I was originally supposed to travel to New Zealand in April of 2020. The trip was pushed back until October of this year, so I finally went, and it was worth the wait!!
My trip began in Auckland. I arrived and realized it was COLD. I found a Kathmandu store and promptly bought a puffer coat. I knew I wouldn't be able to handle 35 degrees for long! With my new found warmth, I went on and enjoyed Auckland.
My trip in the North Island continued to Rotorua. Rotorua has natural hot springs everywhere, so the scent is of sulfur through the city. While here, I also experienced a Haka performance, and a wonderful meal. It was quite moving to see the performance and feel the warmth and love from the Maori people. It was incredibly moving.
Heading back north after Rotorua, I went to Hobbiton in Matamata. It was INCREDIBLE! I could have stayed there all day exploring! This is where scenes from Lord of The Rings were filmed. It felt incredibly surreal. I walked through the Shire, went to Bilbo's house, and admired Samwise's gardening. What a day!!!
After Hobbiton, I took a flight to Queenstown. The first evening I had the opportunity to meet the only Master Sommelier in New Zealand, Cameron Douglas. He's a true gem!! He recommended some places for dinner so I enjoyed a fine meal at Rata my first night! It was fantastic! While in Queenstown, I also enjoyed dinner at The Lodge overlooking the lake. Such great cuisine in New Zealand, and so fresh! Can't beat that!!
The following day was the day I would finally get to see Milford Sound. I was super excited. The route to Milford Sound was a wonderful surprise because it was full of stops to admire the beauty and nature.
Arriving to Milford Sound was breathtaking. The beautiful calm and blue water almost make a mirror image of the sky. First, I had a tour through a large boat. The boat came close to a waterfall, and explored throughout the area. After the boat tour, I got to ride in a little 12 passenger Cessna to continue my tour of Milford Sound by air. It was incredible! I highly recommend this!! It was a beautiful, pristine, clear day! I couldn’t have asked for better weather! I was very lucky! The little airplane made its way through the water, the snow-capped mountains, and then arrived into Queenstown once again. It was a phenomenal day!
The following day, I rode down the Luge, then went wine tasting. I took a gondola up and enjoyed the beautiful view of Queenstown, then took another gondola further up the mountain to ride down. It was a blast!! Right after, I went wine tasting and enjoyed so many wines with a fun lunch with new friends!
Before heading north to Christchurch, I got to see a beautiful Lake Tekapo. It’s a beautiful stop on the way north, well worth exploration! I also enjoyed a meal at the home of a couple who have a sheep farm and live next to the lake. I enjoyed a pavlova better than the one I make!
Christchurch is beautiful! I enjoyed the botanical gardens, as well as riding up another gondola to see views of the whole city. It was full of walking around, taking public buses, and riding in an old-fashioned trolley!
The end of the trip was a dinner with all the new friends I made. I had such a great time spending time with everyone and enjoying the sights with people from all over the world. I am so grateful to have finally experienced New Zealand. I had friends tell me it was incredible, but it was so much more than I could have imagined. I hope I can return again one day!
Chris died 5 years ago today. I finally had the courage to reach out to the people who were behind the scenes when Chris passed and ask them the details of the day. These people were kind enough to share the events of that day with me and give me space to ask for as much detail as I needed. I am grateful to have this information and I feel like I now have the big picture of how Chris left.
I honored him over the weekend going through old photos and smiling from great memories. I know he will always be with me.
I left my previous job and had some time before I began my new job. So of course, where should I travel? I called my travel agent and with this short time frame, she had two options: Ireland or Portugal. I chose Portugal. So off I went for another adventure! I have been using the same tour company, Trafalgar. This was my 4th trip with Trafalgar. I've met some great folks along the way throughout the years, some I've seen again and keep in contact with. I really like how well organized each day is, packed with lots to do and see, but balanced with a good amount of time for myself. In October, I'll be heading to New Zealand, my 5th trip with Trafalgar, can't wait!
If you just want to see photos, just scroll through them. If you want to know more about the details of the photos, read on...
I arrived to Lisbon airport on Wednesday morning. We were transported to our hotel where I had the opportunity to shower and freshen up after a long day of traveling. In the evening, we went to a restaurant to have our welcome dinner. Our group was quite large, over 40 people.
We spent day 2 in Lisbon, exploring the culture and an amazing monastery, Hieronymite Monastery, a UNESCO site. In the evening, we went to a Fado Dinner which is a traditional Portuguese dinner with music and singing. It was stellar!
On day 3 we had an amazing lunch at a horse farm on our way to Algarve. These are Lusitano horses that are descendants of horses used during the days of royalty. It was a great experience, and an amazing meal!
We spent Day 4 in the Algarve region, known for its beautiful beaches. I also went to Faro and explored a bit. We had an authentic dinner there called Cataplana.
On the 5th day we headed to Evora where I saw a chapel made of human bones. Kind of put me off my lunch! We also went to a village called Monsaraz. It’s enclosed and has been around since about 1290 I believe. It was a beautiful town and I bought some treats from there to bring back home.
We continued on to a town called Castelo de Vide on the 6th day. We were en route to Viseu. This is where the famous Dao vineyards are. We had an amazing dinner with wine pairing, it was fantastic!
The next day we headed to the Douro Valley on our way to Porto. We enjoyed a cruise through the Douro River where we saw another UNESCO site: Eiffel Bridge. We also went to Guimaraes to see a castle from the 10th century.
On day 8 we woke up in Porto and we explored the city, rich with culture: gothic Church of St. Francis, the Stock Exchange Palace, Bom Jesus – another UNESCO site where you arrive through a funicular, and we even had a port tasting at a cellar! I was able to have time to take a gondola up to a bridge. I’m terrified of heights, but that hasn’t stopped me yet! Our dinner this evening was amazing, all the seafood was so fresh – nothing like dinner at sunset by the beach!
We left Porto on day 9 and headed to Coimbra and Fatima. In Coimbra we saw the University where JK Rowling was clearly inspired to write the Harry Potter books. The students there have been wearing capes for centuries. We went through the university, and it was almost like walking through the set of Harry Potter. I even saw the staircase that leads to a wall!! After this tour we went to the Templar city of Tomar. Here you can see that the Knights Templar had a prevalent existence in the 12th century. At the end of the day, we ended up in Fatima. While I am not Catholic, I attended mass at 9:30pm and it was a deeply spiritual experience.
Our last day touring Portugal, we went to another UNESCO site: Batalha Monastery. It was an amazing site to see! Massive walls and Gothic architecture. Afterwards we went to Nazare and Obidos. We had an opportunity to walk around these quaint little towns. At the end of the evening, we went to a lovely dinner in Lisbon once again. It was our Farewell dinner.
I made some great new friends that I continue to communicate with. I hope I get to see them all again in the future! Alexandra, Alejandro, Suzy, and Rosario & Neal made the trip extra fun and memorable. Alexandra (from NY) and I are two professional single women that love to travel all over the world! Alejandro (from San Diego) sat a row next to me every day in the bus and we had some nice chats and enjoyed a lovely beach day together. Suzy (from Australia) and I caused some trouble! Suzy and I sat together in the bus and had some great times together, mostly laughing and being loud. Rosario & Neal (from South Bend, IN) are non-stop laughter, I don’t think I ever stopped laughing around them!
I can’t help but smile when I think about Portugal… what a trip!!
My wine buddies Luis and Gerry continue to join me for wine dinners at my home. We have enjoyed various evenings of food & wine. It’s great to share great food & wine together! Great times!
My good friend Jane and I flew to Boston in April to explore New England and eat our share of dozens and dozens of amazing oysters! We always have such a great time together! We went to Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachussets, and Maine.
For several weeks in January and February of this year, I had the opportunity to work remotely in Cambria. I rented a house and worked during the day and enjoyed the sunset every night. It was amazing to wake up to an ocean view every day. It was just what I needed.
Hi there! You may be visiting because you received my Holiday Card. Welcome!
Due to lack of travel, I have been able to spend time at home learning new recipes. I've enjoyed sharing these with friends and family. So here are pictures of what I've been cooking up!
My Christmas tree is up, as well as two Santa’s! I acquired “Wine Santa” while I was in Cambria this year.
Hope everyone has a great holiday!
I took 4 days off and headed north to Cambria. I rented a cute little house for myself, and enjoyed some R&R. I drove up on a Saturday, and made 2 stops at wineries on my way north. First I stopped at Foxen. This winery has always had pretty good wines and I've always had a nice time in the past. I stopped in and had a tasting outside. Since I spit when I taste, the lady who was serving wine offered me several tastes of other wines not on their regular tasting list. It's always nice to receive extra pours!
I drove 6 minutes down the road and stopped at Riverbench. I was running low on sparkling wine so I bought a few bottles of their blanc de blancs.
I continued north and arrived at Cambria. The home I rented was super cute and charming. Very spacious and comfortable. I was very happy during my stay there. I arrived and unloaded the car and made myself at home. By 4:30 I drove to Moonstone Beach for dinner at my usual place. I knew there would be an hour wait before dinner so I took my camera with me to take pictures of the sunset. It was a beautiful sunset with clear skies.
The next day I headed into Paso Robles for some wine tasting appointments. It was such a great day of tasting! This area never disappoints!
The second night I went to the same restaurant and once again enjoyed a great meal. In fact, I went there again the third night. I've been going to that restaurant for almost 20 years now, and it has become a bit of a comfort-food-place.
My last full day in Cambria, I enjoyed walking through Main street and shopping for random odds and ends. I had lunch in town and even enjoyed an afternoon margarita. After dinner each night, I went to the spot where I spread Chris' ashes and spent some time thinking about him, and talking to him. I feel grateful that I am able to visit him and be in a wonderful place at the same time. Cambria has always been a special place for me, and Chris knew that. So much so, that Cambria is where he proposed. I am happy to have so many wonderful memories with Chris. And I know I will continue to build memories in the future.
Sometimes I feel like time flies, and other times it feels like time stands still. It is hard to believe that for years ago today Chris went to heaven. I don’t know where the time has gone.
As Chris would always tell me, he wanted his life celebrated, and wanted my happiness. So I invited my good friend Gerry over and we had a great evening celebrating and remembering Chris. My brother and his wife even stopped in for a glass of champagne.
I made a large bone-in ribeye steak, roasted cauliflower, potatoes, and sautéed mushrooms. For dessert I made a chocolate olive oil cake. We also shared some great wines. It was a fun evening full of laughter, memories, and dancing. I’m grateful for my friend Gerry who has celebrated Chris every year. Back in the day the 3 of us had great times together, and happy to continue the tradition.
May you continue to Rest In Peace, angel.
I guess I can say Happy New Year! Hi! It’s been a while.
I hope everyone is healthy and staying safe. Only now have I started to feel safe going out. My friend Karla and I decided to meet in Central CA to have a weekend away. Karla lives in Sacramento, so we met up in Paso Robles and did a bit of wine tasting at two wineries on a Thursday.
We continued west and ended up in Cambria. I was able to visit the site where I spread Chris’s ashes years ago. We had dinner at the Sea Chest and enjoyed a fun, windy evening outside.
The next day we headed east to Paso Robles again where we tasted wine all day. It was a super fun day with absolutely beautiful weather!
On Saturday, we spent the day at Tin City and had an awesome time exploring so many places. At the end of tasting we went back to the home we rented and had a great dinner together.
Disclaimer: in order to share a home we both quarantined for over a week before our trip so we could be sure we were Covid-free. :-)
I’m grateful that we were able to get away, and hope we can make it an annual trip.
Today I am full of gratitude for friends and family that sent well-wishes and happy tidings for my birthday. I have an amazing tribe and feel quite blessed for those that surround me.
Have passport, will travel.