A tour of Sonoma County Wine Country makes for a memorable (provided you don’t drink too much) day-trip while staying in the city. We opted for Sonoma over Napa as we read it was more bucolic and laid back…and we weren’t disappointed. Our choice of touring companies was also spot-on. Green Dream Tours provide guided shuttle services that will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel downtown, stop at scenic overlooks along the way, and take you to family run wineries off the beaten path. Their shuttles are limited to 14 passengers, and are perfect anecdotes to overcrowded anonymous buses. They really make you feel like you’re out with a group of friends, and our driver and guide, Dakshina, couldn’t have been more professional, friendly and knowledgeable.
We stopped at three wineries as well as a brief sojourn in the “city” of Sonoma, which for those comparing is a quaint town of about seven thousand people vs. Napa which has swelled to a city of over seventy thousand. Continue reading →
No trip to the San Francisco Bay area is complete without a day-trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County and the famous redwoods of Muir Woods. Word to the wise: go early (the park opens at 8am) before the throngs of tourists and locals descend and make parking and silence impossible. We got there around 8:30am on a Saturday, and the timing was perfect for primo parking and thin crowds hiking the paths. Another word to the wise: the road up is winding, cliff-side, often without guard rails, and has no bike lanes but plenty of suicidal bikers competing for road space. Once safely ensconced in the belly of the forest, the trees – amongst the tallest on earth and towering like cathedral spires – are astounding, and I could imagine Terrence Malick coming here to die and be buried so he can forever be under sunlight streaming through treetops.
Ah, the Emerald Isle of rolling hills, bucolic villages and ancient ruins. Away from the bustle of Dublin City, this is the Ireland most know and dream of visiting.
While visiting Dublin I took a day tour on a bus out to County Wicklow on a beautiful clear-skied sunny day (the only sunny day during my stay in Ireland) – the timing and weather was perfect. Over the years I’ve become a mountains and lakes kind of guy…with upstate New York and western North Carolina being my favorite stateside haunts. Ireland’s County Wicklow is like some fever-dream version of those verdant visions…the shapes more dramatic, the sheep fluffier, the lakes darker, the tall tales spun there taller, the ghosts older…full of something more ancient and fecund…and land so inspiring I couldn’t help but be touched as a wicked little short story (perhaps even a novella?) was born in my mind as I strolled the trails of Glendalough (which ooze a peacefulness coupled with that eerie sense of “other” hidden in the woods and the hills) and heard a stray sheep bleating unseen lost in some bush. The monastic ruins in Glendalough (dating back over a thousand years) were like nothing I’ve ever seen in person and spoke of a thousand ghosts and stories. It’s not surprising that County Wicklow has become a popular filming location with TV shows like BBC’s classic Ballykissangel and The History Channel’s The Vikings and films like The Quiet Man, Ryan’s Daughter, Saving Private Ryan, Michael Collins, Excalibur, Braveheart, and P.S. I Love You (whether actually taking place in Ireland or not) having made appropriate use of the photogenic environs. Marvel at the mountains and lakes, the turf cutting through peat bogs and the trickling source of the River Liffey, and dream of all the stories told and untold that haunt the space. Continue reading →
Sometimes I need to take a break from writing about the pictures (as in films) by going out and taking pictures (as in very amateur photography). On a recent drive out to Doylestown, I stopped at Fonthill Castle for some photo ops.
A few Saturdays ago, a venture out to Chadds Ford, PA resulted in an impromptu visit to the Chadds Ford Antique Mall (inconveniently…I mean, conveniently located right next to the Chadds Ford Winery) where I happened upon the treasure above – an antique Remington typewriter, conspicuously priced at a “gotta have it” 35 smackers.
Now nestled at home in my study, Remi is begging for my imagination to run wild. How many previous owners were there? What has been typed on this machine…how many stories…love letters…ledgers…diaries…secrets???
I invite you to let your imaginations run wild, too, and tell me what Remi has seen…what Remi has composed…perhaps Remi is even haunted. But by what? By whom? Leave your “Remi Story” suggestions in the comments field…and see what might become…
…and The Schleicher Spin’s 564th bad horror film you should not watch this Halloween season:
Children of the Corn – and all its misbegotten sequels. Like seriously, what the hell was Stephen King thinking? How much corn whiskey was he drinking back then? Instead, you shouldwatch these films or this film.
…and here are a few shots from inside a corn maze in Egg Harbor City, NJ taken a few weekends ago:
Disclaimer: No corn was harmed during the making of these photos.
There’s really no better way to spend a day off from work midweek than taking a long drive. It’s especially nice on a beautiful pre-Fall day, and if it’s the first day your car has been out of the shop after an overnight stay for repairs, it’s even better. I’ve long extolled the wonders of Bucks County, Pennsylvania with all of its wineries and covered bridges, but the towns running parallel to Bucks along the Delaware River on the New Jersey side offer their own rustic charms and often get overlooked. Quaint historic towns running along the Delaware Raritan Canal in Hunterdon County and stretching across gorgeous wooded back roads into Mercer County (home of Princeton University) are more an extension of the small-town meets gentrified rural setting of Bucks County than they are a connecting strip to the New York-influenced North Jersey and Philly-influenced South Jersey megalopilises.
Last week I ventured up that way, stopping off at Washington’s Crossing State Park on the Jersey side before spending a few hours strolling through Lambertville. Continue reading →
On a whim this Saturday I decided to take a friend on a Thief MakerReality Tour by visiting the famous Philadelphia neighborhood where the majority of my book was set, touring Eastern State Penitentiary and dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants.
It had been a well over a year (maybe even two) since I had been back to the Art Museum District centered around Fairmount Avenue (and I’ll be there again next weekend for the Late Renoir Exhibit at the PMA). Though I’ve only ever been a visitor to the area, it was like returning home as it had lived in my imagination for so long and served as the inspiration for the primary setting of my “first” novel, which now seems like such a distant memory. It was great stomping around my old haunts, and for the first time, I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone. Continue reading →
This past Saturday (amidst all the crisp sunlight and gusting winds) was spent on a self-guided wine tour of Bucks County. It was our little Pennsylvania version of Sideways as we hit many of the spots along the Bucks County Wine Trail, but unlike Paul Giamatti’s character, we did drink some Merlot.
We visited five wineries in Bucks County (sorry, no pictures for this day-trip…too busy drinking)…and I’m confident in selecting Crossing Vineyards and Winery on Wrighstown Road in Washington’s Crossing as the best of the Bucks County bunch.
It was the first on our stop and features beautifully appointed grounds and interiors, warm and friendly service, a fantastic “tasting” set-up amongst the wooden barrels and giant steel drums, and most importantly…the best wine we tasted that day. The Crossing Vineyards prides itself on presenting the best possibilities of Pennsylvania wine and has won numerous awards. Their White Viognier and their Specialty Le Nouveau were the highlights for me, and I happily left with a bottle of each to take home.
It’s oh so quiet…and peaceful until…the tourist season.
I could hibernate all winter and all summer long. Give me the mountains in the fall and the shore in the spring when the noise is low and natural, the locals are talkative and happy to see you, and the hushed streets lay out before you waiting to be strolled.
Spectral Victorian houses taking deep breaths and creaking in the gentle breezes. An empty beach on a Saturday. The sun shining. 60 degrees. Perfect.