Our Winter Trip to Krakow

Highlights:

  • Exploring the Kasmierz and its nightlife
  • Traditional, cheap, Polish food! Huge bowls of borsht, perogies and shnitzel with garlic butter sauce
  • Strolling around the beautiful Old Town
  • Vodka tasting in an alcove just off the main square
  • Wawel Castle/Fire Breathing Dragon Statue
  • Eating Polish cookies, sipping coffee  & watching snow flurries from our Kasmierz apartment
  • Splurging with a luxurious dinner and carriage ride in the Old Town
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Krakow’s magical main square
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This is my Seyit & Sura picture. If you have not seen this show go check it out NOW.

Krakow is enchanting. Our first introduction to eastern Europe, Brad and I instantly felt a connection to this beautiful, bohemian city. Krakow’s history hits you like a thunderbolt to the chest. Its past is evident everywhere – in the street art of the Jewish Quarter, in the candle lit pubs of the Kasmierz, in the rubble of the apartment blocks, still rebuilding after Communist reign. Krakow is a survivor. Its strength and resilience is intoxicating. It’s a transporting place, one that often occupies my thoughts and dreams.

We visited in October which I think added to heighten the Gothic ambiance. I loved Krakow in winter. Though I will say, the surprise snow in October was quite the shock to our tropical loving hearts!

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Surprise it snowed. In October! So, that was cool. 

I’m going to begin this post with nightlife, because the nightlife in Krakow is so unique and unlike anyplace else I’ve visited. Strolling through the Kasmierz, stepping into bars like Eszeweria and Alchemia feelt like stepping foot into the 1950s. You are instantly transported to another time, another place. We spent hours in these pubs, sipping bubbles or vodka, watching the snow fall and soaking in the ambiance of the Kasmierz.

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Eszeweria

Nightlife

The Kazmierz: our favorite part of Krakow. The bohemian Kazmierz is the former Jewish District of Krakow and the place for boutique shops, traditional Polish restaurants, and otherworldly bars and cafes.  We have found that in many Eastern European cities, the Jewish Quarter is the place to base yourself. It has heart and culture in spades. It also has a great local vibe, plenty of young people and is budget friendly. 

Eszeweria – Atmospheric to the max, filled with flickering candles, antique decorations and candelabras, serving mulled wine and other spirits. This place is 100% for the bohemian at heart.

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Woddka Bar – wiew from our alcove

Wodkka Bar – This little bar is right off the Old Town square. I have never truly understood the appeal of Vodka until visiting Poland. We chose six vodkas to sample (and then another six because we liked them so much), with rich flavors like pineapple, cherry, pomegranate and pear and took them to our private little alcove filled with bright, jewel colored plushy pillows. We sipped (and I may have grimaced a tad at first), as the snow fell silently outside. 

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Hi! I’d like try one of your cherry and chocolate and blackberry and grapefruit and and…!

Where to eat:

We loved the food in Poland, particularly Kuchnia u Doroty and Polakowsi: – cozy, rustic restaurants with delicious homemade Polish food – creamy borsht with a huge scoop of mash potatoes, shnitzel the size of your plate covered in garlic butter, potato and onion perogies. Order at the counter at the former. 

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We retained two Polish phrases from the trip – Smaznego (Bon Appetit!) and Twoje zdrowie (Cheers!)

Trattoria Zyklop: well priced Italian food

Loza: Splurge at this 1950s diner in the main square, designed to look like a luxury cruise. Everything is delicious. I ordered the pesto tortellini with sun dried tomatoes. 

What to See:

Explore the Kazmierz (are you seeing a trend here?) 

Try the restaurants, browse the shops, check out the street art and cafes. Stop at the Judah Square food truck park if you’re brave enough! It was snowing as we frantically ate our steaming chimney cakes. We saw an entire family feasting in the outdoor courtyard The New Square one Saturday evening around 11pm. They shared snacks and toasted Vodka as the snow fell. The Polish are some hearty people. Twoje zdrowie!

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Alright, I’m saying it – how dishy is King Kaszmierz?

Stroll the Cobblestone Lanes and Explore the Beautiful Old Town 

Krakow is very walkable. We walked from the Kazmierz, to the Old Town, to the Castle, albeit with frequent pop ins to cafes and bakeries for frothy coffees and flaky Polish treats because we needed to warm up as the weather was freezing!

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The walk from the Kazmierz to the Old Town

Check Out Wawel Castle and the Fire Breathing Dragon Statue

So, as we headed up to the Castle Grounds, the weather was definitely brisk, but skies were blue, and the sun was shining. We popped into the castle to use the restrooms and came out to snow!

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I will always find the dragon

 

Schindler’s Museum

When visiting Krakow, touring either Auschwitz or Schindler’s Museum is a must. Schindler’s Museum is incredibly well done – transporting the viewer to 1939 Krakow instantly, and taking them on a journey through five years under Nazi rule. It brought me to my knees.

 

Where to Stay

We stayed at in AirBnB in the Kasmierz, and absolutely loved it. We stayed in a top floor walk up. It felt very authentic, and gave us a true taste of what it might feel like to live in the bustling Jewish Quarter. Bonus – it cost less than $40 an night.

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Brad has the coffee & cookies!
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View from our apartment

Final Thoughts

Krakow captivated us instantly, and began our love affair with Eastern Europe. I find my thoughts frequently flitting to this beautiful city, and cannot wait to return.

More Krakow Photos

 

 

Next up for Eastern Europe/The Baltics blog posts: Winter in Beautiful Budapest and Five days Exploring Riga. 

 

Hiking Yosemite in Autumn

Sentinel Dome, Roosevelt Point and Bears!

Hiking Yosemite in late Autumn means golden woods, fiery fall foliage, clear blue skies with crisp temps and for us bear sightings!

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This weekend we went on a quick, whirlwind hiking trip. Here are some highlights….

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Golden twilight in Yosemite Valley

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The Hiking Route

Trail Head At: Sentinel Dome and Taft Point

Length: 6 miles

We began at the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point trail head. We did a counter clockwise loop hiking to Sentinel Dome to breathe in the glorious views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan and Half Dome. We stopped here for for a quick bite of lunch as well.

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We continued along the trail, and just before Roosevelt Point we saw THE BEARS! I was strolling along the path when I saw movement through the firs coming down the mountain. And then I a saw a huge fluffy butt rumbling down the mountain and my mind jolted awake. I said to Brad – that is a damn bear! And then a few moments later I saw that she was followed by her baby! Insert moment of terror followed by a joyful and frantic, albeit silent happy dance. We have been dying to spot a bear in the wild.

We stood stock still, allowing the bears to continue their path down the mountain. They walked across a granite plateau, looped around us and stopped in a meadow right in front of us to graze on berries. The mother bear acknowledged us, and continued. We were in bliss.

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Happy dance because we saw BEARS!!!!

We continued on to Roosevelt Point  to check out the spectacular panoramic vistas. We marveled at the sheer cliff faces, towering firs and winding rivers bathed in golden sunlight.

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We continued on to Taft Point, which had slack liners and a big swing set up. Jesus. That is not something I ever want to do. One of the slack liners was seated on the line thousands of feet over Yosemite Valley, just chilling. For any fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, I whispered to Brad, that woman is Inej.

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NOPE

After the Hike: The Dawn Wall and Curry Village Pizza

After the hike, we drove through the glorious valley and hiked about a mile to the Dawn Wall, which is a section of El Capitan, because THAT DOCUMENTARY YOU GUYS. If you have not seen it – check it out now. It’s about a superhuman of a man who scales impossible routes up the sheer rock face of El Capitan and it is extraordinary. For dinner, we stopped at Curry Village for pizza and beer (bubbles for me, obvi) and lounged near the fireplace.  

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The Dawn Wall – we had to go touch it and imagine the sheer terror of summiting it and sleeping on a portaledge
The Dawn Wall :)
Happy Brad, because I walked with him to the Dawn Wall, even though I REALLY just wanted some pizza and a warm fire place

The Next Day: Hiking Hetch Hetchy

The next morning we drove to Hetch Hetchy for an easy hike with gorgeous views. We took the Wapama Falls route which during the summer season takes you past three gushing waterfalls. There was no water this time of year, so we picked a spot on a plateau for sweeping views and relaxed in the warmth watching the sunlight glint of the water. We plan to return mid July 2020 for a backpacking trip to see all the waterfalls.

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More Yosemite Hiking Photos

 

Next up in our hiking adventures – Point Reyes beach backpacking and hiking Eagle Creek in Lake Tahoe.

How to Spend a Perfect Week in Sydney

Australia – you stunner. Of all the places I have visited, practically speaking, I feel like Australia boasts some of the very best quality of life. It’s incredibly safe. It’s clean, sophisticated and welcoming, while still feeling genuine and exotic as hell. The seafood and food scene in general is unreal. And, it still feels like a wild place. Kangaroos and kolas roam the coasts. Glittering lorikeets fill the trees. Fruit bats swoop over Hyde park at twilight. The thought of living in a tropical city, where you spend weekends exploring the dazzling coastline, glittering beaches and hidden coves, appeals to me like no other. A week visiting Australia and I was already scheming in my mind – how can I make this life change?!

Highlights:

Lounging with roos’, visiting koalas and other Aussie critters at animal reserves

The beaches – that first glimpse of iconic Bondi is such a showstopper

Top notch seafood – looking at you king prawns

Lorikeets chittering from tree to tree and fruit bats swooping through the night sky

Drinks at the Opera House and fireworks at Darling Harbour

What to Do:

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Oh, this wonderful place. We had a fabulous time  feeding the little ‘roos and other Aussie creatures. We even held a koala. Buy the food as you walk in and feed the little creatures and wallabies. They eat from your hand 🙂 A friend from South Africa told us about this hidden gem. Better and less crowded then Taronga Zoo.

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Koalas sleep for up to 22 hours a day – an animal after my own heart I must confess. I did a lot of research beforehand as I didn’t want to do anything that might cause an animal stress. All proceeds go to the animal sanctuary, and the koalas are treated carefully and respectfully.

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BOOP

 

Though cosmopolitan, Australia still feels like a wild place. I love it.

Happy Hour at The Rocks

The Rocks is the historic end of town known for it’s pubs. We stopped at The Argyle and loved it! It had great happy hour drinks/snacks and bustling atmosphere. We grabbed a couple of drinks, and lounged in the patio strung with twinkly lights enjoying the vibe.  It’s a  great place to take a wander, and it also has markets on Fridays and the weekend.  Some background info: Circular Quay and The Rocks is where you will find most of the Sydney landmarks – the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

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Harbour Bridge

There are lots of places to take some greats shots of the bridge. We walked across it for a great vantage point, then had dinner on the other side. Plenty of choices including Thai, Indian, Asian fusion, you name it. We had a wonderful time walking around Hyde park and watching the massive fruit bats swoop around the trees at twilight. We couldn’t believe it when we saw a huge shape obscure the clouds for a moment and both thought – is that flying fox in downtown Sydney?! The trees are literally full of them. It’s amazing. 

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Bondi Beach

Ah, Bondi Beach. That cerulean water! The absurdly beautiful people! The frothy cotton candy clouds! There are several adorable cafes lining the promenade for lunch, we chose The Bucket List for fish and chips. We couldn’t believe the way beach goers just left their items on their towels while they went for a swim.  This beach is SAFE. Note – that water is cold! We also took a stroll along the coast, beginning at Iceburg’s pool, and continuing along the path to Coogee. Highly recommend. You can do Bondi to Bronte (around 2miles) or walk the entire way to Coogee if you’re feeling energetic!  Our friend recommended Coogee as one of their favorite city beaches.

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Drinks at the Opera House

Stop and have a glass of bubbly and take in the iconic views at the Opera House bar. Take a moment and revel in the fact that you are visiting Australia! Toast the wonder that is Sydney.

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Ferry

Great way to see the harbour is by public ferry. Much cheaper than any of the private options and it’s the same route. Jump on any ferry to Manly from Circular Quay. Manly is a nice beach suburb so when you get off  you can explore the area, have a swim, grab lunch, etc. Enjoy the great views of Luna Park: an iconic theme park that also has a nice bar/restaurant inside with a great view of the bridge. Note – I got a little seasick, which is insane because the ride was very smooth, but if you are sensitive, I recommend taking that into account. 

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Fireworks at Darling Harbour

Strolling home in the balmy evening after a day of playing with roos and sightseeing, we were surprised and thrilled by a fireworks display in Darling Harbour. Displays take place Saturday evening over Cockle Bay. Watching the sky explode into magenta and blood reds and fire oranges, listening to the water gently lap against the harbour we thought to ourselves – what a fabulous city!

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Good eats/drinks in Darling Harbour: Everywhere is pretty good along the water. Some of our favorites include Crinitis (Italian), The Port (nice spot for drinks), Adria, and Nicks Seafood.

Aside: a seagull landed on my shoulder and tried to steal my fries in Darling Harbour. Fucking what?! I thought Fisherman’s Wharf had well prepared me for the most aggressive seagulls of all time!

Pies

All the food in Sydney is pretty to die for. Fresh seafood, great Thai and Indian and other Asian options. Of course, of course, we had to try the pies: this winner from Harry’s Cafe De Wheels was suggested by a friend who lives in Sydney. We went for the works: chicken & mushroom pie topped with a scoop of mash potatoes and mushy peas. Quite tasty. I still think South Africa serves the very best though. Shhhh…

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Next – off to the Gold Coast for beach time, seafood and wild life galore! 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking to Rippon Vineyard – Wanaka’s Best Winery

Prepare for the Winery of Your Dreams

I plan to write a full guide to road tripping through New Zealand for the South Island and North Island, but wanted to first put together a post on hiking to a gorgeous winery in Wanaka, because I haven’t yet found any blogs mentioning this to die for place, and it is absolutely spectacular!

Situated on a verdant hill overlooking glittering Lake Wanaka and the surrounding Southern Alps, Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka, New Zealand is an absolute take your breath away, showstopper of a winery.

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We found the Gamay! Glorious views on all sides.

It takes a bit of an effort to reach this gem. We hiked about an hour on a gentle winding path along the lake, the last third of the hike uphill. When we arrived, there were only four other people at the hilltop winery. The tasting was free and delicious, offering wines from the Otago region. If you do not wish to buy a bottle (which you will, because the tart, creamy Gamay’s and Sauvignon Blancs are divine and at less then $20, a steal), the owners ask that you please make a small donation to the reintroduction of the Kiwi Bird to the area. What kind of cold-hearted bastard could say no to that?!

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The iconic Wanaka tree

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Breathtakingly beautiful views from Rippon Winery

After basking in the splendor of the sweeping views over the lake, Ruby Island, and the dusky mountains, we took our bottle and sat on the banks of Lake Wanaka, sipping our refreshing and fruity Gamay as the day turned to twilight. I felt blissful and free and eternally grateful to find myself in this gorgeous part of the world.

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Cotton candy clouds on the banks of Lake Wanaka
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Fuchsia sunset

Coming soon – A Guide to Road Tripping Through New Zealand.

Into The Wild: Backpacking Young Lakes Yosemite

Highlights Of Our Yosemite Hike:

  • The Alpine Meadows!
  • Glorious, sweeping views over both lakes – lounging above the cloud line
  • Falling sleep under a sky slowing filling with stars and the glittering Milky Way
  • Deer prancing up to our tent, ground hogs playing

In July, I went on my very first back packing trip to Sunol Regional Park, and in a surprising turn of events fell completely in love with it! I went on this trip to prepare for an upcoming four day hike to Young Lakes Yosemite. I wanted to give myself a taste of what I might be taking on. 

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On Friday, we took a half day at work, and drove to Tuolumne Meadows (stopping at In-N-Out for dinner  – oooh), and camped at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground so that we could spend the first evening at elevation adjusting. We woke up early Saturday morning, picked up our permit and were at the trail head and hiking by 8:30am.

Details: Young Lakes, Yosemite National Park

Trail Head At: Tuolumne Meadow

Length: 13.2 Miles Give or Take,  6.6 Miles Each Way

Elevation Begins At: 8,584 

Top Lake Elevation: 10,218 

First things first – this hike is insanely gorgeous

Really, about every two miles or so, you are rewarded with the most stunning, take your breath away, panoramic views.

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The first half mile is a steep ascent, (keep in mind that this is a pretty high elevation, especially for a newbie, so I was absolutely dragging ass). When we came across this magnificent meadow, we knew it was the perfect break spot. Surrounded by verdant pines and snow capped mountains, a crystal clear rushing brook, violet wildflowers and a light breeze, we dropped our packs, collapsed and lounged in the grass, listening to the wind through the pines.

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The First Lake

We carried on to the bottom lake, where we perched on a rock by the water’s edge and stopped for lunch. PB + crackers for me,  salami and cheese for Brad. In and of itself, this lake is a gorgeous sight, but Brad insisted the upper most lake was even more gorgeous and so off we went.

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The Middle Lake

We forged on to the middle lake. By this time we had walked about 6 miles, most of it steep. We stopped to choose a place for a tent, when mosquitoes swarmed. It was pure carnage. We had been attacked each time we stopped for a rest along the trail – and those little assholes bit me on every inch of exposed area, including through my pants, but we had managed to continue hiking. This time, it was a total massacre. There was nothing for it – we frantically put up the tent as we were covered by grey buzzing swarms and leapt inside. I tried not to cry.

While we rested in the tent, snacking on dark peanut butter protein bars and wondering what in the hell we were going to do, a massive doe ambled up to our tent, staring curiously at us with her golden eyes. “Hello, beautiful,” we whispered.

Shortly following the deer, two hikers tore by, shouting out that mosquitoes were much better if we could manage to make it to the topmost lake. Originally, we had planned to stop at the second lake, spend the night and hike the last precipitous mile to the top lake in the morning. We chose to trust the hikers. While Brad frantically dismantled the tent shouting “go, go go!” I hurtled up the mountain, scrambling over rocks and waterfalls, pulling myself up by handholds.

The Topmost Lake

When we first glimpsed the meadow, I gasped, overwhelmed by the natural beauty. This  was some angels singing, Lord of the Rings magic, alpine beauty. 

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Alpine Meadow – first glimpse. Go on – tell me magic doesn’t exist!

As we breathed in the alpine air and basked in the beauty of this secluded lake, we quickly realized the mosquitoes were still attacking, and scrambled up another rock to the most glorious, sweeping views overlooking both the lower lakes. We found the perfect place to pitch our tent and lunged in.

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Twilight at Young Lakes Yosemite
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Exalting in the views  – we made it to the top lake!

Once inside the tent, we finally relaxed. We made dinner, and shared chocolate mint Cliff Bars (which I highly recommend) while we reveled in Yosemite’s exceptional beauty. We sipped Kahlua and hot chocolate as the sky slowly filled with stars and fell asleep under the glittering Milky Way.

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We woke up in the morning to fluffy ground hogs scampering and playing near our tent. We sipped Kahlua coffee’s (we needed to fortify ourselves you guys) and decided there was no point staying at the top lake, breathtakingly gorgeous as it was, if we couldn’t leave the tent. We put away our things and hurtled back down the mountain.

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The Descent

The hike down was tough. We were exhausted and achy from the seven mile ascent the day before. Climbing down the waterfall was trickier than going up, and stopping for breaks was nightmarish because of the mosquito swarms, but during that final descent of switchbacks before reaching the car I felt a surge of adrenaline. This is why people fall in love with hiking, this feeling of accomplishment. You just hiked a mountain. You are strong, and capable and perhaps even a little badass. At the very least you have earned the title of Outdoorsy AF. And the first sip of icy cold diet coke once we reached the car was incomparable.

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I HIKED to this gorgeous place! (Notice the outfit change. Yep. I’m wearing Brad’s pants and top. Take that mosquito f**kers.)

 

 

Final notes

I am a car camping kind of gal. We usually go about 5 + times a year. We have our favorites:  a very specific, stunning campsite at Henry Cowell in the Santa Cruz Redwoods with panoramic views, and Samuel P. Taylor under towering redwoods next to a a little running creek. We can leave work and have our campsite set up and toasting bubbles by sunset. We have our menu set, and there is something so fulfilling about watching the embers die in your campfire, while sipping vino and watching the stars populate the sky. We are also comfortable campers – we have a tent large enough to stand in, we have a blow up bed, it’s glorious. So when Brad first suggested backpacking I was very skeptical. I fancy myself outdoorsy, I love nature and wildlife, but I also like to be cozy. I want a soft bed. I want a restroom. I don’t want to do a massive amount of work. So, the idea of trudging up a mountain hauling over 20 pounds on my back sounded less then ideal. Shut that beautiful fucking mouth, was actually what I believe I said to Brad when he first floated the idea. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Yes, backpacking is tough. Yes, several times during each trip I thought – why am I doing this to myself?! But the feeling of absolute freedom gazing over a panoramic sweeping view above the cloud lines, knowing that you survived the trip is empowering as hell. 

May the adventure continue! Stay tuned for more backpacking and hiking trips! Coming up – Hiking in Lake Tahoe and Beach Backpacking in Point Reyes.

 

 

A Budget Guide to Trader Joe’s Best Sparkling Wine 

I’m Sampling the Budget Bubbly At Trader Joe’s – And Listing the Tastiest Options!

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As an almost-vegetarian returning from living in southern Germany for a year, I was so excited to shop at Trader Joes! I have been dreaming about those pre-made lunch salads for ages. And the Tikka Masala Veggie Burgers. And the pre-peeled/cut veggies, because you guys, that is not a thing in Germany.  Feel like pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving – peel it, scoop out the insides and cook down that pumpkin. Cook down a pumpkin – for f**k’s sake. Ain’t no one got time for that! One thing I did love about the German supermarkets (besides the vast array of delectable Milka, which could be a blog post all on it’s own) was the delicious, seriously cheap wine from the surrounding vineyards in Baden Württemberg. Delicious dry whites for under 5 bucks?  GIMMIE.  Kessler bubbles from the 700 year old cellar in the town center for 10 bucks – YASSSS.

In an effort to find some fabulous wines equal to my favorite affordable German faves, I have begun sampling the TJ’s sparkling wine, beginning at the $4 bottles and working my way up. I will continue to pick up different options each trip until I have found the very best budget friendly choices. Here are my first samples:

Schloss Biebrich Sekt ($4.99): Now, this sparkling wine is a bit of a twofer, as it was also sold in our local grocery store in Esslingen. Sekt is the German version of sparkling wine, just as Cava is the Spanish version, etc. This wine is decent for the price. It’s slightly sweet for me, would be alright in a mimosa. I think we can do better.

Schloss Biebrich sparkling wine dry - 0,75L 11% vol

LaGranja Cava Brut ($6.99): I love a good Cava. Reminds me of sipping drinks at rooftop bars on sultry evenings in Seville (yes, this is a shameless plug for my upcoming Andalucia blog. What of it? :D)

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Bubbles at a rooftop bar in Seville. Brad snuck in his cerveza.

Also, the bottle is gorgeous, a goose covered in bright blue molting feathers, partly why I chose this. It is dry, fruity and refreshing, great for evening sipping. Would buy again.

Contadino Pinot Grigio ($4.99): This vino from Venice isn’t exactly sparkling wine, but it is slightly effervescent, super budget friendly and a good sipping wine. It is a staple in our household. Dry and light on the palette.

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Me as a slightly more sophisticated version of Buster…….I love BUBBLES!

Stay tuned for the next round of picks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Budget Guide to Costco’s Best Sparkling Wines

I’m Sampling the Budget Bubbly At Costco – And Listing the Tastiest Options!

After 18 months living in Germany, where everything is sold in relatively small packaging (no gallon milks to be more specific) I was quite excited to visit Costco – forty Baby Bell cheeses? I NEED THOSE!!

I was especially looking forward to browsing the bubbly and wine options. Costco has some great private label choices, particularly from France and Italy. I really enjoyed the Cremont’s in Paris and Strasbourg and have been on the look-out since. On our latest Costco trip, I picked up 4 different sparkling wines all under 12 bucks and plan to compare them for you. I will continue to pick up different options each trip until I have found the very best budget friendly choices.

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Zardetto Prosecco Brut ($10.99): This was a winner. Crisp, refreshing, bright, great bubbles. Would be tasty in mimosas. Would buy again.

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Prince Alexandre Cremant De Loire Brut ($11.99): Another winner. You really can’t go wrong with a Cremant, in my opinion. Crisp, fruity, and smooth.

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Bellenda Rose Brut Vino Spumante de Venetzia ($11.99): Bright, notes of strawberry, nice bubbles. Slightly on the sweet side, but did not stop us (my hubby and I), from polishing off a bottle while watching A Simple Favor. Note, if you have not seen this movie, Blake Lively really knows how to sell a martini. Also, she’s a total Smokeshow. Would buy again.

Stay tuned for my next round of budget samples!