Paying My Respects at the Cambridge American Cemetery

I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for those that serve in the military.  They risk their lives every day to protect our freedom.  My cousin, Stephanie, spent time in the Army and was deployed overseas twice.  So while I was in Cambridge, I thought it would be nice to visit the Cambridge American Cemetery to show my appreciation.

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If you remember back to your history classes, the UK was the main base for the Allied Troops fighting to liberate Western Europe during World War II.  The Cambridge American Cemetery is the only cemetery in England to honor the service and sacrifice of Americans who served overseas during World War II.

Visiting the Cambridge American Cemetery

The Cambridge American Cemetery is located a little bit outside of the city center on land that was donated by Cambridge University.  There is no admission charge, but you will either need to drive or get a taxi to get there.  There are four main points of interest in the cemetery – the burial ground, the mall with the Wall of the Missing, the visitor center, and the chapel.   (more…)

Learning About Wine the Rioja Way

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As I mentioned before, I do really like Spanish wine. It is very easy to drink and also affordable.  Since I was doing a food and wine trip for my birthday, it was only fitting that I spend my actual birthday in Rioja, the most famous wine region in Spain.  We only had one day and wanted to pack in as much as possible, so we decided to splurge and do a private tour with Basque Tours.  The plan was to visit four wineries for tastings, one for lunch, and then also see the medieval walled city of Laguardia.  

There is a nice view of the Rioja region from just outside the city walls of Laguardia.
There is a nice view of the Rioja region from just outside the city walls of Laguardia.

Andoni was our driver and tour guide.  He picked us up at 8:30am in San Sebastian and we headed to Rioja.  We made sure to eat breakfast before we left.  It took about two hours to drive to our first winery, so Andoni gave us an overview of the region and Spanish wine.  There are three sections of Rioja – Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa.  We would be visiting Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.  The town of Haro (in Rioja Alta), is really the wine capital of the region and we would be visiting several wineries there.   (more…)

A Day in Bilbao

Bilbao is known as the financial capital of Basque Country.  At first, I just planned to pass through on my way to San Sebastian.  But then I saw pictures of the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, and I was definitely intrigued.  We had a pretty full itinerary, but I felt like we needed to at least spend some time in Bilbao.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best weather while we were in Bilbao, so we couldn’t just walk around and explore the city.  We stayed at Hotel Miro, which is pretty much across the street from the Guggenheim.  We could see the museum from our hotel room window and the old town area was about a 15 minute walk.

We could see the Guggenheim from our room at Hotel Miro in Bilbao.
We could see the Guggenheim from our room at Hotel Miro.

When we arrived at Hotel Miro, we were greeted by Alfonso, one of the friendliest front desk employees I have ever met.  We learned about the courtesy lounge that the hotel has in the lobby.  It was stocked with tea/coffee and some snacks (including my favorite – gummies), that were all self serve.  We would definitely take advantage of this during our stay in Bilbao. (more…)

Cider House Rules

I really don’t like beer, but I do like hard cider.  So when I heard that cider was made in San Sebastian and you could have dinner at the cider house, I knew it would be something I would really like.  I had read that the cider in San Sebastian was a little different from what we are used to because it is not sweet.  I was intrigued so I decided to take a tour with Discover San Sebastian to go to the cider house.

Anisa and Russell outside the Petritegi Cider House.
Anisa and Russell outside the Petritegi Cider House.

Discover San Sebastian is a specialized tour company that Eskerne Falcon founded about a year ago.  She grew up in the area and is very passionate about Basque Country – especially the food.  She was part of the team that helped San Sebastian win the European Capital of Culture for 2016.  Her English is excellent because she went to college in the US (at SUNY Binghamton).  It was fascinating to hear her story about going to the US and not knowing a word of English and leaving 5 years later with a degree from a great university.  Eskerne is very knowledgable about the area and has experience working in restaurants and hotels in San Sebastian as well.  She offers several different tours that are mostly food or wine related.  She especially loves taking clients on her pintxos tours. (more…)

Koreatown: A Little Seoul in NYC

New York City is so diverse with so many different ethnic neighborhoods and one of my favorites is Koreatown. Many people just pass through Koreatown because it is so centrally located (mostly 32nd St. between 5th and 6th avenues), but I do think you should consider it a destination on its own. There is plenty to do and many places stay open very late.  At times, it may feel like you have been transported to Asia. So here are some of my recommendations for your visit to Koreatown:

Korean Food

There are so many different types of Korean food that I think everyone can find some type that they like. I really like kimchi (spicy cabbage) but I think it is one of those foods that you either love or hate. Korean BBQ is really fun with a group. I like the places where you get to cook the meat yourself right on your table, but many places will cook it for you. The one thing that you have to take into consideration if you cook yourself is that you may leave smelling like meat, but I think it is worth it! My favorite place to have Korean BBQ is Gaonnuri. It is more upscale than most other Korean BBQ restaurants. It is located on the 39th floor and the views are spectacular. Out of town visitors will be impressed. I would recommend making a reservation.

View from Gaonnuri, sorry about the reflections!
View from Gaonnuri, sorry about the reflections!

A more casual option is Mandoo Bar. While they specialize in dumplings (yum!), they also have other Korean noodle dishes and Bibimbop. Bibimbop is a rice dish served in a hot stone bowl with vegetables and meat. The food here is really good and it is very affordable. (more…)

A Glimpse of Camino De Santiago

I don’t get to go hiking as often as I would like, so when I saw pictures of the San Sebastian coastline and found a half day hiking tour with San Sebastian Urban Adventure, I knew I had to do it.  I love finding fun ways to fit in exercise while on vacation and “Hiking the St. James Way” was advertised as moderate intensity.   The St. James Way is more popularly referred to as Camino De Santiago, which is a famous pilgrimage route, but I didn’t real know much about it before we went.  The night before our hike it rained and there was rain in the forecast, so I was worried the hike would be cancelled.  We really got lucky and had such a great time.

Just an example of the scenery along the St. James Way....
Just an example of the scenery along the St. James Way….
Love this old viaduct that we saw while hiking the St. James Way
Love this old viaduct that we saw during our hike.

We met our guide Maria at 8:30 am under the clock tower at the Mariaren Bihotza Church, which was about a 25 minute walk from our hotel. There was a gas station across the street so we picked up some bottled water.   Right away we hit it off with our guide, she was so friendly and energetic, I knew we were going to have fun.  It was a nice small group for the tour, just myself and Russell and a couple from Melbourne, Australia – Aliesha and Adam.   (more…)

First Impressions of San Sebastian

I hadn’t really thought about visiting San Sebastian, Spain, until I went to the NY Times Travel Show.  If you remember in wasn’t even on my 2016 Travel Wish List, but San Sebastian has the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world and it is the European Capital of Culture for 2016.  So I thought it would be nice to do a food and wine (I love Spanish wine!) trip for my birthday.  After my trip, I now know San Sebastian has lots more to offer than just food and wine.

San Sebastian is a beautiful city!
San Sebastian is a beautiful city!

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The Centurion Lounge – Making the Best of a Long Layover

After our failed attempt to make it back to Houston for New Year’s Eve, we ended up with a four hour layover in Dallas on New Year’s Day.  We originally were flying United Airlines, but they switched us to an American flight to get us home and so instead of a direct flight, we had a long layover in Dallas (DFW).  When I think of fun things to do on New Year’s, hanging out at an airport doesn’t exactly top my list, but this was already a trip where we were turning lemons into lemonade, so we were going to keep on making lemonade (with a little vodka in it!).   I usually like to sit back, relax, watch the big college football games, and enjoy a few glasses of bubbly on New Year’s Day, so I knew that I needed to find a place in the airport to relax, and luckily Centurion Lounge came to mind. (more…)

Montserrat: Mountain, Monastery, and Wine

The views from Montserrat are worth the trip alone, but there is so much more!
The views from Montserrat are worth the trip alone, but there is so much more!

It was my first trip to Barcelona and we only had two days.  There was so much I wanted to see.  I love mountains and like to visit them when I can.  I really wanted to visit Montserrat (which means serrated mountain in Catalan) and also do some wine tasting so the English language tour I found with Castlexperience was perfect.  It was a six hour tour that combined both. (more…)

Punting in Cambridge, England – And I am not Talking about Football

Before my visit to Cambridge, England, punting meant kicking the ball to the other team in American football.  Well, here there is a totally different type of punting.  It involves a canoe-like boat that you maneuver around using a long pole.  We decided to give punting in Cambridge a go, and it turned out to be an adventure.

Punting on the Cam river by an ivy covered building
Punting on the Cam river by an ivy covered building

Cambridge is about an hour away from London Liverpool Station by train, which is probably the best way to get there as parking can be an issue on a busy day.  We drove and found parking at the Grafton Center, which is a nice mall that also has a movie theater.  We walked through the mall and found our way to the river.  The town has so much charm, I really enjoyed seeing all the traditional English homes and buildings. (more…)

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