Category Archives: Uncategorized

St. Francis Winery – Sonoma, California

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For more than four decades, the wines of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards have reflected the finest mountain and valley vineyards in Sonoma County.

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Founder, Joe Martin, fell in love with Sonoma Valley and established St. Francis Vineyard in 1971, planting 22 acres of Chardonnay and the first 60 acres of Merlot in Sonoma Valley.

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After achieving great success as a grower, Joe opened his own winery in 1979 with his business partner Lloyd Canton.

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Today, a new generation of winemakers, Katie Madigan and Chris Louton, continues the long tradition of luscious, elegant, fruit-driven wines from Sonoma County grapes.

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Currently,  more than 400 acres of Certified Sustainable estate vineyards in Sonoma Valley and Russian River Valley are farmed. 

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Each with varying compositions of loam, clay and volcanic soils.

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Well, the Tin Man, et al, embarked upon a seated, multicourse Wine & Food Pairing, orchestrated by Executive Chef Bryan Jones who created an assortment of small dishes  paired with hand-selected artisan wines.

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We enjoyed stunning vineyard views and an amazing fine dining presentation at a shared table.

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The seating was hosted by a knowledgeable and friendly wine expert, who created a relaxing, fun and unforgettable wine country experience. 

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If you are planning a trip to the wine country, this is an experience that should not be missed

Click HERE to make your reservations

The Menu was impressive and inspired..

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We began with the Smoked Beet Salad

Grilled Spring Onion – Green Garlic Purée – Aleppo Pepper – Goat Cheese Fondant – Almond Nougat

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Then the second culinary masterpiece was presented…. Red Wine Braised Duck accompanied by 2013 Pinot Noir

Coriander Spätzle – Endive – Pistachio – Tart Cherry-Apricot Mostarda

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Course Number Three…….Arctic Char a la Barigoule accompanied by 2013 Chardonnay

Celery Root-Yukon Gold Potato Puree – Saffron – Preserved Lemon – Parsnip Chips

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le Quatrième Cours…..Coffee & Cocoa Crusted NY Strip Loin with 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Roasted Cauliflower – Smoke Garlic – Crispy Shallots – Bordelaise

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La Finale …… Sucreries….Mexican Chocolate Pot du Crème accompanied by 2012 Ruby Port

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Marvelous Culinary Delights and the Creator himself….Executive Chef Bryan Jones…

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It was a most fantastic experience…..delightful, educational and most of all delicious!

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SONOMA – CALIFORNIA

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The Tin Man and his quest for wine has lead him to Sonoma…..Sonoma is considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano  about that in a later  then improvements made by Agoston Haraszthy, the father of California viticulture and credited with introduction of the Zinfandel/Primitivo grape varietal.

The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival takes place late each September, and is California’s oldest celebration of its winemaking heritage…

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The drive into Sonoma takes one past a most beautiful sculpture of a man working a wine press, it is quite lovely against the horizon….

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Every hill is covered by vineyards and prestigious winemakers….

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The Tin Man resists the urge to stop and begin tasting wine, as his destination is the historical town square of Sonoma…

El Pueblo de Sonoma was laid out in the standard form of a Mexican town, centered around the largest plaza in California, 8 acres in size. This plaza is surrounded by many historical buildings, including the Mission San Francisco Solano, Captain Salvador Vallejo‘s Casa Grande, the Presidio of Sonoma, the Blue Wing Inn, the Sebastiani Theatre, and the Toscano Hotel.

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In the middle of the plaza, Sonoma’s early 20th-century city hall, at the plaza’s center and still in use, was designed and built with four identical sides in order not to offend the merchants on any one side of the plaza.

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The plaza is a National Historic Landmark and still serves as the town’s focal point, hosting many community festivals and drawing tourists all year round.

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Throughout the area surrounding the Plaza are so many beautiful sights…

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There are approximately thirty restaurants in the plaza area, including Italian, Irish, Mexican, Portuguese, Basque, Mediterranean, Himalayan, and French. It provides a central tourist attraction. It is also the location of the Farmer’s Market, held every Tuesday evening from April to October.  Well you know The Tin Man…..off to find an interesting restaurant………well tucked in the back of an alley off the main plaza, we found a delight…

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The moment we saw the sign we had to find a table.  The Tin Man so loved the food in Lisboa

Here is a pic of the clams from Lisboa, Portugal…

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Well don’t you know Tin Man was expecting no less from La Salette….

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The lovely Portuguese Bread….a little sweet ……of so delightful….

Then the starters……….of for the love of Hestia…..what delights….

Honey Roasted Almonds, Cow’s Cheese with Apricot Jam, Escarcot, Pork Trotter Terrine (yes…..Pig’s Feet) and lovely dark bread…

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Then the Clams………wow what a presentation…..

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Beautiful and Delightful……but alas, missing the olives…..perhaps too much for the American pallet…

oh yes….the Paella……….yummy..

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It was a most marvelous visit to the Plaza of Sonoma, hope you enjoyed coming along….

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The Napa Valley Wine Train

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004The Napa Valley Wine Train’s  track is part of the what was originally the Napa Valley Railroad founded by early California pioneer Samuel Brannan in 1864. Brannan established it to bring tourists to the resort town of Calistoga, California which he also founded. The railroad’s 42 miles (68 km) of track ran from Calistoga to Vallejo, California where it connected with San Francisco Bay Area ferry boat service. California Pacific Railroad Extension Company purchased the Napa Valley Railroad Company at a foreclosure sale on June 9, 1869. Later that same year on December 23, the railroad was renamed the California Pacific Railroad. The track was leased to Southern Pacific Railroad on April 1, 1885 and was soon connected to their main line in Suisun, California. California Pacific Railroad was acquired by Southern Pacific on April 14, 1898. The line was extended to Benicia, California in 1904.

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The line was electrified and renamed San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway in 1905 and carried passengers until 1929. The track was utilized by Southern Pacific as a freight branch line for the following 58 years until 1987 when the railroad petitioned for abandonment.

The NVRR operating company was formed in 1987 by local entrepreneurs and headed by Vincent DeDomenico. DeDomenico was a veteran of more than 50 years in the food business and was formerly the president of Golden Grain, a company founded by his father and famous for its Rice-A-Roni. DeDomnico purchased the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1964 and sold both it and Golden Grain to the Quaker Oats Company in 1986.

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The NVRR acquired the right of way after Southern Pacific notified the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1985 of its intent to abandon the line. The new company’s plans to create a tourist-oriented Wine Train were strongly opposed by local community activists and several city governments. Some people disliked the noise and pollution of an active passenger train line in their midst, while others felt that the train would attract even more visitors to the Napa Valley, which they saw as already over-saturated with tourists…………well too bad….the Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers, the Tin Man being one of them.

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The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the most distinctive Napa restaurants, offering an authentic, memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multiple course meals, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard exquisitely restored vintage rail cars.

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This top dining establishment is housed in a museum quality, antique train that runs on 25-­miles of track in the heart of the Napa Valley. The train itself has two engines, three kitchens on board and a collection of early 20th century Pullman rail cars faithfully restored with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions and plush armchairs that evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel in the early 1900s.

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The Tin Man booked passage in the Vista Dome Car.  With promises of dining in elevated splendor. 

The observation style dining car is expertly refurbished using Honduran mahogany paneling and brass accents, perfect for the Tin Man.

Upon arrival……….a glass of bubbly and an exquisite menu….

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Our 1952 Pullman domed railcar provided the most private dining experience as only guests with reserved seating are allowed in the dining area of this two-story car.

We had the most delightful server, Froy, ….who made the experience even more fantastic…

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The Hors d’Oeuvre arrived….Grilled Shrimp on Crispy Wonton with Sweet Pea Pesto and Endive….

…..with Raymond Estates Vineyard Private Reserve Chardonnay….

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The beautiful scenery passed us by as we noshed on these delights…

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First Course…..Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Cambozola Cheese, hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette…yes, yes…..

…my companion had the Crème of Cauliflower Soup (regrettably so, me thinks……hahhaha)

…..more Raymond Estates Chardonnay….of course..

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We so loved the Cambozola Cheese and our delightful server surprised us with some extra slices!!!

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Meanwhile the beautiful vineyards continue to be our vista as we gently roll through the Napa Valley…

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But yes, it is time for the Entrée ….Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Gorgonzola Toast with a Sauté of Vegetables in a Cabernet Reduction…

….OH MY……tooo much wine….the Tin Man forgot to take a picture of this course!

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The dining was marvelous as the dining room was above the kitchen and a dumbwaiter delivered the food directly to us…therefore our dining room was very quiet and peaceful…..it was quite the experience….

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I so wished that this train would continue for days and days so that the experience could go on and on and on……

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Some delightful sweets to end the journey….a Handmade Chocolate Truffle and White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry….

Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald prepared such unique menu for our dining pleasure, a culinary symphony we shall long remember…

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But alas, our culinary journey has come to an end…..

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I hope you have enjoyed this trip aboard The Napa Valley Wine Train

and if you are ever going to visit Napa make sure you make reservations aboard this most delightful venue…..

CLICK HERE to visit The Napa Valley Wine Train site

 

Napa – California

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Our Journey into Napa was looking to be a great Wine and Food Delight!

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We ventured into downtown Napa and found the architecture to be quite charming….

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Gold and silver may have been behind the hordes that flocked in the 1800s

But liquid gold – Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs – is behind the modern migration

Our drive into Napa took us past many wonderful vistas of vineyards …..

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We had to stop and get some fresh cherries as a snack….

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I guess Google found out that the Tin Man was in town and wanted to get a few street shots…..

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Once we arrived in Napa, our exploration began……

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Off across the First Street Bridge ……away from the touristy, packed downtown area…

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We stopped at a marvelous Olive Oil Shoppe along the way….so many flavors and delights to taste….

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The Tin Man took home a bottle of Basil infused and Chocolate infused Olive Oil….oh delights….

The Shop Owner was a great foodie and sent us off to the Oxbow Market…..

The Market has a commitment to the unique character, spirit and content of the Public Market not only as a place to display and sell organic and/or sustainably-produced local crops, other regional specialties, and other high quality and unique food products, but also as a place that actively supports sustainable and organic farming practices, owner-operated businesses, local food producers and the agricultural community of the Napa Valley and surrounding regions…

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Just standing and looking down the market makes you swoon with delight….

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Okay……..okay………..okay…..We made it all the way to the end of the Market and stumbled upon…..Hog Island Oyster Company

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We were immediately invited to sit out on the deck OVERLOOKING THE NAPA RIVER!!!!!

What a delight ……………wow…..everyone was so delightful and friendly….

We began with some wine……..of course and the delightful bread….

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We ordered Steamers and Clam Chowder…..expecting the usual fare….OMG….look what arrived….

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We can testify that these were the best clam dishes we had ever eaten anywhere on this planet!

The Saffron filled the air with its marvelous fragrance….

But, alas……it was time to venture on…leaving Napa behind us….

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What a delightful day……as we were sitting on the deck we saw the Wine Train pull up to the station…..

….oh yes, we will be riding on that baby…stay tuned for that story….

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Arns Winery – Napa, California

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On the Eastern Hillside of the historical city of St. Helena, tucked away in a marvelous forest lies

an absolute gem……….no I am not talking about the rusted up Tin Man!

Everything is covered with moss…….the trees….

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The Ground covered with Ferns….

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even the stone walls are green with tender moss….

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Then we come upon it……….the Vineyard…

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Don’t think you will drive up to a big chateau surrounded by tourist trappings……no

Arns Vineyard is by appointment only and it is hidden with no signs pointing the way…..

….. this is not a commercial, hyped up tourist trap….this is a vineyard

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John Arns is most delightful and his passion for winemaking is very evident…

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He lives in the middle of this paradise in a modest home…

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He took us into his winemaking building….and the fragrances were delightful…

French Oak and Fermenting Grapes…..

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John poured some of the magical potion into glasses for us….

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The Absolute Delight of visiting this Artist was an experience that goes beyond words…

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John has a bell in the front yard with parsley growing in the container and lovely artichokes and all sorts of vegetables and flowers surrounding the house

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This was an experience the Tin Man shall never forget…

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John Arns is one of those amazing people you meet, who are dedicated to their art and to the planet. 

This visit made us remember who we are and how we should be living.

Although, I will be honest, The Tin Man was a bit nervous in the forest as I remembered the time I was with Dorothy and those beastly apple trees!

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Look what made it back to the Tin Man’s Cellar……now the strength not to open it tonight!

If you are planning a trip to Napa, stop and see John….oh, you must make an appointment…

click here to do that…..CLICK

…..and be careful in that forest….I was sure I saw some of the trees looking at me!

Sawyer & Co. – Austin, Texas

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aaaaaaaaWell the Tin Man and his entourage were on the search for a new Foodie Venue to indulge in culinary delights..

We had heard of a new restaurant in Austin, Texas, that was getting rave reviews and much chatter….we ventured off

The food at Sawyer & Co. has been designed by Stephen Shallcross and consulting chef Happy Abdelbaki, longtime friends from Baton Rouge.

 The flavors and dishes of New Orleans  resonate in the menu choices: biscuits and pancakes with Steen’s Cane Syrup; jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice made with Manda’s sausage from Baton Rouge; and a po’boy bread from John Gendusa Bakery in New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood.

Breakfast offerings  include a rotating selection of omelets and eggs including a cheeseburger omelet and scrambled eggs with crawfish! – plus grits, Brabant potatoes, biscuits, pancakes, praline bacon, breakfast sandwiches, and tacos.

Lunch and dinner feature a daily blue plate special such as red beans and rice with cornbread, gumbo, jambalaya, roast beef with gravy and mashed potatoes – for the love of YUM

To see the MENU click HERE

The Venue is quite something in and of itself………….a 50s Diner that could be owned by the Jetsons themselves!

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We fell in love with the place immediately……

Check out the great booths and dining stools…

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We knew we were onto something the moment we walked in …check out the light fixtures and walls…

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and the clock……….so cool……

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We took a quick peek onto the Patio and it was just as incredible as the interior

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Astro Turf and such a fantastic environment…

To begin we had the most delightful Gumbo….rich dark and bursting with flavor….

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……..did you notice the pork belly…….you bet…..delicious…

then, of course, the seafood platter……..

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We finished with Key Lime Pie…..which we shared so no photo was taken because I had to fight for my bite!!!

If you are ever in Austin, Texas, check out this great food.  A bit of New Orleans Flavor with Texas Hospitality

By the time we left patrons were standing all around outside waiting for their turn at a table.

The Tin Man approves

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Downton Abbey Christmas Supper Club – Camp Lucy

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aaaaaaaaOh Glorious Day………it is time for the Downton Abbey Supper Club at Camp Lucy!

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Preparations had been ongoing for weeks for this most anticipated event…

Remember Camp Lucy from the last Supper Club – East Meets West?  CLICK HERE to see that post…

Every time we arrive at the gates of Camp Lucy we feel like Alice going through the Looking Glass into a magical world…

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We had to stop and admire the beautiful creek that runs through Camp Lucy as we crossed the bridge…

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We came to the top of the hill and found our way to the most luxurious cottages on the planet

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Beautiful – Simple – Elegant

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A quick nap and then up to dress for the evening…….

Husband wore is Black Mink for the evening

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Our friends stayed in a Cottage across the way and came over so that we might walk to the festivities together…

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Off to Ian’s Chapel we went.. the original chapel, pavilion, and events hall, along with surrounding gardens, stone terrace, arch, and great lawn are collectively known as Ian’s Chapel to honor Whit’s son who not only sparked this grand adventure, but also left this world far too soon on December 23, 2011….

Upon entering the Great Hall we are whisked into Downton Abbey…

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Elegance, Grace, Charm, Pure Delight….the room a buzz with excitement and conversation…

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What a grand adventure we have embarked upon…

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Our Hosts, Whit and Kim Hanks, so gracious ….

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After delightful cocktails and hors d’oeuvres around the massive fireplace…

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…….we are seated for dinner……be still my heart…

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As the song goes……….”these are a few of my favorite things”

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We begin with Fried Oyster with Celery and Bacon Cream and Caviar and Sorrel Coulis paired with Deviled Quail Egg and Pickled Red Onion

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Followed by……Butternut Sage Bisque with Cranberry Brie Croustade..

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Oh …………did I mention Wine……lovely, lovely Wine…

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The Room was filled with the clinking of glasses and joyous laughter…

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Oh my I was so busy with the wine that I forgot to photograph the salad!!  Watercress and Fennel with Stilton-Leek Tartine and Rhubarb Vinaigrette…

Now the Entrée ….Herb Tournedos of Beef and Truffle (yes I said truffle) Madeira Jus

Asparagus with Hollandaise and (get ready for it) Chive Popovers with Foie Gras Butter

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Oh swoon…….would that this would never end……but alas here comes dessert….

Floating Islands with Shaved Black Plum, Grand Marnier Anglaise and Salted Pistachio Brittle AND Sticky Toffee Pudding..

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……oh yes and did I mention wine….

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What is most delightful about these Supper Clubs at Camp Lucy is that the evening is never rushed and guests walk and mingle during dinner, fully enjoying the experience…..here is husband with our lovey hosts ….

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New friends were made, selfies were taken

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A most lovely and enjoyable Downton Abbey Evening at Camp Lucy

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If you are ever driving on 290 between Johnson City and Austin, Texas …..you MUST stop by Camp Lucy

A Most Magical Place

Just give them a “like” on Facebook and you won’t miss the fun!

CLICK HERE

 

Uncommon Journeys – Canadian Panorama – Across Canada by Train

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It began as dusk approached and gathered us into her arms….we walked to Union Station in Toronto to begin our train trek across Canada.

Excitement abounded……..we were all a dither with expectations of a wondrous trip…

Outside the station was a beautiful sculpture of the Olympic Torch..

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Passengers bound for distant points all converged together…

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The time drawing near for our departure…

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Uncommon Journeys (click here for information) conducts this two week fully guided tour across Canada, but once a year.  We had decided that we would give it a go.  Never had we been on a guided tour before and therefore our apprehension of someone owning our time was great. 

The itinerary for the trip included the following:

Day 1: Arrive Niagra Falls

We had a terrific stay at the Sheraton on the Falls (Canadian Side of Border)

You can read about that part of the Journey by clicking HERE

Day 2: Arrive Toronto

We had a grand time in Toronto the Westin Harbor Castle.  We spent our free day exploring this wonderful city which was highlighted by a welcome dinner at the acclaimed Canyon Creek Grill, a favorite haunt of the great and near-great in Toronto.  You can read about it by clicking HERE

Day 3: Depart Toronto

 The stunning train is a perfect 1950’s time capsule with the famed Vista-dome cars, a real old- fashioned dining car and first rate dining and service.

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The first night we joined for cocktails in the swank, end of train ‘Bullet Lounge’ before our welcome aboard dinner in the art deco diner as we roll west over the Canadian National Railway

We were given a private dining car to enjoy a most marvelous dinner..

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Day 4: En Route

We booked a Suite on the Train which gave us a king sized bed, two baths and two picture windows to enjoy the beautiful Canadian sights.

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It was amazing crossing the Canadian Prairies aboard the Canadian.

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Civilized amenities abound including hot showers, a special lounge just for First Class passengers and the best dining on any train in North America, deluxe train travel at its very best in a manner that has all but vanished. 

Each morning, the staff delivered Breakfast to our Suite…

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We had no desire to leave our suite and the cabin staff was so very attentive to our needs.

We enjoyed reading and before dinner cocktails in our suite, unencumbered by anyone…

 

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Day 5: En Route

We were overnight on train en-route as the Canadian sped across the great prairielands over the Canadian National Railway

The views were breathtaking…

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As part of booking the suite, the Canadians call it the Romance Package……and it was, we had Champagne and Flowers delivered to the suite each evening….

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Day 6: Overnight Jasper

After lunch the Canadian begins its ascent of the eastern slope of the Rockies, a not to be missed spectacle.

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This afternoon, we arrive in gorgeous Jasper and transfer to the Amethyst Lodge for our overnight stay in this magical and unspoiled mountain hamlet. All evening free to relax in this glorious setting

Wandering about the town were Elk…….what fun..

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We had a delightful time wandering about and visiting with locals…

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We dined at Papa George’s and had some of the finest French Cuisine…

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Day 7: Overnight Banff

We spent a stunning day of sightseeing as we traveled to Banff via the Columbia Icefields Parkway

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 We were thrilled to get a ride on the Glacier itself on a ‘Sno- coach’  before our arrival in Banff for our overnight stay

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Day 8: Overnight Banff

We enjoyed a full day in Banff beginning with the gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain

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followed by a visit to the Banff Hot Springs that have made this village famous.

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Later that night we had a special dinner at Le Beaujolais….

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Day 9: Overnight Banff

Another magical day with a sightseeing tour to Yoho National Park that takes in Bridal Veil Falls, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise with all afternoon at leisure to further enjoy Banff

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 A fun “selfie” with our great tour director, Patrick…

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Day 10: Overnight Banff

Our final day in Banff we planned to sleep in and to enjoy Banff at our own pace

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Day 11: Depart for Vancouver

We depart this morning after breakfast bound for Jasper with a special sightseeing tour north over the Icefields Parkway stopping at Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls en route….

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Later we board the westbound CANADIAN, featuring spectacular views of the Rockies from its many vista-dome cars, one of the great travel treats in the World.

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Drinks in the classic Observation Lounge are a highlight tonight followed by dinner in the diner as we roll west over the historic Canadian National Railway.

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Day 12: Overnight Vancouver

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The CANADIAN arrived in Vancouver after breakfast time…….we had the most marvelous Duck Confit Eggs Benedict on the Train…

 

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 We enjoyed a brief sightseeing tour of this beautiful city, Canada’s third largest.

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The balance of the day was leisure…. we found a delightful Japanese Restaurant, tucked away on a side street….

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We are anxious to get to sleep, because the next day we would meet Virginia of Bel’ Occhio’s Blog

Day 13: Spend the Day with Virginia

We spent a grand day with Virginia and the Good Husband…read about it CLICK HERE…

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Day 14: Journey Home

Alas, our incredible Canadian Adventure has come to an end….aboard the plane…….

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Home Sweet Home

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I must admit that as I close my eyes each night, the vision of our nightly Champagne comes to mind…

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Hope you enjoyed this trip across Beautiful Canada with us…

Remembering Memorial Day

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Originally posted on Tales and Travels of the Tinman:

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Memorial Day is a Federal holiday in the United States which occurs every year on the final Monday of May.   Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day.  It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in United States national cemetery.

A fact that you should probably know is that African Americans are the reason that Memorial Day even exists in the first place.

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According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, the event began on May 1, 1865.  A group of former slaves in Charleston, SC gave a proper burial to 257 Union soldiers who’d been put…

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Madrid – Spain

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While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  This reason is perhaps why we so love to visit this magnificent city.  We always stay in the old section near the center so that we can walk to all the interesting places.  We find Madrid to be so clean, friendly and fun.

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Madrid  landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Many contend that the original name of the city was “Ursaria” (“land of bears” in Latin), because of the many bears that were to be found in the nearby forests, which, together with the strawberry tree have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.  Whatever the derivation of her name, she remains a noble and beautiful city of the world.

When Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of León and Castile,

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 Madrid was conquered by Christians in 1085, and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown.

This becomes important to us because King Alfonso has added Augustine’s family (PENALVER) to the Royal Court just before and given them the Cross of St. John, symbol of the Templars as their crest…

….which is also the Flag of the Country of Malta….where the Knights of Templar took possession of the island, a gift of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.,

 including the Knight Penalver from Spain….

The Penalver Family has left their Castle in Penalver, Spain to join King Alfonso IV in re-establishing the Royal City of Madrid….

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Madrid has a beautiful street named after the Penalver’s first Count……

El Calle del Conde de Penalver…

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The perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee….

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 Christians replaced Muslims in the occupation of the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews settled in the suburbs…

The Calle de Conde de Penalver begins with this iconic street corner…

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On this trip we began and ended our visit to eight countries in Madrid.  From the photos you will see the difference in the weather during those visits.  The initial visit was cold and overcast and the end visit was sunny and fair, as you can see from these photos of the Plaza Mayor…

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We always stay in the Hotel Ibis Prado, which allows us to exit the lobby and find ourselves in the middle of the old city.

The hotel has a Wine Theme, which works perfectly for our tastes!  We always stay on the top floor and have a private balcony, wonderful for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening…

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The colors and art of the hotel are so vibrant and reflect this wonderful city….

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One evening we were sitting on the balcony and suddenly the city erupted in firework, music and shouts from every direction!  We were astounded by the noise.

We had to go out into the streets to see what had transpired………they were PACKED with thousands of happy people…

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Oh……..Madrid had just won the world cup in Soccer ……….how we get it!!  Of course we joined in the fun!

I suppose our favorite part of visiting Madrid is the food……..TAPAS……..TAPAS………TAPAS……..

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One of a fast, fun, favorites is el Museo de Jamon, located near the Plaza Mayor…..there are many other locations; however, this one is always the best…

Here is the inside…………a world of culinary delights…….

We had to order EVERYTHING…..

Then of course there is Meson el Jamon de Gran Via…….with the best croquettes EVER….

………….oh and then there was this place…….I have forgotten the name!

…..but the Serrano Jamon and Seafood Delights were amazing…..

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Perhaps some crepes at Cerveceria Santa Ana…..

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At the heart of the old city lies the Plaza Mayor…..a center of continuous activity and to be entered through these marvelous arches….

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Once inside the world changes………

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the street performers delight and entertain…

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Here are some more shots of this most beautiful city…..

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…..one of our most FANTASTIC dining experience of our lives took place just outside the Plaza Mayor…

El Rincon de Madrid…an unassuming small place with a typical Tapas Bar….the difference…at the end of the bar is a stair case leading down into a vaulted chamber that dates to Knights Templar…

europe2 895The staircase open into this most marvelous dining area with four small tables….the owner shows us around…europe2 891

We have the place to ourselves………..

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The food is wonderful……….but the experience is over-the-top!!

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The Paella from his Grandmother’s recipe……..he said he is still trying to perfect it to what she prepared….a true passion and love for food…

We so love visiting this most wonderful city and look forward to returning again soon….