Viniferous Vacation: Virginia’s Monticello AVA

Wine is made in all 50 states and every state will tell you their “home-grown” wines are fantastic, wonderful, the best. But we all know that there are few states that have the conditions needed to actually grow grapes that can be made into wine of any real quality. You’ve got basically the whole West Coast, bits of New York, an even smaller bit of Arizona and then Virginia. (And no, I will not accept that there are currently other states making really good wine. And, yes, I’ve tasted Texas wine.) There has been much written about the influence of Thomas Jefferson on American winemaking and much smarter people than I have written many books which you should read if you want the full story. Basically it boils down to this: he was totally on to something. The current Monticello AVA encompasses Jefferson’s own vineyard, which you can visit and should right after you complete the tour of his amazing home. Charlottesville is the nearest city and you could certainly make it a home base for visiting wineries, but then this would have to be a Charlottesville post and it is not. Besides there are the following spectacular places to stay in the country including two that are on the site of wineries you will want to explore anyway. And I say cheers to that!

Keswick Hall


The 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards

There is a chance that if you stay here you won’t make it to anything else. The scenery is stunning, there are ruins to explore, wines to drink and a stellar restaurant.



Clifton Inn

The Clifton may not be at a winery but it does not lack in gorgeous views. You can stay at the main house, a variety of small cottages or on the farm, any of which are so nice you’ll wish you could live in them.


Crossfields Vacation Rental

According to Home Away this is an estate rental and for once, it seems that label is accurate. This place is so nice and so perfect for a large family getaway or a friend reunion and with 5 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms there is plenty of space. Not that you’ll feel cramped with 23 acres to roam.




Virtual Vacation: New Orleans



The Columns

Genteel and well located on St. Charles with a huge porch for evening cocktails or morning coffee.


Creole Gardens
Funky and affordable with breakfast included and an easy walk around the block to catch a trolley. Not to mention super friendly staff.

Creole Gardens

Race and Religious                                                                                                        
 Comprised of an old creole cottage, row house and slave quarter this corner of Race St. and Religious St. is now a perfect getaway for large and small groups. With so much of the buildings’ history preserved it’s like no other lodging in the city.

Race and Religious


Café du Monde
Some tourist attractions are ridiculously popular for a reason and crispy, light, sugar-mounded beignets are as good of a reason as it gets for standing in line first thing in the morning. 

Get in line at Cafe du Monde

District Donuts and Sliders
A new addition to Magazine St. this is all day noshing spot is a great place to break from shopping. With donut flavors like Vietnamese Iced Coffee and an almost Northwest-style coffee bar in the a.m. that transforms into beers and sliders around lunch, this place will have you covered.

District Donuts and Sliders

There are many options for oysters in this town, but not many are as delicious and charming as Casamento’s. Whether it’s oysters on the half shell, the “oyster loaf” or gumbo, you will eat well and you will leave happy.


Cochon Butcher
Around the corner from big brother Cochon the restaurant is this butcher/sandwich shop/ meat heaven. Get a meat filled sandwich or even a suckling pig to go. 

Cochon Butcher

So, yes, you’ve got your Galatoire’s, your Antoine’s and your Arnaud’s and they all seem very similar from the tourist’s point of view. However,  Arnaud’s wins out for me not only because of the wonderful bar, French 75, and the excellent food, but also a little bit because it’s got one of the most beautiful dining rooms anywhere. 


Commander’s Palace
Another tourist place, you are asking? Here’s the thing, brunch at Commander’s Palace is still one of the most enjoyable things a tourist can do in New Orleans. Between the roving jazz trio and the hollandaise and the bloody mary served like nowhere else (meaning you are served the fixings and then a bottle of vodka frozen in ice is brought over and poured until you ‘say when’) it’s just fun. Do it. 

Brunch at Commander's Palace

This Irish Channel bar/restaurant may be best known for their roast beef po boys and their miniscule men’s room but they make, in my opinion, the perfect example of a shrimp po boy.


Napoleon House
In a city full of ambiance, the Napoleon House still manages to drop jaws. Their specialty is the Pimm’s Cup which could not be more refreshing or pair more fantastically with the gulf shrimp salad and remoulade. 

Napoleon House

Jacques Imo’s
The sign outside reads “Warm Beer, Lousy Food, Poor Service” none of which is true, of course. But, if you like the idea of eating cheeky, tasty food in the atmosphere of a crazy fun house party, this is your spot.

Jacques Imo's

Willie Mae’s Scotch House
The world’s best fried chicken. Enough said.

Willie Mae's Scotch House

Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
Tell me, where else in America can you drink a Sazerac in a building that’s close to 300 years old and was used as a front for one of the country’s most famous smuggling operations? Yeah, this is pretty much it.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz
First things first. A snowball is NOT a snow cone or shaved ice or any other frozen ball-shaped water substance put into a cone or cup with syrup poured on it. The texture of a New Orelans snowball is nearly impossible to describe as it’s just too divine. Also, you can get condensed milk on your snowball which is, obviously, total heaven. There is much debate about who makes the best snowball in the city but Hansen’s has been doing it for 74 years, is still run by the same family and makes all their own syrups, so get in line.

Hansen's Sno-Bliz


Ogden Museum of Southern Art
The largest collection of American southern art in the world it’s a really fantastic museum that has a stellar permanent collection as well as wonderful temporary shows.
Aioli Dinner by George Rodrigue on display at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Aioli Dinner by George Rodrigue

National World War II Museum
Short of visiting the D-day landing beaches of Normandy, this is the place to visit for a full view of the war.

National World War II Museum

Magazine St.
Stretching from almost downtown to through the garden district this street has a shop for almost everyone. 

Magazine Street

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Established in 1823 by America’s first licensed pharmacist and now a museum that’s like a step back in time. 


Certainly not as famous as another popular music venue in town, yet also very important to the musical landscape of New Orleans. A great place to see your next favorite band.

See a Show at Tipitina's

Save Our Cemeteries
Intriguing, beautiful and possibly haunted, many of the cemeteries are not open to casual visitors. You can, however take a tour with this organization and not only get to see the tombs up close but even learn a little something. 

Cemetery Tour with Save Our Cemeteries

Photo Credits:

1. Morgan Ennis 2. Tom Barnes 3. Danny Keaton 4. Michael Siu 5. Jason Perlow 6. curtesy of District Donuts 7. Mark Shands 8. Jablow via flickr 9. curtesy of Arnaud’s 10. curtesy of Experience LA 11. Morgan Ennis 12. Exit Lines via flickr 13. Willo O’Brien 14. curtesy of Southern Foodways Alliance 15. Kit Hancock 16. Charlotte Cox 17. Wendy Rodrigue 18. curtesy of NY Times 19. Avenue Inn B&B 20. Educational Tours 21. mdub70 via flickr 22. curtesy of Times-Picayune

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.


The Wander Plan never sat right with me as a title for what I wanted to do here. It was more like wanderlust, but that didn’t work either. I’ve been thinking about this platform and what to do with it, where I want it to go. It wasn’t until a conversation a couple of days ago with a friend who has known me for a long, long time (and been part of more than a few vacations I’ve planned over the years) that the virtual vacation reared it’s head. It made perfect sense. I’m currently living in what I’m referring to as one of life’s “layovers”.  Living in a place that I’m hoping I won’t be in in a year and not exactly going on a lot of vacations. I, like many people I know, love to travel and really want to travel but, let’s just say that winning Powerball ticket has not yet arrived.

In this case, I’m perfectly situated for the Virtual Vacation. Armchair Travel or what have you. I’m hoping to become a bit more focused on a location and what I would want to explore, where I would want to stay, eat and blow up my Instagram account from. I doubt I’ll abandon lodging snapshots altogether as there are some places that just deserve a lot of attention, but who knows? I mean, this is my fantasy life after all…

Sometimes the best place to explore is nearby. Like, really nearby. When you walk around your neighborhood and really start paying attention it’s amazing what you see.

immortal pie

Today it felt like Spring in Portland. Much too nice of a day to sit inside so I did something I don’t always have time to do. I strolled around my neighborhood in the sun and re-learned something that’s all to easy to forget, that inspiring images are all over the place if you take the time to look around. Here’s some of the stuff that caught my eye today, with a little help from the camerabag app…

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Desert Getaway: Amangiri Resort

Southern Utah is a beautiful place any time of year, but Spring seems like an ideal time to visit. Not yet blisteringly hot and a chance at spying some native plants in bloom. The Amangiri Resort is a 15 minute drive from Lake Powell and offers a selection of suites all surrounding a large pool. There’s a spa, of course, and some seriously great dining. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a getaway to me.

All photos courtesy of Amangiri Resort

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Six Senses Nihn Van Bay

As an American born in the 70’s I grew up in the shadow of, unfortunately, more than a couple of international wars/skirmishes/incidents/what-have-you and for most of my life it had never occurred to me to take a luxury vacation to Vietnam. Whether right or wrong, I can’t say that that was a place that was ever etched into my psyche as a luxury vacation spot. Not in the way that places like Cabo San Lucas, Martinique, Ibiza, or pretty much all of Costa Rica has. Myopic or no, I had obviously not been exposed to this resort on the eastern coast of Vietnam or I would have been thinking of vacationing here much sooner. This place is amazing. There’s the usual myriad of water sports and activities, there’s a spa, there’s badminton for crying out loud! Although, do you see that couple below looking happy and romantic next to that big rock formation, of which the area is famous? I can whole-heartedly assure you that on my vacation here, you’ll see my husband climbing those rocks instead of snuggling in the window seat. That couple purchased the “romance package” and we usually buy into the “indulgence package” which means that he’s on a rock and I’m in the window seat lounge with a martini. The beautiful thing about a place like this is that whatever you want your fantasy vacation to be, it can be.

Cornwall Vacation Homes

I have a love of fishing villages. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’ve always lived on a coast and near the water. Maybe it’s because I love eating seafood. It’s certainly not because I like boating as I can get motion sickness in an elevator, but there’s something so relaxing and exciting about small fishing towns to me. The smell of the seawater and the constant coming and going of the boats combined just wake me up in a way that other places don’t. While there are fishing villages of great beauty all over the world, there is something special about those in Cornwall, England. They give new definition to the word quaint, I believe, and it’s hard not to love a vacation that includes boats, beaches AND sheep. I’ve compiled some spectacular spaces to call home base while you explore this gorgeous region. All of these (and many more) can be reserved through Unique Home Stays, a fabulous resource for vacation rentals throughout Britain and beyond.

Rosewastis Manor, Near Watergate Bay

The Sea Barn, Roseland Penninsula

Waters Reach, Lerryn

Mawgan, Near Watergate Bay

Worthyvale Mill, Near Tintagel

All photos © Unique Home Stays

Properties are available through Unique Home Stays +44 (0) 1637 881947

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Ballynahinch Castle

There are lots of great places to go in Ireland, and many beautiful hotels and country homes to stay at. But since this is Fantasy time, I’m choosing the Ballynahinch Castle in County Galway. Set on 450 acres in Coonemara, a gorgeous wilderness area on the West coast, it’s everything I want out of a vacation. Luxurious rooms and dining, beautiful natural scenery and lots of outdoor activities that I don’t often do at home like fishing and woodcock shooting, not to mention multiple opportunities for long walks and hikes. Take a look and see yourself.

Dublin, Ireland

St Patrick’s Day is almost upon us, so it seems time to focus on one of my favorite cities in the world, Dublin. Depending on how much you enjoy crowds and parades, this time of year may or may not be a great time to visit, but whatever time you go, there’s great places to stay, eat and explore.

Where to Stay:

Dylan Hotel

photos courtesy of Dylan Hotel

The Morgan Hotel

photos courtesy of the Morgan Hotel

Merrion Mews Vacation Rental

photos courtesy of Irish Landmark Trust

Cliff Townhouse

photos courtesy of Cliff Townhouse

Clontarf Castle Hotel

photos courtesy of Clontarf Castle Hotel

The Westbury Hotel

photos courtesy of Westbury Hotel

Where to Indulge

The Winding Stair

Chapter One

The Pig’s Ear

The Exchequer

Camden Kitchen

Fallon and Byrne

Sheridan’s Cheesemongers

Guinness Storehouse and Gravity Bar

Powerscourt Centre (boutique shopping in Georgian Mansion)

Peterson of Dublin

Kevin and Howlin

Trinity College Library

Photo: Candida Hofer

photo by Candida Hofer

Day Trip: Howth

Wondering where the pubs are? I love them so much I’m doing a whole post on them at Inside Bars.

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Koh Lanta, Thailand

When a friend told me that she’s heading to Thailand for a last minute business related trip to Bangkok I knew where I was headed for this Friday’s fantasy vacation. I’ve yet to go to Thailand, but if I do I want to stay here. This resort is set on 100 acres on the southern tip of this island in the southwestern province of  Krabi. The resort itself is in a protected woodland area hidden away by cashew trees. Yes, I did say cashew trees. Besides laying around the beach, swimming and getting massages, there’s great hiking and diving and even elephants to ride. Get ready for fantasy time.

All photos courtesy of Pimalai Resort

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