Our Lakeside Stay at a Villa in Lezzeno, at Lake Como, Italy

Our Lakeside Stay at a Villa in Lezzeno, at Lake Como, Italy

If the Amalfi Coast is shimmering pastels and Siena is rich, brushstrokes in oils, then Lake Como is bathed in watercolors mingling shadows with light. The views of mountain, sky and water are made chameleon by the microclimates in the Lombardy region of the Italian Alps. From sunny and brilliant to dark and stormy, punctuated with raindrops, no wonder this moody vista is considered magical to those who visit.

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A Summer Getaway to Siena, Italy

A Summer Getaway to Siena, Italy

Scott and I spent a day in Siena, back in 2003, punctuated by wrong turns, a stint mistakenly driving in the no-vehicle zone and an epic heat wave. When we finally settled in and enjoyed the charms of an al fresco dinner, we vowed to return to this hilltop city someday. Siena was Scott’s top choice as a destination for our summer in Italy, so this was our time to revisit.

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Boating to the Dreamy Isle of Capri

Boating to the Dreamy Isle of Capri

I have daydreamed of Capri. Cerulean blue waters, pastel buildings, brilliant hues of bougainvillea and windswept trees gracing the terraced landscape.  The lemon-scent mingling with fragrant notes of wild rose and sea air. I could feel the gentle waves of the bay lapping against the boat.  I am mesmerized.

You will be greeted with this picturesque scene at Marina Grande when you arrive by boat.

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Getaway to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Getaway to Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Positano possesses a kind of magic that is difficult to put into words. It’s a kaleidoscope of shimmering light, pastel hues, vibrant bougainvillea, and the winding, terraced streets with pastel villas clinging to the mountainside. Boldly colored umbrellas bounce off the chameleon blue hues of the sea. At sunset, a rosy glow falls over the glassy sea and twinkling lights spark the views. Day or night, Positano is a place of pure magic.

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Getaway to Dry Creek Valley Wine Country, California

Getaway to Dry Creek Valley Wine Country, California

Scott and I tried something new for the updated version of our winter holiday. Though we were unable to fly to Riviera Maya due to his back issues, we decided a short road trip would be just the right idea. Wine country is our favorite Northern California getaway and we thought it would be fun to stay in a vacation rental rather than a hotel this trip. With above average temps and sunny skies we knew we were in for a sunny escape to wine country. The vibrant yellow mustard, brilliant blue skies and puffy white clouds were dazzling.

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Wine Country Weekend - Three Day Getaway!

Wine Country Weekend

Fall is a brilliant time of year to escape to Northern California wine country. The leaves are luminescent with hues of autumn; the sky transforms into a deeper shade of blue. Scott and I recently took advantage of some time off to make our annual fall trip to wine country. Our first stop was for lunch on the patio at Solbar on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. The food is always delicious, service is incredibly friendly and the location is unbeatable.

wine-country-getaway
wine-country-getaway
wine-country-weekend-stylemindchiclife
wine-country-weekend-stylemindchiclife

Our next stop was almost next door at Clos Pegase winery in Calistoga. I've always appreciated the attention to detail with stonework and art collections at Clos Pegase. The winery is especially picturesque in the fall season.

wine-country-weekend-clos-pegase-winery
wine-country-weekend-clos-pegase-winery
wine-country-getaway-clos-pegase
wine-country-getaway-clos-pegase

A room with a view at Clos Pegase.

wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape

By this time we were ready to head to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa to check in for our getaway.  Scott had booked us a couple of nights on Hyatt points he discovered he had.

wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape

It's always nice to receive a special welcome ...

and an upgrade to an executive suite.

wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

Our suite was extremely spacious, well-appointed and comfortable with luxurious touches.

wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-weekend-a-sunny-escape

An hour or so to relax and we were off to dinner at Willi's Wine Bar, which has rave reviews from the SF Chronicle, as well as other reviewers. We used the Uber app, which is an amazing way to get a quick ride--to and from--your destination safely. Download it and use it during your next night out if you haven't already discovered it.

wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

The next morning we discovered the quintessential cafe breakfast at Dierk's Parkside Cafe'. Not to brag but I have never seen a mimosa this big! The staff was friendly and fun at this neighborhood gem in Santa Rosa.  #yummy

wine-country-weekend-j-winery
wine-country-weekend-j-winery

Next we were up for some natural beauty.

A stop at the beautiful J Vineyards and Winery is always a treat.

wine-country-weekend-j-winery
wine-country-weekend-j-winery

Desmond shared some fantastic history and took great care of us at J Vineyards & Winery.

wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

We were hungry by the time we reached Healdsburg, one of our wine country favorite spots, and couldn't resist Bravas Bar de Tapas. The small plates with Spanish flair and terrace dining are so enjoyable. The dish pictured is of caramelized onions over goat cheese bruschetta with drizzles of balsamic--simple and delicious!

wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery
wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery

Our friends recommended Wilson Winery on Dry Creek Road so we meandered to this beautiful spot. We were blown away by the vineyard views from the terrace, as well as the bold, red zinfandels we tasted. Scott couldn't resist joining the wine club at Wilson Winery so we will definitely be returning.

wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery
wine-country-getaway-wilson-winery
wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend
wine-country-weekend

Sips....

wine-country-getaway-stylemindchiclife
wine-country-getaway-stylemindchiclife

Rose' sunset over wine country.

wine-country-getaway-a-sunny-escape
wine-country-getaway-a-sunny-escape

Back at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek, a cozy fire-pit was waiting for us.

#nightnight

The next morning, we discovered the shops and restaurants at Railroad Square, within walking distance to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek. The Omelette Express serves up a decadent and filling breakfast.

wine-country-getaway
wine-country-getaway

This trip was more of a meandering through a larger area of wine country than some of our previous trips. Our final stop was in Sebastopol where we discovered the delightful K & L Bistro for lunch. The service, decor and ambiance created the perfect foodie gem. Each town in wine country possesses a unique charm.

wine-country-weekend-heather-lindstrom
wine-country-weekend-heather-lindstrom

We lucked out with the weather in November. It was cool enough for booties and a cashmere poncho but warm enough for walking through vineyards and dining on the patio in comfort.

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Curated Hotel: The chic H-10 Port vell in Barcelona

Curated Hotel: The chic H-10 Port vell in Barcelona

Our getaway to Barcelona was the last stop on our three-week vacation to Portugal and Spain. This was our second time visiting Barcelona, and though our time was short, Scott and I were looking forward to getting better acquainted with this culturally vibrant, sexy city.

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Getaway to Sonoma Valley Wine Country

In late October Scott and I stole away to Sonoma Valley wine country for the weekend. We've been keeping ultra busy with our careers, so a relaxing fall getaway was much anticipated. It's 'crush' season in wine country around this time and you can smell the rich, earthy, tangy scent in the air. Those grapes are giving their all for the cause and we appreciate them.

For this stay we choose a sentimental favorite from one of our early visits to Sonoma, Inn at Sonoma. The Inn is affiliated with our favorite Zen Suites at Gaige House in Glen Ellen. Following our three-hour drive we checked in and were reminded of the cozy charm and homey touches, like the freshly baked cookies stocked in the copper cookie jar.

A fireplace in our suite, and a glass of wine, got us immediately in the mood for relaxation. We had a late evening reservation at Harvest Moon Cafe, on the Sonoma Square, which was an easy walk from our hotel.

In seeking pure relaxation I only had my iPhone but snapped a couple of ambient shots from the heated patio. The dishes were fresh with fall harvest cuisine and the service was friendly. Harvest Moon Cafe had a local gem feel to it and we were pleased with our choice for the evening.

The next morning, following a free, hot breakfast at Inn at Sonoma, we headed out for a stroll around the square. The sun popped out after a night of heavy rain, and the vibrant colors of fall were everywhere.

We had plans to meet friends, Dean and Kathryn, so we messaged them to meet us for a light bite at El Dorado Kitchen, which I have written about in a previous post here. We especially enjoy the patio dining at this spot on a sunny day.

Sonoma Valley in crush
Sonoma Valley in crush

We watched the weather reports and ended up cancelling a garden tour my husband had booked early in the week. Instead, in a lucky roll of the dice, Scott ended up making a reservation at the Mayo Family Reserve Room in Kenwood for the 'ultimate'  seven-course food and wine pairing.

Scott's Thoughts:

"Having enjoyed previous tastings at the Mayo Family Winery tasting room in Glen Ellen, we decided it was time to check out the Mayo Reserve Room food and wine pairing in Kenwood. This was one of our first more extravagant tasting experiences, as we usually look for the high quality, low fee tasting rooms, and often share a taste.  (Sharing allows us to safely visit more wineries.)  Our experience featured a blend of service from our very friendly pouring concierge and Chef Clayton Lewis.  While we watched the rain outside, we were served seven wine tastes with seven delectable bites designed to bring out the highlights of each wine.  With each pairing, Chef Lewis came to the table to describe the flavors to watch for as we tasted wine, then food, then wine. The Roussanne with a bacon-flavored madeleine was my favorite taste—a very mild yet interesting white with a finish that completely changed with this pairing (think a hint of bacon in the finish)!  I could see it paired with morning bacon, spicy sausage gravy, or a BLT for a special brunch.  We ended with a Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer and a savory desert, the spices of which beautifully countered the sweetness of the wine.  I’ve never been a fan of the Gewurtz, but this was a completely intriguing taste!  In the end, we took several bottles home, my favorite of which is their Estate Pinot Noir, a big, full red with hints of spice and dark fruit.  The experience was amazing—friendly, educational, a journey of visual and flavor sensations.  Try it, and be inspired to step outside your usual wine routine and create your own taste pairing!"

"THE SINGLE BEST DEAL IN WINE COUNTRY... WHAT AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE" — Wall Street Journal

The food and wine pairing at Mayo was a unique culinary and viticulture experience, as well as an excellent value, at just $35.00 per person. The experience lasted 90 minutes and the staff couldn't have been warmer or more approachable. We highly recommend Mayo and you can book online on Open Table. Take a look at the website here. Let the rain fall!

What happened next, for our evening meal, was one of those memorable occasions that deserves it's own post. Suffice it to say, our evening at Olive & Vine was extraordinary and I look forward to sharing part deux of our trip in my next post.

Sunday was a 'lounging with the paper and hot mugs of steaming coffee' kind of morning. We enjoyed another filling breakfast on the patio, at Inn at Sonoma, always a nice touch. Somebody got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, again.

Williams-Sonoma-Outdoor-Living-Sonoma.jpg

We discovered that Williams-Sonoma has reopened at the original location for the brand. Chuck Williams opened the first Williams-Sonoma here in 1956. The new shop has been designed to match the original space. They have also created a 'rustic luxe' home collection and outdoor living space. For all of us home decor types, it's definitely worth a visit. It's picture perfect.

Williams-Sonoma is back in Sonoma!

I wanted just about everything...

and I think you will too.

I hope you've enjoyed this getaway to Sonoma Valley wine country.

For more on my travels to my old stomping grounds:

Getaway Napa Valley

Getaway to Wine Country in Healdsburg

Napa Valley Joie de Vivre

Wine Country Favorites

 

 

Sunny Getaway to San Sebastian, Spain

Sunny Getaway to San Sebastian, Spain

In direct contrast to the colorful alleys and sun drenched landscapes of southern Spain is the green, Tyrolean flavor of Basque Country of Northern Spain. Scott and I arrived in Bilbao by plane from Sevilla, and were amazed at the verdant green of the hills.  We rented a car and headed to San Sebastian, by the sea. I vacillated on whether to select a hotel more on the outskirts of town, or beach side, on the promenade. In the end we were delighted with our choice of the Hotel Niza, and it’s perfect location, right above the promenade, La Concha Beach and the sea.

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Getaway to Seville, Spain

In my Summer Travel Series we've visited Lisbon, the sunny beaches of Algarve and our next stop is the charming Seville, aka Sevilla, Spain. Scott and I booked a bus transport for this leg of our trip and found it to be a convenient way to travel the 4 hours east from Portugal to Spain.

In Seville we caught a taxi, and experienced an ultra wild ride, through the extremely narrow streets of the city center. I'm sure we could have reached out and touched the buildings on either side if we had only dared open the windows.

From the moment we entered the Fontecruz Sevilla we knew we had made the perfect choice with this sleek, modern hotel in the midst of Bario Santa Cruz. It's located within a couple of winding blocks to cafe-lined streets, the Sevilla Cathedral, the Alcazar, the Plaza de Espana, and the river front. From this 'wagon wheel' of a city center we could pick a direction, head down a tiny street to explore, and it would take us to a new hidden gem.

Along with the excellent location, I liked the vibe of the Fontecruz Sevilla. Our suite was sleek, well-appointed and spacious. The common spaces, were luxurious and comfortable. There is even an outdoor pool for a dip on hot summer days.

When I was making reservations for the trip the photos of this hotel had me at "roof-top terrace overlooking the city". The Fontecruz Sevilla is the perfect perch for capturing a brilliant sunset from the rooftop lounge.

We walked by this friendly fellow (with cap (center) who encouraged us to see the city, escorted by himself and his steed, in this colorful carriage. We politely declined, but a minute later changed our minds. Why not? We found the carriage to be a charming way to see the sights in Sevilla. We recommend a carriage ride in the mid-to-late morning, during the summer months, before the heat sets in.

 I captured a moment during our carriage ride on this video: 

The Seville Cathedral, also called 'Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See', is the third largest church in the world and adorns the ancient city center of Seville like an ornate stone wedding cake. We viewed the burial site of Christopher Columbus and the scope of that slice of history is awe-inspiring. This gothic cathedral is definitely worth a visit and we appreciated it's ability to transport us to another place in time, even for just an hour, on a sunny Spanish afternoon.

One a completely different cultural note, one of our favorite aspects of travel is meeting fellow travelers and locals along our path. Just across the cobbled street from our hotel we spotted 'Abbatia', an authentic tapas restaurant. We thought it would be an excellent first stop for our evening out. Little did we know that the warm, friendly owners, Pedro and Blanco, and their chef Andres, would capture our hearts. Our evening started with tasty tapas, lovely wines and lively conversation. We eventually made our way out on the town to discover more of Sevilla. As we ventured back to our hotel, late at night, our new friends waved us back in for a nightcap, an after-hours flamenco show/dance lesson and the hilarity ensued. We certainly felt the 3:30 am bedtime the next morning, but our adventure was more than worth it! In travel there are those memorable times, when a language barrier simply does not exist, and this was one of them. Thank you to our new friends in Sevilla!

A few more views of Sevilla (the street view taken from our tiny balcony).

We fell in love with the charms of Sevilla. Scott and I agreed that three days was not enough and next time we will plan to stay longer. Our plane reservation was already scheduled so we reluctantly boarded the plane to Bilbao, Spain. Join me on the next leg of our 'Summer Travel to Portugal and Spain' series for a glimpse of the sparkling seaside city of San Sebastián.

 

Lisbon Getaway

Lisbon Getaway

Our summer travel to Portugal and Spain had been in the works for over a year, so when we touched down in Lisbon, after 30 hours of travel, Scott and I were beyond excited. Portugal has always been on our bucket list. We were enamored with visions of colorful tile roofs, pastel buildings, old school trams, and vibrant bougainvillea brightening the neighborhoods, all enhanced by city and sea views.

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