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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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

An Afternoon in Warsaw

A long weekend in Europe isn’t a frequent getaway for us across the pond over here in the US, yet I found myself on a flight to Warsaw, Poland from New York City with a vague itinerary, consisting mainly of a wish list-collage which I made browsing the internet on the eve of my departure.  I enjoy travelling with a loose agenda so I wasn’t stressed, and my one afternoon free to roam the streets was all but magical.

Directed to Old Town by a friend, I found  endless streets of cobblestones leading to castles, forts, shops and restaurants.  It is both sobering and delightfully charming, to walk through the layers of history.  “Fall in love with Warsaw” is the greeting you receive from the city upon entering.  Old Town Warsaw is romantic without even trying.  I spent the day walking around in the sunshine, stopping in little stores, and feasting on pierogi.

Established in 1300, the architecture represents almost every European style and period, a reflection of the city’s turbulent history.  Located in a unique zone between the East and West,  Poland is sometimes referred to as “the phoenix city” for having the ability to rise again and rebuild itself after countless attacks.  Over eight out of every ten buildings in Warsaw had been destroyed by the end of WWII.  After completed reconstruction, ironically, Old Town is only fifty years old.

Open-air cafes and art stalls make up the market square.  Hear the gentle clopping of horse hooves on cobblestones, and soft music dancing through the air from a nearby corner where a man stands playing a flute.  The smell of sugary fried dough hangs in a breeze while the gentle murmur of people out for an afternoon stroll floats past.  As you explore, reminders are everywhere of war in carefully preserved historical sites and memorabilia found in antique shops.  Poland is an open book who wear’s it’s heart on it’s sleeve.

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from Warsaw, xo

margotjo

if you’ve been inspired to visit, these are sites you may find helpful:

In Your Pocket

Local Life