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Well that was quite the year. . .

Personally and professionally, 2017 was a pretty good year for us, and we traveled quite a bit. I started blogging for Sonesta Hotels, which means I get to travel to many of their hotels to gather content and experience everything for myself.

More than ever, this year, I sought the beach and wide open spaces to get away a lot of the time. The political situation in the US made that true even last winter, when we went on many day trips to World’s End in Hingham and to Chatham on Cape Cod.

Aquinnah

Our first overnight trip of the year, however, was to Martha’s Vineyard in February, and if you love beach walks and coziness, I would recommend visiting in winter for a quiet getaway.

March brought the opportunity for my husband to go to an event in San Francisco, one that that fell a week before with an event I had for work there, so I went and explored San Francisco, including a whole day in Golden Gate Park,  before we headed to Mendocino and Sonoma for a blissful, warm, wine getaway.

Golden Gate Park

Heritage House Resort Little River California

The Mendocino Coast is pure magic.

A few weeks later, we experienced our beloved Luquillo, Puerto Rico again for a break from wintry weather

Great food and beach time was what it was all about. Puerto Rico is incredible, and I definitely consider Luquillo to be one of my favorite places in the world.

poke bowl

Luquillo Beach

We were heartbroken to see the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico and the the severely poor response to it from the US government; they desperately need help still, months later. We likely won’t get to Puerto Rico this year but have been sending aid from Boston with the help of local groups.

April brought us up to Camden, Maine for a weekend with friends at the beautiful, waterfront 16 Bay View. Camden is a beautiful town and one of my New England favorites. The hotel is outstanding, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Drappier Champagne

In June I celebrated 8 years of blogging and boat season, two exciting things in the life of a seafaring travel blogger!

I also celebrated the launch of patio season and kicked off blogging at Royal Sonesta Boston’s ArtBar patio, a must-visit in Boston.

Boston skyline

Summer travel was incredibly busy, as we traveled to Ireland and then Italy for my sister-in-law’s wedding weekend.

Aer Lingus

villa in Italy

We spent a week in glorious sunshine at a villa in Umbria, swimming, eating, and wine tasting in nearby Tuscany.

I also visited Philadelphia to stay at Sonesta Philly and to discover the amazing food and art that Philadelphia has to offer. I will definitely be back!

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September brought me back to California for a friends trip to Sonoma County, only one of my favorite places in the world. The devastating wildfires happened shortly after our visit, and I still have so much to blog about to share my love for this part of the world with everyone.

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Immediately after coming back from Sonoma, I went to Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore, where I got to spend some time exploring Baltimore and enjoying this grand waterfront hotel.

Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore A fall staycation to Sonesta ES Suites Andover allowed us to check out the extended stay side of Sonesta, and we loved it. We also loved dining in Andover, hiking its trails, and catching up with friends nearby.

In November I ate my way through Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta and discovered the southern charm of downtown Duluth Georgia when I visited for the launch of Sonesta’s dual-brand hotel. . . you can now have two different hotel experiences under one roof!

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In November we also finally got to New Orleans where we stayed at the magnificent Royal Sonesta New Orleans and kicked off the holiday season with their Lighting of the Balconies.

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Royal Sonesta New Orleans is simply incredible, and the holiday spirit and decor made it even more magical.

The food at all of the hotel’s restaurants is also absolutely incredible. I have so many more blog posts to share!

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I got to take plenty of trips to New Jersey over the course of the year to see my family, as well as my annual visit to Cape Cod with friends and a trip into New York City for a work event. It was a full year of many JetBlue flights, and I am looking forward to more adventures in 2018!

Happy travels to all of you!

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Tags: Baltimore, California, Ireland, Italy, Martha's Vineyard, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Travel, travel blog

Our trip to New Orleans to stay (and eat!) at Royal Sonesta New Orleans was easily one of the travel highlights of 2017. We got to experience the magical Lighting of the Balconies to kick off the holiday season, and I have so much more food and fun to share on the blog in the coming weeks.

One of the absolute highlights of our visit was an evening at The Jazz Playhouse, located right at Royal Sonesta, making dinner at Restaurant R’evolution or Desire Oyster Bar, followed by a show, the perfect way to spend a New Orleans night.

We were spoiled with stage-side seats, but it looked like there wasn’t a bad seat in the room, and the acoustics were fantastic. The cocktails at The Jazz Playhouse, like everywhere else at the hotel, were amazing.

The Jazz Playhouse

We got lucky as the famous Brass-A-Holics were playing while we were in New Orleans, and they were incredible. We can’t stop talking about them, looking for show dates, and watching videos on YouTube.

A bit about the Brass-A-Holics

Since 2010, the Brass-a-Holics have been taking their unique sound around the world. Steeped in the deep musical culture of New Orleans, the band brings a heavy dose of go-go funk to the New Orleans brass sound. In a blending of musical cultures stemming from cities separated by more than a thousand miles, a Brass-a-Holics live show takes the New Orleans brass band culture and infuses it with the electricity of Washington D.C.’s go-go. The resulting sound is both captivating and unique. The band consists of core New Orleans brass elements- trumpet, trombone, saxophone- and adds a full drum set, percussion, keyboard, bass and electric guitar, giving the band limitless options to explore new sonic territory. Whether performing their original music or using the framework of hit pop songs as springboards for fiery improvisations, there is something in the set to appeal to every music fan. Once the music starts, the demographics blend and a brand new experience is created- one that leaves one-of-a-kind memories that live on long after the last note.

New Orleans music

By the end of the night, everyone in the room was dancing to their music, a mix of original tunes and covers of popular songs that had everyone singing along. We didn’t want the night to end, but when it did, we got to go back up to our cozy room right upstairs, a huge perk to having the club in our hotel!

You can check out a couple of my videos on my YouTube Channel. . . which I definitely need to be more active on!

New Orleans is known for its great music and food, and we found both at Royal Sonesta New Orleans, gravitating back to the hotel even when meals weren’t planned for us. This Creole Trio at Desire Oyster Bar had a bit of everything, including gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya, and smoked sausage. Washed down with a French 75 and surrounded by warm and friendly service (and those NOLA accents!), this was one of my best meals of 2017. We also devoured breakfast at Desire on our last day. I can vouch for the biscuits and gravy. . . and another French 75, which became another New Orleans go-to.

Desire Oyster

While New Orleans has a ton to offer all over the city, it was also nice to have so much of our trip centered around our hotel, giving us the option to stay in or venture out. It felt like an oasis in the middle of the busy city, and we absolutely loved everything about it!

Experience Mardi Gras from a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street at Royal Sonesta New Orleans.

Royal Sonesta New Orleans hosted our evening at The Jazz Playhouse and breakfast at Desire Oyster Bar. As mentioned above, we loved the food at Royal Sonesta and opted to come back a few times on our own for drinks and meals.

All opinions are my own.

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Tags: cocktails, Food, hotels, music, New Orleans, Travel, travel blog

For past Sonoma and Napa posts and a collection of other travel blog posts, visit my Travel page.

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My September getaway to Sonoma County feels like it was a million years ago. With all of the other travel I have been doing, I’ve been away just about every two weeks, and in between life and the flu have gotten in the way. I am finally sitting down to share a whirlwind recap of the wineries we visited on this trip. We missed a few favorites but discovered some great new-to-me spots, and with another Sonoma visit on the horizon for May, I am in a good place for planning. We also got to eat at some favorite Sonoma County restaurants while having to save others for the next trip. The one lesson we have learned over many trips to wine country is to not cram everything in. It’s easy to want to eat and taste and see everything, but it’s a lot more enjoyable if you pace yourself.

Sonoma County Sunset

This time around I was visiting Sonoma County with a group of friends, and we had a house in Santa Rosa as our home base. On our first night, we enjoyed a picnic spread, live music, beautiful wine, and an epic sunset at Paradise Ridge Winery.

Paradise Ridge Winery

It is hard to believe, but just weeks later, this very special place burned down during the wildfires that swept through the area. Paradise Ridge plans to rebuild, and I know that their many friends and fans will be there at the door when it reopens for business.

Paradise Ridge Winery

We tried to have a few wine tasting appointments on the calendar and to build the days around that. The constants throughout were blue skies and perfect sunshine. On my first full day, we kicked off our wine adventures at the gorgeous Iron Horse Vineyards, where the views are as stunning as the bubbles in your glass.

iron horse sonoma county

The outdoor tasting room at Iron Horse is as perfect as it gets, rustic, open air (but with heaters!) and complete access to the intense beauty that surrounds it. All of the sparkling wines we tasted were insanely good, but a few bottles of the Russian Cuvee made it into the shipment back to Boston for me!

Iron Horse Vineyards

Our next stop, Red Car Winery, was another I had visited before, and a favorite producer of Pinot Noir and their large format rosé of Pinot Noir. A living-room-like setting is a comfy spot for tasting year round, and our club membership means that we will definitely be back on our May visit.

red car wine

Lunchtime and grumbling stomachs brought us to The Barlow for food (more on that in a future post) and more wine, naturally. 

The Barlow

Wind Gap Wines makes some of my all time favorite wines, so it was again a must-visit on this trip. Their Chenin Blanc and Trousseau Gris are always my top choices, and the sun streaming in the open windows of the tasting room plus the dog there on my last visit make it one of my favorite places to while away an afternoon on vacation.

Wind Gap Wine

We ended that day with an incredible dinner at Bird & the Bottle, which I highly recommend.

Our Friday in Sonoma County was dedicated to Healdsburg, which we traveled to in an Uber and spent the day walking and eating and drinking around. We had lunch at Bravas Tapas and a special tasting at another favorite, Cartograph Wines,

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This is definitely a must-visit tasting room in Healdsburg, especially for Pinot Noir lovers and anyone who likes genuinely awesome people. Everyone there is just the best.

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And as it often happens, good people who know good wine, make recommendations on where to go next. Since we didn’t have any set plans, we took the recommendation to walk to Breathless Wines, and we were so glad we did.

This sparkling winery owned by three sisters has a beautiful outdoor garden space to taste their yummy wines.

Breathless WinesHealdsburg wine tasting

They’ve done a really great job with both the indoor and outdoor spaces, and their sparkling rosé was perfect for a hot September day. Their Moscato was the real surprise of the day. We all expected sweet, which we don’t love, but instead got beautiful, complex flavors of herbs and spices and baked apples.

Breathless Wine

Another recommendation we received from Cartograph was DaVero Farms and Winery, a short Uber drive outside of the downtown area of Healdsburg, and so worth the trip.

Davero Wine

Talk about a special place. . . DaVero is a nature-lover’s dream, with gorgeous plants and flowers, views, and piglets!

DaVero makes wines with Mediterranean varietals that thrive in the climate they grow them in. You’ll see Barbera and Sangiovese on their wine tasting list, and they offer an interesting, delicious departure from many of the other wines you’ll be tasting in the area. Be sure to build in some time to walk around to see the property! 

Davero WinerySonoma

On our final day in Sonoma County, as we made our way back to San Francisco, we squeezed in a few more wine stops.

In downtown Sonoma, Roche Family Winery was a destination for us, as one of our party shares a last name with the owners. Another sunshine-drenched outdoor space, this time great for people watching just outside of Sonoma Plaza, and a big, buttery Chardonnay (I like them!) gave us the perfect sendoff out of town and on our way to beautiful and bubbly all-time favorite, Gloria Ferrer, which I blogged about here.

Roche Winery Sonoma

Gloria Ferrer is a tradition for us and a must-visit at least once on every trip to Sonoma County.

Holding on to the very last seconds in beautiful wine country before we headed back to the crowded and much chillier city, we made our last stop to wander around Cornerstone Sonoma, where a cold glass of Meadowcraft Wines Sauvignon Blanc accompanied me on my walk around the gardens.

Meadowcroft WineCornerstone Sonoma

Ahhh. . . some of the best life memories come from travel to Northern California, and as much as we want to see the whole world, we keep coming back to Sonoma County for more.

Stay tuned for a final food recap and some photos of the gorgeous house we rented!

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Tags: California, Sonoma, Sonoma County, Travel, wine, wine tasting, wine travel

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