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COVER PHOTO: I shot just a small segment of the amazing Ramayana mural found inside the Wat Phra Kaew temple within the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, is the world’s longest painting and mural. -- Ron James




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CELEBRATE WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT! For a party as bright, bold, and colorful as you’ve ever seen, come to Tri-Cities and celebrate at a multitude of vibrant festivals and events. Revel in the brilliant colors of our world and the bold colors of our lives. Thrill your senses with exceptional entertainment and world-class food and wine. We don’t do anything halfway. Add an exclamation point to your life’s biography. To learn more, visit

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publisher/executive editor

Ron James is the "wine, food and travel guy." He is a nationally award-winning print and online journalist, designer., television producer and radio personality. The native Californian's nationally syndicated wine and food columns have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He is passionate about great wine and food and enthusiastically enjoys them every day!

MARY JAMES publisher/editor



’ve had an exhausting series of adventures since the last issue. One was a planned trip to Istanbul and then a fabulous voyage that took us to Israel, Malta, Sicily, Italy, Spain, Morocco, the Canary Islands and across the Atlantic to Florida. The unplanned part was the fast sale of our house - much sooner than we expected - which set in motion a three-month marathon of cleaning, packing, storing, and temporary addresses until our new house was available. When we finally moved-in in January, the marathon continued as we unpacked countless boxes marked fragile and spruced up the new house with new flooring, furniture and fresh paint. It is a true miracle that this issue is a reality. It took us a while to figure out where to stay until our new home was available. But we ultimately opted for a travel adventure and rented a small bungalow in the uber wine country town of Healdsburg in the heart of Sonoma. It rained continuously for the first two weeks we were there, causing widespread flooding. It was amazing to watch kayakers paddle around the town’s Safeway parking lot. Even in the rain we enjoyed visiting wineries and tasting rooms, dined at world-class eateries and sampling some of the best wines in the world. When the sun came out, we explored redwood forests, stunning coastlines and charming towns from Calistoga to Bodega Bay. Our unexpected challenge turned into a charming travel adventure we’ll describe in depth in an upcoming issue.

Mary Hellman James is an award-winning San Diego journalist and editor. After a 29-year-career with the San Diego Union-Tribune, she currently is a freelance garden writer and a columnist for San Diego Home-Garden/Lifestyles magazine. Mary and her husband, Ron James, travel extensively. Upcoming this year is a sixweek visit to Asia.

Meanwhile, enjoy the many adventures packed into this issue with its stories that cover the globe, from Asia to Palm Springs. Take a hike around Lake Lucerne, explore the glories of Whidbey Island, cruise exotic Southeast Asia and take an African safari. Wine lovers also have a treat with Ron’s tongue-in-cheek wine enthusiast’s guide and a primer on rose wine by our resident wine expert Robert Whitley. Our domestic moving adventure is coming to a close as we pack our bags for our six-week travel expedition to Asia beginning in April. It’s a welcome break from home improvement. We hope you like Ron’s above selfie he took in Halong Bay, Vietnam -- we wish you safe, but exciting travels.

Ron and Mary James

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Alison DaRosa Alison DaRosa is a six-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for travel writing, the most prestigious prize in travel journalism. She served 15 years as Travel Editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune. She was the award-winning editor of the San Diego News Network Travel Page. She produces and edits the San Diego Essential Guide, a highly rated and continually updated travel app for mobile devices. Alison is a regular freelance contributor to the travel sections of U-T San Diego, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Sharon Whitley Larsen

Sharon Whitley Larsen’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Los Angeles Times Magazine, U-T San Diego, Reader’s Digest (and 19 international editions), Creators Syndicate, and several “Chicken Soup for the Soul” editions. Although she enjoys writing essays, op-ed, and people features, her favorite topic is travel (favorite destination London). She’s been lucky to attend a private evening champagne reception in Buckingham Palace to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, to dine with best-selling author Diana Gabaldon in the Scottish Highlands, and hike with a barefoot Aborigine in the Australian Outback. Exploring sites from exotic travels in the Arctic Circle to ritzy Rio, with passport in hand, she’s always ready for the next adventure!

Carl H. Larsen Carl H. Larsen is a veteran journalist based in San Diego. He now focuses on travel writing, and is summoned to pull out his notebook whenever there’s the plaintive cry of a steam locomotive nearby. In San Diego, he is a collegeextension instructor who has led courses on the Titanic and the popular TV series “Downton Abbey.”

Maribeth Mellin Maribeth Mellin is an award-winning journalist whose travel articles have appeared in Endless Vacation Magazine, U-T San Diego and Dallas Morning News among others. She also travels and writes for several websites including CNN Travel, and Zagat, and has authored travel books on Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii and California. Though known as a Mexico pro, Maribeth has written about every continent and was especially thrilled by the ice, air and penguins in Antarctica.

Susan McBeth

Susan McBeth is the founder and owner of Adventures by the Book ( ) which brings literature to life for readers through events and travels with authors. She is the founder of the SoCal Author Academy, providing workshops and training to help authors better connect with readers. She is a current member of the One Book One San Diego committee, and a former board member with the Southern California Booksellers Association.

Priscilla Lister Priscilla Lister is a longtime journalist in her native San Diego. She has covered a many subjects over the years, but travel is her favorite. Her work, including photography, has appeared in the U-T San Diego, Los Angeles Times, Alaska Airlines magazine and numerous other publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. She currently writes a weekly hiking column for the U-T, photographing every trail and its many wonders. But when the distant road beckons, she can’t wait to pack her bags.

Robert Whitley Robert Whitley writes the syndicated “Wine Talk” column for Creators Syndicate and is publisher of the online wine magazine, Wine Review Online. Whitley frequently serves as a judge at wine competitions around the world, including Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Sunset Magazine International and the Dallas Morning News TexSom wine competitions. Robert also operates four major international wine competitions in San Diego: Critics Challenge, Winemaker Challenge, Sommelier Challenge and the San Diego International.

Jody Jaffe & John Muncie Jody and John are the co-authors of the novels, “Thief of Words,” and “Shenandoah Summer,” published by Warner Books. John was feature editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, arts editor of The Baltimore Sun and writer-editor-columnist for the travel department of The Los Angeles Times. His travel articles have been published in many major newspapers; he's a Lowell Thomas award-winner. Jody is the author of "Horse of a Different Killer,"'Chestnut Mare, Beware," and "In Colt Blood,” As a journalist at the Charlotte Observer, she was on a team that won the Pulitzer Prize. Her articles have been published in many newspapers and magazines including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. They live on a farm in Lexington, Va., with eleven horses, three cats and an explosion of stink bugs.

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Photo by Ron James


PUBLISHERS Ron & Mary James EXECUTIVE EDITOR /LAYOUT & DESIGN Ron James EDITOR Mary James STAFF WRITERS Alison DaRosa Priscilla Lister John Muncie Jody Jaffe

COLUMNISTS Amy Laughinghouse Robert Whitley Susan McBeth

FEATURE WRITERS Sharon Whitley Larsen Carl Larsen Maribeth Mellin Lynn Barnett Tom Leech

WINEDINEANDTRAVEL.COM CONTACT WDT respects the intellectual property rights of others, and we ask that our readers do the same. We have adopted a policy in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and other applicable laws.

Wine Dine & Travel Magazine is a Wine Country Interactive Inc. publication @ 2015

Traditional Hong Kong laundry owner is ecstatic to find out he’ll be featured in Wine Dine and Travel Magazine

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CRUISING ASIA 101 We found that Southeast Asia is a traveler’s nirvana offering natural wonders like the mystical limestone islands of Halong Bay, timeless treasures like the storybook temples of Thailand and booming cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.



When I arrived in Zurich and met Swiss Trails founder Ruedi Jaisli for my one-on-one pre-hike briefing, he did his best to reassure me: “This is one of the most spectacular tours you can do in Switzerland,” he said. “It’s a hike, not a climb. It’s self-guided; go at your own rhythm.”



SUNNYLANDS Once staffed by 60 servants, including an Irish butler, thisprivate domain in Palm Springs, including a golf course, has recently been opened for all to see.

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HOW TO BECOME A WINE ENTHUSIAST If you practice diligently tasting and learning about new wines, you’ll find that your preferences in wines will evolve. It’s called educating your palate. A wine that makes you gag today may well become a favorite next year and vice versa.


PORTMEIRION, WALES This is no doubt one of the most unique villages in Britain. No one has ever lived here - yet there’s an admission fee to stroll around, and some 250,000 visit each year.



WHIDBEY ISLAND In a land of lots of scenic wonders, there is one I return to again and again, despite my sweaty palms, accelerated heart rate and shaky limbs.

In a lan one I re sweaty shaky l

AUGSBURG’S FUGGEREI | PAGE 62 Imagine paying only one dollar per year in rent! That’s what some 150 residents are charged to live at the Fuggerei in Augsburg, Germany, the world’s oldest charitable social housing complex.

TRAVEL BY THE BOOK | PAGE 67 Susan McBeth reviews Lisa Lee’s “China Dolls” The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and Ruby is sent to an internment camp.



If you’ve ever wondered what you might do in the event of an emergency, I can only tell you this. If you’re me (which I am), and you’re in the loo...


John and Jody continue their entertaining and informative “post cards” to the publisher.

WHITLEY ON WINE | PAGE 76 Robert makes the case for refreshing dry roses and then picks a winner from J Winery.

AMONG THE CRITTERS | PAGE 78 A half-hour into the preserve, we arrived at our abode, the Keekorok Lodge, for the next several nights. This was not exactly a tent slung across some post, but a first-rate lodge.

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Left to right: Golden statue in Bangkok. Hong Kong street scene in old city. Bartender churning out Singapore Slings at the Long Bar in Singapore.

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any of our traveling friends shun Asia as a destination; they prefer the safer, “more refined,� climes of Europe -- or maybe even push their comfort level with a cruise to the Baltic. They worry about the weird food, tropical climate, bugs, exotic peoples and wars a half-century-old.



nd I must admit, we were also a bit anxious about our first visit to Southeast Asia, probably partially fueled to our mixed experience trying to decipher the formidable menus at an authentic Asian restaurants in the States. We were concerned with crowds, pollution, weird food and the reception we would get from the locals.

What we found was that Southeast Asia is a traveler’s nirvana, offering natural wonders like the mystical limestone islands of Halong Bay, timeless treasures like the storybook temples of Thailand and energetic booming cities like Hong Kong and

Singapore. The people we met were courteous and welcoming, and proud of their rich culture. We found distinctive arts and crafts, magical architecture and unforgettable cuisine. It all made for an unforgettable experience. Each of the countries we visited were distinctly different, although their were some common threads. Wars, conquests, colonization, migration and trade have impacted the area for centuries, changing boundaries and political systems and spreading religions and customs. Today, Southeast Asian countries and culture reflect thousands of years of interaction with empires in the Middle East, Tibet and, especially Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 13

China. More recently, the Europeans and Americans made their marks in the major cities in the region, influencing architecture, fashion and social trends. In some countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, cruise tourism is a relatively new phenomenon, and it shows in the primitive cruise port facilities and 14 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

transportation systems. But tourism commodations and fine dining. is vital to these growing economies It’s this blend of old and new that and new hotels, roads and other infra- makes Southeast Asia such a facinatstructure are being developed at a rap- ing place to visit. id pace. On the other hand, cities like Singapore and Hong Kong have long We decided the best way to explore been international tourist destina- Southeast Asia the first time was to tions which is reflected in world-class take a cruise on the Celebrity Millenport facilities, sophisticated public nium, which combined the comforts transportation systems, upscale ac- and security of a first class ship with a

Young women makes an offering in a Vietnamese temple. Right top: The Celebrity Millennium docked in Vietnam.

broad sampling of ports and experienc- in Australia, Singapore or Hong Kong. es. The region is a growing market for Given the number of cruise ships plying cruise companies and they offer their Southeast Asian waters, cruisers can customers a wide range of itineraries choose from a wide variety of itinerarto fit different budgets and travel inter- ies with ports-of-call in Vietnam, Thaiests. Almost every cruise line has two or land, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, more ships active in this exotic part of Singapore and Hong Kong. the world with most cruises originating Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 15

Picking the best time to cruise in South- es spike, public transport is jammed and east Asia is complicated because of the shops may be closed. diversity of weather conditions. Vietnam, for example, has more than 2,000 Each port destination we experienced miles of coastline, with varying weather offered distinctly unique experiences patterns north to south. In coastal areas, and adventures for almost every taste a sweater and long pants may be needed to ward off the chill on cool nights, while a few kilometers inland, temperatures are considerably warmer. Ports close to the equator, on the other hand, are always steamy, with occasional afternoon showers. Cruise lines, for the most part, avoid the hottest, most humid and rainy months by scheduling most Southeast Asia cruises November through March. Not surprisingly, these months also attract the most tourists from inside and outside the region, resulting in large crowds at popular attractions. Holidays, like Tet in late January or early February, can be days long and noisy. Pric16 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

and interest. We visited five unique destinations, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore on our cruise.

Bangkok, Thailand Eclectic Bangkok offers travelers a mix of modern skyscrapers, lux Royal Palaces, ancient temples and giant gilt Buddhas. Highlights include Chinatown, Bangkok’s two century-old commercial center where you can wander through the giant flower and wholesale marketplace. Travel via a tuk-tuk, a 3-wheeled motorized taxi, to Wat Po, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, the oldest temple in Bangkok, to find Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha, 150 feet long, 49 feet tall, aglow in gold plate. Another Buddha well worth visiting is the solid gold, 10-foot tall statue at the lavishly decorated Wat Traimit Temple. Great restau-

“Each port destination we experienced offered distinctly unique experiences and adventures for almost every taste and interest. “

Clockwise from opposite: Exotic architecture is everywhere in Bangkok. The reclining Buddhas is massive and very golden. Tree roots surround the face of an ancient Buddha. The face of the reclining Buddha. A group from the cruise ship pose in front of the golden doors in the presidential palace.

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Striking rock formations provides dramatic settings for the tourist junks in Halong Bay. Bottom: Mary James in one of the many exotic caves located in the islands in Halong Bay. Right top: Little girl play on one of the homes in the floating village. Right bottom: Groups of visitors are taken for tours of the floating village in Halong Bay..

rants abound, where you can sample refreshing Thai classics including fresh seafood, tangy soups and savory and sweet curries. Shopping is delightful at the new riverfront Asiatique with its mix of small vendors, antique shops, restaurants and street entertainers.

Halong Bay, Vietnam The highlight of many cruisers to Southeast Asia is sailing through magical Halong Bay. Located on Viet-

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nam’s northeast coast, Halong Bay is home to nearly 2,000 limestone islands that rise hundreds of feet high above emerald-green water. Their exotic shapes, often shrouded in mist, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Half-day and full-day junk cruises are fine, but if your ship is in port for two days, an overnight luxury junk cruise is an unforgettably immersive experience.

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Hanoi, Vietnam

buildings. The most visited attractions chaotic and culturally diverse city and are Vietnam War-related including the the gateway to the Mekong Delta region. Hanoi is a hectic collage of sights, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and the Ho Visitors usually begin tours here at the sounds and smells. Masses of motor- Chi Minh Museum. Hanoi’s crazy, hectic historic Rex Hotel where most of the bikes roar down roadways, and bike and Old Quarter is a must-do stop for sou- city’s sights are within walking distance. car horns are constantly honking. Wom- venir shopping and to view the market Among the most popular are the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, the Presidenen wearing traditional conical straw scene. tial Palace, and the War Remnants Muhats carry poles with baskets on each Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) seum, sure to bring back bad memories end, small shops overflow with colorfor baby boomers. The huge Ben Thanh ful embroidery and signs literally cover Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is a vibrant, Market is packed with tourists and in-

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The people in Saigon are extremely friendly to American as shown in the two top photos. Right: The streets buzz with motorcycles and scooters. Right bottom: Mary James enjoying a bicyclette rickshaw ride through the bustling streets of Saigon. spired hawkers with row after row of stalls that sell familiar and exotic foods, and tourist items like lacquer ware, paintings, porcelain, jewelry and wood carvings, as well as clothing, and knock-off designer bags and watches.

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The streets of Saigon are alive in a kind of chaotic and colorful dance of motocycles, shoppers, store keepers and food vendors.

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Hoi An, Vietnam Just outside of the city of Hue is Hoi An, a charming village with a picturesque patchwork of cobblestone streets and alleys lined with historic buildings, filled with quality souvenirs and lovely restaurants offering authentic Vietnamese cuisine and its chocolaty coffee. Many of the restaurants offer cooking classes. Basically untouched during the Vietnam War, the village is a 45-minute drive from Da Nang and 2 hours from the port at Chan May. While Hue and Da Nang are interesting, Ho An is the shore excursion to take at this port. The Last Great Food Tour of Hoi An, was undoubtedly the most enjoyable food tour we’ve experienced.

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Clockwise from top left: Madam Khanh “The Bánh Mì Queen” shows off her famous cart. Ron James and his new friend, Neville, the food tour operator of “The Original Food Tour of Hoi An, The entrance to the Chinese temple in Hoi An. Colorful boats and shop line the riverside in Hoi An. The Chinese bridge in Hoi An. Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 25

Hong Kong, China Hong Kong is the world’s most vertical city where Chinese traditions meet modern international capitalism. It is famous for banking, custom-made suits and luxury-brand shopping. On a quick 26 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

tour of the city, it seems there are Gucci, Prada and Chanel boutiques around every corner. There also are countless stores selling aquatic and land animal and plant parts for the table and medicine chest. More commerce thrives in the huge industrial port where rows of containers stretch as far as the eye can

see. Highlights are shopping, a meal of dim sum in a café packed with hungry locals, touring on HOHO buses, crossing the bay to Kowloon on the historic Star Ferry, riding the world’s longest escalator through bustling neighborhoods, and taking the tram to the top of Victoria Peak for spectacular city views.

Hong Kong fish monger enjoys a little snack in his small shop. Top and opposite left: Scenes of Hong Kong street life. Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 27

Singapore. Singapore is a model, modern city. The island is clean with throughout the urban center. A great variety of restaurants, modern roads and public transport; and drivers, unlike in food courts and shops suit almost every taste and pocketbook, some Asian cities, obey traffic laws. Like Hong Kong it is a me- many housed in or adjacent air-conditioned shopping malls. tropolis of high-rises and skyscrapers, only with green parks The almost nightly laser show viewable around the city for everywhere, including on top of buildings. This city also cares free is not to be missed, along with Chinatown and the nearby about its history, evidenced by the many one, and two-story Arab neighborhood. districts and buildings scattered 28 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

The amazing man-made trees in Singapore’s vast city garden. Bottom: the air-conditioned botanical gardens. Opposite top: Visitors and locals wait for the nightly sound and light show at the Marina Bay Sands hotel complex. Opposite lower rt. to left: Outdoor dining along the rivers and bays are a way of life. One of many food shops in the shopping centers. Sarah Hellman plays with the misters.

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Clockwise from top: Food stand displays their tempting dishes in Saigon. Vietnamese girl kindly offers a flower in the temple. Watch salesman offers the typical salute of Southeast Asia. Star server pours wine to guests on the Celebrity Constellation. Pho and a beer in Saigon. Two fisherman in a Vietnamese round boat.

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CRUISE TIPS Political and civil strife afflicts countries this region on an ongoing basis. Check with the U.S. State Department for warnings for visitors. (www. Cruise lines are well aware of these situations and for the safety of passengers, may bypass or change ports-of-call as needed. One unavoidable issue on large-ship cruises to Southeast Asia is the long distance between the port and destination city and attractions. For example, it can take over three hours to travel from the cruise port to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. Some cruises mitigate this inconvenience by docking for two or more days in a port, allowing passengers to remain overnight in the destination cities. When this isn’t possible, make the best of the extra travel by savoring the journey, especially if it’s in the company of an informative guide. Remember to look out the window! The countryside reveals much about a nation, its people and their culture. Your observations in transit can be just as exciting and revealing as walking city streets. Bathroom facilities vary greatly even in large cities, at tourist stops and along major roadways. Sometimes only “squat” toilets are available. Be prepared for this possibility by timing bathroom breaks when you’re near major hotels or tourist friendly restaurants. Sometimes, handicap facilities will have Western-style toilets. Travel with sani wipes in case toilet issue isn’t provided. Above all, keep hands clean to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Pickpockets roam the markets and more crowded streets in many Asian cities, but violent crime against tourists is unusual. Traffic, though, can be daunting to pedestrians. Crossing streets filled with speeding motorbikes and tuk-tuks is not for the faint of heart. Drivers are aware of pedestrian traffic and adjust their driving accordingly. Stay close together, and step out when the traffic is minimal. Walk at a slow, steady pace while watching the oncoming traffic that hopefully will flow around you. Follow locals as they cross to get the hang of it. The vast majority of Asians are very courteous and friendly and they expect similar behavior from visitors. Being publicly angry, arrogant and loud is much frowned upon and will not help solve problems or get a better price. Be cautious, respectful and friendly and you will have a great time in this wonderful part of the world.

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| STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALISON DAROSA | “When I got lost, as I knew I would, could I surmount the Swiss/German language barrier to ask for help getting back on track? Would somebody send out a search party if I failed to show up at the night’s hotel?”


ike so many who read the bestseller or have seen the movie, “Wild,” I imagined myself in Cheryl Strayed’s boots. I envisioned hiking alone in exquisite wilderness, savoring silence, solitude. I saw myself conquering the ups and downs of a renowned trail all on my own.

However, the “Wild” I envisioned was uniquely my own. It didn’t include Strayed’s horribly blistered feet or “Monster,” her impossibly heavy and overstuffed backpack. It didn’t include sleeping in a tent – especially one I had to carry and set up myself. And forget freeze-dried food. What I wanted was “Wild” for wusses. I decided that a weeklong solo hike would be “Wild” enough for me. I’d do it in Switzerland, a hikers’ Mecca. I signed up for a solo hike with SwissTrails, a company that arranges hiking and biking trips throughout the country. I asked for what the Swiss call “soft” hiking on a relatively flat route. We agreed I’d do the 6-day Lake Lucerne Circle Hike. The company arranges nightly lodging and transfers luggage each day. When I received my itinerary, I was excited – and more than a bit intimidated. Could I really do this alone? Hike 10-plus miles a day, with daily elevation gains of up to 4,500 feet? In addition to hiking, my itinerary had me taking trains, boats, cable cars and buses. When I arrived in Zurich and met Swiss Trails founder Ruedi Jaisli for my one-onone pre-hike briefing, he did his best to reassure me: “This is one of the most spectacular tours you can do in Switzerland,” he said. “It’s a hike, not a climb. It’s self-guided; go at your own rhythm.” Swiss hiking trails wander through bucolic lakeside villages such as Bauen. Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 33

Trails, always well marked, meander across lush rolling farmland. The Chapel Bridge, right, is covered wooden footbridge across the Reuss River in Lucerne.

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“Easy is a relative term,” he shrugged when I asked about the steep elevation gains and drops. So, finally I understood: Hiking 4,000 feet up, then 4,000 feet down meant my route was “relatively” flat. As Jaisli reminded me to place my luggage in the hotel lobby by 9 each morning and to carry that night’s hotel voucher in my daypack each day, I scanned the trail maps he provided. The print was microscopic. When I got lost, as I knew I would, could I surmount the Swiss/German language barrier to ask for help getting back on track? Would somebody send out a search party if I failed to show up at the night’s hotel? “From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., you can call the help line,” Jaisli said. “We’re here seven days a week. “And don’t worry about the weather,” he continued. “They’re predicting rain, but in Switzerland it’s always better than it’s forecast. Besides, bad weather also has its charm. Just go, go, go.” I decided to hire a guide – just for the first day.

mountainside cheesemakers, drop-dead gorgeous scenery – and still easily make it to my destination before dark, or in time to shower on the afternoon I’d booked a massage. Before our day was over, Welti had me lead the way on the trail – and after steering us wrong twice, I began to get things right. Could I have managed the week without his expertise? Probably. But it wouldn’t have been so easy – or half the fun. Lingering images When I reflect on my week on the Circle Trail, a whirlwind of sensory images fills my mind. I see a narrow, worn track that undulates across lush rolling farmlands, meanders across trickling mountain streams and beside the crystal waters of Lake Lucerne. I inhale the scent of cut grass, rotting wood, sodden peat, the perfume of towering pines that appeared like ghosts on fog-shrouded Mount Rigi. I hear the clang of cowbells – a sound that came to mean security for me; it meant civilization was nearby. But mostly I hear the silence, interrupted only by the crunch of my own boots on the trail.

A guiding light

My hours of solitude were a unique gift. Being alone allowed my mind’s eye to see in ways I othJaisli recommended Rene Welti, a Swiss-born hik- erwise wouldn’t have. In open meadows, I saw ing maestro who was raised in the San Francisco myself as a child on a wide porch swing, snuggled Bay Area and lived most of his life in the U.S. In beside my beloved aunt; I heard the birds that once 2010 he moved to Lucerne and two years later twittered in her garden. Along sunny ridges, I felt started ECHO Trails, leading guided hikes in the the warm embrace and unconditional love of my area. Lonely Planet named him their local outdoor long-gone grandmother. I could see both shaking expert. their heads, warning of the dangers of hiking alone. Then I saw their smiles. They shared my joy as I nesWelti agreed to meet me early the next morning tled into now as if I were climbing into their soft near the Lucerne dock where we hopped a ferry to inviting laps. my kick-off point. Our day together encompassed so much more than hiking. It’s true that Swiss Step by step trails are well marked – but Welti taught me how to read the marks. I learned that squat yellow rhom- My days started with breakfast, which was includbuses were my friend: They lead to generally easy, ed at each hotel along my route. I gathered my flat trails. When a red-on-white stripe is added to lunches on the trail. the mix, I’m headed for a “mountain trail,” a greater challenge – steeper, narrower, often uneven. I In Seelisburg, I stopped at Aschwanden Kaserie, learned to avoid blue-on-white signposts that lead where I watched the cheese-making process begin to what the Swiss call “Alpine routes” – trails that a few hours after cows had been milked. The way might have been mapped for mountain goats. Californians taste wine, I learned to taste cheeses – sampling a half-dozen varieties to pick my favorite: When we stopped for a mid-morning snack at a Klewa, from the mountain where I’d hiked the day mountain chalet, Welti taught me how to game before. “It’s a distinct taste because the cows there my itinerary – how to customize my hikes with graze on flowers that are different,” explained alternate routes using public transport (including cheesemaker Urs Aschwanden. boats, aerial trams and even a cogwheel railway). It gave me confidence knowing I could take my To simplify matters, I booked dinner reservations time on the trail – be distracted by village bakers, at each of the hotels where I stayed. At Hotel SternWine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 35

Clockwise from top: Hikers often overnight in Brunnen, a small resort town on Lake Lucerne. Cheesemaker Urs Aschwanden offers samples at his family owned dairy farm in Seelisberg. The trail wanders through a forest near Rutli, said to be the site where Switzerland was founded in 1291. Stop for a cheese break at Rigi-Alpkase, a family operation on the slope of Mount Rigi.

en in Fluelen, where my postage-stampsize room had a twin bed and a parking meter, the chef helped me master the hotel’s wifi – and explained that he used his grandmother’s recipe to prepare my traditional German meal. At City Hotel in Brunnen, where I landed a spacious room with a deep bathtub, I was trailsore and sorely tempted to skip dinner. I’d have missed a scrumptious platter of lake perch sautéed in almond butter. My dessert was a long soak in that delicious tub. Day 4 was dedicated to Mount Rigi – at almost 6,000 feet elevation. But instead of hiking up an 8-mile trail, I hopped a cogwheel train from Arth Goldau to Rigi Kulm, the mountain’s peak. This was the first mountain railway in Europe, transporting riders since the 1870s to the panoramic view up top. I rode with an Indian family; we had a common pas- Atop Rigi Kulm, we disembarked into a sion: Swiss chocolate. cloud. Fog was so thick I could see only

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a few feet of trail in front of me. Snow was expected. I zipped my jacket, put on woolen gloves and set out on a 5-mile up-and-down hike to Rigi Kaltbad – where I had a hot date. Wild and wonderful By mid-afternoon, I was sinking into the warm healing waters of Rigi Kaltbad. The mineral springs here have drawn visitors for six centuries – and as fans around the world attest, the place is reason enough to visit Switzerland. The spa is housed in a sleek, contemporary temple designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Bathers luxuriate in an indoor/outdoor pool equipped with an extravaganza of feel-good massaging jets that make magic from head to toe. Like a child at an amusement park, I played at every station – leaning in to intensify the pressure of jets on my calves, mov-

ing away when I’d had enough. Outdoors, where steam merged with fog, I lingered on jetted underwater lounge platforms, delighting in the sensation of every single bubble. I was the last person to leave when the spa closed at 7. In zoned-out bliss, I dined on Raclette at Hotel Alpina that night. It seemed oddly fitting that the melted cheese bubbled on my plate. The next morning, fog remained thicker than the previous night’s Raclette. I deposited my bag in the lobby for pickup, then headed back upstairs and fell into bed. I ignored the clock and settled into sleep soothed by the sound of not-sodistant cowbells. Playing hooky meant I missed a second chance to see the view from Rigi Kulm – but by taking the cable car to the lakeside town of Weggis, I got to walk in the footsteps of Mark Twain who once lived there. For me, it was a perfectly “Wild” day.

IF YOU GO Hiking in Switzerland SwissTrails’ 5-night self-guided Lake Lucerne Circle Trail hike, with lodging in standard hotels, daily breakfasts and daily luggage transfers, starts at about $850 per person. E-mail Ruedi.jaisli@ Learn more at ECHO-Trails founder Rene Welti offers a 5-night Lake Lucerne Circle hike – with a guide on day one. Rates start at about $1,650, including lodging in standard hotels, daily breakfasts and daily luggage transfers, a 2-hour walking tour of Lucerne, plus a mobile phone with pre-loaded emergency numbers and 10 minutes of free time. E-mail echotrails@ Learn more at Get a Swiss Pass for unlimited travel by rail, road and waterway throughout Switzerland. Prices start at about $416 for an 8-day pass. Learn more at www. Learn more about travel throughout Switzerland at www.myswitzerland. com.

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hen you’re down, you find out who your real friends are,” a disgraced Richard Nixon wrote in the guest book at Sunnylands, the spectacular enclave Walter and Leonore (Lee) Annenberg built out of the desert in Rancho Mirage. His message of gratitude was written on Sept. 8, 1974, a month after he had resigned the presidency -- and on the day he was pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.

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The 25,000 square foot Mid-Century Modern residence was designed by the late Los Angeles architect A. Quincy Jones.

Lasting friendships and generous hos- Once staffed by 60 servants, including But don’t take the Hearst-Annenberg pitality is what the Annenbergs were all an Irish butler, their private domain, in- analogy too far. There are no ketchup about, as well as an unparalleled legacy cluding a golf course, has recently been bottles to be found on the dining room of philanthropy. opened for all to see. It now joins the tables at Sunnylands as there are at San San Simeon estate of William Randolph Simeon. As a hostess, Leonore AnnenThe wealthy couple used their Mayan-in- Hearst as being two of California’s best- berg was unmatched. Instead of one forfluenced home as the centerpiece of known homes that are open to the pub- mal banquet table, she typically seated an opulent lifestyle more attuned to a lic. Like Hearst, Annenberg was a news- her dinner guests around several small, British earl and countess in the tradi- paper publisher, and was the creator more intimate tables. tion of “Downton Abbey” than that of of TV Guide and Seventeen magazines. a successful American publisher and his As a Philadelphia TV station owner, he With a golf course just out the door, and charming and equally astute wife, who promoted a young man named Dick a home designed for entertaining, Sunserved as chief of protocol for the U.S. Clark, who gave the world “American nylands was a place where the high and Bandstand.” mighty could kick back far away from State Department. Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 41

The west windows of Sunnylands Center present a magnificent vista of the 10,000-foot-plus San Jacinto Mountains looming above palo verde trees. Landscape architect James Burnett used Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Trees of 1889 as inspiration for this masterpiece view of the Center’s unique gardens.

the eyes of the probing media or gawkers. “There’s no other place like it, anywhere,” said Nancy Reagan of Sunnylands. Indeed, no single residence in the United States – except the White House -- is so steeped in the history of the late 20th century. The Annenbergs entertained seven U.S. presidents, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Margaret Thatcher, Monaco’s Princess Grace 42 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

Left: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit Walter and Leonore Annenberg at Sunnylands, February 1983.

and an A-list of celebrities and sports heroes. first-time visitors tend to stare wide-eyed at Frequent guests for dinner or golf included the 6,500 square foot living room with its neighbors Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, who pale pink marble floors and soft green sofas was married to Barbara Marx (his last wife) …. and walls of cinder-brown lava rock, backin 1976 in the home’s huge atrium in front of drop for their collection of Impressionist and the fireplace. post-Impressionist paintings. In the vaulted center of the room, light pours in from a Annenberg biographer Christopher Ogden raised cupola on the dark green bronze of Rodescribed the house in its heyday: “The large din’s 'Eve.' Nearly six feet tall, the sculpture double doors are open. Either Lee or Walter stands by a reflecting pool surrounded by usually waits to greet guests near the large hundreds of bromeliad plants.” pots of cymbidium orchids grown on the estate and which line the entrance hall. Inside, Cast in 1881, the Rodin is still there in all Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 43

Sunnylands offers visitors 1.25 miles of walking paths that meander through more than 53,000 individual plants and 50 arid-landcape species.

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its glory, but the heart of the Annenbergs’ and a portrait of Walter Annenberg, dressed art collection--some $1 billion worth, includ- in a choir robe, by Andrew Wyeth. There’s a ing works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and framed, handwritten personal letter from Cezanne--was donated in 1991 to the Metro- Queen Elizabeth II to Walter Annenberg, who politan Museum of Art in New York City. Dig- served as U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. ital reproductions of the paintings now hang James’s. Another wall displays framed, signed where the originals once were placed. Christmas cards to the Annenbergs from the late Queen Mother. A $61.5 million structural renovation of the home and new construction that includes a Walter Annenberg's wealth and devotion to visitors’ center and nine-acre garden designed philanthropy was legendary. Upon becoming by the firm of landscape architect James Bur- ambassador to the United Kingdom, he took nett of Solana Beach, Calif., has shaped the it upon himself to pay for the renovation of estate toward a new vision set by the Annen- the antiquated Winfield House, the mansion bergs before their deaths. in Regent's Park that is the U.S. ambassador's official residence in London. Now called the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the 200-acre compound has become a Among the visitors entertained by the Anglobal center for high-level conferences fo- nenbergs at Sunnylands were Queen Elizacused on promoting peace. The couple's vision beth II and Prince Philip. One of the photos has held true and the estate continues to be taken during the royal visit is rather interestpopular as a sort of West Coast Camp David. ing. Pictured with the Annenbergs at the front President Obama has visited Sunnylands four door, the queen is holding an umbrella, on times, staying overnight on two of those oc- what must have been a rare rain-threatened casions, during meetings with President Xi of day in the normally sun-filled desert. China and with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Now that the public can view the estate, it’s Arriving at the new Sunnylands Center and easy to see how Sunnylands left a succession Gardens, visitors learn of power politics of kings, queens, presidents and celebrities played far from the halls of Washington, D.C. impressed, as was Britain’s Prince Charles. It was at the estate where Nixon crafted his last State of the Union Address and where When he visited in 1974, he asked the couple: President George H. W. Bush hosted a state “You left all this to go to England?” dinner for the Prime Minister of Japan. President Ronald Reagan, a frequent visitor, exIf You Go changed televised New Year’s greetings in 1986 from the home with Soviet Premier If you wish to tour the historic house and grounds, plan Mikhail Gorbachev. There remains a superb collection of fine and decorative arts to see as well as the Midcentury Modern architecture of the late A. Quincy Jones, the Los Angeles architect hired by the Annenbergs to create their desert oasis. Completed in 1966, the 25,000 square foot house is furnished in what is called a Hollywood Regency style, imagined by the team of William Haines and Ted Graber. One of the most interesting stops on a tour of the home is the Room of Memories, filled with personal mementoes. Here, there’s a portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale

well ahead. Be certain to check first with the Web site for opening hours, which can change. Tours of the grounds and residence are available for a fee and tickets are limited. The estate is closed July and August and can be closed to visitors during conferences and other events.

The 15-acre Sunnylands Center & Gardens is free to visitors during opening hours. On exhibit are gifts the Annenbergs received over their lifetimes from family, presidents and first ladies, celebrities and business leaders. The center also features an interactive computer bank with information about the estate, its distinguished visitors, the Annenberg art collection and the home's architecture. There is an introductory video, a café and a shop. Web site: Location: 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, Calif. photos: © The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands

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Mary James at diiner in Palm Springs enyoying a nice bottle of cab with the photographer. 46 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015


HOW TO BECOME A WINE ENTHUSIAST | BY RON JAMES | America is the top dog in the pantheon of countries that quaff a lot of wine – Americans drink over 890 million gallons a year which works out to about 2.8 gallons per persons of drinking age. America doesn’t fare quite as well in the per capita wine consumption category; well below thirstier countries like Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia whose citizens drink over 11 gallons each in a year. Surprisingly, the most serious wine enthusiasts reside in the city state in Rome, in a place called the Vatican – they drink a whopping 20 gallons! Holy Bacchus, it must be thirsty work being celibate. As wine loving as some countries are, there are a few unfortunate countries that haven’t joined in the fun. Afghanistan brings up the rear with the average person drinking zero wine anytime. But that’s understandable considering most are Muslim. Fifth from the bottom is India which is no surprise to this traveler. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of tasting the combination of very expensive, and extremely bad wines that are available there, you’ll understand why many Indians who do drink alcoholic beverages seem to be boycotting the grape – can’t afford it, can’t stand it. Their beer, on the other hand, is quite alright. Even in the wine-loving regions of the world, including America, there are those reluctant to join the ranks of wine lovers for reasons other than religion or incarceration. Some prefer other methods of taking the edge off of daily life – others (not in the Vatican) don’t drink or have fun -- and many may be put off by the perceived voodoo and pretentiousness surrounding the sport. The latter group may be intimidated by French labels or can’t pronounce pinot noir or Sangiovese or can’t spell sommelier or even know what one does. (Continued) Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 47

Clockwise from top: Happy vendors pour their wares to even happier tasters at the San Diego Wine & Food Festival. Right: Tasters belly up to the bar at Miner Winery in Napa. Ron and Mary James enjoy a glass of bubbly at Iron Horse Winery in Sonoma . Bottom: A private tasting in Healdsburg.


f you’re in that category, don’t fret — almost any upright and relatively cogent adult has the potential to become a decent wine enthusiast. It’s not that hard, like anything else in life it takes a little dedication and practice, practice, practice.

sauvignon blanc that exudes aromas of cat pee or his fancy French Bordeaux that tastes like the floor of a barnyard.

Be comfortable liking the wines that taste good to you.

If you practice diligently tasting and learning about new wines, you’ll find that your preferences in wines will evolve. It’s called educating your palate. A wine that makes you gag today may well become a favorite next year and vice versa. You and your palate have moved on. It’s like when you were a kid and hated asparagus or Brussels sprouts. As you grew up and became more experienced with foods, you began to love asparagus. Although Brussels sprouts still suck.

You are the expert when it comes to wines you enjoy, and that’s the way it should be. Everyone’s palate is different and evolving. A wine that tastes good to you is a right wine for you at that period in your wine journey. Even if the wine smarty next to you gags on it and spits out. And its OK to gag on the wine smarty’s favorite over-the-top, acid-bomb New Zealand

As you taste and learn about new wines, you will discover the distinctive flavors and characteristics of different varietals (kinds of grapes). And you’ll find that the characteristics of wine made from the same varietals may differ from country to country, vineyard to vineyard and wine maker to wine maker. You’ll experience wines that have complex layers of flavors

So how do you begin your path to wine enthusiasm you ask? Here’s a few things that may help make your wine education a de-vine one.

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and other characteristics. And you’ll find that wines are alive and change with age — for better or worse. So how do you get started?

the same year, brand, varietal, color or family. Wine-tasting notes are usually provided for each wine. This gives you opportunity to compare the characteristics of several wines sideby-side.

There are a number of ways to educate your palate, and the Try tasting each wine before reading the tasting notes, to see great thing is that they’re all fun! For the most part wine tast- if you can discern flavors, viscosity, color, acidity and how ing isn’t a solo sport. However, there are times when a fine your palate reacts to them. Then read the notes to see if you glass of wine and a bit of reflective time with yourself can be agree with them, and try each wine again to try to find the quite satisfying. That said, a great deal of enjoyment in ed- characteristics mentioned in the tasting notes. ucating your palate is doing so with family, friends or perMany wine bars, wine retailhaps strangers who want to be ers, and restaurants frequently friends. have wine education and tasting events. This is not only a wonderStart your education by readful way to learn about wines, but ing about wine just as you’re away to make new wine enthusidoing right now — the fact ast friends as well. Most of these that you made it this far is a establishments have mailing and good sign. The Internet is a e-mail lists that will keep you upgood place to start. There are to-date about upcoming events. more wine blogs and sites on the Internet than anyone can Perhaps one of the most fun imagine. A Google search for ways to learn about wines is to go wine information produced to wine and food events featur807,000,000 results. ing dozens, if not thousands, of wines to taste. There are obvious There are many online wine hazards to these kinds of events, affinity groups that provide a so spitting and dumping is ennetwork of like-minded folk couraged. Wear a hat and have and a wealth of information. plenty of sunscreen if its outFor a good start go to the doors. Have a designated driver if website of our wine columnist you just can’t spit. And perhaps Robert Whitley. He has a ton most important, do not bid on of wine reviews and columns, silent auctions after you’ve been as well as several links to otheducating your palate for four er great wine sites: www.whithours. These tips should get you started Reading is great, but nothing and once you do, you’ll realize beats the real thing. So head there’s a lot more to learn. That’s down to one of those wine bars the great thing about being a we talked about. Find one that wine lover — it’s a fascinating, makes you feel comfortable. life-long learning process — and Tell the server or bartender that you get the benefits of a nice you’re kind of new to the game buzz now and then. So rememand want to learn about wines. ber, don’t ever worry or feel emIf they are pros, they’ll take barrassed about the wines you the time to help you get startlike. Your palate’s opinion of ed. Ask them for wines that are your favorite wines is as valid as true examples of the varietals anyone’s — including wine blow or blends and pick their brain hards and snobs. So, If that wine about the characteristics. snob next to you smirks and rolls his eyes next time you order Many wine bars offer flights of your favorite, tell him to stick his wine. Flights are usually small barnyard-tinged Bordeaux where glasses of four to eight wines the sun don’t shine. It’s OK to do grouped for one reason or anthat — you’re a wine enthusiast. other. They could be wines of

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50 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

“... the perfect place to fulfill his boyhood dream - to build a utopia, an ideal village on a romantic coastal site...�

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his is no doubt one of the most unique villages in Britain. No one has ever lived here - yet there’s an admission fee to stroll around, and some 250,000 visit each year. And it’s definitely worth it!

When Frank Lloyd Wright toured here in 1956, he turned to Amabel Williams-Ellis, the wife of the visionary who had designed this charming and whimsical place. Not one to hand out compliments, the egotistical Wright exclaimed to her, “Why, I do believe you married an architect!” And Wright, by then a world-renowned building designer, knew what he was talking about: Comprised of colorful and fun buildings, statues, fountains and 70 acres of gorgeous gardens and forest in a unique, seaside setting in north Wales, Portmeirion was designed by the creative architect Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978). He purchased the property - described by him as “a neglected wilderness” - in 1925 for less than 5,000 pounds. He then spent the next 15 years working on it, then - after more than 10 years of disruption due to 52 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

World War II - fine-tuned details in the second phase from 1954-1976. The last building, the Tollgate, was built during his 93rd year.

Believing it to be the perfect place to fulfill his boyhood dream - to build a utopia, an ideal village on a romantic coastal site - he changed the name from Aber Ia, meaning glacial estuary in Welsh, to Portmeirion: Port because of its coastal location, and meirion, which is Welsh for merioneth, the county. Williams-Ellis and his family (he had two daughters--and a son who was killed during World War II) lived nearby in Plas Brondanw, an estate he inherited. Much of it was destroyed by fire in 1951, causing him to lose many valuable architectural papers and family documents. Fortunately some had been copied by a historian, and several major architectural drawings were safe in London, but the loss was devastating. The house was rebuilt in two years and that’s where he died in 1978, a month shy of his 95th birthday. Popular Portmeirion pottery, decorated with flora and fruits, launched in 1960 by Williams-Ellis’ artist daughter Susan Williams-Ellis, continues to be sold worldwide.

One of the first things Williams-Ellis did in Portmeirion was to restore and expand an old beach house, built around 1850, converting it into the 14room Hotel Portmeirion, which officially opened in 1926. After a fire destroyed it in 1981, it was reopened in 1988. Famous guests have included George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. The Prince of Wales (Edward VIII, later known as the Duke of Windsor), stayed in The Peacock Suite when he visited Wales for his investiture in 1936. Other notable visitors to the town have included Noel Coward, who wrote “Blithe Spirit” during six days in 1941; Ernest Hemingway, Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein (a regular guest) and George Harrison, who celebrated his 50th birthday here. For his Portmeirion project, Williams-Ellis, an environmentalist who was knighted in 1971 in recognition for his contributions to architecture and the environment, salvaged some buildings from demolition sites. He described the village as “a home for fallen buildings” and an “architectural mongrel.” It is a mixture of styles, including Italianate, arts and crafts, and Georgian. His motto was, “Cherish the past, adorn the present, construct for the future.”

(c) Tim Richmond Photography

And the creative genius, the preacher’s kid who had attended Cambridge, seemed a bit eccentric in his endeavor to salvage old architectural items. For example, in 1965, when he decided to tear down an unsightly, 35-yearold tennis court and build in its place a central piazza, he could not remember where, 30 years earlier, he had stored the large Ionic columns that he wanted to use in the design. Eventually his tenant farmer located them under a pile of manure, and they were dug up and used. But reportedly for several months, no one got very close to admire them due to the awful aroma!

WALES Portmeirion

Then there’s the Angel cottage - one of the first built, in 1926 - so-named because Williams-Ellis had an angel Top: The quayside at dawn. Right: Map of Wales and site of Portmeirion. Opposite top: Arial view of Portmeirion. Opposite bottom: Williams-Ellis pictured on the cover of his book, “Around the World in Ninety Years.”

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The lush gardens of Portmeirion piazza.

carving that he wanted to utilize. And the crown atop the town hall is an upside-down copper cauldron, used for boiling pigs!

ry includes housing a prep school and apartments. Awarded by several major travel magazines as one of Britain’s most unique hotels, it’s named for the original Castell Deudraeth built nearby circa 1175 by Gruffydd ap Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd, king of North Wales. It was razed circa 1869 by Sir William Fothergill Cook, “lest the ruins should become known and attract visitors to the place.”

There’s even a dog cemetery on the property, established by the eccentric Mrs. Adelaide Haig, who resided from 1870 until 1917 in the mansion that later became the Hotel Portmeirion. Said to prefer dogs instead of human friends, she would take in strays and read sermons to her cherished canine creatures Several popular films and British televiin the elegant Mirror Room. (Rumor has sion shows have been filmed in Portmeiit that one cat is buried in the cemetery, rion, among them the series “Cold Feet” snuck in during the dead of night.) -- and “The Prisoner,” which has retained a cult following. Some 12 million viewToday, off-the-beaten-path Portmeirion ers tuned in each episode, putting this - which appears to be a magical Mediter- village on the map. ranean village - is a popular tourist attraction and site of numerous weddings, We drove here by rental car, and the day including those of celebrities. The estate we visited it rained. But, with the cheeris owned by the Ymddiriedolaeth Clough ful pastel buildings (including shops and Williams-Ellis Foundation, a registered restaurants) reflected in the wet pavecharity. ment, and with visitors strolling along the cobblestone paths holding opened, And many of the uniquely designed, pas- colorful umbrellas, it gave it even more tel-colored buildings, built or relocated of a charming, magical feel. here during the mid- and late 1920s, include the Italianate style (Bell Tower, IF YOU GO Watch House, Government House) and the arts and crafts (Angel, Neptune, Toll For information: House), as well as Georgian (Gate House, Bridge House, Belvedere, Chantry Row, The Clough Williams-Ellis estate Plas Brondanw: Unicorn, Round House, Telford’s Tower), built or moved here during the 1950s and 1960s. Some have been converted to VisitWales: self-catering cottages, ideal for ing families.

Photos (c) Tim Richmond Photography

There’s also the 11-room Castell Deudraeth, which Williams-Ellis bought from a relative in 1931, where we stayed, a 10-minute stroll from the village. Opened in May 2001, it was originally an 18th century cottage, later enlarged into a 19th century mansion. Its histo-

VisitBritain: BritRail: Photos from WIKI Commons, Tim Richmond Photography, and Portmeirion Ltd

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n a land of lots of scenic wonders, there is one I return to again and again, despite my sweaty palms, accelerated heart rate and shaky limbs.

er-edge walkways, secured only inches blue shoreline, complete with sandy and away from the 20,000 cars that travel rocky beaches. There are some 38 miles of across this engineering achievement ev- hiking trails in this park that invite exploery day. Standing some 180 feet above the ration of gorgeous spots like North Beach, swirling waters below, the experience is Goose Rock and Cranberry Lake. It’s the Deception Pass Bridge, a national both scary and spectacular. historic landmark at the northern end of Those swirling waters of Deception Pass Washington’s Puget Sound that is a truly The bridge lies within the most visited really roil, since it is the second-largest breathtaking span. state park in Washington, Deception Pass connection of the entire Puget Sound to State Park, where old-growth forests of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific I force myself to walk across this 1935 cedar, fir, hemlock, spruce, alder and ma- Ocean to the west, the largest being Adbridge on its narrow 3-foot-wide out- ple trees stand tall along miles of bright- miralty Inlet. 56 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015


The charming town of Langley boasts several really fine restaurants, making it a favorite weekend getaway for Seattleites. Opposite: The view from the top of Mount Erie where views of the island-dotted Puget Sound are literally panoramic.

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Those two marine passages lie at the ed this time in Port Townsend, where buildings from the late 1800s hail from northern and southern ends, respec- I had visited longtime friends. Port its thriving maritime past when it was tively, of Whidbey Island, the largest Townsend sits on the northeast corner planning to be “the New York of the island in Washington and one of my of the Olympic Peninsula on that Admi- West,” until the railroad changed plans longtime favorite destinations. ralty Inlet. It is a splendidly preserved and bypassed it. Victorian seaport, whose historic brick Whidbey Island has long been a favorite Today, Port Townsend is an artists’ comescape for Seattleites, who live less than munity, too, so galleries, special shops an hour’s drive south and a 20-minute and sophisticated restaurants have takferry ride away. They catch the Mukilen over those beautiful brick buildings teo to Clinton ferry, which leaves every on Main Street. half-hour, bringing them to another world that’s quieter, quirky and quintI’ve always thought the Washington essentially Northwest. State Ferry System offers one of the best cruising bargains anywhere in one Whidbey Island today is home to countof the most beautiful bodies of water in less artists, actors and musicians as well the world. You may not be able to afford as farmers and vintners and outdoor a yacht, but you can ply those Puget explorers. Its towns and villages offer Sound waters on the extensive ferry small, walkable, historic main streets system that connects Seattle to several filled with galleries, distinctive shops islands as well as the mainland to the and farm-to-table restaurants. Its inns San Juan Islands and all these other and B&Bs are tranquil, inviting and ropoints in between. mantic. I always find its slower pace reI caught the ferry from Port Townsend markably calming, wrapping me in the to Keystone/Coupeville on Whidbey Isgreen and blue glory of a Pacific Northland, a mere 35-minute crossing for just west forested island. about $10 with your car. My most recent foray on Whidbey start58 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

I drove straight to Coupeville, another

charming 19th-century seaport village that sits in the middle of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, established in 1978 “to preserve and protect a rural community which provides an unbroken historic record from the 19th century exploration and settlement in Puget Sound to the present time,” says the National Park Service. This 17,400-acre preserve features miles of hiking trails to forests, prairies, lagoons and beaches. It’s also a bird watchers paradise, a biker’s destination and even a favorite of scuba divers. You can tour some of Ebey’s Landing’s 17 working farms or just sample their harvests at the Coupeville Farmers Market, now in its 35th year making it one of the longest running markets in one of the oldest towns in Washington, held every Saturday from April to mid-October. I stopped by the wonderful Island County Historical Society & Museum in Coupeville to learn about the Native Americans, including the Snohomish, Suquamish, Swinomish and Lower Skagit tribes; the sea captains of the 1800s; the pioneer settlers including Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey who settled here in 1851; and the long military history that’s integral to Whidbey Island still today -- its Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor is the premier naval aviation installation in all the Pacific Northwest. I indulged in the splendid homemade bread for a huge sandwich at Knead & Feed bakery/cafe, right on Coupeville’s Front Street. This is a locals’ hangout, and when I was settling my bill, a woman engaged me in friendly conversation. I told her I was headed to Deception Pass. “You must go to Mount Erie,” she advised me. “It’s just beyond Deception Pass on Fidalgo Island, and the views from the top are just amazing.” She told me exactly how to get there, and I was mighty glad she directed me to that awesome place. I hiked a lower trail first through thick forests of fragrant cedars and spruces and hemlocks, some of which were literally oozing pools of sticky sap onto the trail. Then I simply drove to the top of Mount Erie, the highest point on Fidalgo Island which connects Whidbey Island to the mainland via Deception Pass. The views from this lookout are vast, spreading across the Puget Sound and several of its smaller islands. On very clear days, you can see Mount Baker 43 miles to the

Top: The views from the 1935 Deception Pass Bridge, a historic landmark at the northern end of Whidbey Island. Opposite top: Knead & Feed is a locals’ favorite on the waterfront in Coupeville for oversized sandwiches on homemade bread. Opposite bottom: A trail through the woods on Mount Erie, the highest point on Fidalgo Island, which lies immediately north of Whidbey Island and connects Whidbey to the mainland.

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northeast and even Mount Rainier, 117 miles southeast.

owner, Paul Schell, who was mayor of Seattle when I lived there many years ago. “I voted for you,” I told him honestly. He I settled in Langley, one of the loveli- was clearly delighted and came up to est small seafront villages on the Puget me later to confirm, “You really recogSound, where one-of-a-kind shops and nized me? It’s been a long time.” galleries encourage a leisurely stroll in search of gifts, clothing, antiques, “Yes,” I told him. “You haven’t changed a books and even homemade chocolates, bit,” I grinned. cupcakes and ice creams. Just like that awesome Deception Pass. I wouldn’t miss Useless Bay Coffee Company to mingle with the locals. Cafe Langley and Prima Bistro, both on First Street, are much-loved restaurants that feature Pacific Northwest cuisine. Vil- IF YOU GO: lage Pizzeria makes a fine East-Coast For more information about Whidbey crisp Neopolitan pie. Island, including how to get there, But if you’re really a foodie, then make where to stay, where to eat and what a reservation for Chef Matt Costello’s to do, go to http://www.whidbeycasix-course tasting menus -- weekends, the main visitors only -- that feature seasonal, local in- web site for both Whidbey and Camagredients. Costello used to head Seattle no islands. chef Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Lounge and Palace Kitchen and now cooks at the Washington State Ferry System, www. Inn at Langley’s restaurant, which has received an “extraordinary” rating from Zagat guides every year since 2004 af- The Inn at Langley, www.innatlangley. com. ter Costello arrived. I retired to my cozy cedar-decked, waterfront room with huge jetted tub and complementary DVD movies at that award-winning Inn at Langley. Over the sumptuous continental breakfast the next morning, I recognized the inn’s

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Deception Pass State Park, www.parks.

Top: The views from on top of Mt. Erie on Fidalgo Island, immediately across the Deception Pass Bridge from Whidbey Island, are truly jaw-droppingly beautiful.

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magine paying only one dollar per Iyear in rent!

today converted to .88 euro cents, or about $1! The rent has stayed the same over five centuries!

That's what some 150 residents are charged to live at the Fuggerei in Augs- And Fuggerei residents can live here (in burg, Germany, the world's oldest char- this city of 260,000) indefinitely—with itable social housing complex. It was no rent increase! established in 1520 by visionary Ja- One of the city’s most popular tourkob Fugger “The Rich” as low-income ist destinations, the charming, carmhousing for needy Roman Catholics el-colored Fuggerei is a living museum, who were required to be upstanding managed by the Fugger Family Council citizens--and Augsburg residents for at trust. Some 200,000 annual visitors least two years. Nearly 500 years ago (who—with the exception of school they were charged one Rhenish gulden, children--each pay 4 euros, more than 62 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

four times the annual rent!) tour the bucolic grounds of this interesting, historic, walled complex. The Fuggerei, built between 1514 and 1523, originally had 52 cottages with 106 apartments—“a city within a city.” At one time it also had a school. Today the complex has been expanded to 67 two-story buildings with 140 apartments, each with private entrances, ranging from 500 to 700 square feet, with a modest sitting room, bedroom, kitchen,and bathroom. The downstairs

units have gardens, the upstairs have attics. The Fuggerei was expanded in 1880, then again in 1938. During World War II— on the night of February 25-26, 1944--it was heavily damaged; 200 residents escaped into the underground bunker (today a museum) that had been built the year before. The attractive garden complex was rebuilt in the original style, completed in 1955.

mills. The former theology student, a controversial wheeler-dealer (who was criticized by Martin Luther) became one of the wealthiest financiers in history, rubbing shoulders with powerful politicians, royalty, and even the pope.

In early years residents were poor families of day laborers and candlemakers or other artisans. Today many are elderly widows. Two furnished, vacant flats are open for viewing. One at 13 Mittlere Gasse shows how it looked circa 16th century—and a museum in one room displays historic photos, films, and artifacts. The other flat at Ochsengasse 51 is contemporary, with a television in the living room running a documentary film about the Fugger family (in German). “All the flats allow for the privacy of the families or individuals who live here,” pointed out my guide, Kristen Gast. “It is not a 'poor' house with less than adequate facilities. This is why I believe it can still function as it was conceived almost 500 years ago.”

Fugger was financier to the Papal See, minted coins for the Vatican, helped bankroll the Swiss Guards, was the chief financial backer of the Hapsburg family, made loans to the Medicis from Florence, and had a special relationship with Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. His “most dramatic act was the financing of the election of the Emperor Charles V,” notes the book “Jacob Fugger the Rich” by Jacob Strieder. He “was one of the links between the Italian Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation.” Clemens Sender, a Benedictine monk and chronicler, wrote about the energetic, entrepreneur Fugger: “The pope greeted him like a dear son. The Cardinals stood up in his presence—and even the non-Christians admired him greatly.”

Portrait of Jakob Fugger by Albrecht Dürer, 1518 Bottom: Illustration of Augsburg in 1493.

Music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's great-grandfather, Franz, a master builder, resided at number 14 Mittlere Gasse, upstairs, for 13 years, until his death in 1694; a plaque commemorates this. Number 13 downstairs houses the Fuggerei Museum.

And the man who conceived this successful compound was Augsburg native Jakob Fugger (known as “Jakob Fugger the Rich”), born into a wealthy weav- One of the more infamous residents was Dorothea Braun, who ing-merchant Roman Catholic family on March 6, 1459, the lived at Ochsengasse 52, the upper level. The first victim of 10th of eleven children. An astute, savvy businessman, Fug- early 17th-century witch-hunting in Augsburg, she was acger (with two of his brothers and nephews) expanded the fam- cused of sorcery by her daughter, 11, and, at age 48, was beily fortunes by investing in silver and copper mining, banking, headed and burned. the lucrative international spice trade, real estate, weaving

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Above: Damenhof in the Fuggerei: The Damenhof is the most important of the artistic courtyards in the Fugger houses. It is currently used as a restaurant.

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On the crisp weekday that I strolled ker—a relaxing place to sit on a bench around—after drizzly rain--noting the and people-watch. beautiful fountains and the well-kept gardens, there were few visitors and it Fugger didn't marry until 1498, nearly was eerily quiet. An elderly lady, wear- age 40; his wife, Sibylla Arzt, was 18 and ing a head scarf that framed her heav- the couple, wed 26 years and thought to ily-lined face—testament to a long, be unhappy (money doesn't give you evweary life--leaned out of a ground floor erything), remained childless. Toward apartment window, eying me with curi- the end of his life (he died in Decemosity. ber 1525 at age 66; his widow quickly remarried), Fugger contemplated what On the grounds is also a small shop and would happen upon his death and, fearbeer garden—and the green-shuttered ing purgatory, was concerned for his apartments boast unique iron bell pulls soul. Hence he came up with the idea of in different shapes—a holdover from having the Fuggerei residents pray daily earlier days when there wasn't good not only for his soul, but for the souls of lighting and residents had to feel them his family as well, to ensure that they all to be sure they were at the right flat! would get inside the Pearly Gates. Fugger's investments dwindled over the next century (although today his descendants still own real estate, including several castles and businesses)—but the charitable trust that he set up in 1520 still is doing well enough to keep the Fuggerei afloat, helping out low-income renters who became impoverished through no fault of their own.

So, to this day, besides paying for utilities, such as heat—and volunteering in the gardens, as the night watchman or gatekeeper--the residents are also required to say three daily prayers for the souls of the Fuggers' dynasty and descendants: the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed.

“Sometimes I forget to pray,” one longThere are seven gates at the walled Fug- time elderly resident confessed to the gerei—yet only one has a doorbell and Wall Street Journal. “But some days I a night watchman. And, as in medieval pray extra if there's nothing good on times, the gates are locked at night—un- television.” til 5 a.m.

“At 10 p.m. all the gates are closed, just like in 1523,” notes guide Gast. “If Fug- WHEN YOU GO gerei residents need to come in after 10 p.m., they must ring the bell and the The Fuggerei: gate is opened by a doorman. It costs home.html .50 euro cents. Or if they come in after midnight it costs 1 euro—more than the Augsburg information: www.augsyearly rent of .88 euro cents! This regu- lation was probably enforced in order to html protect the residents' security as well as preventing carousing.” Germany Tourism information: www. Jakob Fugger's motto, written on the church in the Fuggerei, was 'Carpe diem' Historic Highlights of Germany: or 'use the time.' He wanted to encour- age discipline. Just as they still enforce this detail in Jakob Fugger's endow- German Rail Pass: www.raileurope. ment letter, all of his other conditions com and wishes are followed as well. For me, the Fuggerei is Jakob Fugger the Rich's Photos and images Licensed under Public Domain via greatest legacy.” Wikimedia Commons. A bronze bust of Fugger, cast in 2007, is in the small Fuggerei park near the bun-

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66 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015



“China Dolls” by Lisa See

he promise of instant, unimaginable wealth lured hundreds of thousands of Forty-Niners to California in the mid-nineteenth century. While most arrived in covered wagons, crossing plains and hills, mountains and deserts, many also traveled by ship across perilous and unforgiving seas in search of what Chinese immigrants called the “Gold Mountain.” A few lucky souls did indeed strike it rich, but for most, disappointment and despair were the only payoff earned in “them thar hills.” And what of those Chinese immigrants and their Gold Mountain? Perhaps you should turn to New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, whose great-great grandfather was integral in the founding of Chinatown Los Angeles, and who has branded herself as an authoritative storyteller of the Chinese immigrant with her deeply-layered characters who reward readers with a rich historicity of fiction.

their dreams, but also to keep hidden secrets they have learned to bury in a world of distrust. By portraying the girls as the serious artists they consider themselves to be in a debauched environment that does not hesitate to take advantage of their wont for success, See successfully renders an authentic historical narrative of pre-WWII “Orientals.” The narrative is peppered with ancillary characters, both historical and fictive, who strengthen that rendering, including the briefest of appearances by Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, the fear and paranoia it generates invades their inner circle, as Ruby is sent to an internment camp, and rumors and innuendos abound as to who may have betrayed her. This is where See is at her best, weaving the intricacies of strained friendships, unraveling secrets, and impending war that generate a strong undercurrent of suspicion. Are the girls truly friends, or have they merely been using each other to pursue their own respective ambitions?

In her most recent novel, China Dolls (Random House, 2014), written in alternating first-person voices by Yet for all their tribulations, the remuneration these three friends--traditional Helen who comes from a early Chinese immigrants bequeathed is a veritable successful merchant family in San Francisco, dreamer cornucopia of Chinese food and culture, perhaps not Grace who escaped from an abusive home in the Mid- the Gold Mountain they originally sought out, but a west, and fierce Ruby, who is actually Japanese but treasure indeed. So if you are planning a trip along the posing as Chinese--See recreates the Chinese immi- Left Coast, stop and enjoy the multi-sensorial explogrant world of 1938 San Francisco. sion of food, culture, history, art, architecture, and shopping that is now Chinatown Los Angeles and ChiInitially bonded over their common stigma as outsid- natown San Francisco. And take a moment to bow in ers, and exacerbated by the physical attributes that gratitude to the China Dolls whose sacrifices, challengdo not allow them to hide their heritage in a biased es, and determination helped make it all possible. land, the girls vow to remain steadfast and loyal. They join the “Chop Suey Circuit,” becoming entertainers ~By Susan McBeth in forbidden nightclubs in an effort to not only fulfill

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IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY Ever Wondered How You Would React in an Airline Emergency? Now I Know


here are a few things can only imagine that if Charles Panic” flash in big friendly letters that you really, REAL- “Survival of the Fittest” Darwin through your mind. LY hope you will never had been called upon to compose experience on an air- those scripts, they would be con- At least, that was one of the plane—and recently, siderably more concise). thoughts bumbling around my one of them happened brain like the Three Stooges in to me. In short (or rather, in long-winded, bumper cars. The others, in roughround-the-houses-on-a-rusty-bi- ly chronological order, were: I’m not talking about the usual cycle-with-a-slowly-deflating-tire colicky infant (at 1. “Well, the plane least one guardoesn’t seem to anteed on every be plummeting. flight, or your That’s a bonus.” money back), nor the chatty, close2. “Um…did I do talking seat mate that?” whose entire diet, from the time he You see, I’m not was first able to exactly known for digest solid food, good toilet karma. has consisted I have, on more solely of raw onthan one occasion, ions and threeaccidentally pulled day old fish. I’m the red emergennot even refercy cord in various ring to the inconpublic and hotel siderate oaf who bathrooms, when reclines his seat I actually meant so far into your to flush the toilap that you’re let or turn off the forced to eat your light. (To date, this dinner off a tray has never resulted on his forehead. in the arrival of the fire brigade… No. This was one or anyone else, of the biggies, for that matter… one of those lifewhich is both a f lashing-beforehuge relief and your-eyes moments that makes essence), the oxygen masks de- also vaguely worrying). you wish you had put down that ployed…about three hours into copy of OK! magazine, wrenched a trans-Atlantic flight to London, Furthermore, when confronted the ear phones blasting LMFAO’s over the dark, fathomless depths with those high-tech Japanese “Sorry for Party Rocking” from your of the ocean. toilets, the kind that look like Lawaxy canals, and listened to the Z-Boy recliners replete with seat safety announcements featuring Now, if you’ve ever wondered warmers, spray nozzles and more cartoon characters demonstrat- what you might do in the event buttons, bells and whistles than ing the technological complexities of an emergency, I can only tell it ever took to operate the space and mind-boggling intricacies of you this. If you’re me (which I shuttle, I’m generally reduced to the aircraft, such as how a seat belt am), and you’re in the loo (which tears. Give me a nice leafy bush is not only fastened, but…whoa, I was), you freeze with your hands or an oversized Solo cup over Roduuuuuude!…unfastened. (One under the tap as the words “Don’t bo-Loo any day. Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at blog. - See more at:

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3. “Huh. There are two oxygen masks in the bathroom.” That’s right, my friends. If you’d opted to join the Mile High club with an airborne buddy, this transatlantic flight ensured your needs would be catered for “in the unlikely event of a change in cabin pressure.” Unless, of course, you got greedy and decided to make it a threesome. (Don’t expect to always get so lucky in the loo, however, as the FAA has reportedly removed all oxygen masks from toilets on US flights to prevent anyone from tampering with them. So whatever you do in there, you better make it a quickie).

were standing around in the aisles, snapping pictures of oxygen masks that dangled like jellyfish from the overhead compartments. (I, for one, was certainly not going to pass up this epic opportunity for a new Facebook profile photo).

“Er….sorry folks. I pushed the wrong button.” Yep. Apparently, he meant to provide oxygen for one passenger but inadvertently released them all. At this point, I emerged from the loo and stepped into a scene out of Airplane. Bemused passengers

Sure, the masks hung like used IV drips for the rest of the flight, but at least we knew they were there if we needed them.

Please ensure your own mask is And yes, the in-flight entertainsecurely fastened before taking ment system went dark for about photos of other people in their an hour just as some of the films masks. were reaching their climax. But the oxygen-dispensing feedBut when, moments before, you faced down what might, in the mildest of terms, be described as a real c h e e k- c l e n c h e r, the last ten minutes of Maleficent isn’t the happy ending that concerns you most. Maybe next time, when someone leans their chair back into my birth canal, I’ll take a kinder view. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even give them a head massage. Or at least I won’t knee their seat back with quite the same vengeance.

With those considerations out of the way, the realization that perhaps I should actually put on a mask myself finally leapfrogged to the forefront of my cortex. Just as I was reaching for it, a voice boomed over the tannoy. It was the captain himself, sounding decidedly abashed.

It certainly put all my petty concerns into perspective.

Amy’s new profile picture bags weren’t the only things the captain accidentally deployed. He also set off a chain reaction of general camaraderie. Strangers who wouldn’t look one another in the eye before were now smiling and chatting, laughing nervously in the way that you do when you’ve bonded over being scared witless at 30,000 feet.


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m o r f s d r a c t Pos

y n a c s Tu

This is the second in a series of “postcards” sent to WDT Magazine publisher, Ron James, from veteran journalists and friends Jody Jaffe and John Muncie as they travel the globe. We hope you find them as informative and enjoyable as he does.

Dear Ron, Who would have thought karaoke would be the highlight — so far — of our trip to Tuscany? Yes, the food’s been fabulous, this is Italy after all. And the countryside puts even the best postcards to shame with those voluptuous green hills punctuated by giant green exclamation marks of the Mediterranean cypresses. But it was a kitschy songfest, led by an exuberant young Italian man, we remember most vividly as we write you our first postcard from Italy. We were in the stone-walled basement of an old olive and grain mill for a very large communal Easter weekend meal (there were nearly 70 of us). Since this is Italy, where the unofficial motto is “Mangiare,” we’re not talking a simple Easter ham with some marshcany about 10 miles southwest of Siena. In its heyday of the mallow-topped sweet potatoes. This meal started with roast 1700s, Montestigliano supported more than 60 families. Tochicken then continued with sausage, rabbit, pork ribs, lamb, day the surrounding countryside and remaining buildings are pasta, potatoes, risotto, pizza and a cheese platter, plus all the owned by the Donati family who, since the 1950s, have slowly Chianti you could drink. turned it into a combination farm and destination B&B. And because this is Italy there was still more to come: a sweet Most of the Easter dinner dancers were guests at the six farm pizza-like dessert confection with pine nuts. That’s when the houses that the Donati’s have remodeled into villas. Our vilkaraoke started. Beginning with — because this is Italy -- “Vo- la is “Pipestrelli” -- the Italian word for “bats,” because that’s lare.” By the time the after-dinner aperitifs appeared, the song what filled the place when they resuscitated the 200-year-old list turned to classic rock-and-roll and at the first four notes of farmhouse a few years back. “Twist and Shout” we were up on our feet dancing. It was after midnight when we finally staggered back to our villa. Like so many Tuscan villages, Montestigliano sits atop a hillside. Surrounding it like a long, flowing skirt are fields of wheat We’re staying at Montestigliano, a tiny village in central Tus70 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

This is the villa called “Pipestrelli” that we stayed at in the village/estate of Montestigliano. Opposite: This the Tuscan countryside as seen from the hilltop village/estate of Montestigliano.

and sunflowers, olive orchards and country lanes lined with those dark, spiraling cypress trees.

Massimo spoke Italian while his sister, Luisa, translated.

People no longer pick olives, according to Massimo, they use Once when they were installing new gas lines at the Mon- electric-powered gizmos that shake the olives off the trees. testigliano, workers dug into several Etruscan tombs. Pipes- The harvest is in October and November; the key is an olive trelli has Wi-Fi and a heated pool, but when we wake up each that’s not too green, not too black. No more than three days morning the view from our second-story window is little from shaking to the mill or the resulting olive oil can’t be changed from Etruscan days. In the distance is a landscape considered “extra virgin.” lost in time. Hills, fields, villages, farm buildings built of stone and topped by roofs of terra-cotta tile. Close your eyes There are some 2,000 trees in the Montestigliano groves, and imagine an elegantly rustic villa where Cary Grant might which produce about 2,000 liters of olive oil each harvest. In have romanced Audrey Hepburn -- and that’s Pipestrelli. 1985 Tuscany was hit by a monster freeze that destroyed or damaged many of the trees. Massimo managed to save some Love, and salvage others by cutting them back severely, allowing J&J the roots to regenerate new growth. He walked over to one of his gnarled old-timers and patted a trunk with his old-timer hands. “This one’s more than 100 years old,” he said. Dear Ron, After the grove tour, came an olive oil tasting. Nine of us Yesterday was olive day at Montestigliano. First we got a tour staying at Pipestrelli sat at a table in the mill’s upper floor. of the grove just down slope from our hamlet of B&B farm- We each had four oil-filled shot glasses, slices of green apples, houses. It was a bright, cool spring morning; the ground was bottles of “frizzanti” water, and a scorecard. freshly green and sprinkled with pink, white and blue wildflowers. Co-owner Massimo Donati, who runs the farm op- Massimo explained the drill: Drink a shot of olive oil, take erations, gave us a mini-lecture on the art of olive husbandry. note of its virtues or vices on the scorecard, then eat a palWine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 71

Olive production demonstration at Montestigliano. Below One of the “Cinta Senese” pigs on our pig outing. Opposite: View outside the city walls of Siena.

ate-clearing slice of apple, take a swig of soda water and go on to the next shot. Over on a side table stood four olive oil bottles in anonymous paper bags. By the end, everybody agreed: olive oil “B” was best. It was spicier, richer, more olivey. We also agreed that “A” was good, “D” so-so, and “C” was ewwwwww. Then came the moment of truth. Massimo lifted bottle “B” out of its paper bag. “Ecco!” It was the oil from Montestigliano! We give Massimo (and ourselves) a round of applause. After the tasting, we were ushered to Montestigliano’s piazza-like stone courtyard where a long table dotted with bottles of 2013 Chianti and Montestigliano olive oil was set against the commanding countryside of Tuscany. It doesn’t get much better than sitting under the warm Italian sun eating artichokes, leeks, zucchini, pasta, pizza, pecorino fresco, fava beans, and an assortment of cheeses. And of course, since this was Italy, dessert. “What we have learned so far. . .” said Dave Sartwell, a fellow Villa Pipestrelli guest. He paused and his wife, Mary Gayle, finished, “Is to eat small amounts because you know more is coming.” Love, J&J 72 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

Dear Ron, Yesterday olives, today pigs. But to paraphrase E.B. White, not just any pigs. These are fancy pigs with ancient bloodlines. We visited a 1,100-acre organic farm just a few miles from Montestigliano. The farm, owned by an American family, the Cinellis, is trying to be self-sustaining and organic. Interns

come from all over the world to work here and learn the arts of making wine, honey, olive oil, and raising cows, chickens and, most important, pigs. The farm specializes in a “heritage” pig called the Cinta Senese, a cross between local wild boar and domesticated pigs from Asia. They look like they’ve been painted for the Venetian Carnavale. They’re all black with a collar of white around their shoulders and front legs. We were told they date back to Roman times. Perhaps. But we know for sure they date back to at least the 1200s because we saw one in the background of a 13th century painting in Siena. The farm itself has a heritage; one of its buildings is a stone tower from the 11th century. The Cinta Senses live an organic, free-range life in pastures divided by electric fence so they can be rotated to preserve the land. Of course this visit involved a meal. A big meal at a nearby trattoria which began with a tasting of the Cinelli pork products. We tried prosciutto, capocolo, salami, soppressata, rigatino, lardo, and something called “rosamarina” a delicious concotion of lard and rosemary. The tasting was followed by impruneta (a kind of stew), bean soup, and quiche they call “sformato.” Then we had lunch. At lunch, one of Luisa Donati’s friends, Nicoletta Amicieia, confirmed what we’d already suspected, “In Italy life revolves around food,” she said. “In the morning my boyfriend wakes up and organizes dinner for that night. My mother starts organizing Sunday lunch on Friday. Everything’s based on food.” Love, J&J Dear Ron,

meets The Godfather. Each year the Palio is a chess match of skullduggery. There are payoffs (gasp!), collusion (horrors!), fights (no!). Everybody knows it. Everybody loves it. (Except one half of this writing duo, the horse nut who thinks it’s cruel because horses can wipe out and crash against the stone walls.)

Yesterday we visited Siena. The whole town -- founded someWe learned all this during a tour of the Contrade Bruco time in the BC’s -- is a UNESCO world heritage site. It has headquarters. (Each Contrade has a mascot; Bruco means a huge cathedral (begun in the 12th century), a serious art Caterpiller.) Behind an unassuming door facing a narrow museum and reknown frescos. But its real claim to fame? A medieval street, we were ushered into a multi-story hideaway horse race. complete with sleek new Palio museum – featuring racing Right in the center of Siena is the Piazza del Campo, an open banners the Caterpillers have won over the centuries -- a hidsquare ringed by medieval buildings that looks like a movie den backyard for everything from cook-outs to weddings, and set. It’s around this square — the size of a couple of football a chapel where the Caterpiller’s horse is brought to be blessed fields — that the horses gallop madly, with bareback jock- before the race. “The Palio is life,” our host tells us. eys atop, crashing into walls and other riders as the crowd goes wild. It’s called the “Palio,” so named after the holy grail banner that’s at stake (along with the millions of Euros in side-betting). It is a twice-a-year nationally televised race that the Siennese seem to take as seriously as going to war.

Afterwards, we strolled the cobbled streets. It wasn’t racing season, but the city was vibrating -- crowded with shoppers and students from the University of Siena. We checked out boot shops and galleries; looked for bargains in belts and purses. It was enough to work up an appetite.

We’d heard about the Palio, which has been run since the mid-1600s. But we had no idea about the “Contrades,” the Five o’clock? Must be time for gelato. 17 neighborhood-clubs behind the race. There's no Olympic Committee overseeing the Palio, just 400 years of neigh- Love borhood rivalry between these Contrades. Think Seabiscuit J&J

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Dear Ron, Tomorrow we leave this land where eating is an art. And we’re taking some pieces of Italy with us. We’ve wrapped and rewrapped our bottles of Montestigliano olive oil so we can remember that resplendent day in the Tuscan olive grove. They will be buried deep in our luggage, near the bottles of 18-year-old Modena balsamic vinegar, so sweet you could drink it as an aperitif, and we did. The wedges of Parmesan cheese, we’re taking on board with us. We’ve checked with customs about bringing all this back to the United States. Aged cheese is OK; soft cheese is not. And it’s not a problem if the bottles are checked through in luggage.

Lina, a tiny woman with powerful forearms, has been cooking for the Donati family for the past 40 years and is well known for her pasta prowess. According to Luisa, she beat the renowned chef Jamie Oliver in a pasta cook-off when he came to Le Marche a couple of years ago.

So here goes. Here is our Mona Lisa of eating in Italy: fresh pasta with the simplest of tomato sauces. And the truth is, the pasta would have won even if there had been no sauce. We have eaten in some of America’s best Italian restaurants and nowhere have we tasted a pasta as delicate as what Lina Mazzanti made for us at the Palazzo Donati, a 17th century stone mansion on the main square of Mercatello sul Metauro.

Our final meal in Le Marche featured almost-as-good pasta and about a hundred other courses cooked by the Accademia del Padlot. This is a fancy title for a jovial group of nine local guys who get together to cook, eat, drink wine and sing. On our last night they took over the Donati kitchen and created a monumental feast that made all the other monumental feasts seem miserly.

The key to Lina's ethereal pasta is in the rolling and the rolling and the rolling. And then more rolling of the dough. We watched Lina wield a rolling pin half her height back and forth over the yellow dough for more than 20 minutes, periodically hanging the ever-thinning pasta over the pin to see if she’d achieved the But we couldn’t leave without telling you about the single best necessary translucency. Finally when she was satisfied, she rolled bite of our trip. After 10 days of eating our way through Italy -- the dough into a long tube and cut it in slices which would later sampling a delicious waist-expanding amount of food from the unfurl into fettucine. We wish we could have taken some of that country’s farms and restaurants -- this is a very high bar. Kind of home. Or Lina. (We asked her, but she said she had a family to like picking the best picture at the Louvre. feed.)

The Plazzo is the Donati’s ancestral home on their mother’s side. We caravanned here to the Le Marche region from Montestigliano to get a more complete taste of Italy. Luisa Donati holds one-week tours at the Palazzo that often start with a bowl of Lina’s pasta.

Lina Mazzanti making pasta at the Plazzo Donati.

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This time “Volare” was replaced by the Accademia’s boisterous and wine-infused chef-singers, who serenaded Louisa’s guests with songs and jokes. By evening’s end most of us were tipsy, and all of us were full. Once again. Love, J&J


JET-ETIQUETTE Etiquette Expert and Former Flight Attendant Shares Tips On How To Handle The Most Annoying Airline Passengers


ith spring and summer just around the corner, many of us will be traveling by plane to reach our destinations. But what happens when the stressful state of air travel leaves some people too frazzled to mind their manners? Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, who is also a former flight attendant, offers these tips on how to deal with some of the most annoying airline passengers.

The Armrest Hogger: If the person next to you commandeers your armrest, simply inch your way in by placing just your elbow next to theirs. This should leave plenty of space for your greedy neighbor’s elbow. Armrest rules: When you have three seats next to each other, the person in the middle seat gets to claim the armrests. The Chatterbox: If your neighbor strikes up a conversation, be polite and exchange a few pleasantries. Then say something like, “It was nice speaking with you, but if you don’t mind, I have to get some work done (or some much-needed rest).” Closing your eyes generally does the trick. Note: Always travel with earphones and eyeshades. The Space Invader: If this person invades your personal space with his newspaper or carry-on bag, say something like, “It seems that these planes are getting smaller and smaller. Would you mind moving your arm (or bag) over just a touch?”

A guy tweeted a complaint about a "rude" gate agent before boarding his Southwest Airlines flight, and was asked to disembark for being "a safety threat." Here, Adam Sandler stars in that famous airplane scene in Anger Management.

The Seat Recliner: If someone reclines too far while you’re trying to eat, work on your laptop, or watch a movie, you have two options. 1. You can recline your seat for more space or 2. Say something like, “Would you mind pulling your seat forward a little bit.” The person in front of you most likely doesn’t know she’s inconveniencing you. Note: When you recline your seat, always glance back and make sure the person behind you isn’t using his tray table to eat or work. The Snorer: It’s best to always travel with a good pair of noise-cancelling earphones. Otherwise, you can ask the flight attendant if you can relocate to another seat. The Sleeper: If you need to use the lavatory but your aisle seatmate is sleeping, gently tap him on his shoulder and say, “Excuse me.” No other explanation is necessary. Never attempt to crawl over him. The Unruly Child: Never discipline someone else’s child. Your best bet is to move to another seat, if available, or alert a flight attendant. Never try to intervene yourself. The Seat Kicker: If a child is kicking the back of your seat, simply turn around and glance at the child and the parent. The parent will oftentimes get the hint and ask the child to stop. If this doesn’t work, kindly speak up and ask the child to stop kicking your seat. The Surly Flight Attendant: It’s best not to challenge a flight attendant unless you want to be thrown off the plane. If you encounter a rude flight attendant, jot down his name, your flight number, and email a letter to the company as soon as possible. Better yet, share your grievance on Twitter for faster results.

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DRINKING PINK It was a warm summer day in the south of France. The en- with a nod toward “white Zin” for keeping the vineyards alive. tire village of Grasse, it seemed, had turned out for lunch this Monday afternoon on the terrace at La Bastide Saint Antoine, White Zin, on the other hand, created a backlash against where the Michelin-starred chef Jacques Chibois oversees the rose because of its significantly high levels of residual sugar. kitchen. Emerging wine consumers, especially those new to the pleasures of the grape, assumed – wrongly – that all rose wine was Everything about the day was impeccable. The sunlight, the sweet. fresh air, the glint of the Mediterranean in the distance all served Sensing the public mood, many as the perfect backdrop to Chibois’ domestic wine producers either iglegendary cuisine. nored rose altogether or made it in such limited quantities that good, And on every table, under every dry domestic rose similar to rose umbrella, there was a bottle of made in France, Spain and Italy was pink wine. Chilled, crisp, refreshdifficult to find. ing, dry rose wine from Provence. The parade of pink wine was nearly I am happy to report that domestic unanimous except for the occaproducers are becoming bolder in sional bottle of Champagne. their embrace of rose, and as an example I commend to you the beautiThe message from the huddled ful J Vineyards 2013 Vin Gris, made masses was not lost on this forfrom Pinot Noir grapes, that was eign visitor. When you are hot and published last week in the WRO Reparched, with a mighty thirst and views section. a craving for an adult beverage, there are worse ways to idle away I confess I had a moment of nostala summer afternoon than sipping gia as I took a sip. It was suddenly on a well-made dry rose wine as a sunny summer day in the south you gaze in the direction of the sea. of France, rubbing elbows with the townfolk of Grasse as they idled I’ve been hooked on dry rose ever away a lazy summer day. since, but until recently my rose thirst has been quenched for the J Vineyards 2013 Vin Gris, Rusmost part by wines produced in sian River Valley ($20) – My sense France, Spain and Italy. Domestic is that demand for rosé wine is up production of rose has generalsignificantly, although I haven't seen ly trended toward sweeter wines, any statistics to support that view. particularly white Zinfandel. What I do know is that more domestic producers are making a rosé White Zin, as it is known, was imand making it better than ever. This portant to the wine industry in rosé from J is made from Pinot Noir the 1980s because it saved many grapes using the saignee method old Zinfandel vineyards from exof bleeding the Pinot Noir fermentinction. Zinfandel, the bold red tation tanks early on, before too wine many believe is native to much contact between the juice and California, had fallen out of favor the skins, which can impart bitter at the time, but the invention and tannins. The J Vin Gris is fresh and instant popularity of “white Zin” clean, with mouth-watering acidity kept many of the old Zinfandel and beautiful aromas of strawberry vineyards in production. and tart cherry. And it has arrived just in time for those warm Indian That was a good thing, and now Summer afternoons. 92 points old-fashioned red Zinfandel is once again a consumer favorite, 76 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015

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ccasionally, as you’re taking a leisurely drive, you’ll see a mother elephant strolling across the road in front of you, accompanied by her recently-arrived tyke. Or might you look over as you’re enjoying your lunch out on the deck to see a warthog nosing its way among the shrubs only 20 feet away. Or, you’re sipping a brew on the terrace watching hippos splash around. This isn’t the San Diego Safari Park we’re talking about – this is the real thing -- the Masai Mara Game Preserve located below the equator at the huge Great Rift Valley in Kenya.

a very different world from San Diego or Chicago. The roadway over to our hotel was hectic, with lots of shops off to the roadside, trucks galore, and intriguing styles of wardrobe and activities. The resort hotel, Royal Reserve, was first-rate, located on the beach north of the main Mombasa community. As Kenya has some definite security issues, the hotel had a guarded front entrance gate, staffed with multiple security guards, with guns. This was the same entry style at several other hotels and major structures, such as a mall.

We recently headed to Kenya on the Eastern side of Africa off of the Indian Ocean, for a journey organized by Gate 1 Tours called the Affordable (that descriptive adjective lured us in) Safari. After a long couple of flights on British Airways via London, we arrived at the capital city, Nairobi, where we took a quick flight for a week’s stay in Mombasa before we began our safari.

Leaving the hotel on our own for a stroll down the street for a coffee, lunch or shopping was not permitted, so our explorations were done with a security driver and vehicle. When we did engage in activities with locals, we found them to be uniformly friendly, courteous, and conversational. (The Brits had Kenya as part of their empire. so many people spoke decent English.)

Heading to our hotel we soon were made aware that this was

We took an overnight safari to the nearby Sarova Salt Lick

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Game Preserve. The ground floor of our hotel was about ten feet above the ground, above a large watering hole where we watched hundreds of water buffaloes, and monkeys drink and splash around. After a short flight back to Nairobi (aboard Kenya Airways which impressed us with their hospitable style), we headed to our meeting place at the upscale Jacaranda Hotel. We were greeted by the Gate 1 host, Marcie, who took care of the check-in requirements. The next morning, she gathered our tour group of nine together to orient us about our upcoming days out in the bush, where those wild critters called home.

So off we headed out through the Nairobi city world, onto a road as busy as we’ve ever seen, with multi-trucks parked in groups and rolling in both directions along the highway. We were told the reason so many trucks were on the road is that the ancient railroad from Mombasa, and across Kenya, was among the slowest to be found. Hauling cargo across Kenya was much faster by trucks.

Finally, we got away from all that hassle and onto the road heading out into the Great Rift Valley. Many modest villages were just off the roads, and locals were hustling herds of goats and cows. Not a lot of big markets (Costcos or Starbucks) but people were making life work in their own manner. Finally we arrived at the Masai Mara. This is Waiting for us at the hotel entrance were our two hands-on the Kenya extension of the Serengeti and a game preserve of tour drivers (ours was Daniel), ready to load us into their massive size as we realized when very soon we were driving special vans. These were typical modern vans, with one dif- past herds of gazelles, occasional giraffes, and frequent troops ference: the roofs rose when we were out on safari so we could (true) of monkeys playing beside the road. stand up and shoot lots of pictures while protected from being gobbled up for a lion’s lunch. A half-hour into the preserve, we arrived at our abode, the Keekorok Lodge, for the next several nights. This was not exWine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 79

actly a tent slung across some post, but a first-rate lodge with all the usual resort attributes. A large dining room and bar, individual air-conditioned guest rooms, and well-trimmed strolling grounds (though with strict rules about where and when you might stroll on your own) betrayed the movies’ roughing it in the bush style. After a pleasant dinner, comfortable sleep and breakfast, it was time for our first safari. We loaded into our vans, with cameras at the ready, and our driver Daniel headed us out to locate some wildlife for us to see, admire, and photograph. We had been alerted to bring along cameras with high-telephoto lenses. My past experiences with 35 mm cameras was with long lenses, but today=s digital cameras can come with 18-20 times telephoto power at about the size of an IPhone, at a cost of about $100. Very soon we saw the wildlife, most of which ignored us as they just went about their regular lives. They’re used to seeing a couple dozen tourist vans driving by and stopping to peruse them, so might as well just do what comes with outdoors living. And, yes, there was that pack of a dozen elephants lounging beside and crossing the road. 80 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 Look at those ostriches trotting by right over there. Monkeys were ample, in groups or solo. It took awhile but yes that was a family of cheetahs with mama tending to junior. Sometimes it took a bit of driving to spot a set (tower, pride, cackle) of animals, and the various drivers were in frequent radio communication alerting each other as to where a particular bunch was to be seen. Sometimes a dozen vans would be gathered in the vicinity of a couple of lions lounging twenty feet off the road, or a set of gazelles prancing in the field. Always cameras were busy. Over the next several days, these van trips headed out twice a day, early morning and late afternoons when the wildlife would be more active. By now we were learning a few useful Kenyan Swahili phrases. Often spouted by us and locals was “Hakuna matata” meaning “no problem.” We were greeted with “Karibu” (welcome), and we picked up that always-important phrase “Asante sama” or “thank you.” When we had seen enough and were ready to move on, we would say “Sawa sawa” to the driver. (These are phonetic spellings, and may not hold up in language class.)

We were often reminded about the need for care, not from banditos but from critters such as the occasional elephant or hippo checking out our hotel, maybe for goodies, such as human visitors. We were warned to keep our room doors locked to keep local monkeys from slipping inside our rooms (maybe to take a shower?). One entertaining stroll was out on a boardwalk to the Hippo Bar. Now this was a major change from the typical resort remote bar. Here we could order up a cold brew or a glass of wine and watch about 30 hippos as they flopped, splashed and cavorted in a pond about 50 feet away. One troubling aspect of our journey was the long drives, roughly five tedious hours, getting out to and back from the on-site safari lodges. Long sections of the drives were dusty and bouncy, plus we joined lots of traffic once back onto a highway. One option you might look into, for an added cost, would be to fly out to and from the safari lodges. An airstrip was only a few miles from our lodge, and we saw several small aircraft ferreting tourists in and out. All in all, our Kenya safari was a memorable experience, a journey we recommend adding to your personal bucket lists. Author bios. Tom Leech is author of several books, including On the Road in ‘68: a year of turmoil, a journey of friendship, and, with Jack Farnan, Outdoors San Diego: Hiking, Biking & Camping. Leslie Johnson-Leech teaches fitness for seniors, Tai Chi and history of musical theater and film.

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I would totally recommend Sabu and his Icon India tour company. We had the experience of a lifetime. ~ Ron James, publisher WDT. 84 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015




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Wine Dine & Travel Magazine Winter Spring 2015  

Welcome to the award-winning Wine Dine & Travel Magazine - a quarterly digital and print magazine written and published by veteran, profess...

Wine Dine & Travel Magazine Winter Spring 2015  

Welcome to the award-winning Wine Dine & Travel Magazine - a quarterly digital and print magazine written and published by veteran, profess...

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