Tag Archives: wine

Baby Madeline’s Visit

Baby Madeline and her parents, Sarah and Mike, came to visit us this past weekend from Minnesota. It was so fun to have another baby in our house for Ben to play with all weekend long. Both babes did well and really hammed it up for us! Madeline has the sweetest cheesy smile. I couldn’t get enough of it!

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Sarah and I grew up together and have been friends for a very long time. Somehow it happened that we got to go through pregnancy and now the stages of motherhood together – Ben and Madeline were due a day apart last summer.

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Both babies were born before their due dates and are 5 weeks apart. It was really neat to see how different of babies Ben and Madeline are. They are both super sweet and cuddly, and the biggest difference I noticed is that Madeline sits still!

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Alex and I were so shocked at the fact that they could just plop Madeline down anywhere and she’d stay still and take in her surroundings. Even as young as 3 or 4 months, Ben’s little legs and feet or arms would be moving and shaking. He’s really never sat still and always wanted to be moving.

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The weather held out for their trip pretty well, surprisingly. We managed to squeeze in quite a few activities during the long weekend.

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Sarah and I strolled through the arboretum with the babes on Friday while Mike was spending time with his friend. Coincidentally the best man from their wedding also lives in Seattle {I was their matron of honor}. The weather was gorgeous and it made it a perfect afternoon to spend outside.

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The clouds rolled in on Saturday and we headed slightly east to Woodinville for lunch and to do some wine tasting. We tried some new wines and had a great time.

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We ended the evening with a trip to Westland Distillery, a whiskey distillery in the SODO neighborhood. Sarah and Mike {and Alex too} really like whiskey so it was a fun place to stop off.

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The babies did so well on the outing! It was really fun to get out with them and see, at least for Alex and me, how well Ben did on a full-day adventure.

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Our true adventure happened on Sunday. We braved the weather and headed for the mountains to do a hike at Twin Falls. Aside from a few minutes where it was sunny, it was lightly sprinkling throughout most of the hike. That didn’t stop us from lacing up our boots and hitting the trails. It was extremely gorgeous – the hike was fairly easy and followed a roaring river and winded through furry green trees. There were some beautiful views of the falls at the end. It didn’t disappoint.

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After a really nice visit, Sarah, Mike and Madeline headed home on Monday. We loved having them here to play with Ben and to spend time together. We’re grateful for technology so that we can keep each other up-to-date with lots of photos and even FaceTime on occasion.

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Willamette Valley Wine Trip

The Willamette Valley wine region in Oregon has been on our list of places to visit for quite some time now. From Seattle, it’s only a 3 1/2 hour drive down to the famous pinot noir wine region in Oregon, so we finally booked a trip and made it happen.

{Alex and me with Mike and Sarah at one of the wineries we went to on our trip to Oregon!}

{Alex and me with Mike and Sarah at one of the wineries we went to on our trip to Oregon!}

My friend from Minnesota, Sarah, and her husband, Mike, flew out to Portland and we spent the weekend together in McMinnville, Oregon, right in the heart of the Willamette Valley. We rented an adorable house for the weekend – this house is one of my favorite vacation rentals to date. It was really roomy, had a ton of charm and a fantastic backyard for us to lounge in and for Jackson to run around. The location was just a block off the main drag, or shall I say “the gut” of the town. During our stay in McMinnville, the locals had an event called “Cruise the Gut” where they drove their vintage, sporty, loud or just regular cars down the “gut” of the town.

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The town was really cute and had several restaurants, wine tasting rooms and a few little shops. We spent our Friday evening checking out the tasting rooms before settling in at La Rambla, a Spanish restaurant, for dinner.

{Our first tasting of the weekend at Willamette Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville!}

{Our first tasting of the weekend at Willamette Vineyards tasting room in McMinnville!}

As a way to break up the wine drinking, we headed to Cannon Beach on Saturday for a full-day excursion. Cannon Beach is on the Oregon Coast and was about a 2 hour drive away from where we were staying. We weren’t aware of this initially, but similar to the fires in Washington, Oregon was experiencing several wildfires during our stay. The skies were extremely hazy on Saturday and Sunday.

{The famous Haystack Rock that juts out of the beach.}

{The famous Haystack Rock that juts out of the beach.}

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{Jackson was having the time of his life!}

{Jackson was having the time of his life!}

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{I can't even describe how frigid the water was!}

{I can’t even describe how frigid the water was!}

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{Looking back on the beach from the water - cute little Cape Cod-style houses line the shores in a very underwhelming manor - it's not crazy overpopulated, which was really refreshing.}

{Looking back on the beach from the water – cute little Cape Cod-style houses line the shores in a very underwhelming manor – it’s not crazy overpopulated, which was really refreshing.}

{You can rent these little bikes that people were riding all around the beach}

{You can rent these little bikes that people were riding all around the beach}

{Family photo!}

{Family photo!}

Cannon Beach was different than I expected. Haystack Rock, the infamous rock jutting out from the beach, was at least three times as large as I imagined. The beach itself was super sandy and the sand was so soft! Most/all of the beaches on the Washington coast are completely covered in rocks. While I knew the beach was enormous, the town was a bit bigger than I realized it would be. There were tons of shops, restaurants, cafes and beach houses. It was really Cape Cod-esque but with a little Pacific Northwest flare.

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Our next big adventure was Sunday’s excursion to Dundee Hills, one of the AVAs {American Viticulture Area} in the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley looks a lot different than the Washington wine country areas we’ve been to previously {Yakima and Walla Walla areas}. It’s much less deserty-feeling in Oregon, there are more trees, both coniferous and deciduous, and more rolling hills. The haze from the wildfires really prohibited our view – a few of the wineries boast views out to Mount Hood, which we didn’t get to enjoy on our trip.

{First stop... Purple Hands - this was the only winery that was familiar to Alex and me before we took this trip}

{First stop… Purple Hands – this was the only winery that was familiar to Alex and me before we took this trip}

{This guy is secretly a winery dog...}

{This guy is secretly a winery dog…}

{Enjoying our picnic at Stoller!}

{Enjoying our picnic at Stoller!}

{Stoller had a really cool LEED building for their tasting room. They also had an extraordinary property.}

{Stoller had a really cool LEED building for their tasting room. They also had an extraordinary property.}

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Each of the four wineries we stopped at on Sunday offered a different experience. We all shared similar sentiments and seemed to favor Purple Hands for wine and service, Stoller for view, Sokol Blosser for space and ambiance and White Rose for overall wine quality.

{Hazy view from White Rose winery}

{Hazy view from White Rose winery}

{Jackson ended up getting stung by a bee at White Rose, so we relocated to an area with fewer bees and fewer small children...}

{Jackson ended up getting stung by a bee at White Rose, so we relocated to an area with fewer bees and fewer small children…}

Another thing I was surprised about with our Willamette Valley wine tour was just how much pinot noir we would drink. I guess I had it in my mind that our experience would be very similar to our previous experiences in Washington, where there is quite a variety of wine varietals, but honestly, the only red wine we drank was pinot noir! I like pinots, but they’re not a wine I tend to favor when presented a choice. And similarly, the white grape varietal of choice was a chardonnay, which tends to be my least favorite. We did have a couple chardonnays that I enjoyed; however.

{Mike and Sarah have been together for almost five years if my memory serves me well. That being said, Alex and I have spent a lot of time with him, but we all found out just how much in common these two gents have with each other! That was a really fun highlight of the trip was just seeing how similar they are and how many shared interests they have. Both guys are really easy-going and easy to talk to, so it's not surprising.}

{Mike and Sarah have been together for almost five years if my memory serves me well. That being said, Alex and I have spent a lot of time with him, but we all found out just how much in common these two gents have with each other! That was a really fun highlight of the trip was just seeing how similar they are and how many shared interests they have. Both guys are really easy-going and easy to talk to, so it’s not surprising.}

{Cheers! We loved hanging out on the patio at Sokol Blosser}

{Cheers! We loved hanging out on the patio at Sokol Blosser}

{This guy was an all-star winery dog! He got so many compliments and random head scratches from strangers. He loves hanging out with us and going on outings!}

{This guy was an all-star winery dog! He got so many compliments and random head scratches from strangers. He loves hanging out with us and going on outings!}

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We had one more winery on our list for Monday, our last day in Oregon. This was a winery I was particularly excited about because it was a more private, intimate tasting, and I had read reviews on Trip Advisor that people agreed it was the best wine tasting experience they had ever had. We pulled up to Soter Vineyards just before our reservation time and were already blown away by how beautiful the tasting room and the grounds were. That was even before we were greeted by our host with a glass of amazing rose – our group favorite of the trip.

{Walking into Soter Vineyards was gorgeous - it was so open and natural. They host a wine tasting only as well as a wine and food tasting where they serve food straight from the farm they have on their property}

{Walking into Soter Vineyards was gorgeous – it was so open and natural. They host a wine tasting only as well as a wine and food tasting where they serve food straight from the farm they have on their property}

{This quaint cabin, also known as the home of the winemakers, was where we did our private tasting}

{This quaint cabin, also known as the home of the winemakers, was where we did our private tasting}

{The view from the porch of the cabin at Soter Vineyards}

{The view from the porch of the cabin at Soter Vineyards}

{Our tasting set-up}

{Our tasting set-up}

{Here is what we got to drink!}

{Here is what we got to drink!}

{The gang!}

{The gang! After this experience, we all changed our “favorite everything” to Soter. It was a fantastic, personalized experience, the wine was unparalleled and the service and knowledge that our host provided was top notch.}

Being a big wine lover, I really enjoyed our wine tour and getting to explore this new region we had never been to before. That said, though, one of my favorite parts of our trip was the time we spent in the backyard of the home we stayed at. The backyard was fantastic and the temperatures were so mild that we stayed warm late into the evening. We used that time to catch up and just chat about life. It was really nice to have several days to spend with Sarah and Mike. I think those are the best get-togethers – the ones where you take a vacation and get to spend that much quality time together.

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Sarah and I, who have been best friends since high school and served the role of each others’ maid of honor, typically talk several times each day, whether by text, email or phone, and we always know what’s going on with each other even though we only see each other a couple times a year. Technology has been so instrumental in our long-distance friendship. With those visits to Minnesota, I typically only get a few hours with her, so I really enjoyed the duration of time we got to have together. Hopefully we can take another trip soon 🙂

{Miss you Sali!}

{Miss you Sali!}

Weekend Trip to Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan has been on our “to visit” list for several years and now that we’ve been, I can’t believe it took us this long to make it happen. At 55 miles long, Lake Chelan is the largest lake in Washington and is located in the middle of the state, about 3 hours east of Seattle. The lake is extremely deep {apparently “chelan” means deep lake or something like that and is pronounced “shuh-lan” – with the “a” being like “apple”} and is surrounded on both sides by beautiful deserty mountains. The lake is pretty populated in certain areas and is also known for its cute, charming towns and abundance of wineries – it is in Washington wine country, after all.

{the resort we stayed at}

{the resort we stayed at}

This trip was extremely impromptu and planned entirely by Alex. He and his friend Nigel signed up for the Lake Chelan Rotary Century bike ride, a very challenging 100 mile bike ride around the area. Since Alex was planning the trip he was in charge of figuring out our lodging arrangements and boy did he deliver.

{we stayed in "the pavilion" cabin, which was amazingly awesome}

{we stayed in “the pavilion” cabin, which was amazingly awesome}

 

I was especially impressed given the last minute nature of our trip, but he found an adorable place called Kelly’s Resort, which is a waterfront resort that has a bunch of stand-alone cabins, a beach, walking trails through the woods and it just oozes charm and character. It really reminded me of my family’s lake home in Minnesota. We really lucked out, too, because this was the last weekend of their “off” season rates, so we got a great price for the cabin.

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We made the 3 hour trip over to Chelan on Friday afternoon and miraculously didn’t hit any traffic at all. Once we got settled into our cabin we headed down to the bottom side of the lake to pick up Alex’s biking packet and meet Nigel and Jolene for dinner. We settled on a cute pizza place called Local Myth and really enjoyed our dinner, though were disappointed to have been seated in the only “non-alcoholic” table {the table was on the outside of their fenced in patio area} so we couldn’t order any wine or beer. By that point it was 8:30 and we were ready for dinner so we didn’t put up too much of a fight, plus it was the only outdoor table that would have accommodated the four of us.

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Bright and early Saturday morning, I dropped Alex off at the start of the bike race and he and Nigel met up and got started. The ride was very challenging – it was 85 degrees by mid-ride and being in the desert, there was virtually no shade. The ride was broken out into three loops that all started and ended in the same spot, so in theory you could do one, two or all three of the loops.

{ready to go!}

{ready to go!}

Alex’s goal for the day was to make it to the top of a massive 3,000 vertical foot climb, which was over the course of 6 miles {a very short distance for that much climbing} and averaged around 10-12% grade {very steep!}. He said the hardest part was how hot it was and how limited the shade was, but he and Nigel both made it to the top. Mission accomplished! Alex achieved his goal and that was good enough for him, while Nigel’s goal was to complete the 100 mile ride. Alex decided to call it after 70 miles, so I ran over and picked him up.

{pit stop for a victory photo!}

{pit stop for a victory photo!}

The bike ride lasted from about 7:00-2:30, so while Alex was biking I was back at our cabin with Jackson. I took him for a 40 minute swim right off the bat – he is such a water dog, so I figured that would be a good place to start!

{we've got a dock jumper on our hands!}

{we’ve got a dock jumper on our hands!}

I was just enjoying being down on the water – the view across the lake was gorgeous. And the water itself is so clear and clean and just looks different because of that.

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After Jackson tired himself out I grabbed a cup of coffee from the little coffee shop and sat out on the deck of the main lodge with Jackson and just relaxed for a bit. Then we headed back to the cabin and went for a walk on the hiking trails up the hill. I got in my 10,000 steps pretty early that day!

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The rest of the day was mainly spent on the deck of our cabin, which overlooked a lot of mature evergreens, as well as the lake. I caught up on some reading and just did some relaxing until I picked Alex up.

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Of course Alex was beat when he got back to the cabin, so we just hung out for a while and then got cleaned up and headed out to meet Nigel and Jolene at a winery called Tsillan {pronounced like Chelan}, which was conveniently located adjacent to Sorrento’s, the restaurant we had dinner reservations at. The wine tasting was great and we lucked out in getting the best seat in the restaurant for dinner. This restaurant was voted to have one of the top 100 restaurant views in the country and it didn’t disappoint! We all really enjoyed the food, too.

{view from Sorrento's and Tsillan Cellars - too bad the parking lot is right there!}

{view from Sorrento’s and Tsillan Cellars – too bad the parking lot is right there!}

On our way out of the restaurant our car had an unfortunate mishap with a decorative pillar, conveniently located in our blind spot, so hurrah, we get to get a new front bumper. The car just turned too sharply getting out of the parking space and Alex couldn’t see the pillar in the mirrors or the backup camera. Oops!

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Our last day in Chelan was a short one – we took Jackson swimming one last time, packed up and hit the road. We stopped at Twin Pines, a cute little townie hamburger joint just off the highway, which was surprisingly awesome {so much for eating light…}, and then spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and relaxing in the sunshine.

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….until next time, Lake Chelan! I have a feeling this will become an annual summer trip for us.

Last Weekend

Last weekend started on Thursday night when we decided to head to Bottlehouse for the evening – big surprise, I know. It was “new menu” day, which is always a really fun day to be there because the staff is really excited to share the new wines they helped select or the new food that Jed cooked up. On this particular day Sam was behind the bar and he poured us a variety of blind tastes so we could tour the new wine list.

I love blind tastes, even though I seldom get them right, but it’s just fun to really think about the wine you’re drinking and try to guess the vintage, if it’s old world or new world and the varietals. I have better luck with white wines, which is funny because I rarely drink white wines. We had a really nice evening and a great start to the weekend.

{Saturday morning started down on the lake with a long swim for Jackson}

{Saturday morning started down on the lake with a long swim for Jackson}

The weather on Friday was amazing. Alex rode his bike to and from work and came home with a new biking backpack.

{new biking backpack!}

{new biking backpack!}

The forecast for Saturday looked incredible so Alex and I hopped on our bikes and rode out to Woodinville. The ride was really nice – the Burke Gilman trail hugs the northwest side of Lake Washington for a while before it hooks up with the Sammamish River trail, which, you guessed it, runs alongside the Sammamish River.

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{two new tires and I am ready to go!}

 

The bike ride took a little more than an hour to get us to Woodinville. We drove north from our house about 5 miles to make it a 13-mile bike ride instead of 18-miles one way. Alex could have ridden his bike back and forth between Woodinville twice by the time I could have made it one way with the pace I was going. Needless to say, I was very happy when we arrived in Woodinville. We stopped at Redhook Brewery for lunch out on the patio before turning around to make the sloowwww trek back.

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After we got cleaned up we headed over to our friends’ Ryan and Mary’s house for dinner. Carrie and Patrick were there to enjoy the evening with us, as well. It was such a nice night and the Millers have a beautiful backyard, so it was perfect. We always have such a good time with these friends!

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Since we had a day of fun on Saturday we honed in and got some work done on Sunday. While I was at a Pilates class on Mercer Island, Alex met Ryan and Mary and their dog, Berkeley, over at the Mercer Island dog park with Jackson, then we came home and got straight to work. I spent a few hours weeding while Alex cleaned up the yard and scrubbed our back steps and patio. We can’t wait to redo our backyard, though we’ve decided to put it off until later this summer.

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This week has been fairly low-key, though it has seemed busy for some reason. Now we’re looking forward to Alex’s big birthday weekend!

{bffs swimming together in Lake Washington}

{bffs swimming together in Lake Washington}

Wine Weekend Getaway

To celebrate our fourth anniversary, Alex and I headed east to Washington wine country this past weekend to enjoy a little getaway together. It’s a quick 2.5 hour drive over the mountains to Yakima, which is where Washington’s wine country begins. We have been to Yakima several times so we’re familiar with the lay of the land, but even so, we were looking forward to trying some new places.

{our thoughts exactly!}

{our thoughts exactly!}

Yakima is basically the gateway to Washington wine country. From Yakima to Walla Walla, which is right on the Washington/Oregon border, there are vineyards as far as the eye can see. Most people either go to Yakima or Walla Walla since they’re about 2 hours apart, but we were also turned on to a town in the middle of them both called Prosser, and it seems like that’s a town where you can stay and walk to more wineries.

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There are a few tasting rooms right in the heart of Yakima but most of them are outside of the city. Our agenda had us going to Zillah, which is one of the next towns and about a 20 minute drive away.

{Owen Roe, our first stop}

{Owen Roe, our first stop}

We hired a driver to take us around to the different wineries. It goes without saying that it is the smart, safe choice, but it also makes it more relaxing to not have to worry about driving. Plus, Cindy knows what’s up and she’s well-connected within the wineries. We had hired her on a previous trip so it was nice to see her again and she definitely remembered us!

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The weekend we set out for Yakima is apparently the busiest weekend all year – it’s the spring barrel tasting weekend in the whole area. We were really excited for the hoopla and to get back to Yakima.

20150425_221231180_iOSOur first stop was Owen Roe Winery, which we had never been to before. This winery is quite substantial and was offering ten different tastings! Most wineries offer more like four or five. We weren’t super impressed with most of their wineries, but nonetheless, we had a great time checking out the vineyard and the view.

{two of the tastings were up this very steep hill...}

{two of the tastings were up this very steep hill…}

From there we went to J Bell Cellars, another new winery for us. We were very pleased with the wine at J Bell! They had a food truck set up there, so Alex got some ribs and beans {perfect pairing to wine, right?} while we enjoyed our first taste, which was my favorite of the day {riesling, surprisingly!}.

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My second favorite of the day was actually their barrel tasting, which was a merlot. It was SO fantastic. I always think of barrel tastings as drinking wine prematurely, but this wine was ready to go now. It had been hanging out for 30 months and they’re letting it go for about 6 more months. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like then!

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The third stop on our tasting tour was at Cultura, which is probably our favorite winery in existence. We are wine club members at Cultura and absolutely love, love, love, love, love their wines. There’s really nothing else to say, other than I ate a fantastic hot dog here, too.

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Our final winery for the day was Dineen Vineyards, which we had also been to before. Dineen has one of the nicest properties and views of the valley. And they also know how to make a great wine! We enjoyed chatting with the winemaker and also the chef.

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The day went by so fast. After our last winery stop it was time to head back to the hotel and actually get checked in. We hung out in our hotel room for a bit and then moseyed our way down the block to Cowiche Canyon, a new restaurant in Yakima. We loved this new spot! Yakima is not known for it’s food scene, but this restaurant could definitely change that. We were so impressed and had a fantastic dinner. We shared deviled eggs, a bahn mi sandwich and chicken tortilla soup. Kind of a random melange but neither of us was particularly hungry after eating ribs and a hot dog in the middle of the day.

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We really had a fantastic day. It went by way too fast, but we got up early on Sunday, thanks to our east facing room, and hung out in our hotel room before heading out. There was still one more winery we wanted to visit, but we needed breakfast first. I found a quaint little B&B that allows outside guests to come for meals, so we headed to White House Cafe for a delicious breakfast. It’s a very kitschy spot but the food was awesome.

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Naches {pronounced nah-cheese} Heights Vineyard has been high on our list of wineries to try for quite some time now, but it’s sort of off in its own area and it’s not that conveniently located, so it took us a while to get there. We made it happen this time, though, and boy were we glad we did. They were pouring at least 13 wines and we enjoyed just about every one of them, particularly the whites. The best part was that they are very reasonably priced.

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After a weekend filled with wine and time to relax together it was time to head home. We had such a great time recharging the batteries and enjoying each other’s company. While we do our fair share of traveling it is quite rare for us to take trips just the two of us. Our fifth year of marriage will be a year where we focus on us and really make sure to take time out to travel together {just the two of us!}, enjoy date nights out and make our marriage and each other our top priority. We have a lot to look forward to this year!

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Babysitting + Nick + Catching Up

Nice weather sure seems to be sticking around these parts lately! No complaints from me, especially since it provided great weather for our most recent house guest. About a week ago, Alex’s long-time friend Nick came to visit for a week from his home on the east coast. Alex has several very good friends from high school who he still regularly keeps up with, and I know Alex had a really fun time catching up with Nick.

Before Nick arrived, my Friday was a bit busier than usual. I felt like I was running a drop-off daycare service! My friend Mary found herself in a pinch when she had brought her dog to work with her in her car during the day and it ended up getting pretty warm, so she asked if she could drop him off so he didn’t overheat in the car. Of course Jackson was happy to have Berkeley come over for a play date!

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The two pups are BFFs and hilarious together. It’s hard to imagine a dog with more energy than Jackson, but Berkeley has Jackson beat.

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Just after Mary came back to retrieve Berkeley after work our friends Ali and Tyler came to drop their two kiddos off with us for the evening while they went out to dinner. Vivian is a year and a half and her little brother Conner is 4 months old.

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It was such a nice evening so I strapped Conner in the carrier {which Ali pointed out that I put him in incorrectly! Oops!} and put Viv in the stroller and we hoofed it up the hills to the park.

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It was apparent that Vivian loves the swings. She kept saying “higher” and smiling – I’m pretty sure she had a good time! We adore the littles and had a great time hanging out with them on Friday evening.

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After Ali and Tyler came back for their kids Nick arrived for the week. It was quite the day of transitions and people coming over. Jackson was exhausted from his playdate with Berkeley {and another one with our neighbor’s 4 pound terrier, Bruce, who is Jackson’s other BFF} and being overstimulated by children and visitors. Meanwhile, Henry was his cool self.

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Alex and Nick hung out at our house for a bit, just catching up, before they headed out for an evening in Capitol Hill. I apologize in advance that I took all of zero photos while Nick was here. They grabbed a few beers at Chuck’s Hop Shop near our house and then ended the night at Quinn’s with some pretzels and an old fashioned.

The next day I woke up and got to sit on the sofa with my coffee, some fresh biscotti and a magazine! I can’t tell you when I did that last. It was so nice. The boys woke up late, then we had a really nice, leisurely breakfast at our house. Our original plan was to go for a hike in the mountains but by the time we were done with breakfast it was nearing 1:00 in the afternoon, so we nixed the hike and decided to go to Woodinville to do some wine tasting.

We spent the whole gorgeous afternoon wandering around Woodinville. We did a quick tasting at Trust Cellars then we went over to J Bookwalter and shared some rose and a cheese plate. From there we went to The Commons for “lunch” at 5:30.

After our Woodinville adventure we hung out at home, the boys smoked a cigar and then we went to dinner at Red Cow around 10:00. I guess this is what happens when you sleep until noon!

Sunday was a “funday” for the boys. They got tickets to the Seahawks versus Broncos game, so they got to watch Seattle defeat Colorado once again. As a treat, they decided to indulge in a very nice dinner at El Gaucho. Not sure why I wasn’t invited to that hurrah!

{For my "Sunday Funday" I took Jackson to the dog park!}

{For my “Sunday Funday” I took Jackson to the dog park!}

The rest of the week was pretty mellow in comparison. Nick had to do some work, and so did Alex. I left for Minnesota that Tuesday, leaving behind the boys to run the show. I don’t think I missed a lot, but I noticed my absence was clearly felt when I returned home on Sunday.

Walla Walla Wine Country

It seems to be becoming a tradition that Donna and Stan come to Washington for a wine country trip over Labor Day weekend. This year that tradition held true. Last year we spent the holiday weekend in the Yakima Valley wine country, but mixed it up a bit and headed further east to Walla Walla this past weekend.

{gorgeous wine country - this is the view from one of the wineries}

{Gorgeous wine country – this is the view from one of the wineries we visited in Walla Walla}

Donna and Stan arrived late Thursday evening and the rest is a blurry memory……..

Just kidding! 🙂 Well, sort of… The theme of the weekend was wine. Good wine, to be exact. We had gotten several recommendations of wineries to visit from Henri, one of the owners of Bottlehouse, our neighborhood wine bar, and we tried to hit as many as possible. Here is a recap of our amazing weekend…

{on our way to Walla Walla we stopped in Yakima at Two Mountain Winery, where we are wine club members, to pick up our latest release and do a tasting}

{On our way to Walla Walla we stopped in Yakima at Two Mountain Winery, where we are wine club members, to pick up our latest release and do a tasting. Basically all of the wineries we went to were dog friendly so Jackson got to come along on the trip too!}

{because one stop in Yakima en route to Walla Walla isn't enough we stopped at Cultura and decided we better just join their wine club too... And bring back a half a case of wine while we were at it... Hey, I told you the theme of the weekend was drinking good wine...}

{Because one stop in Yakima en route to Walla Walla isn’t enough we stopped at Cultura and decided we better just join their wine club too… And snag seven bottles of wine while we were at it… Hey, I told you the theme of the weekend was drinking good wine…}

{we made it to Walla Walla and this was our home base. "The Barn" is the home we rented for the long weekend and this vacation rental was the best we have ever stayed in!}

{We eventually made it to Walla Walla and this was our home base. “The Barn” is the home we rented for the long weekend and this vacation rental was the best we have ever stayed in!}

{we were so happy staying here that we didn't even go out for dinner once! we are so grateful to the Holbrook family for their attention to detail and willingness to rent out The Barn}

{We were so happy staying here that we didn’t even go out for dinner once! We are so grateful to the Holbrook family for their attention to detail and willingness to rent out The Barn.}

{after a filling breakfast on Saturday we headed out to downtown Walla Walla to start our day of drinking. The first stop was Gramercy Cellars. The winemaker was just named the best in the state by Seattle Magazine! They had very big, old-style wines that were fantastic}

{After a filling breakfast on Saturday we headed out to downtown Walla Walla to start our day of drinking. The first stop was Gramercy Cellars. The winemaker was just named the best in the state by Seattle Magazine! They had very big, old-style wines that were fantastic.}

{halfway through our day and just before lunch at Olive Marketplace we stopped at Trust Cellars, which ended up being one of our favorites of the weekend. We were so excited to learn that Trust has a tasting room in Woodinville, just 25 minutes from Seattle, so we can go drink wine here more often!}

{Halfway through our day and just before lunch at Olive Marketplace we stopped at Trust Cellars, which ended up being one of our favorites of the weekend. We were so excited to learn that Trust has a tasting room in Woodinville, just 25 minutes from Seattle, so we can go drink wine here more often!}

{the last stop of the day was El Corazon, the party winery... the winemaker clearly knows how to have a good time!}

{The last stop of the day was El Corazon, the party winery… and just like my mother in-law, the winemaker clearly knows how to have a good time! The music selection here was very up-beat, the drinks were flowing, and the volume was cranked up. It’s clear that this is the place to let loose.} 

{Here is us at El Corazon having a good time}

{Here is us at El Corazon having a good time… Please note that to save my MIL’s reputation, I omitted a few photos here…}

{our evenings were spent hanging out at The Barn, grilling, playing cards, relaxing and, you guessed it, drinking more wine... we are so thankful that Alex's parents come visit as often as they do and that they are able to kick back, relax and decompress}

{Our evenings were spent hanging out at The Barn, grilling, playing cards, relaxing and, you guessed it, drinking more wine… We are so thankful that Alex’s parents come visit as often as they do and that they are able to kick back, relax and decompress.}

{day two in Walla Walla started at Va Piano, another favorite of the weekend}

{Did you think we were done?? We’re just getting started… Day two in Walla Walla started at Va Piano, another favorite of the weekend… We enjoyed our second day more in some respects, due to the fact that we were visiting the vineyards instead of the tasting rooms in town, and we hired a driver to take us around, which allowed Alex to not have to worry about his consumption.}

{Va Piano wins for facade, view and vineyard}

{Va Piano wins for facade, view and vineyard.}

{Jackson came with us on Sunday and loved running through the vines at Va Piano}

{Jackson came with us on Sunday and loved running through the vines at Va Piano.}

{Yet another favorite was Sleight of Hands. Alex and I had tried some of their wines previously and remembered why we loved them so much. An added bonus was that the tasting room was awesome! They sure know how to have fun AND make incredible wines}

{Yet another favorite was Sleight of Hands. Alex and I had tried some of their wines previously and remembered why we loved them so much. An added bonus was that the tasting room was awesome! The space was decorated in old rock albums, as well as posters of magicians that inspired the names of their wines and wine labels. They sure know how to have fun AND make incredible wines.}

{we really liked the ambiance at Balboa!}

{We really liked the ambiance at Balboa!}

{everyone got ID'd!}

{Everyone got ID’d!}

{As it turned out, we saved the best for last! Many of our favorite wineries of the whole weekend was the winery that we visited at the very end that was walking distance from The Barn... Dusted Valley. The wines were out of this world! And with that, came a hefty price tag... We had lunch here by way of Andrea's food truck and that just sealed the deal... Plus, Dusted Valley, too, has a tasting room in Woodinville!}

{As it turned out, we saved the best for last! Many of us agreed that our favorite winery of the whole weekend was the winery that we visited at the very end that was walking distance from The Barn… Dusted Valley Winery. The wines were out of this world! And with that, came a hefty price tag… We had lunch here by way of Andrae’s food truck and that just sealed the deal… Plus, Dusted Valley, too, has a tasting room in Woodinville!}

{after a long day of being a winery dog, Jackson came back and passed out for the evening}

{After a long day of being a winery dog, Jackson came back and passed out for the evening. Too much work I guess!}

{We had SUCH a great weekend - thank you Donna and Stan for being such good company and for providing an opportunity for us to take this trip... I hope we'll be able to go back to Walla Walla soon!}

{We had SUCH a great weekend – thank you Donna and Stan for being such good company and for providing an opportunity for us to take this trip… I hope we’ll be able to go back to Walla Walla soon!}

Trip to Europe: Priorat Wine Tour Outside of Barcelona

Some time ago Alex and I fell in love with Spanish wines, and in particular, those that reign from the Priorat Region. This region is known for its difficult growing conditions, as it is at a higher than usual altitude (over 2,000 feet) and the terrain is basically slate – the lower elevations are black slate, then red slate and the highest elevation is clay. Can you imagine growing anything on a slate mountainside??

{Welcome to the Priorat!}

{Welcome to the Priorat!}

Basically no one thought you could grow grapes here, but thankfully way back in the 1100s the Spanish monks mastered the practice until the region was basically destroyed by phyllaxora {a nasty underground bug that ate away at the roots of the grapevines}. Some resilient wine makers stayed put and then in the 1980s some wine lovers decided to give it a go and came to the Priorat to try their hand at the region and the rest is history.

View overlooking the region

{view overlooking the region}

Mid-way through our Europe trip we had scheduled a tour of the Priorat wine region through Spanish Trails {a tour company}. This was one of the few pre-planned activities we had put together, but one that we were most looking forward to.

{some of these vines are close to 100 years old!}

{some of these vines are close to 100 years old!}

Our wine guide, Andrew, was extremely knowledgeable on the region, the wineries and on wine in general. He also had a good sense of humor. He began the day by telling everyone I was pregnant so I had to sit up front. Unfortunately {for me} no one heard me follow up and say “I’m not really pregnant!” so that made for a few interesting looks once I started drinking wine…

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We started our day at Cellar Passanau, named for the Passanau family, where we took a stroll out to the fields. Mind you I was not dressed for a “stroll” across the slate mountainside… It was very worthwhile, though. We got to see how the 100 year old vines grew compared to the newer 20 year old vines, and we got to really look at the “soil” {aka slate} of the region. It was really fascinating.

{our guide and another wine drinker inspecting the old vines}

{our guide and another wine drinker inspecting the old vines}

Lucky for us, we got stuck at the first winery. Literally. The streets in the Priorat are hardly wide enough for a Smart Car to pass through, but a big semi-truck was making its rounds through town and the driver locked his keys in his car, so we were stuck tasting wine after wine after wine at the first winery until the driver was able to get into his truck. I think we tried seven wines. And when I say we “tried seven wines” I mean we drank seven bottles of wine between the eight of us.

{this is a street that cars drive on!}

{this is a street that cars drive on!}

Alex ended up buying a 2002 wine that we had tried. It was out of this world. And it cost 10 Euros. We were blown away by the low cost of buying wines at the wineries here. It is so different from buying wines directly at the wineries in Washington. The distribution has made it so that it is cheaper, often, to buy a wine at the grocery store than it is at the winery. This is not the case in Spain, anyway.

{this is what 10 euros can get you in Spain!}

{this is what 10 euros can get you in Spain!}

From here we drove about 15 minutes to the Clos Figueres winery. Alex and I had been fortunate enough to try a wine from this wine maker back in Seattle before we left. Henri at our favorite spot, Bottlehouse, knew we were going to this winery and he was able to get a bottle of their wine from his distributor and allowed us to try it. Needless to say, after we tried this wine we were even more excited to take the trip!

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Our experience at Clos Figueres was our favorite of the day. They prepared a fabulous lunch for us that they paired with their own wines. We tried four wines here, a white and three reds, one red was from grapes from new vines, and the other two were from old vines {vines that are older than 70 years}. It is hard to pick a favorite, but really I think my favorite was wine we had already tried. We began our meal with the white wine, which was paired with some cheese, bread, their own olive oil, slices of salami and sausage, and some liver pate.

{heading down to the cellar at Clos Figueres}

{heading down to the cellar at Clos Figueres}

Next came the wine from new vines and my favorite part of the meal – the tomato bread. In Spain they love to smear tomato guts all over crusty bread. It tastes great, but here they let us do the smearing of the tomatoes. They gave us each our own little station with a slice of crusty bread, a clove of garlic, homemade olive oil and then a whole tomato. We rubbed the bread with a little garlic, drizzled on some olive oil and then sliced our tomato in half and smeared the cut side of the tomato all over the garlicy bread. Mmmm.

{I want to say this cellar is 600 years old}

{I want to say this cellar is 600 years old}

The third wine was our favorite. It was paired with a simple but divine salad. The salad was mixed greens with enormous chunks of heirloom and cherry tomatoes. Did you know that Spain has unbelievable tomatoes?

{one of Clos Figueras' wines made with grapes from newer grapes}

{one of Clos Figueras’ wines made with grapes from newer grapes}

Finally, the main course was served. We were given the choice of lamb or sausage. Both Alex and I selected the sausage. It was lovely. So was the wine. It was paired with Clos Figueres’ top wine.

To finish off the meal we were given two platters with an assortment of desserts. As if we needed more food. It was an exceptional meal and experience.

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On to Clos Dominic! We made our way through a teeny tiny town and met up with the wine maker, whose wife, Dominic, is the namesake of the winery. This wine maker is the heart and soul of the operation. He does it all. His production is quite small – only about 13,000 bottles of wine each year, but truly, I cannot believe how much he does.

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We started our visit by taking a trip out to the field. Again, I was not dressed properly for what we came across. This field was a very steep, sandy and rocky plot of land and it was hot. That is putting it mildly. The wine maker does everything from planting the vines to weeding, harvesting the grapes and then completing the process of making and bottling the wine, giving wine tours and tastings and selling the wines. I was tired just thinking about all he does.

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After our trip into the fields we went back to the cellar. Truly a cellar – we entered at ground level which was very basement-like. This is where he does a lot of the fermentation in the steel tanks, as well as the bottling process. Then we went down to the real cellar. We learned that this was over 600 years old! I cannot even comprehend. The cellar was quite musty and cobweb laden but our host had set up a lovely glass table for us to drink around. He prepared some bread and olive oil {likely some that he made himself}, a glass for each taster and had lined up a row of all of the wines we were about to try.

{The wine cellar at Clos Dominic where we did our final tasting}

{The wine cellar at Clos Dominic where we did our final tasting}

These wines were some of the biggest, boldest red wines I have ever tasted. No whites for this guy. He is strictly a red man. His “entry level” wine is served in the restaurant that is named the best in the world, then another one of his wines is the wine of choice for the Swiss government. There was some stat for each wine, but please remember I had been drinking for nearly 12 hours at this point so my memory from here out was a bit foggy.

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We would have been happy to just go to one or two of these wineries, but to go to all three and get the chance to drive through the region and see the vines was such an honor and a treat. Our appreciation for wine and what it takes to be a small production winery grew exponentially as a result of this experience. We have already started looking at wine {and its cost} in a new light. We only wish we would have been able to buy more wines from these guys while on our tour, but we didn’t really have anywhere to keep it. We’re crossing our fingers we can find it in the states!

Trip to Europe: Barcelona, Spain

The third country in our recent trip to Europe was Spain. We visited two Mediterranean cities in Spain: Barcelona and Alicante. First up, Barcelona…

{Christopher Columbus statue at the foot of La Rambla}

{Christopher Columbus statue at the foot of La Rambla}

After a long train ride from Zermatt, Switzerland to Geneva, a lengthy wait at the airport, a reasonably quick flight and an easy bus ride to the city center we arrived at our hotel in Barcelona late in the evening on a Saturday at the end of June. It was the perfect time to get checked in and grab a bite to eat since the Spanish enjoy eating dinner at 10 p.m.

We hadn’t figured it out quite at this point yet, but our hotel was situated in probably the most ideal spot in Barcelona. We stayed at the Portal de l’Angel hotel just off the Placa Catalunya, which we found out was the hub of the city center.

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Upon check in we asked the receptionist for a recommendation for dinner that night. She pointed us to Bilbao-Berria, a restaurant closeby that serves pinxos {pronounced “peen-chose” – the letter “x” in Catalan makes a “ch” sound}. We had a great time at the restaurant. It is almost like the concept of a high-class cafeteria or buffet where you walk up to a very long bar and pick out which tapas you would like. Each pinxo comes on a skewer, then when you’re done with the dish you put your skewer in a little cup on the table and the waiter just counts the number of skewers you had to know how much to charge you. Some of the pinxos we had were skewers with meat, veggies and cheese, others were croquettes {basically fried mashed potatoes with some meat in them}, and sausages. It was a great introduction to Spanish food.

{Spanish food wasn't our favorite European cuisine, but we certainly had some great meals}

{Spanish food wasn’t our favorite European cuisine, but we certainly had some great meals}

The next morning, our first full day in Barcelona, we didn’t have a huge agenda but wanted to check out some of the sights that were closer to our hotel. We set off for the Picasso Museum and got a chance to walk through that before it got too crowded. Both of us appreciated getting a chance to see Picasso’s works from an early age because it demonstrated his serious ability and showcased how he came to find his niche.

From the Picasso Museum we strolled around and wound up at Placa Catalunya, near our hotel, and at the start of La Rambla, one of the main tourist walking streets in town. Some say this is the heart of Barcelona, but both of us felt it was too crowded and way too touristy.

{Down on the port at the end of La Rambla}

{Down on the port at the end of La Rambla}

We ventured off La Rambla and came upon Placa Real {the royal plaza}, a big open courtyard with butter yellow buildings adorned with wrought iron balconies and beautiful palm trees in the center. The perimeter of Placa Real is all restaurants. We settled on a restaurant, Quince Nits {15 Nights}, and plopped ourselves down for our first Spanish lunch.

{Placa Real}

{Placa Real}

Much like the Italians, the Spanish love to eat and enjoy a laborious meal. Being on vacation we learned to love this, too. We found it quite enjoyable to settle in for a slow, leisurely meal once a day. In Spain, that leisurely meal was lunch, which is typically eaten between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, then a light dinner follows around 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening. Rarely did we eat dinner that late, but I can understand if you stuff yourself so much in the middle of the day all you want is a salad or fruit later in the evening.

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This meal in particular ended up being one of our favorite Spanish meals. We enjoyed a liter of incredible Sangria, then shared a variety of tapas, followed by a roasted duck breast and beautifully prepared pork tenderloin.

After lunch we strolled through el Barri Gotic {the Gothic Quarter neighborhood}, stopped for ice cream and retreated to the courtyard pool oasis back at our hotel.

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We had completely forgotten that this little section of paradise existed so we were extra happy when we were able to take our first siesta outdoors next to the pool. It was perfect.

Thanks to our siesta, we were well-rested and ready for an evening on the town. We had tickets to see a flamenco show at the renowned Palau Musica, an absolutely stunning music hall. We arrived a little early for the 9:30 show so that we could see the stained glass while it was still light out. Before I get ahead of myself, we stopped for an “early” {8:00 p.m.} dinner of tapas and wine at Ohla, a gastropub, which was awesome, on our way to the show.

{all dressed up for the Flamenco show!}

{all dressed up for the Flamenco show!}

 

The flamenco show was something we are glad we saw but wouldn’t be in a hurry to see again. It was a fun experience but the best part was seeing the stained glass inside the Palau Musica.

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{this is the ceiling in Palau Musica… no big deal}

Our second day in Barcelona was one we had been looking forward to for many weeks prior to the trip. This was the day we had signed up to take a tour of one of our favorite wine regions, the Priorat. We met our guide and trip companions at 9:00 sharp and made our way through the Spanish mountains {the Monserat Range} about two hours until we reached the rugged, beautiful Priorat.

{overlooking the Priorat wine region}

{overlooking the Priorat wine region}

The wine tour was awesome, to say the least. We drank our way through three wineries and sampled around 15 wines over a 12-hour period. Each winery had its own way of doing things and we appreciated the variances among the wines. It was one of the major highlights of our whole trip and warrants its own blog post… Stay tuned!

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After drinking for 12 hours neither of us was particularly interested in going out to dinner. Thankfully we were on the same page and decided to order room service and watch a movie. Luck was on our side when the movie Knocked Up was just starting as we turned on the TV in our hotel room. Both of us were very happy to have a low-key night at “home.”

The next day was our last full day in Barcelona. We had a lot of ground to cover so we decided to do a hop on/hop off bus tour of the city. It is not something that either of us had ever imagined doing but we were very glad we did it. We got to see a vast part of the city that we otherwise would not have seen, plus it was just awesome to be riding around in the sun on the upper deck. We stopped at the Sagrada Familia, Hospital de Sant Pau and Parc Guell.

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Since I had been in Barcelona eight years prior, a lot of progress had been made on the façade of the Sagrada Familia. I had been inside previously and the wait to just buy a ticket was more than 3 hours, so we walked around the outside and kept on our way.

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Our next stop was a beautiful hospital that was intentionally built to be a design sensation. Hospital de Sant Pau was designed by the same architect who designed Palau Musica, where we saw the flamenco show two evenings prior. Both of us agreed that this was our favorite stop of the day.

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Parc Guell turned out to be a ridiculous tourist trap – much more so than it was in my past visit. The park is very unique – Gaudi, the artist, used mosaic tiles to design benches, fountains, and sculptures around the park, as well as two houses.

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It is lovely, but somewhere along the line it got over-hyped and now they charge admission and ask you to buy a ticket for a particular time to see the park. All of that was new since I was there not that long ago. Even since they regulate the number of people in the park it was so crowded all we wanted to do was leave. It was neat to see but also very disappointing.

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After our day of tourist activities we were very happy to return to our hotel for a siesta by the pool.

Our overall feeling of Barcelona was really that it was a very, very crowded, but very cosmopolitan city. The people of Barcelona are extremely trendy and they love to shop! We felt that the customer service here was lacking, generally speaking, but especially compared to the exceptional service we received in Italy and Switzerland. The Spanish seemed to be more direct and in a hurry than the Italians or the Swiss. We really enjoyed the gothic architecture in Barcelona and being able to explore a city with so much culture and history.

Trip to Europe: Zermatt, Switzerland

After spending a week in Italy it was time to move on to the second of the five countries we had set out to see on our journey abroad. Early one beautiful June morning we hopped into Alex’s parents’ rental car to make the hour and a half long drive to St. Moritz, Switzerland to meet the start of the Glacier Express train ride that would ultimately take us to Zermatt, Switzerland.

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Our hour and a half drive quickly became two and a half hours after our GPS couldn’t read our position in a tunnel, thus making us miss our exit. We were all a little unsure of what was going on, but thankfully the GPS regained our trust and we made it to the train station with enough time to spare.

The drive through the Alps was incredible. We passed through quaint Italian stone-clad villages, saw streams and waterfalls, green pastures and mountainsides as we wound our way through switchbacks making tight hairpin turns, inching our way closer to the Swiss border. The train station was the point in our trip where we said good bye to Alex’s family and ventured out on our own for the remainder of the trip.

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The Glacier Express train is a train that makes its way from St. Moritz, Switzerland through the Alps to Zermatt, Switzerland. The train itself boasted panoramic views from its nearly floor to ceiling windows, and offered table service and very comfortable seats. We also tuned in to learn about the Swiss culture and the different villages we passed through on our 8 hour train ride. The reflection from the windows on the train made it impossible to capture any photos of the scenery, so you’ll have to deal with photos of my lovely husband instead 🙂

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The ride on the Glacier Express was a highlight of our whole trip to Europe. The first part of the ride brought us across ancient stone viaducts, across green valleys, through idyllic Bavarian villages, as we wound our way next to the milky mint-colored mountain streams.

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Each village had a church with a round, onion shaped dome, reminding us of Muslim architecture. Gone were the bright pinks and pastels from Italy and here were homes with dark wood, accented with white plaster. Nearly every home had flower boxes filled with vivid red and pink flowers that contrasted the color of the homes. The landscape was stunning. We couldn’t wait to arrive in Zermatt.

{Zermatt!}

{Zermatt!}

Both of us were awestruck as we strolled the village on our way to the hotel. Zermatt is one of the largest towns in the Swiss Alps and turns into a world-class ski resort come winter. The buildings were all a very similar Bavarian style with dark wood mixed with bright white stucco. Walking through the town we instantly felt very comfortable, as we find ourselves generally feeling at home in ski towns.

{The view from our hotel balcony... just wait for the Matterhorn to pop out!}

{The view from our hotel balcony… just wait for the Matterhorn to pop out!}

As I sit here on the balcony of the Bristol Hotel looking out on the Matterhorn I am just taken aback by the natural beauty of a place like this. Alex and I are so fortunate to live in a place as beautiful as the state of Washington, but we are madly in love with Switzerland. It is difficult to describe the beauty of the Swiss Alps and do it any justice.

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The Matterhorn sticks out from the range like a shark’s tooth, jagged and pointy, dusted with snow. Beneath the peak, the mountain range rolls along, covered in its green blanket. The landscape is lush and green, blanketed with mature evergreens and a coating of green grass as far as the eye can see.

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The town of Zermatt is rather large, but it doesn’t feel like a big ski town, likely because none of the buildings seem to reach above 5 or 6 stories. This allows for plentiful views of the Matterhorn.

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Our stay here in Zermatt really couldn’t have been better. We began our first day here by taking the Sunnega train up the mountain for an extraordinary view of the surrounding mountains, followed by a hike back down to the village.

 

{All of this terrain is skiable. The other side of this is Italy. Yes you can ski to Italy. Yes you need your passport. Yes we will be back!}

{All of this terrain is skiable. The other side of this is Italy. Yes you can ski to Italy. Yes you need your passport. Yes we will be back!}

The train is something I had never done anything like before. It starts off in the village where you walk through a tunnel for about two minutes then find yourself selecting a car inside the train. Then the doors close and the train heads up the mountain. The train ride is about 4.5 minutes and literally goes up through a tunnel in the center of the mountain. When you exit the train tunnel you are at the Sunnega station and are met with a panoramic view of the Matterhorn and an inviting patio to grab a drink.

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We certainly picked the right day for our hike – the sun was out and the temperature was just right. We spent about an hour at the top before making our descent down the mountain by foot. It was a mostly enjoyable hike downward.

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Mid-way down the mountain we came across a little restaurant with a patio complete with chaise lounge chairs facing the Matterhorn. We could not pass this up, of course, so we stopped and had a drink and took a rest while gazing out at the Matterhorn.

{my little slice of paradise}

{my little slice of paradise}

During our hike all both of us could think of was what the mountain would look like covered in snow and when we could possibly plan a ski trip to come back to the Swiss Alps.

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Once we made it back to the village we had worked up an appetite. We stopped for lunch at Stadel Restaurant, a very Swiss establishment. We ordered cheese fondue to share. The fondue had six Swiss mountain cheeses and we guessed some garlic, white wine, a little nutmeg and a sprinkling of pepper. It was served with crusty bread cubes and some hot potatoes to dip. The fondue was not surprisingly the best had ever had. We were in heaven. This ended up being our favorite meal {for flavor} of our three and a half week trip in Europe.

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With bellies full of cheese we headed back to our room to spend the afternoon sunbathing on our glorious balcony staring at the Matterhorn in the distance.

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Our second day was much the same as our first. We ate a lot of Swiss food, did a short hike, toured the Matterhorn museum and strolled through the town and popped into a few shops along the way. One highlight was the Swiss chocolate shop. We ate our way through that one.

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For our final dinner in Zermatt, we went to another traditional Swiss restaurant, called Wymper Stube, to have a meat fondue, the meal that ended up being our favorite for experience in our whole trip. We ordered a beef and veal broth-based fondue. Most meat fondues are oil based, which means you cook your raw meat in hot oil in the fondue pot.

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Our broth was a beef broth bubbling away with mushrooms and green onions. It was so good with the thin, wide strips of beef and veal. The experience was so fun because the server brought out several dipping sauces, as well as four bowls of different vegetables, along with two clean plates decorated with exotic fruit. It set the tone for a really fun dinner. We also enjoyed a bottle of Heidel wine, which is a white wine produced in the region.

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Switzerland is ungodly expensive. The food in Zermatt really blew our budget! Thankfully we made up for it in less expensive cities. One night we each had a 28 franc burger {remember, burgers originated next door in Germany!} and another night each of our entrees of veiner schnitzel were 42 francs, which we found out was a pretty average price. For lunch one day we stumbled across a sausage stand in the middle of town and had our least expensive meal of 19 francs, including a beer. The conversion rate of francs to USD worked in our favor, though, and was close to 1:1 while we were there.

{this was our dessert at the fondue restaurant - a gigantic merengue covered in whipped cream with an ice cream center. Yes we ate the whole thing.}

{this was our dessert at the fondue restaurant – a gigantic merengue covered in whipped cream with an ice cream center. Yes we ate the whole thing.}

We just adored Zermatt. The customer service across the whole town was fantastic. Everyone spoke English and seemed genuinely happy to be serving us. I applaud the town’s approach to making guests from around the world feel welcome and at home.

{you better believe we will be back!!}

{you better believe we will be back!!}