OBB Weekly – 7-30-19

Budget. Not my favorite word, especially when I am headed to London tomorrow. Life can definitely throw you curve balls and achieving goals can be delayed. Regardless, I am booked for this trip and will get the most out of it. Thanks to fellow bloggers, Two Scots Abroad, their article HERE has some great tips. This weekly post will be some tips on how to save you money when you travel.

TRAVEL

Well, the obvious tip to save money is to use a Travel Agent like me. All agents work differently but our goal is to book you with our preferred vendors. This is because we have already established a relationship with them and they pay agents a commission. As clients, you do not. We can save you time, money and the headache of dealing with vendors. When things go awry, we often have Travel Agent designated phone numbers that can hopefully address and correct any issues that may occur.

EVENT PLANNING

Whether a Bride and Groom are staying local or doing a destination wedding, there will always be guests from out of town. Creating a room block at two different hotels can give your guests options and an opportunity to save with locked in room rates. They will be given a deadline to book by to take advantage of these rates under your group. Be sure to provide options in terms of kind of hotel. Some may be on a budget and need a cheap room, some guests may want a bit more comfort and convenience and may extend their stay to see the tourist sights. A hotel with a Concierge desk can offer discounts as well. I, as an Event Planner and Travel Agent, can help with all that. Please do not hesitate to contact me.

Seattle, Washington

FOOD

Choosing a hotel with complimentary breakfasts is always an added bonus. It will decrease your dining costs to cover one less meal for the day. I was quite impressed with Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott while I was in Noblesville, Indiana. I had an early start to the day and rushed through breakfast. I was shocked to find that they had paper bag breakfasts to go waiting at the front desk. It contained a bottle of water, an apple and a breakfast bar. I made myself a coffee to go. They offered flavored creamers I liked. They had juices, bagels and the best was real eggs, biscuits and gravy. The gravy was quite impressive. You can’t go wrong with free food.

Other way to dine cheaply is to redeem coupons found in tourist magazines, at Concierge desks and look for signage for Happy Hour specials and deals. Stay tuned for next week’s OBB Weekly to see what offerings London has!

MOTIVATION

Whether you travel on a budget or luxuriously, I would recommend just getting out there. There are an incredible number of benefits from travel. See “This is Your Brain on Travel” by Forbes Magazine. I personally like the finer things in life such as $180 bottles of wine from Caymus Vineyarads and spa days at The Crown Towers in Melbourne, Australia. This will be my first attempt at a budgeted travel experience. I have my Kelty backpack packed to avoid luggage fees, will be taking the train to my hotel, walking and may pick up a bike as my main way of transportation. My client is spending ten days in Europe with a backpack. I can do it too! And guess what, so can you!

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East Bay Bites

Bites, as in a good way, as in bites of food. As I scroll through my cell phone of 10,000+ photos on my phone, I am seeing majority of the photos are of food. I have enough to share some bites in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. I hope this post helps put the East Bay on the map, entices San Francisco residents to make the trip across the Bay Bridge worthwhile and maybe to California in general. Enjoy!

THE CUPCAKE SHOPPE
Located in Downtown Hayward, my first experience with this shop located next to The Turf Club and Domino’s Pizza, was for mini cupcakes to be brought to a party. I was in awe by what they had and sadly I didn’t get to enjoy any of the mini cupcakes. Recently, my roommate has brought me cupcakes from there on two occasions. I tagged her in an Instagram post and she surprised me with limited edition Chicken and Waffles cupcakes. I have been craving fried chicken since my trip to the South in August 2018.

Another time, my roommate bought two cupcakes in addition to a set she was going to bring to her staff. One was made with champagne and the other one was a margarita cupcake. I preferred the pink champagne. What girl wouldn’t?

HAWAIIAN POKE
This is the spot for my roommate and I when we want poke. I have also signed up for their rewards program so I get free drinks and discounts when I come in. Today, I got a lilikoi drink for free. I don’t mind the text message offerings as they’re not sent very often. Located in San Leandro next to a 24 Hour Fitness, you order at the counter, customize your bowl and be on your way. I have had their bowls several times but recently ordered their sushiritto and it was something you can customize in terms of their sauces, not its contents. It was also strange that they added avocado to the sushiritto but told Kim and other guests that they had no avocado for their bowls. That’s a strange. But, the bowl is still very good and is quite filling.

SONS OF LIBERTY ALEHOUSE
SOLA has made an appearance on my blog quite a few times. It is one of my favorite places to go for a beer and to sit outside. My roommate and I have been several times, have brought Bevo, met other locals and enjoyed their beer. On our most recent trip, I enjoyed a flight of beer, we shared the pretzel balls, Kim had the fish tacos and I had the chicken fried sandwich. Keyword: fried chicken. Sadly, I didn’t keep the photo of the sandwich but the beer options are great and the pretzel balls and sauce were hard, but good. They are only available on the weekends so we were finally able to try them. Come to watch the Warriors game or visit for fundraising event, such as one they had for Nobody’s Perfekt Dogs.

TELEFERIC BARCELONA
In Walnut Creek, this is a great spot to go on a nice day. Sit inside or on the deck and see all that happens downtown. Order delicious cocktails, Spanish wine or tapas. On our way back from Napa, we avoided the rush hour traffic and stopped here to take a break. Brussel sprouts, a kale salad and cocktails were a must. If you’re like my buddy, Stan, you can request your cocktail without all the fluff. Be sure to check out their happy hour menu as well.

SLOW HAND BBQ
In Martinez and after a 10K run on Mare Island, beer and BBQ is needed. With my running buddy and BBQ caterer, Nelly, we were ready to eat. I had a platter of ribs and the many sides including pimento cheese and crostinis, cole slaw and mac n cheese of course! If you ran before lunch, you will definitely be replenishing all the calories you’ve burned and more. Sit inside, watch TV or dine out to their patio. Apparently there is another location you can get your hands sticky at in Pleasant Hill, the next city over.

Related posts:
Puesto! Cousin Time.
Pizza, Beer & More in the East Bay

OBB Weekly – 7-9-19

Another epic week, another epic trip to Las Vegas. I always tell myself that I have been to Vegas several times, I don’t really need to go back. I want to see the rest of the world. However, every time I go, it is always a great time. July 4th weekend was no different. With so many options of places to stay, eat and play, some things are consistently good. Let me show you some of Sin City and let me help you book your next trip.

TRAVEL

I enjoy Southwest Airlines. They are consistently good and it is a very easy flight from the San Francisco Bay Area to McCarren International Airport. LAS is located so close to the strip that a quick shuttle or Uber (Get $2 off your first 3 rides with my link) from the terminal to your desired hotel is cheap and easy.

The girls and I stayed at the Treasure Island Hotel. When I was last in Vegas in 2017, we stayed here as well. The rooms are consistent and the location is convenient. As an Expedia VIP, I was granted late check out. However, as I didn’t need it, I was able to exchange it for a complimentary bottle of champagne. Let me book you on the same deals you see on Expedia and I can possibly get you extra perks. Do keep in mind that you have options of a non-refundable price or with cancellation deadlines to take advantage of these rates. Plans change so do keep that in mind.

The Venetian and Tao Beach is literally right across the street. If you are interested in a pool party, this is the best place to go for its convenience and one of the lowest minimums for a day bed that comes with an umbrella. The new KAOS at the Palms had a minimum of $1,000. Regardless, trust me, the money adds and up but it’s a good time. Let me connect you with my contact there for a day bed and he hooked me up with complimentary drinks for one hour for my party of three.

One thing all girls must do on a Girls’ Trip to Vegas is see Magic Mike Live. I tell ya, it’ll change your life! I have seen Thunder From Down Under twice and it’s also fun but I enjoy the dancing much better at Magic Mike. And who doesn’t love all these men channeling the newly single Mr. Channing Tatum? I was lucky to have been pulled on on stage and received maybe three lap dances from some well-built men. My hands were full during this show. The host, Jordan, said she picked me as a thank you for chatting with her when we sat down and I noticed she was alone. How very cool. We ladies shouldn’t be in competition with each other for men’s attention. They might be willing to share the love.

EVENT PLANNING

Speaking of love, I loved all of the events we attended. The two pool parties were great even though we missed seeing Sisqo at the Flamingo Go Pool before we had to leave and catch a flight. The shows and even the performance and new friends we made at the Caberet Bar at the Paris Hotel on our first night was great. Every hotel will have a chapel. The Flamingo has a gazebo outside. The chapel at the Mandalay Bay is a bit more modern. Do contact me should you need assistance with a destination wedding. A party is never hard to find in Vegas.

#WEREHUNGRYTOO

For this foodie and #OneBusyBee, I had to revisit Sushi Samba at The Palazzo Hotel. My friend, Courtney, and I went there by ourselves one day in 2016 as the other girls slept. We had a blast eating all the delicious Japanese, Puruvian and Brazilian food and enjoying Japanese whisky, my favorite. With so much change in the restaurant world, I am pleased to know they were still around. Kim and Nikki enjoyed our meal.

One thing I definitely wanted to do was have a nice meal by a Celebrity Chef. Gordon Ramsey had Hell’s Kitchen at Caesar’s and we walked by Carlo’s Bake Shop in The Palazzo. I opted in for Giada’s at The Cromwell Hotel. The restaurant was very nice and with views of a main intersection with the Bellagio Hotel kitty corner and Caesar’s across the street. We were sat at a large booth and were served by the very friendly and professional, Billy. The girls and I didn’t have too big of an appetite so we skipped on the multi-course brunch option but we all go the the salmon cake benedict. I added an arugula salad for $6 on the side and it was delicious. The salmon cake was thick and flavorful and the poached egg was cooked perfectly. The sauce looked like melted cheese with a dark orange color but oh, man, was it good. The coffee was strong and gave us the caffeine we needed. With a check in on Yelp, I was given a splash of prosecco. Billy said I couldn’t drink alone and brought out two more glasses. What a very nice gesture. If I could have taken a full-size of that salad home with me, I would have. Well done, Giada. Highly recommended! I can’t wait to go back and try more items on the menu, including the dim sum-like dessert trays they have available at dinner.

MOTIVATION

As I sat in the single sofa chair near the window on the 15th floor of our hotel room at the Treasure Island Hotel, I looked out onto the strip wondering if I could make the move and if it would make sense financially. I have played around with the idea of moving somewhere for a year while fulfilling my need to travel and really immerse myself in the area. I was at first thinking that it would be San Diego as I would need to be near the water. I looked at Austin, Texas, Charleston, South Carolina and even Seattle, Washington. However, Las Vegas has it all for me – event planning, hospitality, the warm but sometimes cold weather and an endless amount to blog about. It is truly a destination for so many different kind travelers – party-goers, bachelorette/bachelor parties, golfing, relaxation, foodies and even plenty to do for children. My goal is currently to do as much as I can to reach that Goal by 40 of owning property in Maui. I did want to have that property come September 2020, but technically I can still achieve that goal by September 21, 2021. For the past month, I have added on a second job as a Bartender to my world as #OneBusyBee. Unless I get a raise at my day job, I will probably stick with it until I make some headway. In the mean time, I very much appreciate your visits here to my blog and other social media, referrals of your travel clients and your Stella & Dot sales. Yes, I’m still a Stylist. 🙂

OBB Weekly – 6/4/19

Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Hello, June! May just flew by, didn’t it? It was an eventful month, hopefully for you too. Change is inevitable. Seasons change, people change, menus change and aspirations change. How do you deal with change? Do you welcome it? Struggle with it? I imagine it’s a process. Everyone has their own way and go about dealing with change at their own pace. Regardless, we survived whatever it was to be at this very moment. I thank you for choosing to spend it on my blog.

TRAVEL

Comment below if you agree, but there’s nothing like the sound of the ocean on the beach to help me escape and deal with my problems. I have escaped to Santa Cruz to sit on the sand of Seabright Beach after a fight with my then boyfriend. While in Maui, I make sure I touch the water one more time before returning home to remind me that I will be back someday and all that I’m working for is to do this as often as possible. I also have video of me sitting on a dock in Venice, Italy hearing the water beat against the wood below me. It was going to be a honeymoon destination but after two visits, it still has yet to be, but that’s OK. Not everyone can say they’ve been to the City of Bridges. A change of scenery, can help you escape the situation temporarily, give you a moment to think and hopefully realize that there is beauty and good in this world. This Travel Agent would be happy to help you with your escape.

Katie & Jeremy – Kauai, Hawai’i
Maui, Hawai’i

EVENT PLANNING

One significant change in a person’s life is getting married. I love working with couples wanting to get married near the water like at Pacific Star Winery in Fort Bragg, California or The Beach House in Koloa, Hawaii. Honeymoons to Venice, Italy would be incredible romantic. My recent honeymoon clients will be heading off to Phuket, Thailand and the Maldives. Feel free to ask me to plan your trip.

Happy Travel Agent client!

Or, I would be happy to set you up with a fantastic photographer in Kauai and do a Trash The Dress photo shoot when you finalize your divorce like I did.

Kauai, Hawai’i

FOOD

Unfortunately, my favorite pizza and salad from Buffalo Bill’s Brewery in Hayward, California is now off the menu. Bijou, also located in Hayward, is now called Playt. The menu is different and now has a seafood ravioli made with large won ton wrappers. In Menlo Park, the Menlo Grill & Bar is now called the Menlo Tavern. The menu has changed and it’s not bad! Get cocktails from my Cugino, Ron, and get salads, sliders on Hawaiian rolls and dessert. Tell Ron Bernadette sent you and comment below on what you think of the new menu.

New appetizer
Crisp a la mode
My Cugino, Ron, the Bartender

MOTIVATION

It has been a couple of months since I switched this blog from Blogger to WordPress. I have been averaging 16 posts per month and my hits have increased by 40%. My goal is to continue this growth, this positive change. The point of blogging often was to get my photos on my phone down from 11,000. As I continue to travel and eat out, my phone says very little progress has been made. Videos have been uploaded to my YouTube channel, photos have been uploaded on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and I have randomly deleted photos that are not needed. Make the best of your June, set some goals and let me know how I can help. I’m a great ReTweeter for supporters. You never know who is going to share what I post! Do you know Danny Wood of New Kids on the Block? Have you been to the Silverado Resort and Spa? Or Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz?

Danny has 191,000 followers
@napavalleyluxury has 8,745 followers
@thepennyicecreamery has 3,817 followers

Wine Country on Netflix

On an outing with my roommate and my Boston Terrier, Bevo, on Cinco de Mayo, we stumbled upon the movie set of Wine Country in Calistoga, California. We also met up with new friends from out of town that we met up at Pegasus Winery. They were a good time.

We ate at the now named Bosko’s restaurant and saw Amy Poehler on a bicycle and took photos with her set chair. That scene was a whole two seconds in the film. My roommate and I ended up watching the movie on Friday night thanks to her Netflix subscription. We just had to crack open a bottle of wine. We went with a Simi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The movie had some pretty funny parts. I especially laughed at the fact that Amy had a full itinerary booked and distributed to the group of ladies. This Travel Agent and Event Planner totally does that! Am I alone? I also related to the character that was constantly on the phone and checking email and looking for signal. Yes, I’m One Busy Bee.

Another movie night will be planned at the house, I’m sure. It’s a lot cheaper than going out and the town. It leaves more money for traveling!

See the California Winery Log here!

‘Favorites’ Photo Dump

This One Busy Bee is still working on cleaning up her phone of over 11,000 photos. That many photos have been collected in a year and a half. To do a photo dump on the blog real quick, I am taking photos I have saved as ‘Favorites’ on my phone for some particular reason and placing them here so I can delete them. Oh, it will be so freeing! Thanks for enduring this unstructured post but full of travel.

Fiji – Troprica Island Resort and Travel Agent friends on a FAM trip. – Feb. 2019

In September 2017, three girlfriends and I had September birthdays. We went to Paris together. And we brought some friends. I invited my friend that I call Papichulo and Lisa brought her boyfriend, Branden. I believe it was the day before, Branden proposed to Lisa at the Temple of Love at Versailles. We were lucky enough to witness it. This photo was taken on our last night in Paris together but in the region of Champagne. See the wineries in the background. There are also photos of us doing yoga in dresses. Good times.

This is aboard the Oosterdam by Holland America Cruise Line. It is a bar with great view. I have worked on blog posts in this area with a glass of La Marca prosecco. I have many other posts during that cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Please check them out if you’re curios about real experiences on an HAL cruise ship.

Red Donkey is my favorite beer when I was in Santorini. Papichulo and I tried all the different beers they had to offer and this was my favorite. I liked it so much I bought a large t-shirt that I ended up turning into a muscle tan for my gym sessions. I never buy t-shirts. It must mean I realllly liked that beer.

I used to work at a law firm down the street from Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café in Emeryville, California. This is their breakfast special. I don’t believe I have been there since as they raised the price of this special and the dressing for their Asian salad changed as well. There is also a location in downtown Oakland. It’s pretty convenient when you’re partying or just finished a concert at the Paramount Theater.

Hello, Mighty Leaf tea.

At the Press Club, go downstairs from Market Street in San Francisco across from the Marriott that they call “the jukebox” and find a wine bar with a lounge-y feel. It is used as common workspace during the day and serves up great wine and bites.

During a trip to Southern California for my first Travel Agent seminar, my then soon-to-be roommate and I went to Universal Studios. I have never been and am a California native. We did the typical ride thru movie and television sets and experienced their ‘earthquake’ simulation at an underground BART platform. I was really excited to go thru The Desperate Housewives set.

On this trip, I realized that I cannot do the simulated rides. I even felt a little sick on the Despicable Me ride! It was absolutely confirmed while on the Harry Potter ride. It was a coaster and simulations. I read one book in the series and I almost didn’t make it off the ride without getting sick. I actually had to close my eyes and tell myself it was almost over multiple times. HAD I liked them, I know this would have been an awesome ride. I can see why people like it. Unfortunately, it’s just not for me.

I’ll end this post with a picture of my Papa Bear and I at the 2018 Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival. I do have the most amazing father, and not just because he lives on Maui! There are so many reasons but mainly he just accepts who I am and is actually happy that I am living life to the fullest. I love my Papa Bear.

I need to do more than just these photos but at least I can now take them off my phone and have them live on the world wide web forever!

OBB Weekly – 5-7-19


Summer is basically here. Kids will be out of school. They will be wanting to hang out at the pool all day long. That means bikini season. Who else doesn’t feel like their body is ready? How’s your fitness game? What are you doing about it? Before you know it, you will do some sort of traveling to a warm destination, attending an event outdoors and eating the likes of funnel cakes at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or enjoying a glass of champagne in hand watching the sunset. What is your motivation?

TRAVEL

I have just returned from the warmest days I have ever spent in Seattle, Washington. The sun was shining and tank tops bared brown shoulders. Up ahead will be Memorial Day weekend in Santa Cruz cat and house sitting, ‘research’ in Truckee and Lake Tahoe and again in Cabo San Lucas. Then Las Vegas. Short sleeves, short shorts and bikinis are required.

Photo by ACT Language Schools

Where are you headed this summer?
And what are you packing?

EVENT PLANNING

Summer weddings are very popular. Last year, Susie and Frankie, tied the knot at the Stable Cafe with an outdoor ceremony and reception in San Francisco. It turned out to be a gorgeous day. Should you wish to have your destination wedding in the city by the bay, consider September or even October when we have our Indian summer. It’s wonderful. That way, if you’re a bit behind in getting fit for the big day, you can add some time to go hard and diet. Napa is always a good idea. Or, consider Lodi for warmer temps.

Whitehall Lane Winery – St. Helena, CA

Michael David Winery – Lodi, CA

Stable Café, San Francisco, CA

What are your thoughts on a destination wedding?
Are they an inconvenience or an adventure?

FOOD

Summer brings so many food festivals and fairs. The San Francisco Bay Area county fairs will provide full turkey leg and deep fried just about everything. Breweries and wineries will be incredibly inviting to sit outside on their patio or beer garden in the warm, long offering of daylight. Clif Family Winery‘s Bruschetteria food truck offers amazing brussels sprouts if you can get them. Get their roasted chicken if you need your protein. Cleophus Quealy will have tator tots and participate in supporting a local nonprofit every Saturday. Drink for a good cause.

Snacks from the food truck at Cleophus Quealy in San Leandro, CA.
A blind pup available for adoption from Nobody’s Perfekt Dogs.
With Robert Irvine at the 2018 Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival on Maui
The apple, pesto and sausage pizza from Buffalo Bill’s Brewery – Hayward, CA

Which foodie events are you most looking forward to?
Is there a summer salad that’s your favorite?

MOTIVATION

Do you have a pair of jeans deep in your closet for when you do get back down to that size? I do. My motivation to keep at trying to be fit is that jiggle I feel when I run. That was never there before and now it won’t go away! Frustrating, isn’t it? Well, as I said, summer is here and I better face the music: I can’t eat like I used to and not gain a pound. Some people are blessed with that metabolism forever. So here I am, writing this weekly post while on the stationary bike. I have managed to not gain any weight on my last two cruises but I am still at a body fat percentage not to my liking. Thank goodness for great friends. My dear friend and I are back to exchanging post work out photos no matter how ugly. And it’s nice to have someone to work out with in our travels. Get yourself a Nikki B.! Motivation won’t be lacking.

Working out at the Hotel Max in Seattle, Washington – Cinco De Mayo Weekend 2019

Stretching during April’s trail walk (not really a hike) in Santa Cruz, CA with my roommate

With Nelly before my first half marathon ever at Walt Disney World in Florida – January 2019

What are your summer body goals?
What friends help you out on this endeavor? How?

Roommate Anniversary in Wine Country

Oh, Man, what a year. From our first trial trip to Los Angeles County with Bevo, my late Boston Terrier to down under in Melbourne, Australia and 15-days straight of each other on the Golden Princess, my roommate and I remain among the living. We haven’t killed each other yet. We actually have had a lot of laughs and she’s made many appearances on this blog, in case you haven’t noticed. On her first official day home, I walked into the house and Snap’d as I entered the door. “This is Kim! Everyone’s going to know Kim.” She waves to the camera. I’m glad she’s not camera shy. We celebrated many laughs by having more laughs in wine country that is the Napa Valley.

As a Blogger and in the food and wine, media and travel industry, I typically get the industry discount of complimentary tastings. Kim has grown accustomed to that. I have spoiled her and now she could never go wine tasting with anyone else. As I have goal of hitting as many California wineries as possible, I warned her that I was going to plan our Roommate Anniversary with visiting wineries where appointments are necessary and we may not get a discount. She OK’d the itinerary. On the schedule was Hyde, Saintsbury and Etude. All are wineries located in the Carneros region and was mentioned in my Napa Valley Wine Expert Certification course. All were wineries I have never been to.

It was a long weekend in terms of activity. A sexy male friend came over and made me dinner Friday night and we stayed up until 4 AM. Don’t you love it when a man feeds you? This foodie does! A slight hangover remained throughout Kim’s Susan G. Koman Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser in Fremont and a bit thru a Nobody’s Perfekt fundraiser at Cleophus Quealy Brewery in San Leandro. A nap afterwards turned out to be bed time to get ready for more drinking the next day.

Homemade carpaccio by J
Team Frame Supporters – guess who came up with the name?
#AdoptDontShop

We hit the road at 9 AM because it gets busy heading up to Napa thru American Canyon. Our first appointment was at 11 AM at Hyde. We arrived, drove thru the open gates to the property and the doors were locked. We waited in the car until it was closer to 11 AM. Maybe they don’t open the doors unless they have appointments. We tried the doors again when it was time. Still locked. We went back to the car to stay warm. I checked my email and realized I never send in my credit card to create the reservation. Doh! I can plan the heck out of a wedding or launch products anywhere in the country or plan a detailed travel itinerary, but when it comes to my personal life, I don’t put in the same effort. Are you the same? Oh well. Hyde will not be added to my winery log this time.

Back in the car, I thought I would wing it and run into a winery we can visit. Most we came across needed reservations. We passed Saintsbury and kept going. That was going to be stop number two. I have been to Bouchaine and ended back up at what was Liana Estates, then L.E. and now Calmere Estate Winery. I love this place. I have been there twice before. Once on a rainy birthday visit with my good friend, Nikki, and the other time via a tour I sold with my #Instafriend. Both, good times.

We walked up the barrel with a host and they asked if we had reservations. Again, reminded that I failed in making reservations! They squeezed us in with an appointment in two minutes. Technically, the space requires them and apparently it depends on the region. Oh, Carneros, why do you make it so difficult? We were given freedom to sit where we wished. I picked the love seat on the patio closest to the view and in the sun a bit. It was a bit breezy and the sun kissed our skin.

We enjoyed our time, chatted, talked things out that were on my mind, etc. Our host and I geeked over wine, beer, whisky, food and the whole industry. He ran restaurants and was burnt out. Pouring wine at a winery was a nice change of pace but like me, he also missed the rush. He asked if I would ever want to open a restaurant again. My answer remains the same, “Only if it was in Hawaii.” Of course, travel talk came about and I gave him my card.

We were having such a good time that I had to call our next winery to let them know we were going to be on our way shortly. Thankfully, they understoood. We said our goodbyes but not before we took three bottles with us. We went over to Saintsbury.

It was another outdoor tasting area under large trees and near low fences protecting gardens surrounding the circular tables equipped with menus and bread sticks. If you have the group size to sit at the 6-top closest to the vines under an orange umbrella, you’d be in luck. Friendly service, beautiful grounds and of course, non-stop conversation. We left without bottles and headed off to the next stop, Etude.

Etude was very close by and the wind started to pick up. There is plenty of parking and you get to the main entrance of the tasting room walking along the lawn and thru the outdoor patio. Inside, the counter is to your left and many high top tables for three or four are scattered around under high ceilings. The brightness of the room is not as nice as the natural light that we were enjoying but it was clean and modern. A private tasting room is also available in the back. By this time, we were feeling pretty good and getting silly. Michael, our pourer, was handling it all very well.

Getting hungry, we decided to make reservations at Charlie Palmer’s Steak downtown Napa. Parking was easy to find and the restaurant was pretty quiet for a Sunday night. Was it because everyone is having Game of Thrones viewing parties for the premiere? Warriors playoffs? I had a salad, an 8-ounce filet mignon and the potato gratin. My appetite has not recovered from the liquor-filled weekend. I didn’t put my steak away like I know I could. Kim even at more than I did!

Then we headed home. I relaxed to the premiere of the last season of Game of Thrones and called it a night. Kim and I are next headed off to Seattle and Las Vegas. Stay tuned for that.

Let me help you plan your wine country itinerary, along with hotels, possibly the Wine Train experience and more.

Taverna – Palo Alto, CA

You have 10 minutes.” A harmless threat to leaving the office and facing traffic of the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay if he wasn’t done ‘seeing what kind of trouble’ two other coworkers were getting themselves into. Before I could pack my Burberry, he finished in record time and we were off down the street to Taverna.

I have only seen this restaurant on my walks around town to get my daily steps in and those rare time I went to what my friend calls “Whole Paycheck”, aka Whole Foods. Ivan said Taverna was a bit higher priced but one of the top restaurants in Palo Alto. Wanting a unique glass of wine, I voted Greek. Having been to Greece a couple of times and a former write up on Orexi in San Francisco, I thought it’d be nice to change things up a bit. The owners are also associated with Kokkari in San Francisco, a popular restaurant I often tried to get my hotel guests a reservation. Book yours ahead of time.

Not terribly hungry, we were looking for something light to go with our red wine, a Xinomavro. The two items that caught my eye was the tzatziki and the octopus. They are common dishes and thankfully Ivan’s favorites as well. Sometimes, it’s easy with this guy. Both dishes were ordered. Two glasses were enjoyed, bread and butter arrived and friendly faces greeted my new boss who used to work for me. My, how the tables have turned.

A mound of firm yogurt and olive oil with grilled, seasoned pita bread appeared at our section of the bar top. It looks like a lot of dairy for four pieces of pita. I agreed to the extra slices of cucumber as a side to help finish it off. The side of bread also played a part.

Before the tzatziki was finished, the long grilled octopus tentacle appeared with a squash mash, capers, sausage, sauteed greens and a sort of chutney. I recalled the huge order of octopus I had placed in front of me while in Thira, Greece. It was the first time I couldn’t finish my octopus! This time, it was a perfect size to share between the two of us. It was perfectly cooked and the citrus flavor to the veggies added acidity to the dish.

The restaurant of maybe 40 seats was buzzing for a Thursday night. Apparently, it’s common and have successfully made it past their one year with expansion plans next door. People we were waiting just inside the door to be sat. Unfortunately, it was not quite warm enough that evening to sit outside lining the sidewalk. We came at just the right time. With that, we chatted with our bar neighbor, a local and friend of the owners. We shared laughs, the ‘what do you do?’ exchange and he convinced the restaurant to give us a taste of the wine he was having. It was a fruit bomb of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite a difference from our Xinomavro, which was easily drinkable. Perhaps it was a better pairing with his burger.

Not intending on having more to eat, I couldn’t turn down checking out the dessert menu. Before having a thorough look, Marlena highly recommended the bougatsa. Ivan described it was a baklava with custard. It was made with phyllo dough, custard, pistachios and ice cream. And it was warm. Not bad, but now I want a baklava.

It made me miss Greece and needing to go back to visit Mykonos. I love the white buildings, blue doors, the islands. Taverna also has a blue door and is a white building. The inside has clean walls, an darker blue-green accent wall, subtle Greek type on their white curtains, colorful but a bit muted and imperfectly shaped vases above the windows and very comfortable furniture. The staff is friendly, obviously appreciative of their best customers and the service was timely and well-organized. I’m sure we’ll be back.

Related articles:
Taverna brings warmth of Greek isles to downtown Palo Alto – SF Chronicle

Wines Down Under

Coming from one of the greatest wine regions in the world, it is hard for other regions to compete in my opinion. However, one needs to be open minded. The winery just might produce something unique and extraordinary.Aboard the Golden Princess by Princess Cruises from Melbourne, Australia around New Zealand, I had the pleasure of trying the below wines.

After an excursion, I was ready for a drink. Something refreshing, fruity and bubbly. I chose the sparkling wine from the Wines Bar. I went with the Mouku Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. According to Wine-searcher.com, the Marlborough wine region on the South Island is the ‘most important’ of New Zealand’s wine regions. We did not have a chance to stop at this region on the cruise but the popular Kim Crawford winery is also located in this region.

During a group wine tasting event held in one of the three formal dining rooms, I had my first taste of a Kim Crawford Pinot Gris. I can recognize the label of the wine but I never purchased a glass. The ship was holding a wine tasting event and professionals would speak on the wines they were serving. They charged attendees $13 per person. Elite guests did not have to pay. Unfortunately, it was too loud at my table to understand what the presenters were saying about the wine. I typically do not like Pinot Gris. It’snot the kind of wine I would personally order when I could just have water. I think it’s just too light in body and flavor profile. Kim Crawford produces aRose, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

In Gisborne, another popular wine region in New Zealand and its furthest western region, we decided to visit wineries as our excursion. We arrived via a tender and boarded a tour bus. Our first stop was, Matawhero. It was surrounded with other wineries. This property had open space with plenty of parking, yard games, outdoor seating and a two-room tasting room with plenty of seating and tables. The tour bus unloaded and we sat in the corner with newlyweds, Jodie and Dale, and solo traveler, Carol. We tried the below wines and snacked on a plate of cheeses and bread.

2018 Pinot Noir
2018 Pinot Gris
2017 Chardonnay
2018 Merlot

Of all the wines, I would probably say that the Chardonnay stoodout the most for me. I am not a fan of Chardonnay but this bottle wasn’tbuttery or creamy but had a nice light, crispness to it. Not needing anotherbottle of wine to add to my collection at home, I did not plan on purchasingany wine bottles during this trip.

Our next stop was Bushmere Estate.This vineyard had a large tasting room and a permanent tent propped up to host us and hold special events. The staff of three waited on us, told us about the wines but our table was a bit rowdy so hearing exactly what was said about the wine was hard to hear. The spread was incredibly impressive with pork belly,chicken, pickles, figs, cheese and more. I was surprised to try their Montepulciano but am impressed they had something quite different to offer than the previous winery.

Pinot Gris
Gewurtztraminer
Classic Chardonnay
Rose
Montepulciano


The final wine I tried while on holiday with Princess Cruises was during a delicious dinner at the Crown Grill on St. Patrick’s Day. With an 8-ounce filet mignon and two lobster tails, I had the Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, Australia. The winery is owned by two sisters but they have a long history of winemaking. It was a tasty cab and it went perfectly with my special dinner. Not that the wine wasn’t good enough to take a photo of it, but the plate!!!

Whether it was white or red, Australian or from New Zealand, it was all smiles from us!