Wine is something that had fascinated the both of us. But before I became a food blogger, I was as ignorant about wines as one could get. But after I passed my WSET level 1, my interest in wines took off. Accompanied by Snigdha, I tried out quite a few wines in the plethora of food reviews that I do. Wine paired dinners were followed by winery visits as we both explored the nooks and crannies for the wine world. But we reserved our best with the Napa Valley wine train.
What is the Napa Valley wine train?
The Napa Valley is a premier wine growing region in the western coast of United States of America. One of the famous wine regions in the world, the Napa Valley is known for production of Cabarnet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zifandel. The Napa Valley wine train was first built in the mid 19th century by Samuel Brannan. The rail line have since been restored as a tourist destination. But it’s the train that you will fall in love with. The coaches of the train are from early 20th century when they were made by Pullman Standard Company for the Northern Pacific Limited. These have been restored with mahogany paneling and velvet upholstered chairs. It transports you to a time when rail travel was in it’s infancy.
How to get there?
Staying in San Francisco with our friends meant that it was a ferry ride away. We took the Ferry Connection which transports us to the Napa Valley very easily for $50 per person. The Ferry Connection starts at San Francisco harbour in the morning before docking in Vallejo. From Vallejo, a bus transports you to the Wine Train station which is about an hour’s drive away. We got our Foreign Exchange from Thomas Cook.
The Castle Winery Tour
If you have been reading our blog, you will have realised how much I love medieval European castles. We couldn’t find anything similar in America so the Castle Winery Tour was perfect for us. Boarding of the train starts with orders for meals. In the gourmet compartment, we were seated by an Australian couple on their honeymoon, Phil and Susan. The salad and the seared Tenderloin makes for a perfect meal along with a Cabarnet Sauvignon that we tried. The train rustled past lush fields of grapevines as the Napa Valley sped by in our windows. You can also have your meals in the Vista Dome which is a domed coach with a personalised dining space.
The varied landscape of the Napa valley is so exotic that we could hardly concentrate on the food. There are vineyards filled with colours of green besotted by purple. The warm yellow sun beats down on this temperate land to throw beautiful hues of shadows. We both try out a customary trip of the train. The use of mahogany in all it’s glory is a sight to preserve. The sun reflects off the polished wood to make it shine even more. But the best moment is sitting on the velvet armchairs sipping a glass of wine while the world goes by
Castello di Amorosa
Our train reached the St. Helena station from where we boarded another bus to go the Castello di Amorosa. Although the train takes you back two centuries, the castle does so for another five centuries. As you climb the steps of Castello di Amorosa, the rough hewn walls transport us back to the castles of medieval Europe. Out tour guide, Rafael starts off with the wine process lesson which I pretty much zone out of as I cannot stop admiring the stunning architecture. The heady mix of the Cab Sauv and medieval European architecture was pretty much getting to me.
The winery tour takes us through the picturesque vineyards and beautifully vaulted wooden wine caves. The smell of wood is something that I still remember. Rafael then handed us to the sommelier who made us taste the best of Napa valley’s produce which includes the complex flavours of Cabarnet Sauvignon and buttery texture of Oaked Chardonnay. I had a blissful smile on my face on our way back to the train followed by a bus back to our ferry. With rosy cheeks and a content belly combined with the alcohol, I moved onto a peaceful sleep. Snigdha couldn’t help but plant a big kiss on my angelic smile 😉
All pictures are courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train
We would like to hear about your wine adventures. You can find the exchange rates on Currency Converter.
Fabulous Food in Las Vegas
These days, when people take a trip to Las Vegas they’ve got a lot more to look forward to than just playing at the incredible casinos. The bright lights and potential big wins are still a huge draw card, but there are plenty of other attractions that add to the experience.
You can take in a show with some of the top performers, including musicians, comedians and incredible dancers, and dine in some of the finest restaurants eating meals prepared by some of the most renowned chefs on earth. The food in Las Vegas has earned itself legendary status in recent years, and whether it’s a champagne and sushi buffet, dishes prepared by some of the worlds most famous chefs, or a real American-style hotdog or hamburger that you’re after, there’s something to sate every appetite.
A Plethora of Pleasures
One of the first things you’ll notice about the food options in Las Vegas is just how many there are. The famous Las Vegas buffets are a quintessential part of any trip for many visitors, and most hotels offer their own take on this established tradition.
Classic features of the Vegas buffet include hundreds of crab legs on beds of ice, enormous piles of shrimp, carving stations for ribs and plenty of other mouth-watering and extravagant dishes. You’ll also find signature dishes that make the best buffets stand out from each other too. If you don’t want to leave the thrill of the casino behind while sampling the fare from the buffet, you can always enjoy playing slots or table games on your mobile until you’ve had your fill and can make it back to the gaming floor.
You’ll find every type of buffet available in Vegas, and many of them operate 24/7, so you can dine at your leisure.
Tastes That Take you Round the World
Make sure that you indulge in the glorious abundance of a Las Vegas dining options while you’re in town. There are superb seafood, bistro dining and fine dining establishments all over the city, often connected to a world-famous chef or even run by an award-winning culinary master.
Vegas also caters to absolutely every taste, and there are an abundance of restaurants that serve up dishes from across the globe. Let yourself be transported to Mexico, China, Italy or even Bangladesh, and enjoy authentic fare from countries all over the world.
Since you’ll be in the United States you can also sample a good old slice of Americana with some classic-style American cooking.
Las Vegas is a city that’s known for it excess and opulence, and when it comes to sweet treats this is even more evident. Anyone with a sweet tooth will be in heaven as the array of options available is astounding. From traditional American ice cream sandwiches, to waffles, milkshakes, sundaes and banana splits, there’s something delicious at every turn.
If you fancy a cupcake you can also visit a cupcake ATM that dispenses confectionary on demand, or if you’ve had a good day at the tables you can order the decadent Golden Opulence Sundae that comes complete with gold flakes, a crystal glass and a gold spoon, and sets you back a whopping $1000!
If you’re thinking about food in Las Vegas and planning a visit, we’re officially jealous! Enjoy making the most of the bright lights and big wins at the casinos, taking in the shows and sampling some truly world-class cuisine!
A trip to the United States of America is not complete without visiting Yellowstone National Park. Spread over 9000 square kilometres, the park extends into Idaho and Montana along with Wyoming. The whole of the national park is based around the Yellowstone Lake and Cradle, the largest active super volcano of the American continent. It houses some of the most picturesque lakes, canyons and mountains. The park is home to innumerable flora and fauna, many of which are endangered. Once inhabited by Native American tribes, the park and it’s areas were discovered by early 18th century. We take you on a photographic tour of this beautiful National Park, preserved through so many centuries.
Old Faithful Geyser
Any visit to the park is not complete without visiting the Old Faithful Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin. The Old Faithful is so named because it roots erupts more frequently than any other geyser. The average is about 91 minutes and the water teachers heights of 150 metres. It is one of the most picturesque geysers and some bison can also be seen grazing nearby.
The Hayden Valley houses innumerable herds of bison and elk. The crystal blue waters of the Yellowstone Lake stream through the valley as lush green grazing planned are found on both sides. The Hayden valley is also home to the various species of animals I was talking about. You will also find some ducks, Canadian geese and pelicans which you can check out.
Norris Geyser Basin
The Norris Geyser Basin is home to the largest active geyser in the world, the Steamboat Geyser. The largest explosion from the Steamboat was 380 feet high. It is one of the geyser systems which had been constantly changing and gives you new places to observe every time.
West Thumb Geyser Basin
The West Thumb Geyser Basin includes several thermal features of the Yellowstone lake and is a favored point for doing hikes. Tell us you favorite of the lot and your experiences on visiting the Yellowstone National Park. You can visit their website here.
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Marine fauna is something that we Indians have never experienced. On a recent trip to America, I crossed this off my bucket list. The Sea Aquarium at Miami gave me a perfect introduction to checking out dolphins, killer whales and other sea animals.
What I saw?
I’ll start with the biggest, most badass showcase in the whole aquarium. Lolita, the giant killer whale prancing through the water in a series of turns and jumps made me gasp at the agility of this huge bodied predator. She was accompanied by Pacific dolphins whose intelligence has always been considered legendary. The antics Bottleneck Dolphins in the Rock n Roll cruise is something that stops you in your tracks.
What I did?
Although I have forever loved observing from the sidelines, this time I decided to jump in and experience these animals for myself. Although the tickets cost a bomb ($120), it was well worth it. The Dolphin Encounter had me swimming, touching and actually petting dolphins. Although I was afraid at first to get into the territory that is so natural to these animals, it’s almost as if the dolphin understands your fears and goads you slowly and steadily. A surrealistic and humbling experience that truly showed me that research about their intelligence is not falsified. Emboldened by my encounter with the dolphins, the Sea Trek Reef Encounter($100) seemed pretty inviting. A 20 minute dive through a plethora of marine animals like sting rays and other fish. Although the events sound very awesome, but the limited amount of time swishes past pretty quickly leaving you hungry for more.
The next exhibition that I really wanted to check out was the newly built Penguin Isles which houses the African penguins. The waddling creatures will make you fall in love with their cuteness. A normal entry ticket costs $45 and the animal interaction ones cost above these. Do tell us about your favourite aquarium and we’ll try to review it on the blog. You can visit their website here.
Chicago, Illinois the sparkling gem of the midwest is among the finest cities on the map to go touristy. Although all seasons has its upside,but the most comfortable instances of the year would be spring, summer and fall between May & October.
Getting around Chicago
To get your way around in Chicago is a cake, so much so that you can easily rent a car. Indians do not need an international driver’s license to drive in the U.S as long as your Indian license is in English. Alternatively, Public transport is equally incredible. Take the bus and trains which use a CTA card or “L” (Chicago Transit Authority) that you may get out of a machine at the airport upon arrival. Tip: Walk around the city,super easy and cheap.
Where to stay?
The greatest concentration of hotels and tourist sites is on the Magnificent Mile, Streeterville in North vicinity. You’ll find price range stays from Red roof inn, rooms from Airbnb and hostels to the Four Seasons & Hyatt Regency Chicago. Tip: You’ll get greater perks on stays if you give yours in keeping with night time amount that you can spend.
Where to eat?
Chicago has bazillions of restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafés of all varieties where you can eat. As for Chicago’s – very famous deep dish style pizza, there are several places to find it including UnoPizzeria, Malnatis, Giordano’s and others .For a splurge devour attempt Purple Pig or the Alinea. But don’t miss the signature room on the 69th floor at John Hancock to grab a drink and view the Chicago Metropolis. Tip: Don’t miss the sidewalk cafés.
What to see?
Start out taking the Chicago Architectural boat tour on the Chicago river. Go to the pinnacle of the Willis (Sears) tower and stand on the glass ledge to eye Chicago. Visit Jeweler’s Building, Thompson Center, The Board of Trade, Museums.For one kind of touristy stuff visit Chicago Cultural Center for many free events, concerts, and exhibits. Check the Hottix right across on Randolph Street for a wide variety & good chance to visit one of the outlying neighbourhoods walks, dinner and Chicago live theater. Tip: Don’t miss taking a stroll at the Lincoln’s & Wicker.
Where to shop?
Michigan Avenue a.k.a The Magnificent Mile is the primary shopping district. Take a day to spare & unwind ladies! It has everything from Gucci, Prada to Cartier and Chanel. However don’t miss the State Street for Gap, Marshall’s to H&M to find tons of affordable purchases.
Tells us about your Chicago experience?!