Groot Constantia Wine Estate

20160329_134742.jpgA little history never hurt with a glass of wine, and a view!  Groot Constantia wine estate stretches into a stunning backdrop of mountians.  South Africa’s oldest vineyard offers award winning wines, for over 33o years, produced here on the wine farm which includes a museum and offers cellar tours.  To get there you can drive, hop on a bus tour, or take a helicopter.
20160329_132245.jpg20160329_131400.jpg2016-05-17-05.58.26.jpg.jpgThe day was overcast, but patches of blue sky peeking out from behind billowing clouds gave me optimism, as I had noticed the Cape weather to be less than committal.  I jumped on a bus heading out from Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to visit one of South Africa’s renowned wine farms.  A quick ride up the mountain and into lush forest suddenly opened up into serene landscape of rolling vineyards and we were dropped off.  You are free to stroll the property and wander the vineyards, just be aware to keep an eye out for baboons!  The beauty of the South African landscape was not something I got used to, although being taken aback by it was.  Even cast under clouds on a grey day the stunning beauty is as vivid as the tranquility is penetrating.  Joining a cellar tour and wine tasting is the perfect amount of interesting and delicious for a vacation activity.

From gray and cloudy to rainbows and blue skies, you never know what the day holds when the clouds blow over.

 

 

 

 

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Table Mountain, Cape Town

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view of table mountain from the V&A Waterfront

Table Mountain on a clear, sunny day, is a spectacular and breathtaking experience.  More than just an incredible cable car ride up to the top for a scenic view, you are free to explore as much as you wish to wander.  Once at the top, Table Mountain is very walk/hiker friendly.  Bright yellow painted footprints, wooden walkways, and stone paths have been created to follow back to the starting point for even the most directionally challenged (me).  A day spent walking around the mountain will take your breath away, although mostly in awe, I did arrive back at the platform four-and-a-half-hours later quite exhausted.  Spending an afternoon into evening offers a panorama of day to sunset, dusk into twilight, a spectrum of the days beauty.  As the sun sets, a siren wails to alert the last hikers that it’s time to return to catch the last cable down.  Nightfall settles and Capetown slips on a gown of black darkness; glittering gold and diamonds, the city shimmers in the distance below.   

Did you know that out of the six World Floral Kingdoms, The Cape is it’s own?  Boasting a unique biodiversity this is all the more reason to commit a few hours to appreciating this stunning geological destination.  The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway provides convenient access and is a tourist treat in itself, with connecting transportation.  Of course, you can absolutely hike or climb the mountain and there are plenty of trails which allow for a more serene and natural experience.  Also, be aware that the cable car que is long; I waited about an hour each way to get up and back down, albeit the most scenic waiting line ever and I’m not complaining not one little bit.

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Just a few side notes:

If you are planning a visit to Table Mountain I recommend checking this website as the cable car schedule is weather permitting.  Speaking of the weather, while visiting Capetown I noticed sudden shifts in winds with drastic hot to chilly changes as well as intense sunlight, so remember your sunscreen and carry an extra layer or jacket!  And one last thing, the bus stops running before the cable car does, so if you want to catch that night view plan to take a cab back.

XOXO,

Thanks for reading, happy travels!  

 All pictures and words by margotjo

 

 

Vineyarding at Keuka Lake

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Take me out to the country.  Wine country, that is!  And New Yorkers have our very own. Glacial lakes carved into mountains over 500 million years ago form a vineyard region of New York known as the Finger Lakes.  Don’t let a little frost on the ground frighten you away.  One might typically imagine a day of vineyard hopping to be warm weather activity, but guess what, the wine tastes the same if not better!

The Finger Lakes Region AVA, a recognized American Viticultural Area, is comprised of four lakes: the Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, and Cayuga Lake.  Geographically the Finger Lakes resembles another region known for world class wines and has drawn comparison to the Rhine in Germany; also with a cooler growing season, slate soils, and micro-climates caused by the mountains.  At the heart of the Southern Finger lakes, eight wine trail member wineries dot the Keuka lake in Hammondsport New York.  Known affectionately as “Lady of the Lakes” for geographical beauty, she holds her own against Piedmont in Italy, Loire Valley in France and America’s well known wine travel destination Napa Valley.  Keuka lake is also credited for being the birthplace of the Finger Lakes wine country.  Europeans brought with them to the new world, wine, and as far back as 1829 settlers began to cultivate vineyards.  By 1836 the first commercial winery opened.

Dr. Konstantin Frank  made a significant contribution to American wines when he planted Vitis Vinifera, bringing European vines to upstate New York.  He was determined that the cold climate was no reason to except mediocre wine and since then Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars has become known internationally for exceptional Riesling, among other award winning grape varietals.  Other popular grape varietals which have seen success in the Finger Lakes include: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, and Pinot Gris.

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Finger Lakes USA was rated one of ten Best Wine Travel Destinations of 2015 by Wine Enthusiast 

Town and Country put it on their 7 Places to Put on Your Travel Bucket List if You Love Wine

 What are you waiting for?  Plan your trip

 “So much wine to taste and so little time”

xoxo, margotjo

 

 

 

Why Freiburg? Wine Not!

Freiburg im Breisgau is a quintessential European vacation.  Located in the wine growing region of Baden, an area noted for it’s cuisine, Freiburg is Germany’s warmest city.  Founded in 1120, this centuries old university town has been architecturally restored to its picturesque medieval state.  Known for sunshine, the Black Forest, and Albert Ludwig University; a visit to quaint, quiet Freiburg with it’s temperate climate and proximity to more than 300 wineries is a perfect opportunity to experience old Europe and enjoy a wine lesson while you’re at it.

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Waking up in Freiburg for a day of exploring?  Prepare to be enchanted because this city of sunshine has a once upon a time feel.  Start with der Munstermarkt a two-centuries-old market in the plaza near the 800 year old cathedral, one of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture.  From there the sights unfold as you wander but watch out for the bachle, or brooklets – these are small canals of water from the Dreisam river, which run throughout the village.  Once a source of fresh water for animals, the legend is that one who steps in it is destined to marry a Freiburger.  Adding to the fairytale ambiance you will notice how quiet it is, perhaps because there are limitations on car use, making it very pedestrian friendly.

German beer and sausage and pretzels, have stolen the spotlight from the many culinary experiences that await a visitor.  As there are over 1,000 breweries and 1,500 varieties of sausages one can certainly understand the hype.  But credited for locally sourced sustainable ingredients Badisch cuisine goes far beyond, and oh, the wine!  Until the twentieth century there were only two great wine producing countries, France, and Germany.  Baden, it has been said, is the Burgandy paradise of Germany.

The Baden wine region is not concentrated, but consists of several land parcels spread out including; central Germany near Wurzburg, on Lake Constance (the Bodensee) near Switzerland, and parallel to the Rhine from Heidelberg all the way south to Basel. To the west is the Black Forest and beyond that France’s Alsace region.  The most famous vineyards today were planted and cultivated by monks in the Middle Ages.

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In the land of beer, everywhere I went I had wine.  And it was fabulous.  The brightest most brilliant roses, sharp and crisp the clarity of the flavor meets the beauty of color for a sensational palate explosion.  German white wines are known for being delicate and pure, and having a quality of transparency or nakedness, meaning the true qualities of the grape are showcased.  The lesser famed red wines produced in Germany will take you out of your comfort zone, in a good way.  Wine can be confusing and German wine can be extra confusing like there are thirteen wine regions, 1,400 wine villages, and 2,600-plus vineyards.  How do you choose?  Below I have attempted to simplify.

The Grapes of Germany.  There are eighteen, I am only going to touch upon Baden wines, (for the purpose of this article.  However if your thirst for knowledge isn’t quenched there are links at the end for further reading and, of course, drinking pleasure).

  • Weissburgunder – pinot blanc
  • Rulander (Graoburgunder) – pinot gris / pinot grigio
  • Riesling – the favorite grape of Germany and perhaps the most widely associated with German wine is planted on all the best sites, however very little is grown in Baden
  • Muller-Thurgau – the leading grape in Baden, an everyday drinking wine
  • Gutedel – makes simple wines, same grape as chasselas from Switzerland
  • Silvaner – dependably good but typically not great wine, same as sylvaner grape from Alsace, France
  • Gewurztraminer – often described as full of floral and fruit
  • Spatburgunder – pinot noir

* all wines in the list above are white except for the last one

Three basic styles of German wine are

  1. Trocken – dry
  2. Halbtroken – medium-dry
  3. Fruity – semidry to very sweet

And the two main categories of German wine are

  1. Tafelwein literally translation is table wine, this is the lowest designation
  2. Qualitatswein meaning quality wine which in itself includes the two subcategories of: QbA (Qualitatswein bestimmeter Anbaugebiete) indicates a quality wine from one of the thirteen specified regions, and Pradikatswein which is the best.

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And now you know why.

xoxo, margotjo

Thirsty?  I am a wine enthousiast, like, Hell Yes I Would LOVE A Glass!”  and in learning more about this tasty beverage I like to consult The Wine Bible and also I have been reading Windows On the World

Hungry?  The Grounded Traveler sums it up perfectly for where to eat in Freiburg

Interested?  get to know more about Freiburg

Want to visit?  The Black Forest is a popular vacation destination too!

Amsterdam!

Casually fabulous.  Amsterdam may have a bit of a naughty reputation, but there is so much more.  With the right touch of laid back yet cultured and tasteful, picturesque and charming, Amsterdam is old but new at the same time.  It has the suave sophistication of maturity and a youthful cocky swagger.  Allow yourself to be seduced.

Like Amsterdam you don’t have to try too hard.  It is possible to simply walk out the door with no destination and encounter charming cafes, historic landmarks, museums, outdoor markets, and unpretentious restaurants with gracious hospitality.  Even a walk through the red light district offers more than just sex.  There’s just something about wandering through the streets of Europe, clock tower bells echoing…

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I spent a week on a houseboat, in a quiet neighborhood on a canal near a children’s school.  A few blocks from a city square, with restaurants, cafes, and shops, and a daily farmer’s market.  A few more blocks from the Red Light District.   Our early morning arrival allowed us to drop off our bags and begin investigating the neighborhood before the city was awake.

The grayest hour of morning, when the city has it’s eyes open but hasn’t gotten out of bed yet, and street lights glow soft as the last of night fades into the beginning of day.  We stopped in a prepared foods shop to grab sandwiches for the walk and set out.  We cross a few canal foot bridges, turn down a few streets, and find ourselves in the middle of the famed district of the women in boxed windows lit with glowing red lights.  Last nights parties decorated the narrow brick walkways shamelessly.  Blatant and unapologetic, this city takes you as you are and expects the same.

We continue our aimless wander, me incessant with the picture taking, and agree that it’s time to stop for a coffee.  The adrenaline hasn’t worn off yet from leaving home 12 hours ago to this moment.  We circle back to where we started and stop at a grocery store for essentials before turning in to take a break, suddenly we feel like crashing.  A few hours later, like bears roused from hibernation we stumble off of our canal-way home in search of food; looking for a restaurant, but not a tourist trap.  What we found was the first of many delightful neighborhood places; tucked away down a  side street a cozy European farm to table cafe,  welcoming us in from a downpour.  After dinner, now dried and with the rain subsided, our sense of adventure was not dampened.  We walked through quiet neighborhoods, with stately manors facing canals and passed other quiet cozy restaurant spots.  It was hard to imagine this as city with a reputation for drugs or even considered a destination for it.

What to do for a week in Amsterdam?  Rent a bicycle, or take a walk, even in the rain it is a fairy tale of a stroll.  Cafes and canals, cheese and more cheese.  If you happen past a specialty wine store, do go in and grab as many bottles as is feasible to carry with you. Pretty much the same goes with cheese if you see a fromagerie, the only problem being one can only eat so much cheese, alas!  Indulge in dutch apple pie.  Pop into a restaurant on a whim because it looks cozy and inviting, it doesn’t matter if you are hungry.  Grab a gin and tonic, and enjoy that you have nothing to do except enjoy this moment.  Lose track of time.  Why do we travel?  Work, relaxation, education, or maybe curiosity and exploration?  It gives us an excuse to eat more frequently and begin drinking earlier in the day with reckless abandon.  I mean, not to the extent that you lose your passport.

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for practical tips on planning your visit, I recommend Amsterdam.info

for further inspiration AFAR travel magazine offers tips from locals

and if you want to know where else to go iamsterdam

jetset: nyc to miami

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Miami.  It’s Caribbean meets cosmopolitan.  A United States tropical getaway; fusing culture, cuisines, tropical paradise and architecture, Miami has something for everyone.  With a nightlife that can begin in the afternoon and end after noon, from the Design District to the Museum district, as a tourist, a traveler, or simply a vacationer, your options are limited to your will.

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Hit the beach and soak up the sunshine or sit in a shaded cafe on Ocean drive to witness the endless parade of people watching, after sunset is the perfect time for a jog along the beach through Lummus Park.  You can join the parade and take a walking tour through Miami Beach, enjoying the open air museum of architectural style that is distinct to South Beach.  If passing through one of the many decadent hotel lobbies invokes feelings of old-school glamour, that’s because many of the structures have been protected from demolition and restored to reflect the original designs from as early as the 1920’s.  Efforts by the Miami Design Preservation League are well noted as the Art Deco District in Miami Beach is historically recognized, celebrating three predominant architecture styles: Mediterranean Revival, MiMo (Miami Modernism) and Art Deco.  A convenient way to get around South Beach is the SoBe Local, a frequent and inexpensive bus designed for visitors to access popular destinations.

There are also fun pockets of Miami in which to escape the SoBe scene such as Little Havana and an easy stroll down Calle Ocho.  Another neighborhood not to be missed is the much acclaimed Wynwood Art District.  Comprised of over 70 galleries, museums and art collections it is one of the largest open-air-street-art installations in the world, and home to a permanent outdoor mural exhibit known as The Wynwood Walls.  If you happen to be around the second Saturday of the month, you can check out the monthly art fair know as Art Walk, a festival of art, food, and music set up like a big block party.

Miami is a beach city that doesn’t sleep.  Cocktail hour is whatever hour you want it to be so when you are ready to unwind there are bartenders everywhere waiting to impress you with inventive craft cocktails.  Hotels and restaurants compete for ambiance and presentation which makes indulging in libations at one of these hot spots a great way to get a taste of Miami. With so many options for activities and exploration there is only one thing I absolutely insist that you partake, and that is catching the setting sun as it disappears behind the Miami city skyline bathing the bay in a brazen glory of pink, orange and golden vibrancy, best done at the aptly named Sunset

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reasons to visit:

the sunshine, because you need some vitamin D

the beach, because the sand between your toes and the waves crashing on the shore and the ocean breeze on your face

the skies, because they’re bright blue with fluffy clouds and palm tree sillhouetes and sunsets

the tacos, because we all love them, and it’s more fun to eat them in the sunshine by the beach under palm trees

because palm trees and sunshine and sunsets and tacos go together like, what else do you need?

Miami.  Because you simply must dahling!!  xoxo,

margotjo

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special thanks

to Taquiza, your delicious tacos and a cold beer saved my life one hungover day when seeking refuge from the sun, there you were with a shaded patio only steps away from the beach. at 15th and Collins ave – Taquiza Miami

and to Bodega, because I love tacos like a little kid loves Christmas so when I stumbled across your newly opened place on my way to watch the sunset it was like, well, Christmas.  at 16th by Alton rd – Bodega Taqueria y Tequila   

The North Fork

No, wait!  Summer – come back!

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I am already going through withdrawl at the thought of summer’s end.  I need a won’t-accept-the-end-of-summer-vacation!  Alas, instead of planning one, I am remembering my dreamy weekend spent on Long Island’s North Fork at the start of my summer.

On the lesser famed split of the Long Island Hamptons, this beautiful laid-back postcard community quietly preserves the tradition of an easy, country, summer-by-the-sea.  A destination for summering since as far back as the Victorian era, the North Fork has remained subdued, earning itself the nickname the “un-Hamptons”.

A two-hour  train ride out of the noise and grit of Manhattan is a peaceful escape in the hamlet of Mattituck.  Located between the Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound it has that easy beach town feel, but wait, there’s more.  In the midst of the Long Island wine region and surrounded by farms, it is a locavore paradise offering fresh catch and shellfish, farm to table produce, and vineyard hopping to satisfy any foodie, or just someone who likes to eat good food.

Stepping onto the train station platform, immediately I begin to decompress.  During the fifteen minute drive to our rented beach house a molten sunset appears then disappears behind tall marsh grass, snapshots of evening-sun-bathed farmland flash between views of dense forest and the scent of lush green vegetation soothes away city tension.   If you’re seeking fresh air and relaxation then this is the place for you.  It could be said it’s a genius choice, considering that Albert Einstein is reputed to have spent the happiest summer of his life on the North Fork.

 

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A bicycle with a basket made this quick escape a charming adventure complete with antique stores, farmer’s markets, and vineyards.  Greensport, the center of commerce, is a twenty minute drive offering more culture, dining, and sight-seeing options.

 

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my willing model and lovely tour guide, thanks Rachel!

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Beaches, and bicycles and vineyards, OH MY!  I have always loved to travel, but living in New York city I have deemed it a necessity to get out of the city, and to do so on a budget.  One can surely drop some dollars vineyard hopping and antiquing, however, in a setting so lovely and relaxing it isn’t even necessary to spend a lot of money to just enjoy being.

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Points of Interest:

What else?  I traveled on the LIRR out of Penn Station, there are also Jitney options such as The Hampton Ambassador or Hampton Jitney

As a non-driver my exploration was somewhat limited, however for driving advice and other points of interest I recommend Fodors Travel site.

*Taste The East End – Free Shuttle Weekends October 11-12 and November 8-9*

It’s never to early to start a vacation dream fund, or start planning for your next opportunity, happy travels!

xoxo,

margotjo