The Lizard Chronicles

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

Luxembourg Day 1: Getting in Touch With My Inner Stevie January 8, 2017

Filed under: Family,Travel — lizardesque @ 2:56 pm
Tags: , , ,

We awoke the next morning to discover that our hotel room had quite a nice view, which we had not realized when we’d arrived the previous evening under cover of darkness.

hotelview

Good morning, Luxembourg!

After breakfast, our first order of business was to head to the Bierger-Center, where my brother Chris was to file his paperwork as his next step in reclaiming Luxembourg citizenship. My parents, Michelle, and I acted as his entourage for what was only about a 15-minute task.

bierger_center

One step closer to citizenship!

I had two main goals for my trip to Luxembourg. One was to visit the Modes Nita hat shop, which we did next, and I added to my collection of hats from my travels. My second goal requires a bit of back story…

It all began about a year and a half ago when I happened to noticed that, according the to calendar on the website of the the Luxembourg-American Cultural Society, August 12 was Stevie Nicks Day. The reason for this was unclear to me. It wasn’t her birthday, and a Google search yielded no obvious connection between the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Luxembourg. Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, my mother e-mailed the LACS to inquire about the day and the Stevie-Luxembourg connection. She never got a response, and within the next week or so, Stevie Nicks Day mysteriously disappeared from the LACS calendar.

Nevertheless, I decided that Stevie Nicks Day was a good idea and was best celebrated by listening to her music, wearing lace and fringe, and twirling–lots of twirling–basically getting in touch with one’s own inner Stevie.

aug12

Celebrating Stevie Nicks Day 2015

At some point before the trip, Chris told me I really needed to bring the vest I wore in the picture above and twirl in the Luxembourg City  square to celebrate a (somewhat belated) Stevie Nicks Day 2016. I decided he was right, and I’m happy to say that I accomplished my goal that morning. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, which included taking a walking tour and taking lots and lots of pictures.

houseofunderwear

This sign was an easy-to-remember navigation point.

goldenlady

The Golden Lady (with bird)

emobutcher

Emo butcher is actually a vegetarian.

redlion

Red Lion (from the Luxembourg coat of arms)

luxpanorama

Panorama of Luxembourg City

ivy

Pretty ivy

momelephant

My mom with an elephant on parade

nohandholding

No hand-holding!

municipalpark

Municipal Park

 

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.

IMG_0728IMG_0699IMGP6395

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

 

Hawai’ian Holiday Part 2: Sun, Snorkeling, and SNAFUs in Paradise (but I am a Valued Customer) April 3, 2015

Filed under: Food,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 5:24 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Friday morning, we headed for Hilo. Our first stop there was Two Ladies Kitchen, where we tried some mochi. These chewy, elastic confections seemed to me a cross between dumplings and fondant. I’m glad I tried them, but they’re not something I’d be likely to seek out again.

Charming graffiti in Hilo

Charming graffiti in Hilo

It was time to see some waterfalls, including the aptly named Rainbow Falls (we did, indeed see rainbows). On approaching Pe’epe’e Falls and Boiling Pots, we were rocketed back to adolescence, gigglesnorting at the street sign that, without the ‘okinas, read “Peepee Falls St.”

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Boiling Pots

Pe’epe’e Boiling Pots

L&RWaterfall

Still giggling about “Peepee Falls”

Next on our agenda was to purchase beach towels and snorkeling gear. We’d been advised that doing so would be cheaper and more convenient than renting, even if it meant going to Wal-Mart. There, we stood momentarily paralyzed by the options. Snorkeling accouterments occupied a full aisle and then some, and we discerned few obvious ways to narrow down our choices. Eeny meeny miny moe… And I had thought that selecting a beach towel was going to be the more difficult decision! Four years ago when I was in Honolulu, I could swear there was an ABC store every 20 yards, each of which stocked at least 6 dozen types of Hello Kitty beach towels, along with myriad other motifs. The Hilo Wal-Mart had but a single Hello Kitty beach towel! Then again, it made my choice easy. Yes, I’m a 40-year-old childfree woman, and I am unapologetic about my fondness for Hello Kitty.

Snorkels, towels, and a few other items in hand, we entered what did not seem to be a particularly long line, but by the time we got to the front of it, I’m pretty sure my hair had grown about an inch. When I went to pay for my purchase, my credit card was denied. I tried a second time. No dice. I shrugged and used my debit card, figuring that my bank was being cautious. It’s not that my traveling to Hawai’i should have raised any eyebrows, but I can understand how my shopping at Wal-Mart would be cause for red flags.

Onward we went to seek lunch at the Hilo Bay Café, which, according to our guidebook was in the same strip mall as the Wal-Mart. Turns out, it had moved to a much nicer, more scenic location that we had actually passed earlier during one of the many times we got confused as we navigated Hilo and had to turn around. Service was on the slow side, but lunch, which included two blueberry-jalapeño margaritas, was delicious.

We then set off for the Kapoho Tide Pools to put our newly acquired gear to use. During the drive there, I called my credit card company to deal with that situation and was placed on hold for 15 minutes, during which time an automated voice repeatedly assured me that I am a valued customer. When, at last, I made contact with a real live person, I accidentally disconnected the call as I tried to switch my phone off of speaker mode.

DAMN IT!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. I called again, was placed on hold again, was assured I am a valued customer again and again. Another 15 minutes or so, I connected with and did not hang up on a real person. “Hi, I want to use my credit card, and you won’t let me,” I said. A few minutes later, when I realized that there actually had been some fraudulent charges on my card, I felt slightly bad for beginning the call that way, but I don’t think I was capable of not being snarky at that point. What happened next may have been mere coincidence or karmic retribution for my snark. Just as I was in the process of discussing the best course of action with the phone representative, my call dropped.

DAMN IT TO FLURKING HELL!

This was just about the time we arrived at the tide pools. I had no cell service there, so all I could do was tell myself I’d get it all worked out later and go snorkeling. We parked and walked the quarter mile to the pools. On the way, we passed a cat lounging in the grass next to a sign for Winston Churchill Real Estate. Naturally, we decided that the cat’s name must be Winston Churchill.

The tide pools were beautiful, but actually getting into them was tricky, as the water and lava rocks made for a perilous combination of slippery and jagged. The mixing of salt and fresh water resulted in suboptimal clarity at times; nevertheless, the snorkeling was enjoyable, albeit brief. The daylight was waning, and the last thing we wanted to do was navigate the treacherous rocks in low light.

Kapoho Tide Pools

Kapoho Tide Pools (Photo credit Lindley Ashline, Creative Commons License)

Later, back at the condo, the boys grilled dinner while I, once again, called the credit card company, this time from a land line to assure there would be no call droppage. Much to my dismay, several minutes into my holding and hearing that I am a valued customer, the cordless phone (the only one in the condo) began to beep, alerting me to a low battery. “You were sitting in the base all day. You better not die on me!” I growled at the phone. Mercifully, the phone hung in there.

When I was allowed to speak to a person, she arranged to have the new card shipped to me at the next place we would be staying, and I thought things were cleared up. However, just as we were ostensibly wrapping up the call, she said, “Okay, you should have that card on Monday or Tuesday at the latest.” Considering we were leaving for home on Tuesday, that was not going to work. Instead, she arranged for our present card to work only in Hawai’i for point-of-sale transactions and to have the new card shipped home. Wonderful.

“So the card will be delivered to your home on Monday, and someone may need to sign for it.”

Ugh. No. We would still be in Hawai’i then. Had she been paying attention? She then arranged an extra slow delivery method for the new card. When the call concluded, at long last, all I could do was cross my fingers and hope that this was all over, also, eat dinner and drink wine.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Boston or Bust Part 2: Days That Begin With a Ride From Vision-Impaired Troglodyte Taxi Driver Can Actually Turn Out OK! September 24, 2014

The morning after my interactive disco Shakespeare adventure with my brother, I checked out of my hotel and caught a taxi to take me to his apartment, where I would spend my last night of the trip. Upon getting in the cab, I was immediately struck by the fact that my driver was a woman in perhaps her mid/late sixties. It’s not that this is a problem, it’s simply unusual. At first, I thought it was unusual in an awesome way–good for her! Also, there was something comforting at the thought of possibly getting a ride from someone’s grandmother. Perhaps there would be cookies.

I told the driver the address, and some confusion ensued. As it happens, there is a street by the same name in Boston, and it is near Cambridge Street. The driver asked if I was sure of the address since she didn’t know a street by that name in Cambridge. I told her I was certain.

“OK, I’m going to have to look it up,” she said as she picked up a large book and began to flip through it, repeating the street name to herself. “Ah, here it is,” she said and then handed the book back to me. “Can you read what it says there?”

Bewildered, I took the book from her. “My glasses are on the floor somewhere,” she said.

I read the text to her and handed the book back, assuring myself that plenty of people had problems reading small print but could see just fine for driving. She flipped through the pages again. This time when she landed on the page she was seeking, she produced a large magnifying glass to read the entry. “OK, got it,” she said and discarded the book. She then told me that, since she was not sure of the fastest way to get there, she would charge me a flat rate for the trip.

That seemed fair, so I settled back into my seat as she commenced with the usual cab driver chit-chat. When she got around to asking what brought me to Boston, I told her I’d come for a conference but was staying a bit extra to visit my brother. “Oh, was it that neurology conference that was just in town?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh, well, I’ve got something for ya. It’s not exactly neurology, but…did you hear that there was another beheading?”

I hadn’t had time to keep on top of news during the preceding days, but I figured she was referring to another in a string of beheadings of journalists by ISIS. I briefly considered the odd train of thought that led her from neurology to decapitation, but I didn’t dwell on it. “No,” I said. “That’s awful.”

What followed was a tirade against Muslims and how, in her opinion, they should not be allowed in this country. At first, I tried to argue, saying that a small number of people doing horrible things in the name of Islam did not mean that all Muslims were bad, but it quickly became clear that I was wasting my breath. She continued to spew her hate speech, and I clenched my teeth and waited for the ride to be over.

Several minutes later, her diatribe ended when she announced that I would have to help her look for address numbers, as she suspected we were nearing an intersection where we needed to turn right.

This, combined with her previously revealed vision problems, made me suspect that perhaps she should not be driving a vehicle for a living, but I told her the first address number I spotted so that she could, hopefully, pay attention to traffic. “Oh, OK, I know where we are. Not far.” She motioned ahead and to the right. “There’s a resale shop up here. You can donate clothes and stuff, and they sell it. They give all the money to AIDS research.”

I cringed, fully expecting that this announcement would be a precursor to rant against another group of people she did not like. Thankfully, I was wrong, and she instead began to ramble about how another resale shop she had donated items to had mishandled her shoes, putting them into a large, jumbled pile. Really, the nerve of people.

We made the right turn, “I think your street is down a ways,” she said.

At the same time, I looked up and, almost immediately saw the name of street where my brother lives, “No, it’s right here!” I said, and the cab stopped abruptly.

“Geez, how did you see that?” she marveled.

Oh, I don’t know…I am sighted! I thought, as she answered her own question. “It must look familiar from last time.”

“Right,” I said, handing her payment, just relieved that the ride was over. I got out of the taxi and went to the back to retrieve my luggage, but instead of getting out to the car to assist me or at least popping the trunk open, she began to drive away. “Hey!” I screamed and pounded on the back of the cab as I chased it a few feet down the street.

The cab stopped again, and the driver got out. “Oops. Sorry about that,” she said, making a motion as she was going to help me with my bags.

“I got it,” I said, quickly grabbed my luggage, and closed the trunk.

I’ve had some unpleasant cab rides before, but damn.

I figured the day had to get better from there, and I was right. I reunited with my brother and before long, we took off on our first excursion of the day: a visit to the World’s Smallest Museum in Sommerville.

I only wish I had time to see the entire thing!

I only wish I had time to see the entire thing!

Of course, that didn’t take up too much time, so we stopped for lunch at the nearby Independent. As we ate and chatted, it occurred to me that Chris and I had not spent much time alone together in a very long while, and it was nice. It was also striking how many of our conversations began with, “Do you remember…”

We occupied most of the day with reminiscing, drinking my favorite blueberry beer, and strolling around town.

Selfie by the river

Selfie by the river

Around dusk, we headed to the Lawn on D for fun with glowing oval swings, enjoying a lovely sunset along the way.

Sunset

Swings weren't this cool when I was a kid.

Swings weren’t this cool when I was a kid.

I like the way it makes his socks glow.

I like the way it makes his socks glow.

It was dizzying but awesome. We followed that up with more conversation and cocktails at Drink and a late dinner at Veggie Galaxy. As the thoroughly enjoyable day (well, except for the bit with the awful taxi driver) came to a close, I found myself wishing I’d extended my trip just a little bit longer and vowed not to let so much time elapse before my next visit.

 

Boston or Bust Part 1: Luggage Envy, Velociraptors, Chupacabras, and Disco Shakespeare September 20, 2014

I recently traveled to Boston to cover the joint ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS meeting for my job. My originally scheduled flight was cancelled due to the anticipation of bad weather, but that was fine with me since it meant I didn’t have to get up at OMG-early-thirty to get to the airport on time. I was rebooked on an early afternoon flight, and, upon receiving my boarding pass, I was completely unsurprised to be in boarding group 18 of 4. I invariably find myself in the last possible boarding group, as if the powers that be are planning to let me on the plane only when everyone else is not only seated but has been served a round of cocktails and is napping comfortably. I miss the good old days when planes were boarded from the back to the front, as I also always seem to get a seat in the back of the plane. This time was no exception. Of course, the overhead space near my seat had been full for roughly a decade before I arrived. A flight attended told me she’d figure something out and instructed me to wait in the area at the end of the aisle. After several minutes, it became apparent that said flight attendant had forgotten about me, and a second attendant inquired as to why I was standing around at the back of the plane with my bag.

“The other woman told me to stand here and wait, but then she disappeared.”

Second flight attendant told me she would look into it and scurried off. Not too much later, first flight attendant reappeared and motioned for me to come forward. They had found a spot for my bag in first class. I found myself slightly jealous of my bag’s luxe accommodations as I hoisted it into the overhead bin and shuffled back to my seat in coach.

The flight was uneventful, and for the next few days, I spent most of my time on conference coverage. I’ll spare you the details and just mention a few highlights.

  • When I work long hours, my mind sometimes plays tricks on me (I think, to provide some comic relief). It is times like these, when I see T-cell receptor vaccination on the screen in front of me and my brain somehow changes that to velociraptors. I’m guessing that it would be pretty hard to get IRB approval for a trial of velociraptors as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, but the very idea was good for a laugh.
  • I’m not sure which excites me more, free lip balm or free cookies. It probably depends on which I have a greater need for at the time, lip moisture or a sugar bump. Anyhow, both are appreciated and often available at conference exhibits.
  • My team and I completed our work before midnight on two out of three nights. OK, it wasn’t much before midnight, but still, this is precedence breaking!
  • The room service menu at my hotel offered this on the children’s menu (which I sometimes peruse for in search of meat-free options). Somehow, I managed to resist the lure of the souvenir hippo, but, let me tell you, it was not easy.

GelatoHippo

By mid-afternoon on Saturday, I was done with conference coverage, and it was time to prepare for a bit of fun time in Boston, which included a brief shopping trip for emergency tights. The weather was much cooler than I had anticipated, and I knew I would be chilly wearing only the dress that I had brought for Saturday night. I needed tights and a scarf or wrap. The irony here is, not only do I own about a metric ton of tights and boatload of scarves and wraps (all of which were at home), but also, I usually over-pack for every trip I take, ensuring that I have many options and am fully prepared for unanticipated meteorologic phenomena. I’m not sure why I neglected to bring tights or a wrap, but I was able to properly equip myself with a quick trip to Marshalls.

My brother Chris, who lives in Cambridge, met me at my hotel, and we had a drink at the bar before heading out to dinner at The Gallows, where my friend Jenny also joined us. I liked The Gallows from the moment I walked in and saw this on one of the walls.

Ouija

I was also highly amused to see this on the menu.

BoonesI was somewhat aghast at the price, though. I’m not sure what Boones costs at the supermarket these days, but when I was in college (which was, I admit, a shockingly long time ago), it cost about $2.50 per bottle. But then again, how can you really put a price on an experience that is like licking a unicorn?

As tempting as it was to drink in some college nostalgia, I opted instead to order a drink called the chupacabra. I really enjoy saying the word chupacabra, so I’m pretty pleased any time I can easily work it into conversation. It was also a delicious drink. The Gallows menu also offered something I don’t recall ever having seen before: vegetarian poutine. I’d never tried poutine before, mainly because of the paucity of vegetarian versions, but also because it always sounded to me like something that could be really good, bad-for-me comfort food but also had the potential to go very wrong and be a soggy, repulsive mess. The vegetarian poutine at The Gallows, however, was great.

After dinner, Chris and I headed to the American Repertory Theater to see The Donkey Show, which I can only describe as an interactive, glittery, disco-dancing, Shakespeare extravaganza. Not once, but twice, during the show, my brother was pulled up on a platform to dance with a chorus dancer, and I couldn’t help but think that this will be a cherished family memory for years to come.

 

That California Trip Part 6: We Eat Giant Sandwiches and Taste ALL the Wine! June 9, 2014

It was day 6 of our encore flitterwochen, and it was time for some, or rather, more wine! As Ian put it, “You have to love a situation where drinking before 11:00 am is not only considered acceptable but actually kind of classy.” Napa Valley wineries are numerous and mostly located along a couple main roads, which made things easy and difficult at the same time. On one hand, there were plenty of options that were easy to find. On the other hand, neither one of us being overly knowledgeable about Napa wines made choosing somewhat difficult, especially since geography wasn’t much help in narrowing down potential candidates. Our choices mainly came down to what looked prettiest and most interesting and which wineries had special offers available through the wine country app.

We headed up Route 29, first stopping at Domaine Chandon, mainly because I just love bubbly so much. The grounds are also really beautiful, and the tasting room offers a lovely view.

BottleWall

Wall of bottles at Domaine Chandon

Domaine Chandon

Domaine Chandon

During our tasting there, we learned a bit about the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which I mainly remember because its name conjured up images of insects outfitted in Western-style attire with cowboy hats and tiny gun holsters. The actual pest is not nearly so cute and has been a significant threat to the California wine industry.

This is pretty much how I pictured the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

This is pretty much how I pictured the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

Our next stop was Grgich Hills, another estate with absolutely beautiful grounds. We had gotten a preview the day before when we’d caught the wine train there, but we came back for a proper visit and tasting. I, apparently like many others, had assumed that the “hills” in Grgich Hills referred to the hills (and accompanying valleys) of the vineyard. In fact, Hills is a name, as in Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. The Grgich, refers to Mike Grgich, who caused quite a stir in 1976 when his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was chosen in a blind taste test by French judges as the finest white wine in the world. The 2008 film Bottle Shock was inspired by this story, but apparently, Grgich himself did not sign off on the movie.

Grgich Hills

Grgich Hills

From there, we headed to St. Helena, where we lunched on giant delicious sandwiches at Giugni’s Deli. Well fed and ready for more wine, we continued on to Beringer Vineyards. In my opinion, the wine at Beringer is really nothing all that special (not bad, just not outstanding), but the beautiful estate makes a visit worthwhile.

It's educational!

It’s educational!

Beringer Vineyards

Beringer Vineyards

More of Beringer Vineyards

More of Beringer Vineyards

Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards

Rhine House at Beringer Vineyards

Stained glass window on Rhine House

Stained glass window on Rhine House

We took Silvarado Trail back toward Napa and stopped at Chimney Rock winery on the way. We chose it because of its lovely grounds and because the aforementioned wine app promised a free seasonal treat with the purchase of a tasting. The treat turned out to be an extra taste of wine. Actually, we got several extra tastes of wine. It was getting near closing time, and servers often become a bit more generous since whatever is left in open bottles by the end of the day has to be consumed or is wasted. Actually, our server even opened another a bottle of wine because he was just so giddily excited to meet people who were into Cabernet Franc. “Taste ALL the wine!” he demanded. Well, he didn’t actually say that, but he did offer us additional tastes that we turned down as our palates were a burnt out.

The vineyards at Chimney Rock

The vineyards at Chimney Rock

 

Chimney Rock selfie

Chimney Rock selfie

We returned to the inn, where we relaxed in the parlor for a while and pondered dinner possibilities. There we encountered some fellow Midwesterners–visitors from St. Louis. Despite stark differences in baseball allegiance, Ian found common ground with them when it came to light that they were all home brewers. As they shared thoughts on yeast and hops, I made the startling observation that, although they were Cardinals fans and Ian is a Cubs fan, they are all Brewers. Wah wah wah. See what I did there? Yeah, well, you had to be there…

We wrapped up the evening with dinner at Carpe Diem. If the wine industry conjures mental images of grey-haired men in sport coats and Oxford shirts, I should tell you about the bartender at Carpe Diem. This young, heavily tattooed guy told us how he had moved to Napa from Southern California to pursue a career in enology and viticulture and was part of the winemaking team at Crocker & Starr.

We returned to the inn for our final evening there, on the way passing a vacant building with this sign in front of it. What really gets me is not that the sign was blank, but that, despite its blankness, had lights shining on it. Was this actually an art installation serving as some sort of commentary on society? Probably not, but it did kind of make me wish I had been carrying a dry-erase marker.

Tabula rasa

Tabula rasa