Monday, July 28, 2014

Sights to See: Kauai, Hawaii


          Kaua’i is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and well-known for dramatic, lush scenery featuring jagged green mountains and deep  valleys.  It has 90 miles of shoreline and 50 miles of uncrowded white sand beaches, plenty of waterfalls and rainbows, and rainforests populated with rare native species.  And because it is the only Hawaiian island with no mongoose, it has a large variety of birds and plenty of small white egrets.  Surprisingly, it also has the largest coffee plantation in the U.S., which grows five varieties of beans and more than a million coffee trees.


           Though approximately 500 inches of rain each year make this the wettest spot on earth, the weather is generally perfect.  I’ve heard locals say, “When it’s sunny, it’s 82 degrees.  When it rains, it’s 82 degrees.” and “If you don’t like the weather, drive 10 miles and wait 10 minutes.”

          This island has been the setting for many Hollywood movies, including Speilberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park and Elvis’s Blue Hawaii.  As you sightsee, you’ll probably recognize some of the settings.  The Kaua’i Movie Book is also helpful. 


          An island building code promises that no new structure can be higher than a coconut palm, or 4 stories.  There isn’t much nightlife—things pretty much close up by 9 p.m.-- and you’ll be glad of it if you get woken up at dawn by one of the island’s many “free range” roosters.  (Because of jet lag, I usually woke up before them and in fact rarely heard one.)  Due to their ancestors’ cages being overturned by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, wild chickens also run loose--to the delight of children who love to chase them and feed them.  However, these plentiful poultry do sometimes ruffle the feathers of locals with their pesky ways, and they have divided opinions on how to handle the situation.

          Kaua’i is a place to wind down.  Another local told me, “No one is in a hurry here.  It is considered rude to honk.”  So don’t!



          And did I mention--Hawaiian Airlines is the only U.S. airline still serving free meals . . . and with complimentary wine!

          Join me now as I begin reliving my recent visit to this spectacular island in upcoming blog posts.  

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sights to See: Wild Wicklow Tours, Dublin, Ireland


Wild Wicklow Tours  + 353 1 2801899.  E25-28.  This family-run company is known for its excellent guides, most especially Denis O’Reilly, who becomes your local Irish friend for the day and entertains non-stop with interesting and often funny stories.



The tour of County Wicklow--known as “The Garden of Ireland”--begins with a trip down the coast and a stop at Dun Laoghaire Harbour in Sandycove, where our guide lives, to view the thick-walled former British army tower that James Joyce lived in here in 1904.  We also observed a “polar bear” bathers club doing their daily swim in the chilly waters.  These spots are located near The Forty Foot beach on Dublin Bay.


tea time at Avoca Handweavers in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland
Then it was on through Killiney and Dalkey--home to celebrity rock singer Bono—and then a stop at Avoca Handweavers to relax over tea and a delicious baked item in a cafe overlooking a garden holding


world's largest cypress tree in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland
what is claimed to be the world’s largest cypress tree (standing beneath its branches feels like being under a natural umbrella).  I wish we’d had more time to browse this extraordinary shop’s selection of woolens, crafts, and more.



Then we were off to Sally Gap in west Wicklow, where we saw scenic heather, bog lands, and--if it isn’t a rainy, foggy day—a lake that looks like an overturned pint of Guinness.  This area is where Excalibur, Braveheart, and P.S. I Love You were filmed, and where Meryl Streep danced in Dancing at Lughnasa.


Jakes Bar in Laragh in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland
After enjoying all the scenic back roads, we passed the village where actor Daniel Day Lewis lives and stopped nearby in Laragh, another small village, for lunch at Jakes Bar, a traditional Irish pub.


Glendalough in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland
The tour concludes in Glendalough with a visit to a rustic 6th-century monastic settlement, where we walked to a scenic lake


Glendalough lake with Jameson Whiskey in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland
and toasted our day with a complimentary tasting of Jameson Whiskey.  What a wild, fun adventure!

Meals and tips are not included.

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images and videos ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things to do: Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard; Solvang, California


Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard  1500 Alamo Pintado Rd., (805) 688-3032.  Tasting daily 11-5.  Set on the outskirts of town in the splendid Santa Ynez Valley, this farm produces more than grapes.  Formerly devoted to horses, then to growing organic vegetables, it has settled now into vineyards plus olives, pomegranates, peonies, herbs, summer vegetables, and peaches.  To fully enjoy a visit, bring a picnic to eat under the shady buttonwood trees the property is named for (actually California sycamore trees).  Begin with a tasting, select a wine to go with the picnic, and then pick up some fresh fruit at the adjacent farm stand.

winemaker Karen Steinwachs conducts a tasting at Buttonwood Farm Winery in Solvang, California
Wine tasting occurs in a pleasant open room decorated with paintings by one of the owners (some of the art also appears on the labels).  One of the oldest wineries in this area famous for being where the movie “Sideways” was shot, Button’s vineyards were planted in 1983 and first harvested in 1991.  According to winemaker Karen Steinwachs, Merlot has not recovered since release of the movie which celebrates its 10th anniversary is this year.  “ ‘Sideways’ was good for Pinot Noir people, not so good for Merlot people,” she says.  “We don’t grow Pinot Noir grapes here.”  Wines we tasted including a fresh, aromatic 2013 Zingy Sauvignon Blanc blend and a smooth and peppery 2010 Cabernet Franc (100%).  “We’re known for Blanc and Franc,” quips Steinwachs.  We also sampled a 2012 Pinot Noir made with grapes from Hibbits Ranch in nearby Lompoc, but no Merlot.  

farm stand at Buttonwood Farm Winery in Solvang, California
After leaving this informative tasting room, we visited the farm stand and picked up a lug of beautiful ripe peaches to take with us.


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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, July 21, 2014

Great Sleeps: Peterson Village Inn; and Good Eats: Cafe Provence; Solvang, California


Peterson Village Inn  1576 Mission Dr., (800) 321-8985.  Centrally located, this Old World-style hotel greets guests with refreshing fruited water and Danish pastries in the lobby.

high four-poster bed at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California
High four-poster beds—they are almost as high as the one celebrated Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote about in his Princess and Pea story—with a three-sheeted white blanket topped with a blue- and-white-striped coverlet await, and a balcony is among the options.  Interesting vintage European accent art and sweet floral wallpaper with little blue and pink flowers add to the coziness.  Even the closet is wallpapered. 

          I continue to be surprised by the good restaurants found in hotels.  Cafe Provence, which features European and Mediterranean cuisine and an award-winning chef, was empty when we entered, and I immediately had second thoughts.  

house-cured salmon at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California
Our delightful server and my spectacular starter course of house-cured salmon with pickled cucumbers and crostini—a nod to Danish cuisine--put me at ease.  

salmon dinner at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, Californi
For my main course I enjoyed perfectly prepared fresh wild-caught salmon with scalloped potatoes that could have benefited from a tad longer cooking.  Oh well, it’s always unusual for everything to be perfect.
 
pork schnitzel at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California
My husband also chose well--a crispy Danish pork schnitzel topped with tasty creamy mushroom sauce.

oeufs a la Neige at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California
At a time when I often find myself bored with dessert selections, I was blown away by “oeufs a la Neige.”  Translated as “eggs in the snow” and often called “floating island” it is a wonderful concoction of meringue atop crème anglaise.  OMG, it is so good!  Midway through, more diners did come in and join us, but it was a light night apparently because the local Pacific Conservatory Theatre stage company was on a short hiatus. 

Cafe Provence - Petersen Inn on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, July 18, 2014

Good Eats: The Bank on College Green and The Long Hall , Dublin, Ireland


The Bank on College Green pub in Dublin, Ireland

The Bank on College Green  20-22 College Green, Dublin 2, +353 (0)1 677 0677.  B-L-D daily.  Located in the oldest region of the city, this site has been occupied since Viking times.  In 1892 the Belfast Bank acquired the property and constructed this grand Victorian building, whose Franco-Scottish exterior is one of Dublin’s rare examples of Scottish sandstone.  The interior, which was once the main banking hall, is stunningly ornate, with a stained-glass ceiling, mosaic-tiled floors, and spectacular hand-carved plasterwork and cornicing.  Huge Chatwood safes are now part of the decor, and the original vaults remain downstairs.  Now, in the humongous open interior space of this sedate “superpub,” you can enjoy a relaxed meal and drink. 


The Long Hall pub in Dublin, Ireland
The Long Hall  51 S. Great George's St., Dublin 2; +353 1 475 1590.  M-W 4-11:30pm, Thur 1-11:30pm, F-Sat 1-12:30am, Sun3-11pm.  This old-school pub features an ornate Victorian decor with filigreed mirrors and carved-wood snugs (enclosed booths).  In addition to perfectly poured Guinness, the pub is known for serving potent gin and tonics.  Barmen still wear white shirts and black ties, a sign that this is a historic establishment.  Note that there is no food service or music.  When I visited, we were hungry and so wound up going about a block away for dinner at The Market Bar.

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 images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Good Eats: The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant, Dublin, Ireland

Winding Stair Bookshop in Dublin, Ireland

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant  40 Lower Ormond Quay, across river from Temple Bar area via Ha’penny Bridge, + 353 1 8727320, Dublin 1.  L-D daily.  A particularly popular meeting place for writers, musicians, and artists in the 1970s and ‘80s, this atmospheric spot is both a café upstairs--featuring simple, old-fashioned, high-quality Irish fare--and a cozy bookshop downstairs on the ground floor, where coffee, tea, and wine service is available.

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 image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Monday, July 14, 2014

Great Sleeps: Staunton’s on the Green Guesthouse, Dublin, Ireland


Staunton’s on the Green Guesthouse  83 St. Stephen's Green South, 5-min. walk to Grafton St., +353 (0)1 4782300, Dublin 2.  3 stars.  40 rooms.  E109+.  Breakfast included; room service.  Parking E10.  Reasonable rates and a central location across from Stephen’s Green park make this Georgian guesthouse a prime choice for lodging.  You’ll be able to walk to most major sights.  The house’s own garden leads into the hidden Victorian Iveagh Gardens featuring a rustic grotto, fountains, and paths.  Guest rooms in this elegant 1750s Georgian building (actually a melding of three separate houses) are large, and each has a garden or park view.  Architectural features include magnificent marble fireplaces and elaborate plaster ceilings.  Rooms in the back are quietest, and some have French doors opening to the garden.  Breakfast is served in a basement room, and a room-service breakfast is also an option at additional charge.  This vintage property has plenty of character and a friendly staff, and though I didn’t actually stay here, my site visit convinced me to add it to the top of my Dublin lodging list for the future. 

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image courtesy of the venue


Friday, July 11, 2014

Good Eats: La Casa de los Antojitos, NYC-Queens

La Casa de los Antojitos in Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC
La Casa de los Antojitos  81-08 37th Ave., (718) 779-2949.  This bakery packs ‘em in with delicious pastries—don’t miss the guava stuffed bun and the spinach empanadas--housemade soups and meats, sandwiches, tamales, fresh-squeezed juices, milkshakes and ice cream (yummy papaya and pineapple as well as intriguing sour sop), and flan.  Take-out grilled Peruvian-style chicken with plantains is also quite popular.  Counter service keeps prices low.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Good Eats: Kefi Greek Cuisine, NYC


Kefi Greek Cuisine  505 Columbus Ave./84th St., (212) 873-0200.  L M-F, D daily, Sat-Sun Br; $$.


Luxuriously spacious, this Greek taverna has a lower bar level separated by a few steps from the upper-level main dining room.  I was dining with my daughter and infant granddaughter, so we were pleased to be able to bring in the stroller and have the baby next to our table on the bar level.


Lunch items included pita triangles with a delicious array of spreads and a spectacular pickled beet salad with string beans and Greek yogurt.  I advise skipping the eggs dishes, which are really “eggy” and bland.  This day we stuck to vegetarian items, but delicacies include housemade sausages and octopus items as well as more Greek dishes.

Kefi on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Friday, June 27, 2014

Things to Do: Wildwood Boardwalk, North Wildwood, New Jersey


Wildwood Boardwalk  This long, long boardwalk stretches for two miles and hold three amusement parks and two water parks.  For an overview, take a ride on the “tram car" trackless train that runs along the boardwalk.
tram car ride at Wildwood Boardwalk in North Wildwood, New Jersey

Restaurants, arcades, and other amusements will fill your day with fun, and at dusk the bright lights and neon signs come out.  It is a surprising fact that the Wildwood Amusement Piers have more rides than Disneyland.  Kiddie rides include airplanes, trucks, dune buggies, boats, and trains, plus carousels and bumper cars.
Wildwood Amusement Piers at Wildwood Boardwalk in North Wildwood, New Jersey

Thrill rides include an inverted looping roller coaster, The Beast of the East (the largest family raft ride on the East Coast), and a 140-foot-high Ferris wheel.  Perhaps its most famous attraction is the Great White--the East Coast's tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster.  The ride is built right over the beach, reaches a speed of more than 50 miles per hour, and begins with a 25-foot drop into a dark tunnel (it later adds a 105-foot drop).

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  images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers