Paso Robles Visit: Wine Tasting & Field of Lights

Paso Robles Visit: Wine Tasting & Field of Lights

The fall is wine harvest season, so I’m returning to Paso Robles, where we spent part of a fabulous 10-day California vacation.

During two previous trips to the state, hubby and I visited Sonoma, Napa and Healdsburg wine regions. When planning and mapping out last year’s driving route, we realized Paso Robles would make an excellent two-day stop between Big Sur and Sequoia : Land of Giants.

Located in northern San Luis Obispo County along California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is an agricultural community with a rich history. Over the last few decade, it has shifted from producing almonds and alfalfa to wine.

Winemakers in the region have cultivated the soil and used the climate to their advantage. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends are a staple of the area. Along windy backroads or around a quaint downtown park, there are 200 wineries!

In addition to its wineries and vineyards, Paso Robles is also known for its olive groves, oak dotted hills, and small town charm. It’s where world-class food and wine meet cowboy chic! Lodging options abound, ranging from historic inns and luxury resort, to rustic vineyard escapes. Pour yourself a glass of wine and visit with me.

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Blaze: Jack O’ Lantern Carved Pumpkin Festival

Blaze: Jack O’ Lantern Carved Pumpkin Festival

Recently, while visiting with family in Hoboken, NJ , we attended an illuminated, carved pumpkin festival. Located in the lower Hudson Valley, near Sleepy Hollow of headless horseman fame, The Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze is a magical, immersive experience.

Blaze-illuminated-carved-pumpkin-festival-skeleton-figure

Since 2005, the walk-through experience has drawn more than 2 million visitors. Lighting up the night are thousands of ornately-carved, glowing pumpkins, in elaborate displays and massive light sculptures.

Today, the spooktacular event is held at two different location; both National Historic Landmarks. We visited the site at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, north of NYC. A second site is at Old Bethpage Restoration Village on Long Island.

Featured in the fun fall festival are larger-than-life installations, synchronized lighting, and an original soundtrack of appropriately spooky music. It’s a family-friendly experience for kids of all ages, and is both stroller and handicap accessible.

Join me on a virtual walk through. Think of it as a Halloween card from me to you — boo!

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Ireland Trip to Cobh, Blarney & Dingle Peninsula

Ireland Trip to Cobh, Blarney & Dingle Peninsula

Today, I’m taking you on the next three days of our dream Ireland trip. A few weeks ago, I shared the first segment of our Ireland Vacation: 12 Day Itinerary in Emerald Isle.

Ireland-trip-Blarney-Castle-round-tower

Starting outside Dublin, we visited Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, medieval Kilkenny, Viking-established Waterford and it’s crystal factory, and a recreation of the Dunbody potato famine ship.

Next, we headed west, taking a scenic route along the southern Irish coast in County Cork. Our first stop was the seaport town, Cobh, and the Irish Heritage Centre. Later, we ate a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon at Blarney Castle and it’s extensive gardens and grounds. Afterwards, we headed into County Kerry, spending the next two nights in popular Killarney.

My favorite day of the entire 12-day Ireland trip was spent exploring the spectacular Dingle Peninsula. Another reason it was so much fun? Along the way, we stopped for a misty view of the Gap of Dunloe, went shopping for quality Irish-made goods, drank a Bailey’s Coffee at the famous South Pole Inn, and dined at an authentic, family-owned pub for a traditional meal.

Although the scenery and experiences were impossible to truly capture in pictures, I hope you’ll enjoy coming along on this virtual Ireland trip.

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Ireland Vacation: 12 Day Itinerary in Emerald Isle

Ireland Vacation: 12 Day Itinerary in Emerald Isle

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus while dear hubby and I enjoyed an Ireland vacation. Due to the pandemic, third time was a charm in terms of scheduling! Although air travel was a nightmare, with cancelled and delayed domestic flights resulting in us missing the first day of our organized Irish tour.

Waterford-Viking-figures

But we sure were lucky in the weather! Not only didn’t it rain, but most of the time we experienced beautiful blue skies with lots of sunshine. It wasn’t until our very last day in Dublin, that we used umbrellas and rain jackets. Our good fortune, however, may have been another consequence of global warming.

Based on a recommendation from dear friends, we booked a guided tour through CIE. Founded in Ireland, the company has 90 years experience and is the largest travel operator in Ireland and Scotland. Several years ago, our friends had taken a different itinerary.

We chose the 10-day Irish Legends tour, which covered a smaller, more concentrated southern half of the island. After the organized trip, we added two more nights in Dublin to explore on our own. Let’s begin with an overview of our Ireland vacation itinerary. Then I’ll share pictures and descriptions from the first three days; visiting National Stud, Kilkenny, Waterford and New Ross. See why Ireland exceeded our already high expectations!

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Kings Canyon Park: Sequoias & River Valley

Kings Canyon Park: Sequoias & River Valley

Returning today to our September 2021 California vacation and visit to breath-taking Kings Canyon. It was the second of a trio of national parks we explored — beginning in Sequoia: Land of Giants and ending in a three-day Yosemite Vacation.

Kings-Canyon-National-Park-sequoias-fire-damage-Debbee

Did you know that Kings Canyon is the deepest canyon in the US? It’s gorge reaches up to 8,200 feet; thousands of feet deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona!

A scenic road cuts through the park ‘s wide canyon, and along the Kings Rivers. In addition to its famous grove of sequoias, there are forests of pine, fir, and cedar, a rocky river valley, waterfalls, lakes, a marble cavern, and expansive meadow. So much of nature’s wonders to see and experience!

Apparently the most common way to “see” Kings Canyon is to simply drive though on Generals Highway —with a stop and short hike at Grant Grove Village. But then, you’d miss the spectacular vistas and deep river valley along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway!

Instead, hubby and I dedicated an entire day and overnight to Kings Canyon National Park. That allowed us time for the amazing roundtrip drive into the canyon itself, with time to explore the richness of the deep river valley.

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Sequoia National Park: Land of Giants

Sequoia National Park: Land of Giants

While vacationing in California last September, we spent two days and nights exploring neighboring Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Depending on how you look at it, we were either very fortunate (my view) or unlucky in the timing of our visit.

General-Sherman-sequoia-tree

Much of the state was experiencing drought conditions. That was quite evident during our days wine-tasting in dry and hot Paso Robles. All the ranch and grazing land looked brown and parched. On September 9, 2021, there were severe thunderstorms. More than 200 lightening strikes occurred within the two neighboring parks! Fires were discovered the following day — as we arrived in Sequoia National Park.

We had left Paso Robles early, for the three-hour plus drive to Sequoia. Fortunately, our day and overnight at the park lodge proceeded mostly as planned. But, by the time we left for Kings Canyon, the fires had exploded –closing the park entrance, lodge and highway behind us!

By December 2021, Sequoia and Kings Canyon were devastated by the KNP Complex and Windy fires. As many as 2,380 giant sequoias burned to death, or are expected to die within several years! Mr. Buzz and I are heartbroken by the destruction of those majestic trees.

But, I also feel blessed to have been among the last people to have seen the sequoias, redwoods and parks before the fires. Let me share them with you.

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