Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Next Stop: Rueda and Ribera Del Duero, Spain

Fall represents harvest time in many countries. I'm thrilled to return to Spain  this week to witness the famous grape harvests of Rueda and Ribera Del Duero.  I will be hosted by the Tourism Office of Spain and I'll be exploring the provinces of Burgos and Valladolid and the region of Castile-Leon. My itinerary features vineyards, castles and lots of restaurants! Spanish wine country holds a lot of history and cultural traditions that I will be  highlighting so please look out for posts and lots of wine pix!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Switzerland's Lake Views

Images of Switzerland always seem to involve mountains and alpine scenery, which does make up a lot of the country's distinctive beauty but that's not all you'll see. I was ecstatic to visit the Lake Geneva region, where I got to revel in the aquatic vistas of Switzerland.  Walking along the shoreline in Montreux, I discovered exactly why it's called the Swiss Riviera.  Crystalline blue water framed by mountains served as a stunning backdrop for sidewalk cafes, live concerts and sculptures rising up from the water. The mermaid raiding a seahorse was my absolute favorite, especially with children splashing around it.

This abstract piece looks like dolphins diving out of the water. Although the sculpture wasn't actually in the water, it gave the illusion from a distance. The fork sticking up from the lake was the silliest piece to me but it's also the most popular, as you can gather from the chair posted in front of it for the perfect Instagram selfie. These are just a few of the artful lake scenes that I enjoyed in the region. It's easy to glimpse mountains wherever you are in Switzerland, which is why I think the lake views are even more special.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Next Stop: Switzerland

Switzerland is one of those places that everyone loves. When I visited Lucerne years ago, I was astounded that the mountains and lakes, the medieval squares, were as charming and pristine as all the photos that show Switzerland as this kind of outdoor paradise. Even the Swiss cows, responsible for that life essential, Swiss chocolate, looked pretty as they delicately munched impossibly green grass. So it goes without saying that I'm excited to return to Switzerland, courtesy of  Swiss Tourism, this time to the famous Lake Geneva region.  I'll be visiting Mt. Santis, and the folkloric village of Appenzell , the textile center of St. Gallen and lovely Lausanne. But what I'm really stirred up about is attending the Fete des Vignerons. Never heard of it you say?  That's because this viticultural celebration of the regions wine making traditions happens only once in a generation. There's even a rule that it can not  take place more than five times in a century! It's the first living Swiss tradition recognized by UNESCO and I'll witness a performance commemorating the history of winegrowers as well as the coronation of the winegrowers. Of course, I might also sample a bottle of wine or two. Please look out for posts, photos and videos!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Grenada Waterfalls

The natural beauty of Grenada extends well beyond lovely beaches, lush rain forests and verdant mountains, this small island is also dotted with waterfalls! Grenada hosts dozens of waterfalls to explore and I was lucky to visit two of them. Rolling along the island's hills, you will discover a waterfall for every taste.

The most accessible waterfall is Annandale Falls, located just outside the capital of  St. George. Surrounded by a garden of ferns and trees, you just walk down a clear path  and you're rewarded with a cascade of water ending in a small pool. It's a great spot for a dip on a hot day although the water was icy cold from the recent rainfall when I visited.

Concorde Waterfalls requires a little more effort to reach. Sitting on the edge of a rain forest on the western side of the island, these falls stretch high over a mountain. This region of Grenada is filled with wildlife, I saw monkeys, lizards, rabbits and a few posing cats. There are actually three waterfalls located in this area and they are all striking, with crystalline water pouring over rocks and ferns. Local men jump off the falls for fun and if you offer a small tip, they''ll perform flips and spins. Check out my video of a thrilling Concorde Waterfall leap below.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Next Stop: Grenada

The beauty and culture of the storied Spice Isle also known as Grenada has been on my radar for years. This Southern Caribbean paradise is famous for lush topography, including beaches and waterfalls, as well as the production of nutmeg and mace, supplying some of the largest exports of these spices in the world. I will be exploring the natural beauty of Grenada this week, hopping on a dune buggy tour, a waterfall walk (Seven Sisters Waterfall is shown above) and a river tubing experience. I'll of course, also take in the island's history and notable foodie culture with a visit to St. George's spice market and  House of Chocolate. I'm especially excited to discover the history of revolutionary and Caribbean hero Maurice Bishop, who was the second prime minister of Grenada and was able to transform an oppressed society with a mass literacy program and developing the island's infrastructure and agricultural programs for self- sufficiency. Please stay tuned for posts and videos!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Good and The Guavaberry in St. Maarten

I like rum. The smooth, spicy flavor enhances anything it touches, from cakes to cola. Now, I'm not an expert rum connoisseur like my friend Steve at Uncommon Caribbean, but I know my way around most of the Caribbean's rums. So I was surprised that I had never tasted St. Maarten's signature guavaberry rum.  Wandering into the main Guavaberry emporium in Philipsburg, I sipped a sample and immediately fell in love with this sweetly potent folk liquor that hold the title of National Liqueur of Dutch and French St. Martin.

Guavaberries grow high in the hills of St. Maarten and are related to clove. No, the berries don't taste anything like guavas but when they are aged for the liquor, they taste spicy and woodsy. The Guavaberry company makes lots of flavored rums like passionfruit and lime but I prefer the guavaberry classic, especially in the form of a guavaberry colada.

If you haven't downed a bottle of Guavaberry rum, you haven't really traveled to St. Maarten. Sipping this smooth libation will warm you like the hot St. Maarten sun and remind you that paradise is only a sip away.

The Fragrance of the French Caribbean

Some of my favorite scents are the lush tropical fruits and flowers of the Caribbean. The smell of fresh coconut, sugar apple, hibiscus and bougainvillea always conjure up beautiful memories. My sensory memory of St. Martin will remain vivid, thanks to the olfactory wonders of Tijon Perfumerie.

The idea of a personalized perfume is really appealing to me because I'm sensitive to loud, synthetic smells.  I'm really particular about fragrance and I like natural scents. Stepping into Tijon is like entering a  French Caribbean perfume paradise. Hundreds of extracts and essences line the lab and there are also ready made perfumes, colognes scented candles and skin products available. But creating your own perfume with a perfume class is the essential reason to visit Tijon. John, the owner and master perfumer, gave us lab coats and explained the basics of perfume making, which is not as simple as you'd think.

I sniffed dozens of extracts and oils, many smelled a lot different in their natural form than the commercial versions. We had to measure several of our favorite scents in test tubes and mix them in preservatives. We even had workbooks to record our scents and measurements so that we can order them again.

After dabbling through a lot of essences, I settled on amber, sunflower and musk. I call my perfume "St. Martin Magic," the light aroma reminds me of the small boutiques that are scattered around Grand Case. Visiting Tijon Perfumerie is an exceptional experience and one of St. Martin's ultimate excursions. Even if you're not into fragrances, creating your own hand-crafted scent will definitely change your mind.