Sonya, TravelPlusWine’s Globetrotting Contributor, is currently jet setting around the globe. Her latest stop? The Taj Mahal in Agra, India. This gorgeous monument was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his third (and favorite) wife, who died giving birth to their 14th child. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in 1648.
This jewel of Muslim art in India is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the Taj Mahal is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture.
American novelist Bayard Taylor once said, “Did you ever build a castle in the Air? Here is one, brought down to earth and fixed for the wonder of ages.”
The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has included Spain’s “La Rioja and Rioja Alavesa Vine and Wine Cultural Landscape” in the list of candidates to be declared part of their World Heritage List. This great honor for the region reflects the growth and importance that the Rioja wine has rapidly acquired through the years.
The power of high quality wine has gone further than expected. Not only has it attracted the attention and respect of the international wine community to Spain, but it has inspired
Gran Reserva (Vintage) one of Spain’s best quality and most successful telenovelas. As if that weren’t enough, it has even broken geographical and often tense political boundaries between two Spanish provinces: La Rioja and the Basque Country where the wine is jointly produced. La Rioja wine has given a common identity to this Spanish region as they share the success of their wine.
The coexistence of the Atlantic and Mediterranean climate is what makes it possible to develop one of the world’s tastiest wines that also offers better guarantees regarding the quality and authenticity of their product as they are one of the few regions that require the wine to be bottled at the source for all of its production.
The production of wine from La Rioja is divided into three areas:
- La Rioja Alavesa: South of the province of √Ålava, in the left bank of the Ebro River, it is responsible for 20% of the total wine production. The red wines are aromatic, balanced, tasty, intense and vivid in color, very fruity, medium-grade and medium acidity.
- La Rioja Alta: Northwestern region of La Rioja, their vineyards make up 42% of the production. The wines are fresh and aromatic, a less intense and less vivid color, it is light tasting, intermediate grade and medium to high acidity.
- La Rioja Baja: Northeast of La Rioja and southwest of Navarra, on both banks of the Ebro River. The produce 38% of the wines. Their red wines are of a very deep color, low aromatic, high grade, with a wide body and low acidity.
La Rioja region is one of the greatest charms of Spain with its landscape of large vineyards and historic wineries. If declared a World Heritage Site it would certainly benefit from increased tourism in the region and, not only that, but also to promote its wonderful history and current wine production to better establish the Rioja brand and surely increase its sales worldwide.
Now that Diego has adjusted to life in the backseat of the car, it means we can venture a bit further than we’ve been able to in the past few months. As world travelers, I can’t even begin to describe our relief. So, when San Francisco popped up as our next travel adventure, we traded in airport security lines for a leisurely drive along Highway 1.
We stopped to stretch our legs, grab some coffee, and feed the baby in Arroyo Grande, California. We found this beautiful river and took a nice evening stroll.
Family Car Trip Travel Tip: When planning a road trip, plan to stop often and be conservative with your estimated time of arrival. We quickly realized Diego needed a break about every 2-3 hours, so we’d plan on exploring a new town. Turns out, we actually saw more traveling with the baby because it forced us to slow down and take the time to explore. Without Diego, we never would have taken this beautiful walk in Arroyo Grande.
Our destination for the night was the rustic luxury of the Fogcatcher Inn in Cambria. Located on the ocean with gorgeous views, it’s the perfect place for romance or a fun stopover with the family. Tip: Each room has a fireplace! We arrived just in time for a sunset walk along the boardwalk. Our only regret is not arriving early enough to walk around downtown in daylight.
Oceanviews at the Fogcatcher Inn, Cambria
Starving after a long drive, the wonderful lady at the front desk helped us pick the perfect place for dinner – we headed to Robin’s Restaurant for “handcrafted global cuisine.” The vegetarian options seemed endless and Ricardo couldn’t decide between Slipper Lobster Tail Enchiladas or the Tandoori Chicken. Although we wanted to linger, our waitress easily read the situation (ahem, baby in tow very late in the evening after a long drive) and got us in and out of the restaurant fairly quickly. We were so grateful.
We spent a leisurely morning enjoying the full breakfast that came with our room at the Fogcatcher Inn and then took a stroll along the beach boardwalk. Tip: Bring bug spray. Sad we couldn’t stay another night, we grabbed a last minute tea from the lobby (free!) and headed towards Big Sur.
Tip: Always overestimate the time you think you need driving through Big Sur. You will be stopping every couple of miles to take pictures. It’s also the perfect place to spend a few hours hiking.
Of course, no trip through Big Sur would be complete without the obligatory stop at Nepenthe Restaurant to soak up the sunshine and ocean view. This was our second time eating lunch here and, once again, we found the food to be ‘just okay’ and way overpriced. If you stop to eat here, remember you are paying for the spectacular view, not the food. Instead, we’d highly recommend stopping here for a leisurely beer or glass of wine on the back deck. Tip: parking can be difficult if you arrive at peak times.
The view from Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur
Looking for a taste of African luxury? The Singita Serengeti House in Tanzania is booked on an exclusive-use basis includes all staff, a private vehicle and a safari guide. Besides guided game drives in an open-sided 4×4 vehicle, guests can also do guided walks and horseback safaris.
The house accommodates eight people in two suites in the main house and two further guest suites on either side of the main house, connected by pathways from a central pool deck with an 82 foot rim-flow lap pool. There is also a private tennis court, mountain biking and archery.
Tough life, right?
Well, it gets better…
The private kitchen and resident chef caters exclusively to the needs of the party staying in the house, taking into consideration everything from individual food allergies to favorite cooking styles and flavors. Delicious food and an excellent wine cellar always forms an integral part of the Singita experience, and meals are carefully planned and orchestrated from candle-lit gourmet dinners to informal picnics in the bush.
Sign me up!
How about a quick getaway with a purpose? Are you ready for endless beaches, plentiful sunshine, and… movies? That’s right. Movies. Los Cabos is hosting the first annual Baja International Film Festival on November 14-17. Stay at your favorite resort (we’re always up for a stay at Las Ventanas!) and relax poolside in the morning. Then, spend the evenings living it up like a celebrity and previewing films next to your favorite stars! Say hello to Ed Norton.
Why will the Baja International Film Festival become an important player in the film and travel world? It will serve as a bridge between the Mexican and U.S. film communities by encouraging and facilitating communication and collaboration between them. As a bonus, it will further solidify Los Cabos as the top destination for Hollywood celebrities and the world’s cultural elite.
You know you want to be there.
Recently, the folks at the Mexican Tourism Board hosted a launch party with the Baja International Film Festival at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Here’s a glimpse:
And the multi-talented Ricardo from TravelPlusWine chatting about Mexico and movies – his 2 passions.
November’s film fest promises great films and fun parties!
Interested in attending the Baja International Film Festival? Check out the festival website for more information on the films and travel.