Random Places I Have Been in 2017

Well, I guess we were just in a New York State of Mind in 2017.

Trips to the Empire State included:

  • An extended “writer’s  retreat” weekend in Cooperstown in April.  It was my wife’s first time in one of my favorite places on earth.  It was also our first time doing Air B&B.  Despite coming home with a nail in my tire…it was a truly relaxing, lovely trip (and, yes, we both got some much-needed writing done).
  • A weekend getaway to NYC in June to hit up some old haunts (with a jaunt out to Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Museum).
  • A family vacation in August renting a house on Lake Seneca (first time in the Finger Lakes region) from which we watched the solar eclipse. The vacation also included day-tripping to Watkins Glen and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (a long overdue first time there!)  The Niagara experience inspired a short-story I’m currently polishing up.

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Drinking Wine in the Valley of the Moon

Robledo Winery 3

This is the third in a three-part photo series on my recent trip to San Francisco.  Click here for Killer Views of the City or click here for photos of Muir Woods.

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

Sideways in Bucks County

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. 

Other great wineries along the trail in Bucks: Continue reading

Autumn in Cooperstown

As not only the birthplace of baseball but also the birthplace of the American novel, Cooperstown, New York (named for the family that spawned America’s first great novelist, James Fenimore Cooper) is an endless source of inspiration.  After last year’s visit in early Spring, I decided I wanted to make a yearly pilgrimage to the place of Glimmerglass and Doubleday, leaves and lakes, ballplayers and writers, Coopers and Mohicans.  Mid-Autumn is an intoxicating sight to behold in Cooperstown and around Lake Otsego.  It’s the time of year when the “off season” is just beginning, part-time locals are enjoying a less crowded hamlet before retiring to warmer climates, year-round natives are still enjoying the nicer weather, the last shot of selective tourists leisurely ascends into town for fall foliage or in honor of the baseball playoff season, the few remaining sailboats glide over Glimmerglass, and the wildlife still roams freely but sleepily as they settle in for their upcoming long winter’s nap.  Hibernation, ice and loneliness await as the leaves slowly dance down from the treetops and cover the sidewalks as a colorful precursor to the white snow that will blanket the area all too soon.

Naturally, one can’t help but snap as many pictures as possible.  Continue reading

A Visit to Gettysburg

Late spring is the perfect time of year to visit Gettysburg as the tourist and reenactment season has yet to begin and the stinking heat of summer has yet to enshroud the bucolic Pennsylvania hamlet.  The popular destination can easily be reached in less than three hours from South Jersey or any point in the greater Philadelphia area.  While Civil War buffs and professional ghost hunters could easily make a long weekend of it, we found that one day is perfect for a leisurely self-guided auto tour of the sprawling, picturesque and monument laden battlefield followed by a stroll through the quaint downtown area full of bed-and-breakfast establishments, restaurants, souvenir shops and haunted houses.

What struck me most about the battlefield was not only its size and scope (give yourself at least two hours for the free self-guided auto tour if you plan to make the appropriate stops) but also the meditative peacefulness that now enraptures the place where so much violence once conquered.  It’s a true marvel just for the scenery let alone the history.  Continue reading

A Visit to Tomasello Winery and Batsto Village

With a friend visiting from out of town, we decided to kill some time by taking a short drive down to Batsto Village for a casual hike on a beautiful day.  Driving down the White Horse Pike through Hammonton, the “Blueberry Capital of the World” sign was impossible not to notice.  When I mentioned there were some wineries in the area, my friend began to wonder if they made blueberry wine.  Right on cue, the unassuming and nicely appointed Tomasello Winery appeared up on the left.  Lo and behold, Tomasello Winery is famous for their fruit wines, including, of course, a very tasty blueberry wine.  The winery offers free wine tasting, a helpful and personable staff, and very affordable locally made wine.  I highly recommend it, and being a mere thirty minutes from my neck of the woods, I’ll be sure to return.  I left the winery with a bottle of their signature blueberry wine and a bottle of their vintage port.  For more, visit:  http://www.tomasellowinery.com/

Just a bit further down the White Horse Pike from the winery, we made a left onto Route 542 towards Batsto Village.  South Jersey often gets a bad wrap for its lack of scenery, but this is a beautiful stretch of well maintained farmland on the edge of the Pine Barrens that rivals any of the best “country drives.”  Nestled in the heart of Wharton State Forest, Batsto Village offers hiking trails, a beautiful lake, and historic buildings (including an old sawmill) left over from its days of iron and glass making during the 19th century.   For more, visit:  http://www.batstovillage.org/

Below are some photos I captured while walking through Batsto Village: Continue reading