the destinations issue
YOU'RE INVITED! IFWTWA 2019 CONFERENCE
Experience the Enchanted Southwest November 11-13, 2019 La Fonda on the Plaza Santa Fe, New Mexico USA Open to food, wine, & travel media and tourism & industry professionals Click here for conference schedule and registration information.
Images courtesy of Santa Fe Tourism
letter from the editor I fell in love with the idea of travel before I traveled anywhere. As a child growing up in boring (to my eyes) northeast Ohio, I rarely had the chance to go anywhere other than a zoo or lake about an hour from home. A visit to my aunt in Buffalo, New York, was as exotic as it got, especially if we stopped for dinner at a little Italian restaurant in the hills around Oil City, Pennsylvania. Never could I have imagined that one day I would ride a bike through a Caribbean rainforest, stand in Winston Churchill’s war room, or walked the streets of the Italian village where my grandparents played as children. If you talk to most travel writers, you will probably hear a similar story. They would also tell you that they have learned there is magic everywhere, even in those towns they once saw as boring. Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” I think we’d all agree with that, too. In this issue of Food, Wine, Travel Magazine, we present you with new looks at a variety of destinations around the world. Join us as we travel from Carmel, Indiana, to Bangkok, Thailand and Hollókő, Hungary to San Miguel Allende, Mexico. Let us introduce you to Halkidiki in Greece, Lake Eyre in Australia, and Wilmington in North Carolina. Stay with us in the small hotels of Palm Springs, and eat with us in Shanghai and Abruzzo and Pittsburgh. Discover why we love the Willamette Valley and Japan and Fredricksburg, Texas. Our hope is that our words and photos open the door to new worlds for you. As a side note, I want to let you know that our writers live and work all over the world. You may notice, therefore, that some of the spellings or word uses are a little different as the writers use their authentic voices. It’s all part of the adventure, after all. We hope you enjoy the journey.
Christine Cutler Executive Editor
Christine Cutler | Executive Editor Mary Chong | Creative Director Debbra Dunning Brouilette | Assistant Editor Irene Levine | Assistant Editor Jan Smith | Assistant Editor Robyn Nowell | Marketing Manager
Debbra Dunning Brouilette David Drotar MaryFarah Irene Levine
David Nershi Robyn Nowell Jan Smith
Contributing Writers/Photographers Debbra Dunning Brouilette Christine Cutler Shannon Hurst DalPozzal Andrew Der Diane Dobry Mary Farah Jim Farber Judy Garrison Kris Grant Allen Kissam Elaine Masters Veronica Matheson
Additional Photographers Judi Cohen MaryAnn DeSantis Sue Frause Len Garrison Kurt Jacobson
Dierdre Michalski Linda Milks Susan Montgomery Nancy Mueller David Nershi Amy Piper Tom Plant Jan Smith Joy Steinberg Linda Stewart Priscilla Ann Willis
John A. MacInnes Lori Sweet Wendy VanHatten Penny Weiss
All articles & photographs are copyright of writer unless otherwise noted. No part of this publication may be reproduced without express written permission.
Magazine Layout & Design Christine Cutler
Contact On the cover: Nurse shark circling submerged table at Havaiki Lodge, Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia © Debbra Dunning Brouillette
Editor: email@example.com IFWTWA: firstname.lastname@example.org Marketing: email@example.com Visit our website: fwtmagazine.com
Food, Wine, Travel Magazine is an official publication of the International Food, Wine, Travel Writers Association.
In This Issue 2
From the Editor
the americas 7 It’s Not Your Parents’ Pittsburgh Anymore 11 The Willamette Valley: It’s Not Just About the Wine
15 A Weekend in Wilmington, NC 16 One Perfect Day in Carmel, Indiana 19 Palm Springs
Preferred Small Hotels
27 Fredericksburg, Texas— Wildflowers & Wine (Peaches, too!) in Texas Hill Country
33 The Magic of San Miguel Allende 37 Postcards From the World Our writers share photos from their travels
41 Heaven’s New Address— Halkidiki at Danai
43 Hollókő, Hungary the Town that Preserves Tradition
45 Abruzzo Italy’s Best Well-kept Secret
51 Exploring Shanghai Through Its Food 53 Bangkok— Champagne Lifestyle on a Craft Beer Budget
55 Japan’s Never-ending Pull 57 Australia’s Lake Eyre Comes to Life 58 Connect With Us
55 Summer 2019
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Lime Kiln Lighthouse in Lime Kiln Point State Park, Friday Harbor, Washington ÂŠ Priscilla Ann Willis
IT’S NOT YOUR PARENTS’ PITTSBURGH ANYMORE By Andrew Der
omeone switched cities while I wasn't looking.
Don't worry. It's still the steel town of the Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers, but some might ask, "Who are you and what have you done with Pittsburgh?” It's a good thing. The City of Champions has quietly and gracefully morphed into an enriching, contemporary, and world-class urban haven without losing its roots. The Heinz and Carnegie families would certainly approve what the people have wrought from a revitalized downtown with everything from arts and science centers to spectacular stadiums, riverfront parks, and surprising culinary adventures. Closer-to-home vacations are trending, and Pittsburgh's vehicle accessibility might surprise many in the eastern US. Families can check out the affordable "Kidsburgh" discovery promotions and packages—a great way to sneak in some culture and education on the sly.
Pittsburgh is an easy city to explore inside or out as it offers vast vistas, riverfront greenways, parks, and paths. Many points of interest are within walking distance, and rental bicycles reign supreme with miles of flat, scenic, and leisurely riverfront pedaling making more of the city reachable without a car. Try Healthy Ride bike rental available through an online app that locates bikes wherever you are by smartphone to pick up and drop off. The most popular routes are anywhere along the city's famous three rivers (Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela) and their confluence at super accessible and centrally located Point State Park. This scenic urban sunset location is also a National Historic Landmark for its strategic role during the French and Indian War, and it has a striking water fountain, paved promenades, dramatic views of the city, and impressive hillside scenery. Pittsburgh hosted the very first professional football game in the country over 100 years ago, and the rest is history. With some of the most loyal fan base in the country, Pittsburgh offers sportaphiles of all persuasions much. Don’t miss Steelers’ 64,500-seat Heinz Field which replaced the imploded Three Rivers Stadium. In that case, include a visit to the Pirates' 38,000-seat PNC
Park. Better yet, make the visits during a home game. Pittsburgh works and learns as hard as it plays. Sneak in education and recreation with the premium Carnegie Science Center. One of four of Carnegie museums and next to Heinz field, this spectacular imaginarium for both sides of the child and adult brain modestly bills itself as one of the top science centers in the country. I found myself as distracted and occupied as much the children. If this experience fails to satiate, head to my favorite placeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the 77-acre natural habitat Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Located in a slower-paced suburb, it is worth a car ride or public transit to comfortably reach this home to 3,000 animals and endangered species. As a life sciences professional and aquarium hobbyist, I particularly appreciate the indigenously designed aquariums. Combine a visit there with one to the nearby Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens or the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the Oakland District for good oldfashioned dinosaurs and paleontology. (I always wonder what might have happened if that big meteor didn't end their reign?) For no-thinking fun, do a day trip to Kennywood Park (a National Historic Landmark amusement park) and Sandcastle Water Park. Back in town, try the National Aviary, Pittsburgh Children's
Previous page: Pittsburgh Riverfront; This page, clockwise: Bicycle Heaven Museum; Science Center Tropical Aquarium; Botanical Garden Dinosaur Diorama
Museum, The Frick Art and Historical Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, and to really even out the other side of the brain, don't miss the Andy Warhol Museumâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the largest dedicated to a single artist. Meander off the beaten city path for the edgy and quirky. The Mattress Factory Contemporary Art Museum has delightfully odd interactive exhibits that you can enter. Balance this with the Bicycle Heaven Museum tucked away in a nondescript warehouse. Not just the world's largest with 6,000 bicycles and art deco memorabilia dating to pre-WWII, the giant and surreal working repair shop can fix and rebuild antique collectibles with mountains of repurposed vintage and reproduction parts. And TripAdvisor rates Bicycle Heaven as the number one Pittsburgh museum.
This page, clockwise: Heinz Field Behind Point State Park; a riverfront city; PNC Park Bridge and Locks; Allegheny River in Downtown;
Being in the big city does not mean an absence of scenic vistas, and Pittsburgh has plenty. Try the famous ride up one of the two historic incline railways along the south ridge providing one of the most spectacular urban panoramic views available. Although a tad farther, the Duquesne Incline has a better view. Bring a camera, exact change, and an appetite to have dinner at one of several restaurants at the top.
TripAdvisor rates Bicycle Heaven as the number one Pittsburgh museum.
The advantage of the closer Monongahela incline is its association with the Station Square district at its base. Billing itself as Pittsburghâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s premier dining and entertainment destination, and the site of the restored Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Headquarters, this riverfront shopping playground is also home to an amphitheater, outdoor museum, and an amphibious boat excursion operation. Finish it off with a passive city tour aboard a working antique trolley.
The most practical place to stay for the first-time visitor may well be one of the numerous downtown niche hotels with microwave and refrigerator providing a strategic one-stop-shop hub to experiences and attractions. Many are a good value for a renowned urban center, but if chain hotels become a bit too cookie cutter, try the famous (Marriott) Renaissance Pittsburgh housed in the Fulton Building, appropriately reflecting the city's
own renaissance. Being a bit of a lateblooming history buff, I like the combination of my lodging being on the National Register of Historic Places while still offering modern, sleek surroundings.
Constructed in 1906 and named after Robert Fulton of steamboat invention fame, the building went from an office to the WWII Veterans Affairs Hospital, and th en to a n i gh tcl ub. Ren ova ti o n contractors discovered a WWII X-ray lab lined with 3,000-pound lead panels in 2001. Reflecting our modern age, the Renaissance also provides adventurous families the organic vacation experience of a "digital detox" weekend where the management locks away computers, phones, and TV while replacing them with bikes, board games, and books. You actually get to talk to each other. Yes, the whole weekend.
Calling all foodies! At downtown's edge, the purely Pittsburgh Strip District oﬀers a foodie paradise of famous eateries such as DeLuca's and Primanti Brothers for starters, along with ethnic grocers sprinkled among produce, meat, and fish markets. All are available for a great price in an authentic neighborhood atmosphere without the pretense. Skeptical? Then know that Pittsburgh was ranked the best dining city in the entire country by the Zagat restaurant guide. (Wait. What?) Diehards can sign up for a food tour, but don't miss the Heinz History Center to find out how and why we have the world's favorite ketchup. And how many visitors notice the unique bottle label is the shape of the state highway route number markers? The intensity of Pittsburgh's (and Pennsylvania's for that matter) lesser vivid European, Balkan, and Russian cultures may surprise the first-timer. The history of booming industry drew an influx of immigrants from poor rural areas looking for a better life in the U.S. and introducing new traditions, festivals, restaurants, and ethnic neighborhoods. Scots Irish, German, and Italian are prominent, and many may not be aware of the deeply embedded cultural conglomerate of almost every Central and Eastern European heritage in one place, including this writer's, born and bred in Hungary. OK, so I'm a bit biased. If Pittsburgh is a foodie city, then it is time to take it up a notch with a meal from the old country. Of the numerous ethnic neighborhoods, "Deutschtown" naturally beckons oﬀering up an intimate overseas connection without having to leave the country. Smelling and eating foods I have not had in years while hearing long unused languages made me… well…verklempt (Look it up). Numerous countries are well represented, but on this visit, I was on a mission and had no trouble finding the Hungarian eatery, Huszár (hussar). I felt at home as soon as I entered and eagerly scanned the menu of selections just like mama used to make. Try either the pörkölt meat stew or gulyás (the real goulash) chunky meat soup in famous sauces that universally exhibits the liberal use of the country’s primary consumable staple and export—paprika, mild and hot. Under no circumstances confuse these authentic recipes with what is known as "goulash" in the US, which is not even close. (Oh, the horror! The humanity!) I had the common chicken version called Csirke Paprikás. It must be served with spätzle (small dumplings) and uborka saláta (cucumber salad). For dessert, my favorite addiction is a version of a crêpe or blintz called palacsinta filled with a sweet cheese (as in cheese Danish filling). I consumed an astoundingly embarrassing amount, ending in a guilt-based shame spiral. It was worth it.
This page, from top: Famous Primanti Bros Sandwich; Huszar Hungarian Restaurant Desserts
Make It Happen! The Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau has the best one-stop-shop for all points of interest, indoor and outdoor adventure, and amusements. Check out suggestions for accommodations, shopping, dining, museums, galleries and special events www.visitpittsburgh.com
The Willamette Valley: It’s Not Just About the Wine ine and travel have long been traveling partners, but wine-country tourism has surged in popularity over the past 10 years. While visiting the Napa and Sonoma Valleys has long been in vogue, the less-crowded and less costly vineyards of other wine regions are now attracting oenophiles. With its more laid-back atmosphere and world-famous Pinot Noirs, the Willamette Valley’s popularity has soared.
The rolling hills, winding rivers, and sprawling forests of the Willamette Valley run 150 miles from north of Portland to south of Eugene. Eight of the state’s ten largest cities are in the valley, and 70 percent of the population lives there. Three mountain ranges surround it, and the Willamette River runs the length of the valley. You have, perhaps, heard of the Oregon Trail, the old wagon route that connected Oregon with points east. The rich soil and temperate climate enticed settlers and emigrants looking for agricultural opportunities, and the area grew. Today, the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s Wine Country, home to more than 500 wineries and some of the finest pinot noir in the world.
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s Wine Country, and with more than two-thirds of the state’s vineyards and wineries, you’re sure to find a wine you like. In the last 10 years or so, the wineries of the Willamette Valley have increased production of the pinots—both noir and gris—because the maritime climate of the area allows the grapes to build their flavor (the warm days) yet maintain acidity (cooler temps).
Today, the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s Wine Country.
Wine is not the only attraction to Willamette Valley, though. As a leader in the farm-to-table movement, the area has many restaurants and working farms on Travel Oregon’s many food trails. The self-guided food tours highlight the wineries, farms, markets, coﬀee roasters, breweries, cideries, distilleries, and restaurants that feature locally sourced ingredients. Snuggled in-between all of them, too, are attractions that appeal to everyone.
Both pages, from left: Abbey Road Silo Suites B & B; Habanero-spiced rum from 4 Spirits Distillery; Gardens at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery; ColdFire Brewing Company
In February, several IFWTWA journalists were guests of the Willamette Valley Visitors Association. While the weather played a few snowy tricks on us, we were able to travel the length of the Willamette Valley and sample a lot of what it has to oﬀer. Priscilla Ann Willis, Dave Nershi, and I share reasons why we’d visit the valley even if wine were not in the picture.
Subterra—A Wine Cellar Restaurant There’s plenty of outstanding wine to be discovered in Willamette Valley. Visitors can enjoy the bounty paired with exceptional gastronomy. A culinary gem we discovered during our trip to Oregon Wine Country is Subterra – A Wine Cellar Restaurant in Newberg.
Did You Know?
As its name suggest, you descend a stairway to enjoy your noteworthy dining experience in an unruﬄed, relaxing cellar setting. Service is impeccable and the wine list is award-winning. The menu is a masterful mix of classic and Northwest contemporary cuisines with an emphasis on farm-to-table ingredients.
• Oregon Trail settlers planted the first vineyards in the 1840s. • The first Pinot Noir grapes planting was 1965. • Prohibition all closed down all but family wineries until the 1960s. • Today, the 750 wineries in the Willamette Valley produce 71% of the state’s wine. • The Willamette Valley produces 82% of Oregon’s Pinot Noir. • The Willamette Valley is home to 75% of the state’s residents. • The Willamette Valley is quickly becoming a destination for foodies; well-known chefs are serving farm-to-table cuisine. • Oregon’s coffee culture is also important in the Willamette Valley where small roasters have made coffee an artisan product. • An official coffee taster is to coffee what a sommelier is to wine. • Oregon is home to more than a dozen distilleries.
You can warm up your palates with small plates such as melted brie and maple bourbon fig jam and the devilishly good crispy pork belly confit with ginger pineapple relish. Fresh and creative dishes are hallmarks of the kitchen.
Entrée choices includes cassoulet, the hearty French white bean stew, and Seafood Zarzuela. The wine list has ample variety to perfectly pair with each dish. Two selections I especially enjoyed were the 2017 Illahe Willamette Valley Gruner Veltliner and the 2014 Coeur de Terre Vineyard Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir, McMinnville. ~ Dave Nershi, CSW
A Sense of Place at Abbey Road Farm With its unique silo accommodations and views of the pastoral countryside, Abbey Road Farm aﬀords guests a real sense of place when visiting the Willamette Valley. My wine tasting journey began at the south end of the valley in Eugene where I stayed one night in the chic luxury boutique hotel, Inn at 5th, before heading north to the heart of the Willamette Valley. Conveniently located within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and bars in downtown Eugene, the Inn at 5th has artsy décor, well-appointed rooms, convenient location, and a friendly staﬀ. Driving past newly planted vineyards, I was immediately smitten with Abbey Road Farm the moment I parked and caught sight of acres of green verdant pasture land dotted with grazing sheep, goats, and a random llama. Walking up to the reception building, I stopped to admire a lichen-covered, rustic wood birdhouse, and the clucking chickens
pecking away in the barnyard. There are 5 suites and a grand entry and seating area located in the three silos that comprise the Silo Suites B & B. Emphasizing the sense of place, the suites are named for wine varietals. My home for two nights was the first floor Chardonnay suite. Complete with a comfy, foam-topped king size bed, two wicker chairs, and a large bathroom with both a jacuzzi bathtub and shower, it was homey-comfort heaven in the Oregon countryside. Waking to a symphony of birdsong and roosters crowing was not only music to my ears but such a welcome change from the daily urban cacophony. Capturing some video and photos of the peaceful morning before sitting down to breakfast, I had a feeling of calm euphoria fill my heart. However, the incredible farm-fresh breakfast spread prepared and hosted by Chef Eric Bartle and Sara Kundelius, the husband and wife chef couple who manage the Silo Suites, was the icing on the proverbial cake. Better known as The Wilderness Hunters, Eric and Sara have worked to integrate farm-to-table ethos into all aspects of their personal and professional lives. From raising turkeys, sheep, laying hens and meat chickens, to growing and preserving their annual garden bounty. They spend their free time exploring the forests, mountains, rivers, and coastline of Oregon in search of choice wild mushrooms and edibles, Oregon truﬄes, wild game, fish and shellfish. Their dedication to fresh, organic, sustainably grown food is a win-win for your palate and the best way to begin your day in the splendid Willamette Valley. ~Priscilla Willis
From top: Breakfast at Abbey Road Farm; Eric Bartle and Sara Kundelius; the farm’s sheep and llama.
Cupping the Coffee The Willamette Valley may be Oregon Wine Country, but its drink options are varied and boundless. From Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris to IPAs and rums and ciders to cappuccinos and brewed coﬀee, the Willamette Valley oﬀers a beverage for everyone. Good coﬀee is mine. As a gold-card-carrying Starbucks customer, I looked forward to experiencing the coﬀee culture during our three days in the Willamette Valley. I expected to see the green and white mermaid signs all over the Willamette Valley, but while there are about 243 Starbucks in Oregon, there are almost as many of the smaller, more intimate coﬀee bars and coﬀee carts. Many of these coﬀee bars roast their own coﬀees. There are more than 40 roasters in Portland alone. Like wine tasting, the coﬀee industry has cup tasting or coﬀee cupping. It’s a procedure used by coﬀee producers and buyers worldwide to test the quality of a batch of coﬀee. Oﬃcial coﬀee tasters are as important to the coﬀee world as sommeliers are to the wine world. As do wines, coﬀees carry the characteristics of the regions where they grow, so professional tasters can often identify the origin of coﬀees. Likewise, coﬀee drinkers participate in coﬀee cupping as wine drinkers participate in wine tasting. Coﬀee cupping involves pouring hot water over grounds, steeping, sniﬃng, and slurping the coﬀee. All of this measures the body, flavor, and aftertaste of the coﬀee. Is the coﬀee oily? Dry? Smoky? Sweet? Acidic? Does it have a chocolatey taste? Fruity? Malty? Nutty? Is its aftertaste bitter? Smooth? Medicinal? While we were in Eugene, Equiano Coﬀee co-owner and roaster Okon Udosenata hosted a coﬀee cupping for us. Okon had us try four coﬀees—two from Colombia and one each from Brazil and Cameroon. I liked the Brazilian coﬀee— full of chocolate and nutty notes—best. It was not as acidic and left a creamy, smooth aftertaste. The Cameroon Wum Bee Java was more chocolatey, and one of the Colombian a bit too citrusy for me. Equiano sources coﬀees from Viet Nam and Guatemala in addition to the countries noted above. Located in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, Equiano oﬀers coﬀee lovers a unique experience. Baristas prepare everything from espresso and cappuccino to brewed coﬀee and hot chocolate. They even oﬀer a “flight” of three coﬀees so you can sample three diﬀerent brews in their cozy and comfortable tasting room. ~Christine Cutler
Official coffee tasters are as important to the coffee world as sommeliers are to the wine world.
This page: Equiano coffee; coffee cupping —the grounds; coffee cupping—brewing; coffee cupping—Okon testing the aroma
A Weekend in
WILMINGTON, NC By Joy Steinberg
utdoor sun and fun. Historic sites and potential haunts. Festivals and live music. Savory food and cool drinks. Wilmington, North Carolina, has attractions for all tastes.
As a port city in North Carolina, Wilmington is known as a gateway to Cape Fear Coast beaches such as Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure Beach. The charming historic district downtown runs along the Cape Fear River, with views of the waterway and the Battleship North Carolina.
What to See and Do
Start your weekend Friday afternoon with a breath of fresh air and inspiring natural beauty at Airlie Gardens. This beautiful property oﬀers 67 acres of outdoor beauty. Be sure to make time for a leisurely stroll along walking paths with stops to appreciate local flowers, majestic oak trees and sculptures displayed throughout the grounds. You may also be delighted by a variety of colorful birds during your stroll along this part of the North Carolina Birding Trail. Cultural and environmental programs are also frequently oﬀered such as the summer concert series, bird hikes, art exhibits and an annual oyster roast. On Saturday, take a step back in time and reflect on the great contribution made by the U.S. armed services. History and maritime buﬀs will be intrigued by the Battleship North Carolina tour. A walking tour helps you to envision daily life on the battleship and the menacing combat her crew faced while at sea during World War II in the Pacific Theater. If some outdoor sun and fun is more to your taste, Aussie Island Surf Shop will equip you for an enjoyable afternoon on the water paddling by kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP). A leisurely bike cruise along riverfront or coastal neighborhoods oﬀers a land-based option as well.
Where to Eat
All this activity will certainly encourage an appetite. If you’re seeking a craft cocktail and some delicious ‘Southern Coastal Cuisine’ then The George On The Riverwalk is a must. They make Bourbon Campfire with house-made ginger beer and Basil Hayden’s bourbon and garnish it with a scorched orange rind as the finishing touch. Request a table on the outdoor patio to enjoy a view of the river and U.S.S. Battleship North Carolina. Sip, savor and let life float by while you enjoy southern fare such as George’s Shrimp and Grits. An alternative option just a few blocks away from the Riverwalk is the Fortunate Glass. Step inside for a retreat from the downtown bustle to enjoy their well curated selection of small plates and wine pairings. Benjamin Franklin’s quote best conveys the spirit of this cozy, yet elegant wine bar—“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”
From top: Airlie Gardens landscape view © Airlie Gardens; Airlie Gardens Bottle Chapel © Airlie Gardens; The Bourbon Campfire ©The George on The Riverwalk; Shrimp and Grits ©The George On The Riverwalk
If you go
Conveniently loca ted historic downtown within walking distance of an Ballast Wilmington d the Riverwalk, Hotel is accommodations. a great choice of Savor the sunset po with a view of the water and Riverwal olside k. For more informat ion about Wilmingt on and 2019-2020 events , visit www.wilmingtonan dbeaches.com
Wilmington NC Riverfront, Courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches CVB
One Perfect Day in
Indiana By Amy Piper
Carmel, Indiana is consistently ranked as one of the best places in the US to live… and visit.
he same things that contribute to Carmel, Indiana’s being ranked number one in the United States for living make it a great visitor’s destination. Miles of hiking and biking trails for a healthy lifestyle, the arts for entertainment, and a culinary scene for foodies contribute to making it a great place to live as well as a great place to visit. Carmel is quickly becoming one of Indiana’s visitors’ hot spots. What sports are to neighboring Indianapolis, the arts are to Carmel.
With the Center for the Performing Arts and the Arts and Design District for the art lovers, Monon Trail for the outdoor enthusiasts, and an active food scene for foodies, Carmel can add up to the perfect day for a family outing. And it’s closer than you think. For Midwesterners, it’s one tank of gas away from cities like Chicago, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Carmel is a great place to add to your must-see destination list.
Morning—Breakfast at Eggshell Bistro
We started the morning early with breakfast on the City Center’s north side at Eggshell Bistro where Chef Larry Hanes is creating a Euro-influenced oasis in the middle of Indiana. Eggshell Bistro has made brunch an art form.
My favorite dish is the asparagus strata, an egg and bread cassolette, incorporating double-smoke ham, caramelized onion, Jarlsberg cheese, and basil pesto. The cassolette has tasty
Of course, you’ll find authentic English high tea at Tina’s Traditional Tearoom & Tavern, but the surprises are the heartier meals, like the traditional British ploughman’s platter
bits of caramelization around the edges. A mix of fresh fruit accompanies the dish. Chef Larry Hanes' signature combination of dried and fresh flowers beautifully decorates each plate. It's no surprise; Chef Hanes was once a graphic designer.
or the British sausage roll with crispy phyllo dough filled with pork and beef which proves to be the perfect accompaniment to the famous Taddy Porter.
Biscotti is Eggshell’s specialty dessert. The chocolate covered biscotti with sea salt draws the chocolate lovers. The corn almond biscotti pays homage to Indiana and Italy. Don’t miss these; they’re easily portable for a mid-afternoon snack. Explore Carmel’s Arts & Design District Exploring Carmel’s Arts & Design District, searching for just one more of J. Seward Johnson’s 17 life-size sculptures is like a scavenger hunt at its best. Sometimes the sculptures are so lifelike you’ll do a double-take, as I did when I saw a statue of a suited-business man seated on a bench outside a bakery reading a newspaper. You’ll find art galleries, throughout the district where Indiana artisans oﬀer one-of-a-kind creations like glass works, stoneware, drawings, and paintings. Lunch—High Tea or Burgers A short walk from the galleries on Main Street is Tina’s Traditional Tea Room & Tavern serving traditional British fare.
If you prefer burgers, Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream oﬀers burgers handmade from fresh ground chuck, never frozen. They’re flame-grilled to perfection and placed on house-made buns that fit the burgers exactly. Lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle accompany each burger. The Big Ugly one-pound burger starts with 22 ounces precooked weight and becomes a one-pound burger after it’s cooked. Eating all of this will get your picture on the wall. Afternoon—Hiking or Biking the Monon Trail After that one-pound burger, you’ll need some exercise to work it oﬀ. The 23-mile paved Monon Bike Trail connects Carmel to Indianapolis through Westfield and Sheridan. This former section of railroad is now the perfect trail for hiking and biking. Rental bikes are available at Carmel Cyclery Bicycle Shop or through Carmel Bike Share. That biking and hiking may have made you work up an appetite for a snack. Two options for sweet treats are the awardwinning hand-made chocolates from XChocol’Art or a glutenfree, dairy-free bakery treat from No Label at the Table.
Casual or Fine-Dining Options for the Evening Meal After a break and a quick change for the evening, there are several options for dinner in the Carmel Art’s and Design District. Sun King brewery has four counter-service restaurants situated within the food-court style brewery. Since this is a brewery, you can select the perfect craft beer to accompany your meal. La Margarita serves Mexican fare, and The Den by FoxGardin has local favorites like the Carmel Tenderloin on the menu. Specialty Pi oﬀers up your favorite pizza, and Oca has meatfocused fare. Our dinner from Oca included one of my favorite sandwiches, the muﬀuletta. Layered on a roll encrusted with sesame seeds are city ham, mortadella, and salami served warm with provolone and mozzarella melting down the sides. Then come the toppings, a mildly spicy giardiniera, an olive salad, and mayo. For an elegant seated dinner prelude to the theater, try Anthony’s Chophouse. The menu includes traditional steakhouse favorites with a twist. For example, the broiled asparagus with hollandaise has a twist of added sun-dried tomatoes to make it unique. The kale cherry salad is a favorite with apples, figs, and almonds, topped with a Balsamic gastrique and a lemon cherry vinaigrette. Another unique oﬀering here is the beef flight, which includes four-ounces cut each of a prime, grass-fed, and wagyu beef. Experience an Evening at the Theater We ended the day with another type of art—the performing arts. After dinner, we attended a ballet at the Tarkington, one of the venues in Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts. The center includes four sites—The Palladium, The Tarkington, The Studio Theater, and Great American Songbook Foundation. The Palladium is a 1,600-seat concert venue that hosts gifted performers like Lyle Lovett and Trisha Yearwood while the Tarkington is a unique 500-seat proscenium theater featuring Broadway shows like A Chorus Line or Steve Martin and Martin Short. The Studio Theater is a flexible theatrical space and home to Actors Theatre of Indiana. If you are in the area Monday through Friday during business hours, check out the Great American Songbook Foundation’s rotating exhibits, dedicated to preserving and promoting the music of the Great American Songbook. The public exhibits share the music, history, and culture of the Songbook. When I was there, the Andrews Sisters were featured. The year before, they featured Meredith Willson of Music Man fame. Each year, the exhibit is diﬀerent. So, whether you’re an art lover, an outdoor enthusiast looking for hiking and biking, or a foodie, the perfect day awaits you in Carmel, Indiana.
For helping planning your trip to Carmel, visit https:// www.visithamiltoncounty.com/cities/carmel/
From top: Asparagus Strata at Eggshell Bistro; Tina's Traditional Tearoom; Chocolate at X'Chocol'Art; The Palladium
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE Located about 107 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is—and a lw ay s h a s b e e n — a p o p u l a r retirement, snowbird, and vacation destination due to the area’s climate and lifestyle. While it’s a small city, Palm Springs has something for everyone. Do you like to be outdoors? You’ll find year-round golf, swimming, tennis, biking, hiking and horseback riding in the nearby desert and mountain areas. Prefer the art scene? Not only are there many galleries, museums and theaters in town, but there are art and film festivals, exhibits, concerts, shopping, and more. And if you want to relax, well, Palm Springs has plenty of options.
Small Hotels Offer Charm & Character for Every Traveler hat sounds like the ideal way to relax and escape from everyday life for a long weekend or even a week? Most Wpeople think of sunshine and lounge chairs by a pool in a peaceful hidden environment with the only decision to make being where they may eat dinner. Perhaps if they felt more ambitious, picking up a good book to read or swimming a couple of laps might be on the agenda. The Southern California Regional IFWTWA (International Food, Wine & Travel Association) followed in the footsteps of Old Hollywood who used to retreat to Palm Springs for their relaxation. We spent three nights at one of the 77 Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels, each unique with its own character and price range. These inns are made up of 49 or fewer rooms and cater to the whims of their guests, even offering bicycles at each inn for travel to the closely located restaurants and shops of Palm Springs. Here’s what members found at their respective hotels.
The Weekend Palm Springs A classic example of mid-century modern architecture, this sleek, luxurious, boutique hotel was originally an apartment complex built in the 1960s. The Weekend is the only hotel in the lovely Old Las Palmas neighborhood and was once home to many of the “rat pack” Hollywood celebrities. The structure has recently undergone a stunning, multi-million dollar renovation but still retains its striking historical character. All the accommodations are either one- or two-bedroom suites with spacious living rooms, kitchens, private patios, and smart TVs. We loved the chic, stylish decor and especially appreciated the modern bathrooms. These suites surround a beautiful, inviting pool with lounge chairs and benches. We enjoyed the privacy and serenity of this welcoming setting. The Weekend is a peaceful getaway but still within easy walking distance of hip bars, restaurants and shops. Included in room rates is a delicious, ample continental breakfast delivered right to your room every morning. We really looked forward to these delectable breakfast trays. Prices vary based on room type, as well as weekday versus weekend rates. Summer Getaway rates begin in June and last until September 26 (excluding holiday weekends and special events). Rates for one-bedroom suites start at $305 and go up to $350. ~Sue Montgomery
La Maison Hotel We can all be thankful that Richard and Cornelia Schister chose to depart their Canadian homeland (Vancouver) and venture south to Palm Springs where they are now the proprietors of La Maison Hotel—an oasis of softly glowing Mediterranean style in a city that prides itself on the stark angularities of Mid-century Modernism. Located at 1600 E. Palm Canyon Drive (behind a discreet ivy-covered wall), the hotel and its 14 individually decorated rooms surround an inner courtyard and pool that glistens like a pearl inside an oyster. The rooms vary in size and price (with seasonal adjustments) and are all superbly appointed with special touches like four-poster beds, tiled bathrooms with walk-in showers; an unheard of complementary carafe of brandy, and frosted macaroons that replenish themselves each day. Elegant and comfortable though it is, the real treasures of La Maison are Richard and Cornelia who treat their guests with the type of warm congeniality for which Canadians are renowned. Richard is on hand every morning to make you a complimentary cappuccino, the perfect accompaniment to a breakfast highlighted by Cornelia’s
signature baked creations. Some of her recipes may be available on request. Others are destined to remain carefully guarded secrets. After a day of exploring the hustle and bustle of downtown Palm Springs or a bike ride to the Palm Canyons, it’s wonderful to know the serenity of La Maison and its hosts awaits you at the end of the day. ~Jim Farber
The Westcott Palm Springs Tucked into the Movie Colony district of Palm Springs is The Westcott Palm Springs, a delightful 10-room inn that oﬀers ample opportunities to get acquainted with fellow travelers while at the same time oﬀering a quiet ambience where guests can enjoy some true R & R. I met two guests who told me they travel annually to The Westcott, mostly to just enjoy the pool and relax on the chaise lounges. The inn was built in Hollywood’s heyday in 1937 and has operated continuously as a hotel since that time. It is owned by Matthew Westcott who bought and completely renovated the property just a few years ago.
The Westcott Palm Springs Particularly inviting is the outdoor space; an outdoor kitchen alcove features complimentary beverages and snacks around the clock, with an upscale continental breakfast served at 8 a.m. and happy hour at 5:30 p.m. where choices include the daily house specialty cocktail, wine or beer, plus special happy hour snacks. Inviting seating throughout the complex includes banquettes, tables for two or four, and L-shaped sofas under gazebos that provide natural settings for guests to get to know one other. I soon met a former mayor and her husband from a large city in California’s Silicon Valley area, six visitors from Iceland visiting for a conference, and a solo traveler from New Zealand. At night, soft music plays by the outdoor spa, and I relaxed there after a long day’s hike, watching a silent movie that screened on the back wall. The Westcott provides the perfect place to just relax and recharge. ~ Kris Grant
La Maison Hotel
The Santiago Resort
Santiago Resort: A Palm Springs Mecca
I recently joined a group of journalists visiting Palm Springs. Each of us was assigned lodging at one of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels. I was asked how I’d feel about staying at an all-male, clothing optional resort. I said I’d be delighted. General Manager Kent Taylor, who welcomed me warmly and showed me the lay of the land of this meticulously landscaped oasis, runs the Santiago Resort with a broad smile. He pointed out the “town” bikes, available free of charge for use by all guests who want to take the short ride into town. The “cantina,” right oﬀ the lobby, is open from early morning until evening and is fully stocked with coﬀee, soda, water and snacks and is accessible with room key after hours. In the morning it’s stocked with fresh fruit, bagels, pastries and other breakfast treats. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, and the patio is perfect for soaking up an all-over tan beside the pool and spa. Service is extremely attentive and at the same time not intrusive. I loved every minute of my stay there, and I give the Santiago Resort my highest recommendation. ~Tom Plant
The Willows Inn
The Willows Inn: Where History & Luxury Abound
Luxurious elegance describes the opulent Mediterranean villa designed to be an estate known as The Willows. The Willows claims the prestigious “Class 1” historic designation and is one of the oldest buildings in Palm Springs. It has seen stars like Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, and Carole Lombard. As part of our regional IFWTWA Palm Springs trip, I was lucky enough to visit The Willows. Its secluded setting is built into the rocky hillside next to the Palm Springs Art Museum and a short walk from the Palm Springs Village. The Willows welcomes guests from September to May each year with eight luxurious guest rooms filled with priceless antiques. Guests are treated to a three-course gourmet breakfast served in the open air dining room looking out at the magnificent 50-foot waterfall. In the afternoon, guests are treated to a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception. We were all charmed by this room with a view. We meandered along the private terraced gardens (including the bench of one of the most frequent and best known guests, Albert Einstein) where we were wrapped in lush gardens, providing tranquility with occasional
The Alcazar Palm Springs
spectacular views of the whole Coachella Valley. The swimming pool and jacuzzi are wrapped in lush vegetation for privacy. The Willows Inn is elegance and class at its best. ~Linda Milks
Alcazar Palm Springs: Rich in Charm & Hospitality
Located in the fashionable Palm Springs Uptown Design District, the 34-room Alcazar Palm Springs Hotel is a member of the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels (hotels with less than fifty rooms). General Manager Robert Hunt sets a gracious and welcoming tone with a warm and hospitable staﬀ. Opening the planter shutters in my room (Mountain King with View) reveals a framed picturesque scene of the San Jacinto Mountains. The hotel’s secluded grounds include a lovely garden courtyard, salt water purified pool, and Jacuzzi. The rooms are charmingly decorated in modern chic, with white washed walls and floors that had me also channeling the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald. With the addition of imported Italian linens, one experiences all the pleasures of old world charm, mid century modernism, and touches of The Great Gatsby. Onsite parking, wireless Internet, a
business center, and access to bicycles are included in an amenity charge. Morning pastries, coﬀee and espresso, tea, and juice are oﬀered in an area oﬀ the front oﬃce. Cheeky’s and Birba are conveniently adjacent to the hotel. Cheeky’s is open for breakfast and lunch, and cocktails reign innovative at Birba’s –fig infused bourbon, a Gimlet made with ginger syrup.
colorful overhanging flowers. It was a setting for pure serenity and relaxation. There is a summer special at the Triangle Inn oﬀering four nights for the price of three. Rates start at $96.75 a night— such a great deal for a special destination. ~Sue Montgomery, Life-Uncorked
The Alcazar is the perfect hotel of choice any time of the year, but the summer months provide exceptional value for the savvy traveler. Go to the Alcazar Palm Springs website and click on “Deals” to take advantage of some great oﬀers. ~Linda Stewart, Life-Uncorked.com
The Triangle Inn The Triangle Inn Palm Springs is a charming, clothing optional resort for men, located in the heart of Palm Springs. The beautiful, private setting is lushly landscaped and accented by an enticing pool. There are eight luxurious suites plus an adjacent four-bedroom, two-bath house with another pool and jacuzzi for larger groups. This would be a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion with good friends. All accommodations include everything you might need for a relaxing stay — fully equipped kitchens, spacious bathrooms, lots of closet space, comfortable beds with high quality linens, high-end televisions, and stereo systems. A scrumptious full breakfast is served every morning around the pool. The hotel sponsors cheerful mixers each afternoon so guests can mingle. On the day we visited, the ambiance was cozy and inviting. Guests lounged by the pool reading, sunning, or quietly conversing. Other guests happily splashed in the refreshing pool. We enjoyed meandering down the lovely walkways with
Los Arboles Hotel: A Desert Oasis A relaxing hacienda style boutique 21-room hotel awaits you when you arrive at Los Arboles Hotel in Palm Springs. The rooms, located behind a private entrance gate and adjacent to the lushly planted grounds by the pool, speak of quiet solitude.
Los Arboles Hotel I found my room with a plush king sized bed and quality white linens the perfect setting for those warm Palm Springs days. The Spanish Colonial style bed, end tables, and armoire set the mood of the room along with the richly colored drapes and bed skirt. One of the highlights of all the rooms at Los Arboles Hotel is the beautiful Talavera Mexican tiled jacuzzi tub featuring a rain shower head and enclosed in a private spa area. My room even had a small table and chair set where I could enjoy authentic handmade Mexican food from El Mirasol Restaurant, the adjoining restaurant owned by the Castañeda family, the same family who owns Los Arboles. I was told they will also deliver this regional Mexican cuisine to the pool area if I didn’t want to leave this oasis. The charming owners are Felipe and Lisbet Castañeda and their daughters. They purchased this property in 2001 and lovingly restored it to what it is today. ~Linda Milks
The Ingleside Inn
Fashioned originally from a gracious estate, the Ingleside Inn is an oﬃcial Palm Springs Historic Landmark. This grand lady is fully refurbished but still manages to hold on to its 1922 charm. The rooms are large and comfortable. We especially enjoyed our courtyard access and view. The Mid-twentieth century lodging is located in the Palm Springs prime area— just five minutes to shopping and exploring. It can be had for surprisingly reasonable sums. Don’t miss the on-site retro restaurant, Melvyn’s. It was a favorite of Frank Sinatra. The main dining room experience is tailored to guests who want to dress up and make it an
romantic, residential, clubby vibe. There is a main house with two bedrooms/baths and four secluded one bedroom bungalows. Stepping outside, we find a cozy sitting area accented with dramatic black and white drapery, a wraparound lush garden, an outdoor pool, fountains, a grilling station, cabanas, and a sparkling pool. On this fine day, we found a large plastic swan whiling away his afternoon all alone in the pool. The estate has an 88-year history rooted in Hollywood. Famed starlet Gloria Swanson lived and entertained here. The space has been re-invented for the 21st century with new fixtures,
The Ingleside Inn exciting, sophisticated evening. Step back in time as you enjoy an eclectic menu of seafood, steakhouse fare, and expertly made classic cocktails. A must so …order one of the dishes made tableside, like Steak Diane, wilted spinach salad, or the blazing bananas flambé. Looking for some nightlife? The Casablanca Lounge at Melvyn’s is known for its nightly entertainment starting at 8pm featuring guest musicians and singers. Order a Bloody Mary—made in the old tradition of large, spicy, and bracing. The Ingleside Inn will not disappoint with all its charm and retro throwback to Hollywood days.
the comforts of home, and Art Deco interiors. Partners Ramon Bautista and Nelson Cooley have worked hard to transform this charming oasis in the Historic Tennis Club neighborhood of Palm Springs. The name Amin, in the Tagalog language means “ours” and Casa in Spanish is “home.” So it is in essence, it translates to “our home is your home” and how perfect is that! The property would be ideal for a small wedding, or just for a couple’s weekend getaway. It accommodates up to 14 overnight. This is a perfect spot for guests seeking an exclusive level of service, comfort and refinement. ~Deirdre Michalski
The Amin Casa: A Classic Holiday Retreat in the Heart of Palm Springs
We had the pleasure of a private tour of Amin Casa by coowner Nelson Cooley. He welcomed us in to see explore this historic enclave which he and his partner had completely renovated in 2016. The property sits on a large lot with a
Check in in style when you pull up to ARRIVE, a 21-and-over hotel in the heart of Palm Springs. Modern, chic, and contemporary vibes are what makes ARRIVE such a fun and unique stay in the desert. Enjoy a welcome cocktail when you get there, and enjoy a spacious suite with high ceilings and lots
of sunshine. Two restaurants, a coﬀee house, and an ice cream parlor are conveniently on-site so you don't even have to get out of your swimsuit to grab a treat. Speaking of swimsuits, take a dip in their beautiful pool overlooking the desert mountains. Their poolside bar will have you covered for any libations you may want to enjoy as you make a splash. On the weekends, guests and visitors not staying at ARRIVE can enjoy DJ sets and parties by the pool. When will you ARRIVE?" ~Mary Farah
The Palm Springs Rendezvous Hotel
I had no idea what to expect from this small boutique hotel, but the moment I walked through the azure frosted glass doors, a delightful step back in time came to mind.
Opened originally in 1938 as the Mira Loma, the hotel was often patronized by Hollywood elite looking for privacy, rest and relaxation. History buﬀs will be interested to know Marilyn Monroe often stayed in the far southwest corner room, which oﬀered a respite from paparazzi. Today it is referred to as the Pretty in Pink room featuring numerous Marilyn Monroe photos and artwork. Ten retro-themed rooms, each with a private poolside entrance, comprise this motor-lodge style property. As the hotel is designated as a Bed and Breakfast, guests are treated to a 3-course homemade breakfast served either poolside or in the lounge. Palm Springs Rendezvous is a perfect choice for visitors looking for a boutique hotel experience, where exceptional hospitality is oﬀered by seasoned Innkeepers and the opportunity to meet fellow guests from around the world at breakfast or complimentary afternoon wine reception happens. The Rendezvous is located close by to Palm Canyon Drive and the Uptown Design District, featuring restaurants, bars, art galleries, and shopping. ~ Jan M. Smith
The Monkey Tree Hotel
The Monkey Tree Hotel surprises over and over. It begins with the facade rising tall over a residential street near the Palm Springs Racquet Club. The angular, white roofline juts towards the mountains. You wouldn’t know what’s inside until the entry doors open to a green oasis set like a jeweled ring with a turquoise pool. Yellow umbrellas dot the perimeter with white chaise lounges. Dr. Seuss could’ve drawn the palm trees swaying above it all. Created by legendary local architect Albert Frey in the 1960s as a getaway option for Racquet Club members looking for privacy, it has changed character and colors several times over the decades. Once a haven for nudists, the hotel today is no longer "swim-suit" optional and is restored to its original bright color scheme with touches of contemporary fun. There are Instagram-able alcoves, a sauna, dipping pools, a hot tub, and, of course, a giant, pink flamingo floating in the saltwater pool. Breakfast of savory tarts, toast, juices, and a tea service is served daily. Rooms are decorated individually in tropical prints in retro shades of teals, mossy greens and orange. Bamboo furniture complements the décor. The new owners, Kathy and Gary Friedle, quit their east coast jobs to join the hospitality industry in Palm Springs and lovingly returned the Monkey Tree name while sprucing up the interiors to today's standards. It all works playfully and while early fans still drop by, most guests find so much to enjoy on the grounds they hardly leave the oasis. ~Elaine Masters,
The Monkey Tree Hotel
Bluebonnets at Sunset ©Fredericksburg CVB
wildflowers & wine (peaches, too!) in texas hill country By Debbra Dunning Brouilette
eep in the heart of the Hill Country of Texas, you’ll find a destination for all seasons—Fredericksburg and surrounding communities in Gillespie County. Located about an hour’s drive from San Antonio or a bit longer from Austin, this part of Central Texas will fill your eyes, stomach, and spirit to overflowing no matter what time of year you choose to visit. The area's special brand of Texas hospitality and strong German heritage combine to create a unique sense of gemütlichkeit wherever you go.
Springtime is Bluebonnet Season When I learned I’d be visiting Fredericksburg in early April, I knew bluebonnets, the blue wildflower that blankets fields throughout the Hill Country in springtime, would be nearing their peak. When I lived in the Dallas area, I looked forward to driving through a bluebonnet trail 35 miles south of the city in Ennis, TX, every spring, but I hadn’t laid eyes on them since leaving the Lone Star state seven years earlier. “They’re as common as the yellow butterweed and wild mustard plants that cover vacant fields in my home state of Indiana,” I thought, as we traveled down a 45-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 290 from Fredericksburg to Johnson City, Texas. But these blue beauties are not weeds. Bluebonnets were designated the Texas State flower way back in 1901. They’re in the lupine family, and although other types of lupines grow in more northern climates, the Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) and several other closely related varieties, can only be found in Texas and other Southern states. Other wildflowers often mixed among the bluebonnets include red-orange hued Indian paintbrush, yellow buttercups and pink evening primrose, also called pink ladies.
From top: Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush; Wildflowers at Wildseed Farms; Bluebonnet
Our gratitude, in large part, should go to Lady Bird Johnson and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 for this seasonal floral explosion. Wildflower seeds planted along roadways throughout the Hill Country and in other parts of the U.S. continue to bring enjoyment, and, as Lady Bird once said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
Mid-April is the best time to see bluebonnets and other wildflowers in full bloom. ~ John Thomas, Wildseed Farms
Wildflowers & Wine at Wildseed Farms Wildflower lovers, do not miss visiting Wildseed Farms, the largest working wildflower farm and seed producer in the US. Forty-one species of wildflowers native to southern climes are grown on the 200-acre farm located on U.S. Highway 290 near Fredericksburg. Purchase seeds from the flowers they grow, along with other items in the gift shop. Wander the walking trails, take photos of fields of Texas bluebonnets, poppies and other seasonal wildflowers grab some refreshments, and visit the on-site wine tasting room for Wedding Oak vineyards.
There’s Plenty to “Wine” About The word is getting out about Texas Hill Country wines. The region was named #6 among the top 10 winners in USA Today’s 10 Best in the Reader’s Choice awards— wine region category for 2018. With more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms in Fredericksburg and Gillespie County, you can visit a diﬀerent winery every day for a month and still have more to explore. During my visit, I sampled wines at four of 19 wineries that are part of Wine Road 290—a 45-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 290 from Johnson City to Fredericksburg. Becker Vineyards, one of the Hill Country’s oldest wineries, was established in 1992 by endocrinologist Dr. Richard Becker and his wife, Bunny. It is the third largest in the Lone Star state, producing over 100,000 cases per year. Becker Vineyards wines have been served in the White House to multiple US presidents and at James Beard Foundation dinners. Although many of its wines are distributed throughout the state of Texas, most of those included in tastings at the winery are winery exclusive—even more reason to visit in person. After finishing our tasting at a wisteria vine-covered patio outside the main tasting room, we strolled through rows of lavender fields a few steps away. An annual lavender festival is held the first weekend in May; soaps, sachets, lotions and other products made from this lovely perennial herb are available in the tasting room. Pedernales Cellars, owned by a sixth-generation Texas family and established in the early 1990s, specializes in Spanish and Rhone style wines using 100 percent Texas grapes. Tempranillo, Spain’s biggest red wine grape, makes up about half of the estate’s vineyard. Signor Vineyards, situated where the Pedernales River Valley meets Grape Creek, invites guests to visit its tasting room, located inside the Vineyard Estate House. Sample Signor’s Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Roussanne and Viognier while learning how the Signor and
From top: Grapes in Gillespie County ©Blake-Mistich; Becker Vineyards Saigné; Rosé from Narrow Path Winery; Becker Vineyards lavender
Weisinger families— neighbors and friends since the 1950s —joined forces to become winemakers. An idea first discussed in 2014 has now become a reality.
JAMboree Peach Festival and Rodeo the third weekend in June.
On our first evening in Fredericksburg, we dined outdoors in a picturesque setting at Fischer & Wieser’s Das Peach Haus, Narrow Path Winery began making wine in the early 2000s overlooking a lake and a peach orchard dating back to 1928. using grapes from a one-acre estate Founded in 1969 as a roadside peach vineyard. The first harvest ended in stand, the business has grown to an old-fashioned grape stomp with become the #1 gourmet food store in friends and family. Narrow Path has Texas, oﬀering a line of cooking developed into an excellent small sauces, salsas, jams, jellies, appetizers, batch winery using grapes from its • The Texas Hill County is pasta sauces, and soups. A Culinary own vineyard, as well as select Texas the second fastest Adventure Cooking School was added and California vineyards. The name is growing wine destination in 2016 and a wine tasting room in meaningful to its founder, Bob 2017. Turbeville, who chose it from a in the U.S. Napa Valley, Biblical passage. Questions about the Califor nia, is number winery’s name allow him to share his History & Heritage one. faith and his belief that everyone When you’re all “wined” out, there is follows their own path in life. still plenty to see and do in the Fredericksburg area. Much of it is Enthusiast • Wine Eight wineries have Tasting Rooms in related to its German heritage, Magazine named Texas downtown Fredericksburg—Main including the Pioneer Village and Hill Country among its Street Wineries and Tasting Rooms. Vereins Kirche Museum, which we No “designated driver?” No worries! visited on a walking tour of “Ten Best Wine Travel You can arrange for a limo tour of the Fredericksburg’s downtown area. Free Destinations” in 2014. wine country through Fredericksburg self-guided walking tour maps of the Wine Tours district are available at the main Visitor Information Center. • Texas is the nation’s fifth
Did you know?
Summertime is prime peach season in state, but most of it is the Hill Country. Gillespie County consumed within the (Fredericksburg is the county seat) is one of the largest peach-producing state. counties in Texas. Mineral-rich soil and climate conditions make the area additional must-see excellent for growing peaches, as well as grapes for wine. Country. While peaches are usually at their peak from mid-May through early August, visitors can take part in the annual
Fredericksburg’s Das Peach Haus © Fischer & Weiser
Even though the wineries are a major draw for tourists, the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, including the Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch, are attractions while visiting the Hill
Summertime is prime peach season in the Hill Country. © Trish Rawls
The National Museum of the Pacific War was established in 1967 as the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Museum. Nimitz was a Fredericksburg native who was Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Forces in World War II. The Museum has been expanded over the years to become the only one of its kind dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific and Asiatic Theaters in World War II. Gillespie County’s most famous son was Lyndon Baines Johnson, our 36th President, who was born and raised in Stonewall and lived at his ranch following his presidency until his death.
Where to Stay I found my first bluebonnet patch on the grounds of my accommodation in a “Sunday Haus” cottage at the Fredericksurg Herb Farm, four blocks from the main shopping district. Fourteen one-bedroom “Sunday Haus” cottages await guests. They are patterned after those built by German settlers who would come into town on the weekend to buy provisions and attend church services. Painted in pastels, each cottage has a front porch with old-fashioned rocking chairs, providing a peaceful place to relax between activities during your stay. Take a 360 degree virtual tour. While I didn’t have time to schedule a treatment in the on-site Spa, I’d love to do so on a return trip. I checked out the treatment rooms and enjoyed using the herb-based products
From top right, clockwise: Entrance to the herb gardens; Alstadt Brewery; The Texas White House at the LBJ Ranch © Cynthia Dorminey; Sunday Haus cottages at Fredericksburg Herb Farm; another view of Sunday Haus cottages
provided for guests in the cottages. Walk through the herb gardens, and dine in the Farm Haus Bistro for breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch or dinner. Menus feature whatever is freshest and inspired by freshly picked herbs from the gardens.
Where to Dine August E’s, serving Nouveau Texas Cuisine since 2004, features steak, seafood and sushi, with a full Thai menu every Tuesday. The Cabernet Grill - Texas Wine Country Restaurant, named one of “America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants 2018” by Wine Enthusiast, serves locally-sourced Hill Country cuisine featuring a wine list of more than 100 all-Texas vintages. Altstadt Brewery, Fredericksburg’s newest brewery (opened Summer 2018), has wine on the menu, too. Tour this authentic Bavarian brewery and then enjoy great German food.
If you go… More than 1,200 guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, 1,100 bookable hotel/motel rooms and a number of RV campsites are available. Check out additional lodging options on the Visit Fredericksburg site here.
The Magic of San Miguel Allende By Nancy Mueller
rt, beauty, and culture abound to make Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende a top-choice travel destination. Spend even a few days here, and before long, you, too, will be thinking about how to come back to for a visit, or stay for a lifetime. While there are many reasons why you will fall in love with the area, let me share my favorite seven.
Discover a UNESCO World Heritage Site Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, San Miguel de Allende radiates boundless charm. Wander its cobblestone streets, breathe in its sweet-scented bougainvillea, gaze over colorful rooftops, or simply savor the sounds of Spanish and live Mariachi music in the El Jardin (the town square) for a sense of how San Miguel weaves its web of enchantment.
Immerse Yourself in History San Miguel’s rich heritage spans almost 500 years. The town’s transformation from a tribal community began in 1542 with the arrival of Franciscan friar Fray Miguel, who sought to establish a Catholic stronghold in the New World for the Spanish Empire. Once silver was discovered here in 1557, San Miguel quickly became a boomtown aided by its strong agricultural industry. But living under the yoke of Spain’s authority led to civil unrest among local inhabitants. By 1810, native son Ignacio Allende led the town’s fight for independence from Spain, a fight that lasted 10 years before resulting in San Miguel’s freedom. To honor his role as a revolutionary hero in San Miguel’s quest for independence, the town changed its name to include Allende.
Discover Art & Architecture Thanks to its thriving arts community, colonial architecture, and cultural treasures, San Miguel has been selected the “American Capital of Culture 2019.” For starters, iconic landmark, La Parroquia, rises over the El Jardin in the heart of town. The multi-spired pink parish church has undergone several renovations since its inception, but it still stands as a symbol of faith to locals and tourists alike. Two blocks from the church, El Nigromante Cultural Center showcases performance art, rotating exhibits and a permanent collection of murals, including an unfinished piece by artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Formerly a convent, El Nigromante is also the original site of Bellas Artes art school which first attracted artists and creatives from around the world in the 1940s and 1950s and continues to this day.
Additional attractions include La Fabrika Aurora, a former factory converted into a large art gallery.
Join in Cultural Festivals
What’s not to love about a culture that seems to throw a party daily to celebrate one happy occasion after another? In fact, San Miguel boasts several cultural festivals throughout the year. For my first foray to San Miguel, I joined Eat the Peach Travel, a small-group tour company, to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Founders/ tour leaders Sharon Gonzalez and Tom Travers specialize in “boutique tours for adventurers,” an ideal solution for those who enjoy both community and exploring solo while having all the logistics like lodging, some meals, and festival events taken care of for you. Dia de Los Muertos falls oﬃcially on the first two days of November every year when celebrants believe the veil between the worlds of life and death is thin. But celebrations occur throughout the entire week. While commonly confused with Halloween, the two holidays diﬀer significantly. In Mexican tradition, a sense of joy surrounds the events as the spirits of the dead are welcomed back, however briefly, to the land of the living. Skulls and skeletons, especially La Calaveras Catrina, a large female fashionista skeleton, take center stage. Doors and headstones are adorned with Mexican marigolds in the belief that the strong scent helps the spirits cross the threshold back to the living. Families bring oﬀerings to Panteon de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery) and decorate ofrendas (love altars) with symbolic gifts to honor the lives of those who have left this world for another. For our tour, we were encouraged to bring photos of deceased loved ones to contribute to a group niche that became part of artist Tomas Burkey’s Pyramid of the Dead. The enormous tower of individual recessed structures memorializes those who have died. The overall eﬀect is bittersweet—a poignant reminder of how quickly life passes—yet it honors of the lives our loved ones lived while among us.
Opposite page: Sunset at Cuna De Tierra Winery; This page, from top: San Miguel de Allende; La Parroquia Parish Church
To join in the week’s festivities, pack your costume (more Steampunk than Halloween) and come a day or two before the main event. That gives you time to get an overview of San Miguel and to soak up the vibe of Dia de Los Muertos. On the day of the big event, the La Catrina Parade, don your costume, then head to the luxury Rosewood Hotel for face painting, cocktails, photo ops, and musical performances. Now you’re all set to join the parade. Tip: Be sure to wear flat, comfortable shoes for walking in the parade over those winding, uneven cobblestone streets.
Savor the Region’s Cuisine, Wines and Cocktails From inexpensive food trucks to fine dining at upscale restaurants, you can expect to find traditional Mexican food fare like tortillas, tamales, and tacos in San Miguel. Dishes feature meats, maize, avocado, and tomatillos while salsas and sauces are infused with earthy spices of chili peppers, cumin, and oregano. Tropical fruits like mango, papaya, and prickly pear are plentiful.
Shop the Farmer & Artisan Markets Markets are a way of life in San Miguel. Open-air or enclosed, daily or weekly, farmer or artisan-focused, markets oﬀer an easy way for visitors to engage with the local culture. Stretch your comfort zone by speaking with vendors in Spanish or sampling unfamiliar foods as you stroll among the food stalls. When it comes to souvenir shopping, San Miguel’s markets oﬀer abundant artisan goods to remind you of that fiesta feeling upon return home. See for yourself at one of the largest and most popular, The Tianguis de Los Martes (Tuesday Market), where you can find most anything to purchase that your heart desires, from housewares to fruit and vegetables, furniture and fresh fish.
Visit a Vineyard Tour host Sharon Gonzalez describes a visit to award-winning, boutique winery Cuna De Tierra, “like stepping into an Isabella Allende novel.” Magic and beauty lie in its landscape, a 40minute drive outside San Miguel. As we tour the vineyard, Vitner Paco Lara Sirvent explains that everything here is done manually among its 70 employees. The site covers almost 80 acres, and vines are pruned year round. He describes winemaking in simple terms: “It depends on the grape (fruity, spicy, or floral), the process (clay or barrel), and the soil (minerals, climate, vegetation, what was here before).” He adds, “But the best wine is one you share with someone special.” Visitors can tour the vineyard and production facility and enjoy tastings and tapas for a complete sensory experience of the winery. This page, from top: Face painting for Dia de los Muertos; Roasted corn, soon flavored with lime, salt, chili powder, and mayonnaise; Tropical fruit breakfast at Hotel El Santuario
For more information, visit Eat the Peach Travel.
vis it par k city. com
From top, left: Running of the Bulls on Calle de la Estafeta, Pamplona, Spain © Len Garrison; Polignano a Mare, Italy © Judi Cohen; Loch Lomond, Scotland © John A. MacInnes; Trulli houses in Alberbello, Italy © Christine Cutler
From top, right: Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador © Lori Sweet; Playa Indios, Isla-Mujeres, Mexico © Andrew T. Der; Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay near North East, Maryland © Kurt Jacobson; Sunset Celebration at Top of the Rock, Branson, Missouri © Priscilla Willis
From top, left-to-right: Overlooking Bellingham Bay © SueFrausePhoto; Abbazia Cistercense Santa Maria di Follina, Treviso, Italy © Penny Weiss; North Harbor Drive, San Diego Bay, California © Any Piper; Atop the Cap Canille, Cassis, France © Wendy VanHatten; Grape harvest, Abruzzo, Italy © Veronica Matheson
Opposite page: St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic © Mary Ann DeSantis
Heaven's New Address— Halkidiki at Danai By Judy Garrison
he hands me an ice cold flute of champagne, and I swoon. "Enjoy," she instructs and walks away. ***
The drive from Ouranoupoli, Greece, located on the eastern finger of northern Greece's three peninsulas to Sithonia, the central one, had taken about one hour. Motoring along in our rented Fiat, we made the trip to our next hosted location without pause. Even though Waze wrestled with a few of our directions and our interpretations of the Greek language, we triumphed in the end. Our first three-day stint had left us questioning comfort on the Halkidiki peninsula, and at this point, we only asked for a cold mojito and a soft bed. The tiny road leading to the entrance of Danai Beach Villas and Resort took us past tall pines and a modest
neighborhood. We looked at each other and became resigned to the fact that this experience might not be as we dreamed. Then the white gates appeared, and I could have sworn I heard a chorus of angels. We gave the attendant our names, and he waved us through the gates and walked alongside the Fiat, guiding us with his steps as we slowly approached the front entrance. “I think we're going to be okay,” I muttered. *** White marble columns frame the five circular steps leading into the lobby where women in white greet us with smiles and champagne. I reach for the glass and I feel a silent "Oh my gosh" spill from my eyes. The scents of orchids, Dianthus, and the pink florals guide us to the outside veranda where the breeze of the Aegean Sea complements our symphony of senses. I turn and look toward Len as if I had just picked the seven lucky numbers of the billion dollar lottery, and our lives were about to transform. The terrace provides a glimpse of the resort's sandy beach, the picturesque gardens and the beach cabanas, all wrapped in Mediterranean hues. A woman brings us cool white towels scented in lemongrass to cleanse our hands, and then asks if we are ready to see our room. She ushers us down the steps, walking down the hill, pointing out the library, the wine cellar, the restaurants, and various other shops lining the thoroughfare that are available to guests.
This page from top right: Danai Beach Villas; the small coastal village of Nea Fokaia; coastal Greece
She unlocks and opens the white door, revealing crisp white walls, ivory ceramic tile, a bed draped in white, and oversized natural wicker furniture. A bottle of red wine and fresh fruit are on a table beside the fireplace. Two doors open to a sitting area leading to a single door ushering us outside. There we find a private plunge pool complete with two chaises and towels, and then, two steps below, an intimate sitting area for two overlooks the Aegean Sea. Do I dare explode now, right in front of the woman in white? For an instant, I am that little girl sitting cross legged on her bed in the rural North Georgia mountains, dreaming of being swept away by luxury. This is the moment when that dream became a reality. I judge the rest of Danai's story by this very moment. In the span of 30 minutes, they fulfill a childhood dream and take my breath away simultaneously. Everything else is icing on the cake. It is the end of the tourism season in Northern Greece. The next week, Danai will close and not reopen until Easter the following year. The staff will go home to their families and will return to ready the resort for its guests a few weeks before the official opening. There are only a few other guests during this last week in September; each day the temperatures fall slightly, hinting of impending cooler weather. On the morning of our last day, temperatures had dropped 30 degrees overnight. No matter where we are—the bar, the pool, the restaurant—we are called by name. Conversations begin and end in
one meeting and pick up once again when we return. Beautiful Anastasia, our beach bar server, studies tourism and is interning at Danai and will return to Athens at the end of the season. Yesterday, it had been 100 degrees; today, it's 64 degrees, and she brings us blankets along with our mojitos. We enjoy their unique passion fruit mojito as Frank Sinatra's melodies remind us of our home. The staff tells us about their
Come here… We have the warmest sea in Greece. The largest wine cellar.
homes, their families. They are all anxious to finish this week and return to whom they love the most. Over and over, we are told that Danai is a family. We watch the staff interact with each other, and it reminds me of friends returning after being away for a long time. Hugs, slaps, smiles, laughter. There is definitely something special here. Each evening we feast on specialties as we dine by the sea. Cauliflower soup with cauliflower couscous and pistachio praline. Caprese salad with smoked mozzarella and pesto. King fish with potatoes and bottarga. Passion fruit and coconut sorbet. Greek wines from the Islands, Estate Gaia, Wild Ferment from Assyrtiko, 2016. Candles light faces while trees provide a green canopy. White linen cloths cover the small round tables. It's like a beehive, all choreographed by the waiter who places the forest green napkin in my lap, the server who pours the soup, the sommelier who suggests the meal's compliment. An older woman dressed all in white with dainty silver shoes sits alone at a table for two. She eats what she wants and does not ask for take-away. She appears to be the most contented woman I have ever seen, and I immediately understand the power of our surroundings. The
soundtrack to our evening is provided by the lapping waves upon the beach as the pink sky fades to dark blue, along with Lou Rawls' deep smooth voice reminding us, "You'll never find another love like mine." As travel writers and photographers, we are exposed to many of the world's finest properties and experiences. Quite honestly, most who share their lives and craft with us have no clue who we are and why we are there. We blend in to become another guest. We jot down details on our phones and snap quick shots of menus, just like every other traveler these days. Once, we might have stood out, but those days are gone. The service we receive is the service you receive. If there is a reason to return to Northern Greece, it would be to rejuvenate at Danai. It left a longing for luxury and service that few properties have done. We want to see Anastasia again, and Plahouras, the sommelier. We want to return to the people who made our three days in paradise unforgettable and extraordinary. And the view, the food, the wine…
Come and Visit For Americans, the islands of Santorini and Mykonos speak to the Greek adventure, not northern regions rich in olive groves, overflowing sandy beaches, breathtaking mountain ranges, and scenic fishing villages oﬀering the day's fresh catch yards from the sea. Europeans have discovered its beauty away from the crowds of Athens and the islands, and Halkidiki's year-round appeal. Kimon Riefenstahl, Danai's managing director, understands this reality. “Come here,” he says. "We have the warmest sea in Greece. The largest wine cellar." It becomes obvious during our time at Danai that, from the managing director to the staff, their care is guest-driven and their priority is service. This page: Photos of Danai Beach Resort and Kimon Riefenstahl, Danai's managing director
Hollókő, Hungary the town that preserves tradition & culture By Diane Dobry
There are many reasons people visit Hungary—Hollywood elite hang out there; Budapest is a river cruise port of call; there are beautiful buildings and bridges along the Danube; the locals are warm, funny and friendly; the wines are superb; and the thermal baths are world-renown. For travelers willing to venture outside of the capital city, there are select villages and cities that have received UNESCO World Heritage status and feature historic cultural traditions, architecture and sights. Hollókő, a small village 96 kilometers (60 miles) east of Budapest, whose name means “Raven Rock,” is one such region that serves as home to the Palócz people, an ethnic minority group that arrived there in the 1600s. Named a World Heritage Site in 1987, the village centers around medieval castle built in the 13th century (what remains of it) that is flanked by approximately 58 white-washed homes and a white wooden church along the main cobblestone roadway. It is not unusual in this part of the country to meet townspeople in folk costumes on the street. The community as a whole is a
revival of the culture and traditions that evoke the character of this region and its people.
Sights, Eats, and Activities
Hungarians flock to Hollókő for its many festivals, which bring out residents wearing traditional garb, and celebrating old folk traditions. An annual Easter Festival in the village welcomes not only the end of winter, but also hundreds of visitors to the area to enjoy the ceremony of the boys sprinkling girls with water or perfume. Small shops along the main street sell wooden, wicker, pottery, and fabric items. Traditional csárdá taverns serve stick-to-the-ribs foods well-known in Hungarian villages with some oﬀering the csárdás music that gets Hungarian men up and dancing in their footstomping, leg-slapping style. What is there to do besides eat, shop, and enjoy the residents in their colorful folk garb? Several museums depict the historic traditions of the village, castle shows oﬀer exhibitions of its historic features and battle armor, and living museums-including a print shop, a weaving museum, doll museum, and
historic homes—show what daily life was like in the town. The village is a hiker’s dream. In the valley of the Cserhát mountains, the landscape oﬀers wooded nature trails along streams, across meadows, and up hills. A favorite spot to explore is
Modern Accommodations in the Middle of a Link to the Past The Castellum Hotel, a contemporary spa resort popular among Hungarians, is a short (but uphill) walk from the village main street. As a wellness hotel, it is smoke-free with a full-service spa featuring warm-water Jacuzzi tubs, sprays and jets, saunas, massages, foot baths, a fitness center, and a salon (some services have an additional charge).
Gastronomy is a special focus of various special events throughout the year, and the hotel advertises a Sunday special for locals and day-trippers to enjoy the spa and restaurants for a day without staying in a room. Discounted rates include 10 percent oﬀ for booking more than 30 days in advance to 33
percent oﬀ for seniors staying between Sunday night and Tuesday night. There are special prices for children of diﬀerent ages. Standard rooms may have a standard king-size bed or two twin beds with a sizable balcony, mini-bar, safe, and flat-screen TV. Rooms come with two robes and large towels for the spa laid out on the bed. The beds have Billerbeck mattresses and anti-allergic bedding, and ergonomic or soft pillows are available upon request. Fully tiled bathrooms were clean and came with a large walk-in shower, heated towel rack, hair dryer, and magnifying make-up mirror. Most rooms are positioned with beautiful views of the hillside terrain, and larger rooms have sofa beds as well. Several suites have romantic private Jacuzzis with stunning view of the hills of Hollókő visible through a set of large picture windows. Family suites come with a fireplace and a sofa bed for additional family members. Room packages include wifi (which is available throughout the hotel). Dining options can provide one, two, or three meals per day. I found the service to be exceptional. I was on a special diet the week I stayed and was concerned I would not have much to eat. The chef and a translator met with me when I was checking in. Every morning and evening, and even at the wedding I attended, the chef prepared special, delicious foods and smoothies with my special needs in mind. Opposite page: View from Hollókő; This page, from top: Loom © Elizabeth Vos: Hollókő church © Elizabeth Vos; tourists in Hollókő folk costumes © Elizabeth Vos
The best way to get to Hollókő, though not the least expensive, is a shuttle sent from the Castellum Hotel to the airport in Budapest. The website indicates that it costs €60 each way. This would also be the fastest way to go since the drive is about one and one-quarter hours to Hollókő from Budapest. Guests must make arrangements for the shuttle in advance with the hotel. Renting a car oﬀers the fastest drive into the countryside east of Budapest, although the roads are small and winding. Be mindful that in small villages, if you do not speak Hungarian, it will be diﬃcult to find people who can speak English well enough to give clear directions. There is no train that goes directly to Hollókő; however, a train, costing about $8, goes east to Hatvan and then to the town of Paszto in about two hours. From there, a taxi would take another 20 minutes and cost about $20-$30. A bus, costing about $9 and running only once per day, leaves from the Stadion bus depot to Kacsóh Pongrác út at 8:30 a.m. and from Kacsoh, a bus leaves at 8:38 a.m. arriving in Hollókő at 10:30 a.m. Private tours from Budapest go through the village of Hollókő and go on to the Matra hills or to Eger, wine areas that oﬀer tastings at one or two well-known Hungarian wineries. Other tours, like Budapest Travel Tours, stop first at a small palace in Gödöllő, which was the summer palace of Elizabeth, Empress of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, who was known fondly as Sissi. A private tour from Budapest with Viator goes only to the village of Hollókő for a four-hour stay, with visits to sights, museums and the village. Guests are picked at their Budapest hotels and dropped oﬀ at the end of the day. This costs approximately $200 and does not include food and drink.
Italy’s Best Well-Kept Secret By Christine Cutler
Stretching from the Apennines to the Adriatic, Italy’s Abruzzo region is rich in history, culture, art, cuisine, natural beauty, and traditions that surprise and charm visitors.
estled between the Apennine Mountains and Adriatic Sea, Italy’s Abruzzo region is a mere 50 miles due east of Rome and unspoiled by the hordes of tourists that invade it. Abruzzo is the region where north meets south; where sandy beaches turn into rolling hills and rocky mountains; where national parks cover one-third of the region; where 43-plus miles of the coast comprise a UNESCO WorldHeritage site. And we cannot, of course, forget the food.
This page from top: Pettorano Sul Gizio; field on the Adriatic Coast; the Riserva Naturale Regionale Monte Genzana e Alto Gizio from Pettorano
A beautiful but less-visited area of Italy, Abruzzo, is a pleasant surprise… ~Rob McCoy
Th e p r e p o n d e r a n c e o f n a t u r a l surroundings provides a wealth of yearround activities. The mountains on the western border are perfect for walking, hiking, and cycling most of the year. There are more than 30 walking routes that wind through Abruzzo, and you can spend anywhere from two-to-ten hours wandering. If you are interested, you can easily find books about the walks on Amazon. There are also more than 35 hiking trails in the region, and you can get information on them from All Trails. In the winter, Abruzzo gets snow—a lot of snow. There are 18 ski resorts in the region, and among them, they have 91 ski lifts and about 151 miles of slopes. If you ski, snowboard, check out Ski Abruzzo.
Dubbed the “Greenest Region in Europe,” Abruzzo boasts three national parks, one regional park, and more than 35 protected reserves. The reserves are I am Abruzzese home to the rarest living The blood of Abruzzo runs through my species in Europe—among veins; my grandparents grew up in them the golden eagle, and M a r s i c a n b r o w n b e a r, Pettorano Sul Gizio (photo above), a small Abruzzo chamois, and town in the center of a protected reserve. Apennine wolf, and the When I recently obtained my Italian protected reserves guarantee citizenship, I established my residency in the survival of a whopping 75 Carunchio, another small town in Abruzzo, percent of all of Europe’s to maintain the connection. living species.
This page, clockwise from top left: A trabocco on the Abruzzese coast; a street in Pettorano sul Gizio; the fortress of Rocca Calascio (highest point in the Italian Apennines); barrels at Pietrantonj Winery; the oratory of San Pellegrino in Bominaco
A trip from the mountains to the sea doesn’t take long no matter where in the Abruzzo one is. The 85-mile coast in Abruzzo has wide, fine sands north of Pescara, and rockier, pebbly beaches to the south. While there are beaches south of Pescara, the main attractions of the 43-plus mile stretch are the trabocchi, the old fishing ‘machines’ that sit over the water. The trabocchi have been in use since the 15th century, although many today are restaurants.
Kings of the Hills Abruzzo has no big cities or major museums that most tourists know about. What it does have, though, are a plethora of medieval towns that tumble down the hillsides from perches that once provided protection but today bestow sweeping views of the region’s beauty. Abruzzo hilltowns have won 22 “Borghi Piu Belli d’Italia” (The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy) awards, second only to Umbria. The awards go to towns not only for their aesthetic beauty and livability but also for their cultural, historical, and artistic importance.
The Markets Shopping in Italy is always an adventure, and the best place to shop is at the weekly open-air markets held in almost every town. These mercati are the perfect place to find everything from fresh produce, meats, and cheeses to antiques, gifts, and souvenirs. Most include clothing, and some, like the one held in Sulmona on Wednesdays and Saturdays, even oﬀer ready-toeat meals. (Try the porchetta, slow-roasted pork seasoned with salt, pepper, fennel, and rosemary.) Be aware that most vendors prefer cash, and some do not accept credit cards. Check out market schedule by going to HapPings.
Gastronomically, Abruzzo is nearly heaven.
While most of the borghi do not have a major monuments or museums, what they do have is insight into real Italian life. Their charm lies in the picturesque buildings, ancient streets, churches, friendly people, and wonderful wines and cuisine.
Abruzzese vineyards cover more than 81,500 acres and produce more than 40 ~Mario Batali million cases of wine annually. The Montepulciano grape is responsible for the region’s signature red, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (not the same as the Tuscan Montepulciano wine). Low in acid, dark in color, and dry, it pairs with almost any food. The grape is also the base for Cerasuolo, a cherry-pink wine compared to rosé. Trebbiano, the Abruzzese white wine, is less acidic and has fruity notes. My personal favorite is another white, Pecorino, a sparkling, crisp wine that pairs well with seafood, street food, cheese, and dessert. Several of the wineries in the region oﬀer tours and tastings. My favorite is Antica Casa Vitivinicola Italo Pietrantonj, a
winery founded in 1791 and run today by sisters Alice and Roberta, eighth generation descendants of the founder. Located in Vittorito, Pietrantonj still uses oak and walnut vats created in 1870.
The Food! The Food! The best way to get to know a place is through its food. The traditions, markets, and meals built around the foods give insight to the culture, agriculture, and history of a place. The food of Abruzzo—maccheroni all chitarra, arrosticini, polenta rognosa, salted cod, pecorino cheese, torrone, fried dough covered with honey—draws on its pastoral, mountain, and coastal areas. Abruzzese food is generally regarded as the purest of Italian cuisines, and the Confesercenti, an Italian trade and tourism organization, recognized Abruzzo as the best place to dine in Italy. This is the food on which I grew up, the food my mother and grandmother taught me to make, the food I still cook to this day. If you don’t have an Italian grandmother or mother to teach you, the good news is that you can learn the secrets of Abruzzese cooking in many of the region’s villages.
This page, from top: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; fish dinner from a trabocco; porchetta at the mercado in Sulmona; Market Day in Sulmona; the 12th century aqueduct in Sulmona
The son of an Italian diplomat, Massimo Criscio got both his undergraduate and MBA degrees in the United States and was working for a large American c o m p a n y. I n t h e meantime, his father bought an old palazzo in a small village in the hills west of coastal Vasto and started making wine After 10 years, Massimo was growing tired of corporate America, and on a summer trip back home, all of the pieces fell into place. Massimo decided to create a program that would combine his love of food, wine, and travel. Massimo says, “My thinking was, ‘If you are doing a vacation in Italy, what would like to do?’ The answer was easy. ‘Eat good food. Drink good wine. Stay in a comfortable room. Have educational tours so that you can learn something.’ And that is what I am doing.” Located in Carunchio (my home comune), Abruzzo Cibus is a veritable destination experience in which guests immerse themselves in both the food and the culture of Abruzzo. A typical week includes hands-on classes in making, cooking, and eating a variety of Abruzzese specialties as well as
This page, from top: Carunchio; lentil soup, meatballs, Abruzzese cheeses; Chef Dino & Massimo of Abruzzo Cibus; All photos this page © Abruzzo Cibus
visiting area attractions. Moreover, participants visit an olive oil press, winery, trabocco, bell foundry, cheese factory, and more. It is an experience where guests, according to Massimo, “… do not worry or think of anything. We take care of everything— accommodations (in the palazzo), cooking classes, local touring, time for relaxing and exploring and, of course, eating and drinking just like the Italians.” While Massimo can cook, he is not in charge of the kitchen at Abruzzo Cibus, Chef Dino, a graduate of Abruzzo’s Villa Santa Maria, the oldest chef school in the world, handles that. Massimo is a certified sommelier, and his passion is for the wines of Abruzzo. He leads guests in the wine-pairing classes. Massimo has recently expanded oﬀerings at Abruzzo Cibus to include other destinations in Abruzzo. Guests interested in a seafood-centered week will stay on the coast in Termoli, a former fishing hamlet that borders Abruzzo and Molise regions. Accommodations are in cottages that were the former residences of area fishermen, and cooking classes feature fish and seafood, of course. Massimo tells me that they are currently building a spa at the palazzo so they can oﬀer a culinary adventure that also promotes physical well-being.
The Apennine Mountains from Rocca Calascio
The Great Wall of China, Courtesy Stencil
Exploring Shanghai Through Its Food By Priscilla Ann Willis ne of the best things about traveling is experiencing the cuisine of the cities I visit, and food tours are a good way to try new foods. On trips to Shanghai, I’ve been a satisfied participant on three food tours with UnTour Food Tours. Their knowledge and guidance resulted in my learning more about the history, food, and culture of Shanghai than I ever would have on my own. It is so much easier and enjoyable to explore the local cuisine with experienced guides who speak the language and knowing that the places/foods selected for you are safe to consume. All you have to do is step out of your comfort zone and be willing to try anything.
Night Market Food Tour Exploring the night markets in Shanghai was the most adventurous food tour. I experienced this and more on a frigid January evening in Shanghai with an eclectic group of 10 tourists and the guidance of a k n ow l e d g e a b l e , h u n g r y e x p a t w h o moonlights as a tour guide for UnTour Shanghai. We chowed on BBQ, crawfish, lamb kebabs, wok-fried rice noodles, fruit pudding, Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles, and much more from various hawker stalls.
First Stop: Night Seafood Market
This page, from top: Shanghai Night Seafood Market; Booth at the market; crawfish bowl
As we made our way down a narrow street past crates and makeshift kitchens, our guide Dan filled us in on the strange (to us) sea creatures and other more familiar-looking foods. Chinese food stalls do not operate in what first-world eaters consider a sanitary environment, but Dan assured us that the places we would be eating had been carefully curated after many dining experiences by UnTour Shanghai’s team of locals and expats.
We spied oysters and scallops, crawfish and snails, fish and toads. We creeped out over sea snakes which, thankfully, were not included in our food repertoire. Our first food tour stop was quite literally a "hole in the wall." We entered a tiny cluttered space, washed in unbecoming, harsh fluorescent light. We headed upstairs to a room devoid of décor but "where the good stuﬀ is," as Anthony Bourdain would say. After ordering beers, Dan instructed us on the proper way to eat crawfish. First, you grasp the head, give it a twist to separate it from the tail, suck the juices from the head, discard the shell (some people eat it), pinch the tail to pull the meat out, discard the shell, remove the vein at the top of the crawfish and discard, then enjoy the delicate flesh. Lips tingling from lingering spices, beer was just what we needed to put the fire out. With more street fare on the agenda, we clambered down the steep steps and into the night.
Next Stop: Old Town Shanghai
Near the famous Yuyuan Garden, the Old City bustles with activity well into the wee hours of the morning. Food carts and hawker stalls crowd every street and alley. Filled with tourists by day and locals by night, we saw a vibrant part of Chinese culture and walked among the local community who do their socializing, eating, and food shopping at the night market. We also witnessed a wok master in action. Chaomin is his name, and noodles are his game! Tossing ingredients in a burnished decades-old wok, he presented, mere seconds later us with a mound of stir-fried noodles and vegetables that were pure joy for our tastebuds.
Dumpling Food Tour
(chashao su), and steamed shrimp dumplings (xiajiao huang).
Shanghai Street Stall Dumplings
Pleasantly stuﬀed and refreshed, we could have ended the tour there, but we had one more stop before calling it a delicious dumpling day. The final eatery specialized in what is called 1000-mile fragrant small wontons, and that they were. As is common in many small eateries, ambiance was nonexistent, but the dumplings were delicate and abundant in a mild broth which gave them their due.
Of course, a visit to Shanghai would not be complete without dim sum and dumplings if you want to experience the local cuisine.
My Untour Shanghai dumpling tour began with a tiny street stand where a husband and wife team make excellent pork potstickers in an oversized, heavy cast iron street vendor style wok, seasoned black from decades of cooking. The potstickers were perfect—crispy browned skin enclosing steaming hot tender pork and juices. Our guide and co-owner Jamie instructed us on the proper way to eat them to avoid burning our mouths. Just up the street, we stopped for jianbing—a traditional Chinese breakfast grab-n-go that resembles a crepe folded like a burrito with egg, some meat, and crispy wonton bits. Next up were two small, family-owned stalls. At Nanjing Soup Dumplings & Spicy Soup, the owner's little boy was excited to set up a table for us. We ordered perfectly pleated tenderskinned crab, shrimp, and pork dumplings and had an inside look at their small operation. At Harbin Dumpling House we tasted boiled dumplings (shuijiao) filled with cabbage (baicai) and celery (jincai) along with a bamboo tofu salad (leng fuzhu) of dried beancurd sticks (yubu fu zhu or bamboo tofu). Many Chinese have tiny kitchens without cookstoves and don't prepare meals at home. A significant portion of business for these small family-owned shops are customers who order large quantities to take home.
Elegant Dim Sum Brunch
From there, we meandered through the former French Concession to partake in a more gentile sit-down dim sum "brunch" at Heng Yue Xuan Dim Sum Mansion inside Xujiahui Park. The park was bursting with spring's lush greenery and fragrant flowering trees. The setting was peacefully tranquil and a welcome respite from the bustling street traﬃc. Dim sum includes a myriad of marvelous dumplings from guotie (potstickers) to xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) to xiajiao huang (steamed shrimp dumplings). Our dim sum feast included almond shrimp roll (xi xingren xiazhuan), rice paper rolls (chengfen), BBQ pork pastries
Oodles of Noodles Food Tour It was a steamy July afternoon, almost too hot to eat soup noodles, but four noodle houses, one coﬀee house, and a onestop-shopping wet market later, I felt like a had a handle on noodle houses favored by locals. The most memorable experience was watching lamian noodles being made at our fourth noodle house stop, Lanzhou, a Muslim eatery where the noodles are made to order, then, quickly dipped into a boiling cauldron that sits outside the entrance. Becoming an expert noodle maker takes years of practice and is impressive to see in action. Lamian is a type of Chinese noodle that is made by stretching and folding the dough into strands (called hand-pulled noodles). The repeated twisting and stretching are aided by the weight of the dough and, depending on the number of times the dough is folded, determines the length and thickness of the strands. The hand pulled noodles we had were very wide ribbons that resembled pappardelle. They had a pleasant chewy texture and were served with tomato, chow fun, and a fried egg. The noodle soup had a flavorful broth and was served with beef (no pork since it's a Muslim shop) and lots of fresh cilantro, green onions, and chiles.
About UnTour Food Tours Guide and co-owner of UnTour Food Tours, Jamie Barys, is an American expat from Tennessee. Jamie came to Shanghai 12 years ago as an exchange student, fell in love with the city, and never left. She speaks fluent Mandarin and knows the history and current issues that face Shanghai. Jamie shares her knowledge of Shanghai cuisine, but she also provides details on Shanghai's culture, history, and architecture as she leads you through an exploration of the neighborhoods known as longtang.
For more information on UnTour Food Tours, click a link below. Shanghai Night Market Food Tour Shanghai Dumpling Tour Oodles of Noodles Food Tour
This page, from left: Dumplings; Food Tour poster
Bangkok Champagne Lifestyle on a Craft Beer Budget By Shannon Hurst DalPozzal
uxury travel can be an expensive undertaking; however, Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok is a destination with an international exchange rate that can appeal to even the most frugal of travel budgets. On an introductory trip to Thailand, after a few days relaxing in Chiang Mai, I traveled to bustling Bangkok for a more cosmopolitan experience in the Land of Smiles. Before leaving the US, I exchanged $250 USD at the airport for approximately $7800 Thai Baht, thinking it would be enough pocket money to last the first day or two. ATMs would be available should I need more spending money. I had no idea that I would be able to experience what I consider a champagne lifestyle on a craft beer budget in Bangkok. I visited the floating market and the shopping malls in Bangkok and ended up purchasing a second suitcase to bring all the shopping deals home. And, I still had plenty of Thai Baht for cocktails and taxi rides. Luxury hotels are extremely aﬀordable compared to North America or European cities. A taxi ride from one side of the city to the other? Less than five US dollars. Of course, riding the Skytrain is part of the Bangkok experience, and it even stops at many of the major hotels along the route, including the St. Regis Bangkok. After a day of shopping, relaxing by the pool or enjoying a cocktail with a view is a lovely way to recharge before
exploring the culinary scene of Bangkok, or even the famous nightlife of the city. While luxury hotels, shopping, and sightseeing are reasonable, many travelers might find the price of cocktails at some venues a little pricey. Alcohol tax is high in Thailand. However, a splurge on a lychee martini with a spectacular view might be worth the small expense. I’ve put together a shortlist of Bangkok’s luxury hotels with fabulous pools and a handful of roof top bars to enjoy a cocktail with a view.
Luxury Hotel Pools with a View
SO Sofitel Bangkok’s urban-themed hotel is designed around the elements. A five-star hotel, it’s located in central Bangkok neighboring Lumpini Park and within walking distance to the Skytrain. The infinity pool has panoramic views of the city. Starting room rate as of this printing is $140 per night. The Okura Prestige is also a five-star hotel with a 25-meter cantilevered pool. It is home to Michelin-starred restaurant Elements, which oﬀers breathtaking city views from a cantilevered deck before dining in the culinary theatre with open kitchen. Starting room rate as of this printing is $200 per night. The St. Regis Bangkok is a marriage of luxury and convenience. The Signature Butler Service is an included amenity with every stay. The butler can even unpack luggage
while the guest lounges by the pool overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club golf course. Starting room rate as of this printing is $225 per night. The Athenee Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel, is built on the former site of a palace. The lagoon-style pool is surrounded by the lush rooftop garden the has city views of Bangkok from the loungers. Starting room rate as of this printing is $190 per night. 137 Pillars Suites, a fairly new five-star hotel, has an historic tie to the story Anna and the King. This property oﬀers two pools with views, one on the 27th floor, and a private rooftop pool for suite guests. Starting room rate as of this printing is $160 per night.
Cocktails with a View Enjoy a Hangovertini at Sky Bar, located at lebua at State Tower, a film site in the movie Hangover II. Cocktails can be expensive, and visitors are sometimes brought to other bars with a good view, but insist on being taken directly to Sky Bar at the very top of the building. Have one cocktail as they are pricey, celebrate the sunset and enjoy both daytime and nighttime views of Bangkok before heading to dinner. Red Sky at Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Center is one of the newer rooftop bars in Bangkok and not quite as diﬃcult to get in as getting into Sky Bar at lebua. Red Sky is a fantastic venue from which to watch the sunset, so arrive early as you’ll want to have more than one cocktail during your visit. Above Eleven is a Peruvian rooftop restaurant and bar on the 33rd floor of the Fraser Suites Sukhumvit. Wednesday is Salsa night, with Thursdays reserved for jazz. It’s a more comfortable atmosphere with aﬀordable cocktails and that amazing Bangkok city view.
Opposite page: St Regis Bangkok pool © St. Regis Bangkok Clockwise, from top: Bangkok floating market ©137 Pillars Suites; Bangkok Cru Champagne Bar © Cru Bar; lebua at State Tower Sky Bar @Sky Bar; Red Sky Bar at Centara Grand © Red Sky Bar; Infinity pool ©137 Pillars Suites; The Athenee Hotel pool ©The Athenee Hotel; The Okura Prestige pool © The Okra Prestige
JAPAN'S NEVER-ENDING PULL By Elaine Masters
ometimes, it can be so hard to leave. The best trips end with the feeling, "I'll be back." Whether true or not, it makes moving on or going home a bit easier. Each time I’ve left Japan I’ve felt that. Each trip was during a diﬀerent stage of life and with very diﬀerent travel buddies.
My Introduction to Japan
Traveling with locals is one of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a new country. On the first trip to Japan, my thenhusband, five-year-old son, and I leaped at the invitation to visit friends who had returned to their Tokyo home. I brought a small folding stroller so my busy boy could rest as we ran around with our hosts, but I didn't foresee his rebellion. He jumped out on a hot Tokyo street to push his stroller in and around crowded sidewalks. It was mortifying and exhausting to manage, and we soon ditched the stroller. We learned to let his needs dictate our pace more often. Traveling with our small boy also opened opportunities like joining other families to play with Legos in the middle of a Tokyo shopping center or watching TV and bringing home a passion for Japanese cartoons, especially "Totoro." One morning, our friends drove us to the mountain town of Hakone for a weekend at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). As we first rode into the vacation village, I looked up from my fidgeting son to spy a broad green lawn with an immense statue of a boldly dressed woman carrying a big purse. Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculpture, Black Power, towered over the entrance to the renowned Hakone Open Air Museum. We ended up chasing my boy through the park-like acres dotted with internationally acclaimed artworks. I've always wanted to return to enjoy the park at a slower pace.
Japan Take Two
Ten years later, I jumped at the chance to return to Japan for a very diﬀerent trip. My new husband was going to meet his Japanese business partner and another family for a ten-day tour. Eleven Americans pooled requests into an itinerary that included a pre-dawn, back-stage pass through the Tsjuki Fish Market, to photos with Snow Monkeys, and to soaking in ancient onsen baths. We walked through Kyoto’s iconic Inari Gates and stepped too quickly past the Nishiki market food stalls. Again, I felt the strain of our pace, always wishing to stop more and wonder instead of rushing onward.
One indelible image was watching my 16-year-old son's face materialize through the foggy glass door of our Kyoto Temple Inn. The relief in his eyes when he saw me was priceless. He'd flown from Los Angeles to Osaka on his own, been picked up at the airport by our host's employee, and had dinner at an Izakaya before finally arriving near midnight to join our tour. Traveling in a large group with leaders to answer questions and manage day-to-day pivots is wonderful when you're new to a country, especially when you don't speak the language. Going on one's own is rife with risk but also with opportunity.
Third Time Will Be the Charm
My artist sister called the morning that she saw a New York Times article about the top places to visit this year. "Did you read about the Setouchi Triennial in Japan?" she asked. I had and encouraged her to go with one of her artist friends. She countered, "No, will you go with me?" And so, my third trip to Japan will be personally honed instead of relying on another’s agenda. There'll be hours to stroll the Imperial Palace, a day to study every foot of the Hakone Museum, and several days to ponder the sculptures dotting the Setouchi Islands. We’ll end the trip, our personal pilgrimage as two women of a certain age, by hiking a small portion of the World Heritage Kumano Kodo trail. The ancient route extends 156 kilometers through sacred forests. Over three days, we’ll see only highlights but still step where emperors, monks and warriors have meditated on life. My sister and I will stand in the mist from the largest waterfall in the country, pause in ancient temples, and sleep on tatami mats in a riverside ryokan. Before returning home, we’ll have time to see the Katsurra Fish Market and sip Matcha in Uji where green tea is harvested. We’ll interact with the Art Lab Light installation in Tokyo and then ride to the mountaintop Miho Museum, built by I.M.Pei, who created the Paris Louvre Pyramid. I can't imagine doing this trip at any other time in my life, and as the airplane rises from the Narita airport to return me home, I'll look out the window and whisper, "I'll be back, Japan. Opposite page: Mt. Fiji blossoms; This page, from top: Himeji Castle, Japan, Courtesy CCO; breakfast at the Ryokan; the author in front of a temple
Australia’s lake eyre comes to life By Veronica Matheson
illiam Creek, the tiny outback town located in South Australia’s far north—resident population around six—is bursting at the seams right now as tourists arrive to see Lake Eyre, normally a dry sunbaked salt pan, as it fills with water.
Centre stage is Trevor Wright, an aircraft pilot who arrived in William Creek 30 years ago on a brief visit, stayed, and now owns most of the town. Trevor reckons William Creek is the busiest he's ever seen it.
A flight gives a real overview of huge Lake Eyre as it fills with water. ~Trevor Wright
“Travelers are arriving to see the once-in-a-lifetime phenomena of Lake Eyre flooding as heavy rainfall up north in Queensland sends water along usually dry riverbeds to the lake.” Lake Eyre has the lowest point in Australia, at 15 meters (49 feet) below sea level, and when filled it covers 9,500 square kilometers (3,668 square miles), making it the largest lake in Australia. Many visitors are grey nomads—retired and touring the Australian Outback in huge RVs. They drive the ruggedly parched Oodnadatta Track to William Creek caravan park—owned by Trevor—before a night out at the William Creek Hotel, also owned by Trevor. “We nearly had a pub with no beer a few nights ago as it was so busy. I thought I’d have to jump into a plane and fly out for more supplies, but somehow we got through,” Trevor tells me. He owns the town’s air charter company and has some 20 small planes that take tourists on flights over Lake Eyre and deeper into the remote Outback, often dropping oﬀ supplies to vast cattle stations in the region. “A flight gives a real overview of huge Lake Eyre as it fills with water,” Trevor says. He likens his ownership of William Creek to playing a board game. “It’s a bit like Monopoly. I bought up blocks of land in town, moved on to buildings, then to the caravan park, and finally William Creek Hotel. The publicans there usually only stayed several months before moving on. I wanted stability in town, and for tourists to find good services in the middle of nowhere.”
From top: Australia; Pilot and property owner Trevor Wright; William Creek Hotel ©South Australian Tourism Bureau
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