappointed, we walked (at a more leisurely place) to the rescheduling counters and were rebooked on the next flight (roughly five ours later). With some time to kill, we decided the best way to cope with our missed flight and at the same time celebrate the fact that we did still have a few days of vacation remaining was to visit an airport bar.

bubbly

Coping with a missed connection

 

michelle_airport

This bench/sculpture looks comfortable, but it actually was not at all.

We killed some more time by wandering around the airport and browsing in shops until hunger prompted us to see out some dinner. It became quite apparent that we were still discombobulated by the wrench that had been thrown in our schedule when we both accidentally bought non-alcoholic beer (when meaning to buy real beer)–at airport prices even!

notbeer

Damn it! Oh well, at least there was pie.

Thankfully,things were relatively uneventful after that. We made our flight without any problems. As luck would have it, we arrived at the lobby of our hotel in Luxembourg city at the same time my mom and brother had decided to visit the lobby vending machine (which has beer and wine!). Instead, we all decided to visit the hotel bar once Michelle and I were checked in. There we enjoyed some beer–this time, the real stuff–and toasted  our impending Luxembourg adventures.

beer

That’s more like it!

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Ireland in Real Life (IRL IRL) Day 1: Roundabouts, Rock Walls, and Right is Left October 3, 2016

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 12:39 pm
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I find that plane trips are good times to see movies that I probably would never get around to watching otherwise. Thus, as I set off on my long-awaited trip to Ireland, I fired up Purple Rain on the in-flight entertainment system. Somehow, I had managed to live through the eighties without seeing it…except, when I started to watch it, I realized that I had actually seen pretty much the whole thing (minus some nudity and a few points that I guess were collectively considered a plot), as practically the whole movie was contained in various videos by Prince and Morris Day. Even so, I felt good about having filled in one pop cultural blind spot from my childhood.

But never mind that. This post is about Ireland (which is notoriously rainy but not notoriously purple, so I won’t try to sell you that connection since it would be a stretch). My traveling companions (my husband Ian and good friends Michelle and Friday) arrived in Dublin on a Thursday morning. Not fully appreciating how exhausted we would all be from the long flight and the jet lag, we’d planned to set out right away in our rental car to see some sights, eventually making our way to Ballyvaugn, where we would spend two nights.

I was incredibly happy to not have the responsibility of driving. Even being a passenger in a car that drives on the left is weird. My jet lag-addled mind began to overcompensate for the weirdness, completely reversing right and left, such that, when someone told me to  look at some lovely view to my right, I looked left instead. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure  everyone in the car (and the rest of Ireland for that matter) was glad I was not the one behind the wheel. Ian, on the other hand, did a great job staying on the proper side of the road, maneuvering through the seemingly endless series of roundabouts, and navigating the ridiculously narrow roads, avoiding collisions with rock walls on the left and gigantic tour buses on the right.

narrow_roads

Did I mention that the roads are narrow?

Our first stop was the Hill of Tara. As we made our way back toward the car after taking in the views there, a couple walking about 20 feet in front of us stopped, turned around, and began lightly clapping their hands together and calling, “C’mere Friday! C’mon, Friday!” From behind us, a dog came bounding toward the couple. My companions and I all burst out laughing. The couple regarded us curiously, but hen we revealed that there was also a person among us named Friday, they laughed right along with us.

hill-of-tarahill-of-tara2

hill-of-tara-pan

liz_sign_hill_of_tara

I’m not entirely sure this sign is useful.

Next, we headed for Galway, which held the promise a Ferris wheel. I had never actually set out to collect rides on European Ferris wheels, but it somehow became a thing for me. It started with the London Eye, which was  followed by the Wheel of Gothenburg, a Ferris wheel at a traveling carnival in Amsterdam, and the Wiener Riesenrad in Vienna. Hoping to add to my collection, I did a google search before the trip and found a Ferris wheel at a place in Galway called Leisure Land. The website indicated that a large amusement park, which includes a Ferris wheel, operates throughout the summer months. Score!

Apparently, not everyone considers September a summer month (hello, the first three weeks of it are technically still summer!) because we arrived to find that the wheel had been removed for the season at the end of August. Boo!

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We are sad because someone stole the Ferris wheel!

We assuaged our disappointment with food and beer at Olso Bar and then wandered around Galway for a bit.

salthill_promenade

another_sign

Another not-so-useful sign.

We left Galway, braved more narrow roads and roundabouts, and at last arrived in Ballyvaughn alive and well.

goat_farm

At last, a useful sign!

After settling in and exploring the grounds of the goat farm where we were staying, we decided that we should buy some beer (and maybe some food, but we’d had a late lunch, so beer was the higher priority). Alas, we arrived at the local grocery store five minutes after it closed. Next, we tried a gas station, only to discover they did not sell beer. Who knew it would be so hard to buy alcoholic beverages in Ireland? Don’t the Irish kind of have a reputation for drinking every now and then? Perhaps my karmic punishment for putting stock in such stereotypes was coming in the form of beerlessness.

ballyvaughn

Searching for beer in the sprawling metropolis of Ballyvaughn

The gas station clerk kindly advised that there was a nearby off-license store (meaning an establishment that sells alcohol for off-premises consumption–hey, I learned something new!) that opened at 7:30. We strolled about Ballyvaughn until the store opened, purchased libations, and headed back to our place for a few drinks, some relaxation, and sweet, sweet sleep.

 

Northeast Road Trip Part 5: Seizing the Day and Relaxificationizing July 22, 2015

It was the penultimate day of our trip (and the last one that wouldn’t be taken up almost entirely by driving), and we were ready! The socks I wore said it all.

Hell yes!

Hell yes!

There was a threat of rain that day, but the forecast looked most promising in the morning, so we decided to hike first and beer/wine taste later. Off we went to Watkins Glen State Park, which had been described to us by scores of people as a must see. Indeed. It was stunningly beautiful.

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Behind a waterfall

Behind a waterfall

Living (not very) dangerously

Living (not very) dangerously

All that hiking and beauty and nature and stuff made us thirsty, so we went to Wagner Vineyards, which is home to a brewery, a winery, and a cafe–what more could we possibly want? Well, it had a lovely view to boot!

Our view while beer tasting at Wagner

Our view while beer tasting at Wagner

Beer rainbow

Beer rainbow

We tasted beer and wine and then fortified ourselves with lunch so we were ready to move on to our next stop: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. There we encountered some of the friendliest and most entertaining staff members in recent memory. Also, the tasting glasses and many of the wine labels had a cat theme going, so I was sold.

RedcatWe weren’t done yet. We tasted spirits at Finger Lakes Distilling, more wine at Heron Hill, and cider and mead at Earle Estates.

Selfie at Finger Lakes Distilling

We were in good spirits at Finger Lakes Distilling

The choice of discerning herons

The choice of discerning herons

At that point, we considered the day pretty well seized and headed back to the hotel (excuse me, castle!). We strolled around the grounds for a bit and enjoyed the view from the patio as a we watched a rain storm roll in on the other side of the lake.

Neener neener, we're on the dry side!

Neener neener, we’re on the dry side!

To top the day off, I coined a new word: relaxificationizing, to describe the combined effects of wine and a soak in a hot tub.

Diem carped.

The next morning, we ate breakfast under guard of the brave knights at Belhurst before beginning the trip home.

Brave guardian of the buffet

Brave guardian of the buffet

We had plans to visit two wineries on our way out, but between the breakfast and the car ride, I began to doze off and was unable to help navigate. We missed the turn for our first intended destination and didn’t realize it for several miles, at which point, we didn’t feel like turning back. So, we proceeded to the next spot on our agenda: Bully Hill. This delightful place is home to many delicious wines, the labels of which bear the beautiful artwork of the late Walter S. Taylor, who was one of the winery’s founders and, by most descriptions, quite a character. A sign in the tasting room indicated that, after one complimentary tasting, additional tastings were one dollar each, but our friendly server assured us as he poured that he was absolutely not keeping track of how many wines we tried and told us just to leave a few bucks, whatever we thought was appropriate.

Last selfie of the trip!

Last selfie of the trip!

During our travels of the preceding week, we had collected about a case of wine, some beer, several gifts, various other souvenirs (including the all-important rubber duck, Isabella), and a lot of great memories. It was time to head home. The drive was long but mainly uneventful save for a traffic jam outside of Cleveland. Isabella enjoyed the scenery and looked forward to seeing her new home.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound

 

Northeast Road Trip Part 3: No Escape! (Also, Beer and Cupcakes) July 14, 2015

We rolled into Cambridge on Sunday afternoon. There was some short-lived navigational confusion owing to road construction and street closures, which was only compounded by an electronic street sign announcing road closures, not for construction, but rather for a dance party. At first, I thought the sign had been hacked, but there had indeed been a dance party. Alas, we’d missed it. Anyhow, we were able to recombobulate our bearings and find our way to the apartment of my brother (Chris) and his husband (David), where we hung out, chatted, and drank some of my favorite beer until it was time to check into our B&B. The inn was quite lovely, with the exception of the weird mosaic in the bathroom of our room. The old buttons, watch faces, and pieces of tea cups were charming enough, but every now and then there was a disembodied foot from a porcelain doll or a creepy old photo.

Can you find the missing extremity?

I’m afraid this child wants to eat my soul.

I will forgive this one piece of disturbing decor, especially since the inn had a beautiful winding staircase, and our room had a loft and a funky dresser. Also, there were delicious cupcakes.

I had to restrain myself from sliding down the banister.

Feeling lofty

Funky

Yum

The rest of our evening consisted of cocktails at Alden & Harlow, dinner at the West Side Lounge, and attempting to escape from a room. Perhaps that last one requires explanation. It’s an interactive game in which you are locked in a room with nine other people and have one hour to find clues, solve puzzles, and escape to freedom. I was a bit apprehensive knowing that, if we failed and were trapped there indefinitely, I was likely to be the first one eaten. Actually, the game makers are legally obligated to let you out of the room, even if you fail to solve the puzzle, which is good because we didn’t solve it. I must note, however, that in walking us through the puzzle solution after our time was up, our game maker discovered that one of the clues to the puzzle, a joker playing card, was missing. It had never been placed. Although it would have been possible to solve the puzzle without that clue, I’m going to go ahead and blame our failure on the missing card. We totally would have crushed it if we’d had that joker. Just try to prove me wrong!

Friggin' Joker

Friggin’ joker (Photo credit: Escape the Room Boston)

The next morning, Ian and I had the entire breakfast room to ourselves at the late (9:30) breakfast seating, as we were, apparently, the only guest of the inn who like to sleep in. Beer sounded like an excellent follow-up to breakfast, so we headed to the Sam Adams brewery for a tour and some beverage appreciation. Because Ian is a home brewer and I’ve taken brewery tours before, much of the information from the tour was not new to me. However, I did learn the following fun “facts” from our tour guide Zach.

  • Yeast is not only where bubbles come from but also where fun comes from
  • The Sam Adams “perfect pint” is the most stolen piece of glassware in the US
I like some whimsy with my beer.

I like some whimsy with my beer.

It's funny because one of my cats actually likes beer.

It’s funny because one of my cats actually likes beer.

That's totally Bob Cannon behind me, not just a cardboard cutout of him.

That’s totally Bob Cannon behind me, not just a cardboard cutout of him.

A tour of Fenway Park was next on our agenda. One of these days, we’ll actually get around to attending a game there–just like one of these days, we’ll get around to taking a tour of Wrigley Field and seeing parts of it that we normally don’t.

Hard to argue with that

Hard to argue with that.

At Fenway

At Fenway

I've heard of keeping your eye on the ball, but apparently, your butt works too.

I’ve heard of keeping your eye on the ball, but apparently, your butt works too.

The Green Monster

The Green Monster

Those are not *real* bleachers, but I do like the one red seat.

Those are not real bleachers, but I do like the one red seat.

From Fenway, we headed to the Top of the Hub to enjoy the view and some cocktails.

Boston from above

Boston from above

Then we met up with Chris and David again for drinks (yes, more drinks, we’re on vacation, dammit!) on the patio at our inn and dinner (and three shared desserts–again…vacation!) at The Foundry. There, our topics of discussion included

  • How much does Chris know about sports these days? (Apparently, a lot more than he used to! He’s come a long way from thinking that there were 21 outfielders in baseball. It’s not as much fun to quiz him anymore.)
  • What if Antonin Scalia were a baseball umpire? (Of course, he’d be wearing his robe)
  • How can David not like chocolate and peanuts together?? (It’s not as bad as hating penguins, but it’s still weird.)
  • My super awesome idea for a new twist on seemingly played-out vampire stories is sure to be the next big thing! (I’m hesitant to even mention it here for fear that someone will steal it and run with it, but knowing me, I’ll never get past my fantastic tagline. Vumpires: You’re Never Safe!)
 

Hawai’ian Holiday Part 5: Beer, Stars, and Invisible Cows April 15, 2015

On our last full day in Hawai’i, it was time for some beer. Sure, we’d had beer on other occasions during the trip, and we’d even learned some Hawai’ian words in the process, but it was time for even more education! We headed to the Kona Brewing Company to take a tour, learn more about the beer-making process, and sample some tasty beverages.

Studying the Beeriodic Table

Studying the Beeriodic Table

Note the super fashionable goggles--safety first!

Note the Super Fashionable Goggles–Safety First!

Cheers to beers!

Cheers to Beers!

After the tour and tasting, we ate lunch at the pub, and, of course, tried more beer. By far my favorite was the Lemongrass Luau, a light, refreshing brew with notes of lemon and ginger. Unfortunately, it’s not available on the mainland, but Ian promised me he would try to produce something similar in his home brewing efforts.

If you know me or read my travel posts regularly, you may remember that I’m a souvenir junkie. Even if I have purchased a few trinkets beforehand, as the end of any vacation draws near, I start to feel a sort of panic, and my thoughts begin to race. Have I purchased enough items to properly commemorate this trip? One can never have enough novelty socks, right? I don’t care if I need to buy another fridge to put it on, I need this magnet. I must get presents for everyone! BUY ALL THE THINGS! It’s really for the best that I’m limited by what can fit in my luggage. But anyhow, I got my souvenir shopping fix at the Kona International Market as well as some other shops in Kailua Kona.

Crocmonster

This is Perhaps the Best (only good?) Use of Crocs.

Fiery Foliage in Kailua Kona

Fiery Foliage in Kailua Kona

As we wrapped up our shopping, it occurred to us that we’d managed to spend almost a week in Hawai’i without having an umbrella drink. To correct this grievous wrong, we enjoyed Mai Tais (as well as a few other tropical drinks) while taking in the ocean view at Don the Beachcomber. Rachel collected the drink umbrellas and crafted a makeshift tiara, which attracted the attention of a complete stranger who asked to take her picture. We predicted she’d be going viral before the week was through.

Queen of Happy Hour

Queen of Happy Hour

After briefly returning to the condo to grab some warmer clothes, we began the trek out the the Mauna Kea Observatory visitor’s center. During the drive, road signs repeatedly promised (or warned I suppose) that there would be sheep crossing, but, to my disappointment, we spotted no ovines. On the bright side, we did not run into any sheep, as I’m sure was appreciated by the sheep themselves as well as our rental car, which was already unhappy enough with the ascent to 9200 feet. Once we arrived at the visitor’s center, the guide, Pablo, laser pointer in hand, took us on a star tour, pointing out plants, star clusters, and constellations and regaling us with some of the mythological tales that surround them. I have never seen, and perhaps never again will see, the sky like I saw it at Mauna Kea. Its elevation, isolation, and geographic position make it pretty much idea for stargazing. Scattered about the visitor’s area were telescopes fixed on the moon, the Orion nebula, and Jupiter, the views through which I can only describe as really freakin’ awesome. Also, there was this.

InvisibleCows

Sound Advice

It made me wonder if we actually did encounter sheep on the way there, just invisible ones. On the way back down the mountain after our visit, we caught glimpses of a far-off fireworks display, which marks my first time viewing fireworks from above.

The next morning, it was time to finish packing up and head out. To our slight embarrassment, we discovered that we had not finished our giant bottle of rum and had an unopened bottle of wine remaining. Not wanting this to go to waste, Rachel wandered about the condo complex and secured loving homes for our leftover alcohol.

Getting home proved slightly more adventurous than we had anticipated. The plane that was to be ours was delayed in leaving San Francisco, so by the time it arrived in Kona, the crew could not fly back to San Francisco without being over their allowed work time. Instead, we were flown to Honolulu (during which Rachel and Matthew enjoyed a brief but luxurious upgrade in first class). Once in Honolulu, we went through agricultural inspection for the second time that day (just in case fruit had somehow materialized in our luggage during the flight from Kona, which seems unlikely to me, but you really never know what might happen in a place that has invisible cows) and received new itineraries. During the layover in Honolulu, we decided there was time for a bite to eat and one last beer in Hawai’i. However, when attempting to pay for our meal, our credit card was denied (although I still feel secure in the knowledge that I am a valued customer). Ian offered me up to our waitress as collateral and ran out to get some cash. Smartass.

Ian and I parted ways with Rachel and Matthew, who had different flights back home, and flew to San Francisco then home to Chicago. It was a long, wearying day of travel, but we scored exit row seats on both flights. So yay for that, and yay for the safe conclusion to a wonderful trip.

San Francisco From Above

San Francisco From Above

 

Hawai’ian Holiday Part 1: The Mo’o Chronicles March 28, 2015

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 5:48 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Not many things will get me out of bed at 4:15 a.m., but a flight to Hawai’i is one of them. So began our adventure. Ian and I bid farewell to our thoroughly confused cats and headed for the airport on a dark, chilly Wednesday morning. Later, during a 2.5-hour layover in Denver, we figured it was probably about time to start drinking. It was vacation after all! The bartender kept trying to coax us (and everyone else in the vicinity) into doing Jägermeister shots, but we declined in favor of a more classic breakfast drink.

Second Breakfast

Second Breakfast

Several hours later, we (and our luggage–huzzah!) arrived safely in Kona, at which time we obtained our rental car and set off to pick up Rachel and Matthew, our friends and traveling companions…at Costco, of course. They had arrived a few hours earlier and decided they would save some time by purchasing provisions for the week before we got there. As a bonus, they perplexed their taxi driver with their requested destination. Who would have thought that Kona Airport to Costco is an unusual fare?

Trunk loaded with luggage, food, wine, beer, and a giant bottle of rum, we began the long drive to Pāhala, where we would be staying for the first few nights. I required a brief vomit-prevention stop along the way (hills + winding roads + no proper meal for many hours = queasy Liz), but the voyage was otherwise uneventful. It was late, and we were all jet-lagged and travel weary, so we had no greater ambitions than to enjoy some snacks and beer on the lanai, but with our beer came the added value of unexpected education! Bottle caps from Kona Brewing Company beer are printed with Hawai’ian words and phrases so that you might satisfy both your thirst for a tasty beverage and your thirst for knowledge.

Educational Beer!

Educational Beer!

The next morning after breakfast, we took a walk over to the nearby Punalu’u black-sand beach with hopes of spotting sea turtles. Alas, there were none to be found, but it was a pretty beach.

Punalu'u Beach

Punalu’u Beach

We had a full day planned, so we didn’t linger at the beach. Ian got the car stereo communicating with his iPad so we no longer had to listen to long stretches of static interrupted by brief bursts of music as we had on the way to Pāhala. Apparently, the car was a bit ornery that day because this is how we were greeted.

Well, that's just rude!

Well, that’s just rude!

Undeterred, we headed to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. On the way there, Rachel expressed her concern that, if given the opportunity, she might have an uncontrollable urge to touch lava. I understood this perfectly, as I have suffered from numerous irrational fears (including a short-lived, but rather intense, fear of yeast) at various points in my life. Thankfully, helpful reminders regarding lava interactions were posted.

Back away from the lava, Rachel.

Back away from the lava, Rachel.

We didn’t get close enough to any lava for Rachel’s fears to be much of an issue. However, we did enjoy free (if slightly sulfur-smelling) facials at steam vents and saw lots of cool craters.

At Halema'uma'u Crater

At Halema’uma’u Crater

We left the park for a short time to visit the Volcano Winery, the southernmost winery in the U.S., where we sampled a variety of delicious wines, ate a giant cheese plate (because Rachel and I go on vacation together primarily to drink wine and eat a lot of cheese), and met a cat named Mele (who seemed completely indifferent to us). I have admit that, after taking several vacations in which wine tasting was a central component, it felt downright odd to visit just one winery without immediately continuing on to another. Of course, the only other winery in Hawai’i is on Maui, so it would have been a challenging drive.

I know where to park!

I know where to park!

We returned to the park and saw the Thurston Lava Tube, which ranks among the coolest things I have ever seen.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

We then drove down Chain of Craters Road, passing the July 1974 lava flow (which we dubbed Ian’s Birthday Lava). For much of the drive, it was a bit difficult to believe that we were still on Earth. Relatively recent lava flows create landscapes unlike any I’ve seen before.

What planet is this again?

What planet is this again?

Lavalicious

Lavalicious

Heart-Shaped Rock

Heart-Shaped Rock

Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs

Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs

Turtle Petroglyph

Turtle Petroglyph

Holei Sea Arch

Holei Sea Arch

Our adventures for the day concluded at the Volcano House, where we watched the eerie orange glow of the Halema’uma’u crater come into view as the sun went down. The view was nothing short of magical, yet we remained at a safe enough distance to prevent Rachel from impulsively running amok and touching the lava.

Lavulation

Lavulation

 

 

That California Trip Part 3: How to Succeed at Wine Tasting June 1, 2014

We began the third day of our second flitterwochen with a visit to Hop Kiln Winery, the tasting room and marketplace for which are in the Walters Ranch Hop Kiln. The kiln was built in 1905, a time when hops were a major industry in California. Now it’s a historical landmark and a pretty cool-looking old building. There was even a mini hop kiln in the pond out back.

The tasting room at Hop Kiln Estate Vineyards

The tasting room at Hop Kiln Estate Vineyards

 

Mini Hop Kiln

Mini Hop Kiln

Dry Creek Vineyards was our next stop. This was our second visit to Dry Creek, and it conjured up memories of our honeymoon. Back then we were novice at wine tasters, and we learned some important lessons for a pleasant day of wine tasting.

  • Eat—and not just the crackers some of the tasting rooms provide. Keep snacks and water in your car, and eat a bit between wineries, even if you’re not all that hungry.
  • If you’re making a day of wine tasting, stop for lunch, particularly if you did not follow the previous guideline of bringing some snacks along with you. Even if you are sipping and spitting (and honestly, I’m not sure who does this except perhaps the pros), your palate will probably appreciate the change of scenery. I can’t seem to say it enough lately: lunch is important.
  • Five wineries in one day, not enough to eat, and winding roads = sick Liz. One less-than-fond memory from my honeymoon involves sprinting from the inn parking lot to our room, thankfully not losing my lunch (or lack thereof) anywhere in between. Even with enough food, five wineries is a lot to tackle, particularly if you get to chatting with the people serving at the tastings and they go “off book,” letting you try additional wines you might enjoy. Depending on the number of pours at each, and the types of wine tasted, three or four wineries in one day is usually plenty for me. Any more than that, and I get wined out.

Of course, I follow my own guidelines, so lunch was next on our agenda. We stopped in Healdsburg and ate at Bear Republic Brewing Company because sometimes, after tasting many different types of wine, what you really want is a beer to refresh your palate. Nothing puts Ian in touch with his inner child quite like Speed Racer, so he was quite taken with Bear Republic, which had homages to the classic cartoon in its decor and the names of some of its brews. I even got adventurous and sampled a sour (nonfruity) beer. I’m notorious for having a sour tooth (as a kid, I used to eat plain lemons and rhubarb stalks), so it’s somewhat surprising I hadn’t gotten around to trying one of these yet. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was in the mood for at the time. Generally, I think I prefer sour beer to have an accompanying fruit flavor (oh cherry lambic, how I love thee), but I’m open to trying more sours.

We kicked around in Healdsburg for a bit after lunch and then headed to Martinelli Winery, a small, family-owned winery in the Russian River Valley. In addition to tasting wine and hearing about the history of the Martinelli family, we saw a video of manager, Lee Martinelli Sr. farming Jackass Hill, one of the steepest (60% slope!), nonterraced vineyards around.

After that, we headed back to the inn, where we lounged in the courtyard for a while and wrapped up the day with dinner at the historic Union Hotel.

Union Hotel

Union Hotel