Where to Wine: Willamette Valley

I recently returned from a bucket list trip to Portland, Oregon. I had heard tales of this Foodie Mecca and for far too long drooled over the Instagram posts coming out of that city.

Finally it was time for me to explore Portland and feast away!

We walked all over; ate till we could not eat anymore; stopped by as many breweries as we could in sequence… and got caught in a political protest!  The airbnb may have had mice, but even that could not stop my new found love for Portland.

Not only did we traverse the city…. But we found ourselves a driver and booked it to wine country. I may be a wine country newbie but the Willamette Valley blew me away. Our driver Chris, if you can, you must find Chris, was the most knowledgeable, funny and charismatic guy. He has lived in the area for many years and developed relationships at multiple vineyards. I credit Chris for much of the attention and care we received in each and every tasting room.  With Chris we truly received the VIP treatment. Every naïve wine question I asked was answered with respect and an intent to educate. I’m quite certain we received more pours than the anyone else in those tasting rooms.

The rooms we were in felt personal, welcoming and boutique.

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Our first stop was at Domain Roy & Fils. Upon arrival we were treated to champagne and a tour around the facility. We were given time to enjoy the view and walk around. I could sit on the patio here all day. Our tasting took place by the fireplace and could not have been more enjoyable. Jordan explain their processes, the wines and exchanged dog stories. If you go, he is the best!

Our second stop was at Alexana Winery; another beautiful tasting room with floor to ceiling windows over looking an 80 acre vineyard. Here to my surprise I found a Chardonnay that I absolutely love. It is a stunning bottle and may have reopened my palate to Chardonnay. I’d be remiss not to mention that I also walked out of Alexana with a few Pinot Noirs as well. The staff here were beyond happy to educate, talk and get to know you.

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Our third stop was Fairsing Vineyard and I’m quite certain the view cannot get any better than here.

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There are no descriptors for this place. Its like a heaven on earth, a peace, a calm and warmth from the wine. Take me back.

Our fourth and final stop was Saffron Fields Vineyard. We sampled more wine and walked around the beautiful Japanese garden here. Our trip happened to coincide with a thanksgiving meal pairing and we snacked to our hearts’ content. I walked away with a bottle of the most delicious Rose.  The tasting room staff gave us many more restaurant recommendations for our last night in Portland.

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Seriously stunning. I’m dying to go back. Who is with me?

 

To Do In Philly: The Magic Gardens

On this 70 degree November day, my heart is happy. I’m jumping for joy and lifting my face upwards towards the sun. Give me all the rays!

I am one of those forever summer people; one who’d be pretty happy posted up on a beach for the rest of forever. So naturally I get the end of summer blues. At 30 I’ve finally learned the cure to such blues.

Fall travel!

The first such trip was to Philly in September. Have you been? I absolutely love Philadelphia. On this trip I wanted to check out Philly’s Magic Gardens. The Magic Gardens are a non-profit, visionary art environment. Its located within Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork. The gardens are an outdoor installation spanning half a city block on South Street. Isaiah used nontraditional materials to transform an empty city lot.

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Walking through this beautiful mosaic garden, I felt almost transported back to Spain. It felt like a Gaudi masterpiece. There was so much to look at, so many colors, materials and sayings. As we perused the garden, the artist himself was even there, happily engaging visitors in conversations regarding his work.

 

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I highly recommend you add the Magic Gardens to your itinerary. And after you’ve explored to your heart’s content, you’re going to need some afternoon wine and snacks. So make your way over to Tredici Enoteca.

The restaurant has a warm coastal feeling.

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 No better place to Rose all Day 😉

To enjoy some oysters..

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And to eat hands down, the best bacon wrapped stuffed dates ever!

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I’d say this trip was a great fall blues cure.

Do you experience the same blues? How do you beat em?

 

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The Montserrat Tour to Take: Barcelona, Spain

I was listening to a podcast the other day, in which the speaker stated that there were two ways to look at life. There were those that would sit in their cubes dutifully saving income in order to live life after 60. Then there were those that looked at life as a now and not as a future state. Those that seek to explore while they are young. Those that will find a way to build that lifestyle they seek now.

Of course there are more than two ways to look at life. However if we are going to follow along and play into that speaker’s philosophy, I’d fall into option two. I strive to find a way to play now. To explore now. To put my wanderlusting soul in a box, with a key only to be opened upon hitting a certain amount in my 401k; would equate to a death sentence for that part of my soul.

Perhaps you call option two the proverbial millennial in me. Call it what you will.

Travel I must. It’s a directive running through my veins. It cannot be ignored.

So along the lines of option two, I am finally getting up a few more Spain travel posts.

Most of our trip in Spain we planned on our own, not being held to tour times or group travel. Some places were picked out and others we ignorantly wandered into. But that’s how we like it. A mix of planned and spontaneous. I’d call myself semi-type A, I like lists and itinerarys but I also like to get lost. To see what I may never have seen. To meet and taste and smell the unexpected. Even if sometimes that means I’m lost in an Irish field,the rain is sprinkling down, my hair in hideous waves due to the thick fog and my nose dripping with snot. (See story here)

While we mostly wandered Barcelona on our own schedule we did take one tour. If you are to take one tour in or around Barcelona, this is the one company to use! They gave us exactly what we liked. A bit of an organized tour, a bit of time to ourselves to wander and a guide who was personable, knowledgeable and eager to build new relationships.

Our tour was to the must see monastery and mountain region of Montserrat. The area is full of legend, housing a beautiful Benedictine abbey, the Virgin Sanctuary and did I mention a farmers market of cheese vendors?! You can also ride the Funicular up to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views and a walk with the clouds. It is not to be missed!

Walking in the Clouds

The beauty, mystique and legend of this place not only speaks for itself, it can be felt. My descriptors and pictures lack just how this place takes your breath away. You are quite literally walking within the clouds. Whatever your religious leaning may be, the spiritual presence is enveloping.

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Cathedral

Our tour capped off with a leisurely Spanish lunch and winery tour.

Winery Vines

Oller de Mas is a boutique winery built out of a family legacy. They are quite literally bottling by hand and allowing the youngest family members draw and design the labels. Even the children have a hand in the boutique aspects of this place. With a private tasting room within the castle we got to know our intimate tour group. Thought not a sommelier our guide knew his wine and knew the winery. Our wine tasting was knowledgeable, fun, relaxed and hey, there was a lot of wine!

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Winery Dessert

I cannot recommend this tour more. It was one of the top days of our trip. I may or may not have ended the day with a slight wine induced nap back to the city.

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Winnery Barrels

Thank you Castlexperience tours for an unforgettable day!

(To be clear we found this tour through other reviews. The company did not compensate me for this post, (nor did they even know I was writing it) I merely wanted to share a great experience with those looking for tour options in Barcelona)

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Kiosk Universal: Barcelona Must Eat

Our Barcelona trip was full of must eats. The Tapas, duh. Jamon and queso, yum yes like three times a day.

Seafood? Seafood was required.

Some of the best seafood we had was at Kiosk Universal.

You can find Kiosk Universal in La Boqueria. La Boqueria is, no bias at all here, one of the best markets in the world. It is said that here, you can find a paradise for the senses. I strongly agree as my foodie desires were more than fulfilled perusing the stalls. We purchased a variety of olives to take back to our airbnb and sniffed out different fruits to try. Cheese and meats will be yours in abundance should you sample and purchase to take home.

We headed to Kiosk Universal on a tip from friends.

Where else can you sit and ogle razor claims, mushrooms, shellfish and fish piled all up in your face?

I mean look at those! So fresh the stall to your left, right, other side, front, back etc. is selling the freshest catch.

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Holy green sauce were said friends right. This place, its seafood and its green sauce are to die for. Order everything.

I was instructed to order everything, so I pass on the same sentiment to you.

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Lick up that green sauce and enjoy!

Mussles

shrimp

Head to the back of the market. You’ll know it by the fact its packed. All the time. Elbow your way in and enjoy allll the delights.

Thank me later 🙂

Kiosk Menu

Rob with three desserts

The Best Meal in Barcelona

The best meal in all of Barcelona?  Quite the statement, I know.

Perhaps it was the magic of a two week trip winding down.

The culmination of the exploration and needing some place to top it all off.

It may have been built up by our wonderful airbnb host, who stated upon our arrival, that he himself as foodie considered this place the best of the best.

Barcelona is full of culinary delights… full of jamon and queso… full of pincho bars where one can toothpick their way through endless selections..

We ate and ate for two weeks.

Our last spot however has my heart.

On the recommendation of our host, we made it to Bar Canete on our last night. We perhaps should have made a reservation! But to our delight we were seated shortly after ordering a drink to wait with.

I had to start with oysters. Oysters and I are obsessed. with each other. And I get to eat them ALL as a certain someone claims he is allergic. (which I doubt based upon described symptoms…)

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The spicy clams came next.

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Rabbit cutlets to continue the meal..which were perfectly cooked and mild.

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As my main I had to order the wildly popular, seemingly social media classic, the Cannelloni of roast poularde and foie bechamel.  O my heaven in my mouth. It was meaty yet light, rich and creamy, scrape my plate delicious. I would have licked the plate had I have had another glass of wine..

Foie Canneloni

My dining parter aka world travel partner ordered the aged beef steak with foe and truffle sauce… perhaps we indulged a bit 😉

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And of course; no trip finale is complete without ordering half the dessert platter.

Because it is vacation of course.

Rob with three desserts

Orange dessert

Chocolate torte

If you find yourself in Barcelona, go go go go go here! I’ll just be over here drooling.

Perhaps I should have started this post with a, “hey we went to Spain” intro! Or started posting chronologically, depicting the places we went, things we saw, restaurants we tried… but no. This time I started at the end. The end which was the best capstone I could have asked for. Hopefully the posts to come fill in the gaps 🙂

Philly and My Cheese Steak.

Each plane ride leads me to the next. Each trip, long or short, has me craving a new adventure.

I am always dreaming of that next departure.

I cannot be still and stay. My most comfortable place is the airport.

Last weekend was spent traipsing through Philadelphia with the one and only KB.

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Off we were to explore her new city and eat just about everything in sight. It was as we called it, a foodie weekend, with not much but food crawls on our  minds.

Naturally our first stop had to be a cheese steak.   I’ve had Pat’s and Geno’s on a previous Philly trip, so this time, we walked blocks and I mean like 6 miles to get to Jim’s Steaks.

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I made (yes made) KB order, as technically she had never ordered one before. Don’t worry, whiz was involved.

Our next stop was a jaunt to a pop up beer garden for happy hour. I could live in this pop up beer garden. Which by the way at the end of the season is stripped down to the bare parking lot that it came from. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society puts these on and it may be the best summer activity ever. Beyond jealous one is not on my street. Ahemmm Minneapolis….

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Post beer garden, you should probably head to Tria Fitler Square for you know… carbs and cheese.  The perfect “beer-soaker-uper”. Get the Truffled Egg Toast with Fontina Fontal. O my god this is the best toast or anything else that you will ever put in your mouth.  We also had the Pistachio Herbed Ricotta with Lavender Honey Bruschetta.  I plan to recreate this at home very soon. SO good. The braised beef short rib gnocchi was also to die for. All in all, carb heaven.

Naturally the next morning, we had to start brunch on the same carb and cheese train. Because we totally did not have enough the night before. AND we had trekked all the way to the new Century 21, meaning we had burned off at least half of the night’s delights.

Check out Zavino Wine Bar for seriously the largest meat and cheese tray ever.

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After more walking, exploring and a daytime cocktail or two, our dinner reservation at Mercato arrived. I’m told you are not to take photos here, and as I do not break the rules, I refused to do it. However others were doing it and KB demanded documentation. Somehow, someone managed to take the below………..

 

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(Shhhh!)

With my stomach and carb love full, off we went to wander the picturesque historic streets. If anyone would like to purchase the below home for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.  Then I could spend more time traipsing through the city and sampling the restaurants to my heart’s content.

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While I’m over here already dreaming of the next trip, I left Philly happy at a friend’s new home, happy for her next adventures and delighted to have met some of her new people;  amazed at her already amassed knowledge of the city and passion to explore.

(I’ll be over here eating salad all week)

Have you been to Philly?

Water and The Soul.


I’ve got the travel bug again, and I’ve got it bad. Spain is on the brain. Have you been? I think I may need to go.

Spain may be next.

So while I’m dreaming of tapas and architecture, my mini travels to weddings this summer will have to suffice.

And suffice they  have.

Bayfield, Wisconsin may have stolen my heart a few weeks ago. Who knew this charming place was a mere 4 hours away?

Not me.

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A town that claims to be where the water meets the soul. I’d very much have to agree.

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Waking early to the sun over the water, the town slowly creeping to life. the early birds sailing through the calm waters.. buying the ferry tickets to Madeline Island.. and taking in the calm around you.

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I could totally spend another weekend on the shores of Lake Superior.

Renting mopeds and exploring the island.

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Eating white fish cakes and hearing about the island’s late night shenanigans.

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I’ll take another order please.

I’m ready to plan my next weekend here. Have you been?

Bayfield, you’ve kept my travel bug at bay.

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Dresses and Dairy Delights

We could most likely call this summer, the wedding summer. The summer of dresses, and shoes and flowers, cakes and cocktails.  The summer of love and families joining and the meeting of so many new to me people.

With a good 8 or 9 weddings on the calendar, and with so many out of town, why not turn them into weekends of exploration too?

Like hopping into cheese shops along the way to Green Bay, WI.  Tucked into the plethora of cows and farms during the drive, one must explore the dairy delights.

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Did you know cheese curds were meant to be eaten at room temp? You know, to optimze the squeak in your mouth……..

Post devouring squeaky cheese curds, one must put down a few beers.

At Titletown Brewery of course. Just avoid the food. Until last Friday, I did not think it possible to screw up bacon wrapped brats.  It happened. Just have the beer.

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The only way to recover from mismanaged bacon would be a trip to Lambeau Field the next morning. Obvious I guess when dating a packer fan. Ultimate gesture of Romance?

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Did anyone notice my purple tank top….? #skol

 Continuing on this road of recovery calls for the famous Green Bay Bloody Mary; from St. Brendans Inn.

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Next stop on the adventure? A butter burger from Krolls.  Literally a slab of butter is cooked into the burger and shall commence dripping down your hands once eating. The ulitmate diary indulgence.

And because Lambeau Field, Bloody Marys and a butter burger are the only way to properly prep for a wedding, off we went, fully preped and “dairy-ified”.

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Do you have weddings to attend this summer?

Get the Scallops

A weekend back in my adopted city and I learned something new.

A new mantra… a new moto.

Get the scallops.

Why you ask?  Are they good?

Well, actually I’ve never had them…. But!

Rae is convinced, you must get the scallops everywhere you go.

 I’m going to intrepret, “Get the Scallops” as more of a try the new mantra.

Is it good? Should you do it?

Have you been there before?

Absolutely you should. How will you know if you never try?

As spring creeps in I suggest you try the new. Go get lost and explore.

So while this may be the mindset and blog intention for me for quite some time…

I suggest you…

Try the Scallops already 🙂

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Also, if you are living in or visiting Milwaukee, GO TO ODD DUCK.

 

How to Travel to Vietnam & Cambodia

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(on the cheap!)

 Though still very much jetlagged, we are back from our bucket list trip to Vietnam and Cambodia 🙂 It was nothing short of amazing. We packed our days exploring everything and anything we could. We were immersed in history, food and culture so unique to our own.  It was two weeks of trying the new.

Try it we did. Love it we did.

The verdict: Cambodia was our favorite, so much so we stayed an extra day and booked a brand new flight directly out of Cambodia. ( New flight… not on the cheap plan.) However traveling to these two countries can be done on a travel budget: heres how!

1) Flight:  We researched for months. In the end we used cheapoair.com, which saved us $500-700 over any other tickets we found. Just be warned, this service may change your flights on you! If you are willing to take the risk, it does provide a much cheaper option.

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2) Hotels: Hostelworld.com. Use it. Read the reviews.  And I’m not talking about hostels.  Check the hotels and bed and breakfast options.  We stayed for around $15-$29 a night. (These were not even backpacker hotels. Quite the mix of people) Breakfast included. Best breakfast Pho for days 🙂

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3) Food: Street food. Eat at the vendors pushing their carts, sit on the teeny tiny plastic stools and sip your dollar beers. The best and cheapest food we found was on the side of the road. It is the most authentic and will cost you around $5 for beer and multiple entrees.

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4) Tours: If there are day or overnight tours calling to you, book them through your hotel.  This will ensure they are legitimate and they may discount them for you as well (See saving more money).  Entry fees at most museums are not more than $2.  Google and find self guided tours around the cities.  There are also free tour guides available wanting to practice their English or other languages.  Check the day prior, as some start as early as 7am.  We had the most fun following a self guided tour through Hanoi, at our own pace, taking everything in.  We saw the things that “were once there” but no longer existed….. which of course only leads to numerous inside jokes. We got our bearings with the city and post tour got around walking just fine.

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When in Cambodia and off to discover the world heritage sites of Angkor Wat and the multiple temples; get the three day pass.  You will need more than one day to explore, and the sunset and sunrise tours are unbelievable 🙂

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5) Transportation: Cabs should only cost you a few dollars. It may be best to negotiate your price prior. Also, a word of advice, never sit in the front seat….. we had the most brazen robbery attempt by a cab driver I’ve ever seen/heard of. Tuktuks should also only cost you a few dollars. Negotiate with them. But really, see the cities by foot if possible! Grab a free city map. Your hotel will have one, with all the sights nearby pointed out.

6) Visas. If you have a US passport, you will need a Visa for both countries.  Apply early to the Vietnamese embassy just to ensure there are no issues.  For Cambodia, you can  buy a Visa upon arrival.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some of the 1200 pictures I took 🙂 If you’re not following, lets be friends! Follow me at olivedoesthecity.

I’m sure another post or two on our travels are yet to come! If you are headed to either country anytime soon, I’d love to offer more tips, feel free to email me, found on my contact page 🙂