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Thursday, December 30, 2010

BEST OF 2010: Winery and Brewery

Travel should be fun!  One way we like to have fun on vacation is to visit local vintners and breweries to see what great wines and beers we can try.  Sometimes, we have gone on a trip just to try the wines, like we did in Napa Valley and Amador County last year.  Here are our picks for the best winery and brewery we went to last year:


Story Winery makes some great zinfandels.  I really like their Red Passion Zin and their Miss Zin which is a 50/50 blend of zinfandel and mission grapes.  While this is all well and good, visiting Story Winery takes the experience to a whole new level.  


It takes some persistence to find this little tasting room, in an old miner's shack, located down a series of ever smaller winding country roads.  Once you do get there, past the sign warning equally to beware of rattlesnakes and not drinking another wine maker's product on the premises, you are rewarded with a cool glass of champagne before you even think about tasting the wine.


But do go ahead and taste.  The wines...especially the reds...are spectacular and the staff are fun and down-to-earth.  Bring a picnic, buy a bottle, and step outside to one of the most spectacular picnic areas on earth where you can enjoy your lunch and wine at the edge of the Consumnes River canyon overlooking the rows of old vine zinfandel trailing down the hillside.


Not far from the tourist mega center of the Disneyland Resort, off of the Chapman exit of the 57 freeway near the junction of the 5, an anonymous industrial park holds a great beer find.  The Bruery makes an assortment of ales, mostly Belgian style, that are truly awe inspiring.  Only open on weekend nights, go here and you'll think you're finding a particular good speakeasy from the prohibition days.


Each time we go, we find another brew worthy of taking home.  They also brewed a sour Flemish style ale that took a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.  Unfortunately, they ran out and are now in the middle of the 18 month (!) process of making the next batch.


On certain days they also tap a keg and pour via the only hand-pump tap I've ever seen in America.


Congratulations to our winners.  


You might also like to take a look at our Year in Review.


-Darryl

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best of 2010 - Hotel

In the lobby at St. Louis

Best Chain - Drury Inn and Suites.  Wow.  What don't you get at this great hotel chain?  Free hot breakfast, free cocktail hour, free wifi or ethernet internet (your choice!), free popcorn and soda all day long, free hour of domestic long distance each day, free 15 minutes of calls to Mexico or Canada each day, free snack/light dinner each night.  I'm probably missing something else that they give away free with your room here too.

And the rooms?  Ranging from great to spectacular.  A small upcharge gets you into a large, two room suite which are also available as accessible units with roll-in shower in a large bathroom.  There are also fitness rooms and swimming pools.  Stay at their line of Plaza hotels and you'll be in the lap of luxury.  Among the locations we were at was The Plaza at the Arch in St. Louis which is among the most luxurious hotels we've seen this year.  I'd go back there in a second, what a great hotel!  This all for around $70 - $120 at most locations.

To win our award, a hotel must allow you to book an accessible room online.

I should also mention that the staff here is so friendly and helpful that you'll be spoiled for anywhere else.

Best independent hotel - Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, California.  Great, true resort hotel very close to Napa Valley.  If it had slot machines, you'd swear you were in Vegas circa 1960.  This Flamingo was built around the same time as the Vegas version and is a perfectly restored piece of retro Americana.  A huge courtyard with an olympic size pool as the centerpiece invites a relaxed, party atmosphere in the summer.  Nearby, a large restaurant and nightclub complete the scene.

We like the large accessible rooms in the Executive wing at the back of the property.  At around 500 sq. feet, this room is as big as a suite and features a king size bed, a large sofabed, large flat screen TV, and an accessible bathroom with roll-in shower.  Rooms normally run around $150 but frequent specials can be found here for less than $100.

Although there is a fitness room on the property, guests also have access to a huge fitness club located adjacent to the back of the hotel.

A great location with numerous good restaurants withing walking distance, downtown Santa Rosa a 5 minute drive or bus ride away, and a quick half-hour jaunt over the hills will put you in Calistoga at the top of Napa Valley.  Sonoma is also nearby.

Congratulations to this year's hotel winners.


While you're here you may want to check out our Year In Review.

-Darryl

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best of 2010 - Accessible Destination

There were two strong contenders for this year's title.  Both had great accessible transportation and nice, compact downtown areas to walk around in.  Both had great accessible sports venues and both had a nice variety of accessible hotel rooms.  It was close, and St. Louis was almost chosen but it loses out to our winner due to not having as much to do in its downtown area and also the wheelchair unfriendly Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park (the Gateway Arch) and riverfront.

Our winner is the capitol of the Golden State: Sacramento, California.  Great accessible light rail service augmented by a good bus system serves this area well.  In the downtown area are many sights to see and activities to do.  We especially like Old Sacramento on the riverfront (easily accessible), the Capitol Building, Sutter's Fort, and especially walking across the golden Tower Bridge to Raley Field to watch the Sacramento River Cats play baseball.

See our report on this year's winner here:  Sacramento Trip Report.

Congratulations to this year's winner.



While you're here you may want to check out our Year In Review.

-Darryl

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best of 2010 - Airline

Do a job well and do it consistently.  Two ways to easy success.  Why is it so rare to find somebody that can do it?  Well, someone can and for the second year in a row, Southwest Airlines wins our airline of the year cudos.

Consistency, on-time performance, no hidden fees, friendly and helpful staff, comfort, good prices, and good equipment handling are longtime hallmarks of this year's Airline of the Year - Southwest Airlines.

Long known as a no-frills, budget carrier Southwest, by being consistent, has evened it up with the legacy carriers. This year's flight to Cincinnati, on another "big" carrier (who ended up merged with another) we were subjected to wheelchair loading rules made up on the fly...one time we were boarded first, another time last...told no seat changes were available only to have our seating assignments changed without our permission; and big fees for checked luggage. 

It's bad enough that you have to endure the indignities of TSA when you get to the airport, it's another when your airline continues proving that the worst part of traveling is the actual traveling.

On the other hand, Southwest had clean planes, friendly cabin staff, the best baggage handlers when it came to loading our chair, free checked luggage, free snacks - on the longer flights even approaching a light meal, free use of pillows and blankets, no delays, and low prices.

The only knock I can think of is that there is no assigned seating on Southwest and it can be a free-for-all to find a seat. Get there early if you don't qualify for pre-boarding to get one of the first boarding passed - Southwest has three tiers, A, B, and C, and are handed out first-come, first-served. A boards first, B second, and C last.

Congratulations to Southwest for being consistently (there's that word again) the best airline we've flown.


While you're here, you may want to see our Year In Review.

-Darryl

Friday, December 17, 2010

TRAVELS IN 2010...

It's getting to that time where we look back over the last year and reflect.  Soon, we will also be posting our selections for our "Best of 2010" winners, and then it's back on the road!  Here is where we were over the last year, we didn't get to any international destinations this year...except a quick jaunt across the Mexican border...but did manage to see a hunk of our own country.  Click on the links to view the reports, photos, and videos:


Our travel year starts off after Christmas when we're worn out from the preparations, the parties, the dinners, the luncheons, etc.  This year, our first trip was a road trip up to Napa Valley.  It was a bit rainy at times, cold at others, but it was still a fun trip highlighted by one of our favorite resorts, great wines, and a restaurant list inspired by Guy Fieri.

Part one of Napa Valley
Part two of Napa Valley


Next, I assigned Tim the task of planning our family's big trip of the year.  He has never had anything to do with trip planning before so I thought this would be a good learning experience for him.  It was.  I asked Tim to blog about it here and he responded with a series of posts title "Trip Planning 101."  Here are the lessons he learned along the way:

Trip Planning 101 - Chapter 1
Trip Planning 101 - Chapter 2
Trip Planning 101 - Chapter 3
Trip Planning 101 - Chapter 4
Trip Planning 101 - Chapter 5
Trip Planning 101 - Budget Update

Before Tim's trip is taken, we take a little time to head to one of our favorite undiscovered weekend destinations.  Don't laugh...it's Bakersfield, which is actually a dynamite location for a quick, cheap, getaway from Los Angeles:

Bakersfield Part 1
Bakersfield Part 2

Late in May, we started on the Great Midwest Baseball Tour, of course planned by Tim.  We flew to Cincinnati, and then embarked on a road trip of massive proportions to continue on to St. Louis and then Kansas City before flying home:

Midwest Baseball Tour Part 1
Midwest Baseball Tour Part 2
Midwest Baseball Tour Part 3
Midwest Baseball Tour Part 4
Midwest Baseball Tour Part 5
Midwest Baseball Tour Part 6

The end of summer took us on a three-legged tour through the middle of California, starting in Sacramento, continuing on to one of my favorite parts of the state...the suprisingly almost tourist-free Gold Country of the Motherlode...and then up the the jewel of the Sierra, Lake Tahoe for a beach day before coming back down for wine tasting and some great food.

Sacramento and the Gold Country
Amador County Wine Country
Lake Tahoe and the Motherlode

Next up was a first-hand look at medical tourism along the border of California, Arizona, and Mexico.  We visit the medical mecca of Los Algodones...a tiny speck of a Mexican border town near the extreme southeastern point of California...get some glasses, and continue on where we spend some time in a Yuma prison.

Medical Tourism - Los Algodones, Mexico
Medical Tourism - Yuma, Arizona

While in Yuma, we shot an on-location Cocktail Hour video featuring a premium tequila tasting with two of my Mexican uncles who also happen to be quite the tequila experts.

Tequila Tasting with the Tios

Speaking of The Cocktail Hour, the (fairly) weekly drinking show has proven to be one of the most popular features on the blog.   Not specifically a travel feature, it usually spotlights a drink recipe or taste off, but we did take it on location a few times besides the tequila party in Yuma:

Belgian Beer Festival - Sierra Madre, California
Tequila Party at Rudy's - Monrovia, California
Cincinnati Pub Crawl

Back on the road, we featured a trip to Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel:

Monterey and Pacific Grove Part one
Monterey and Pacific Grove Part two

And then we finish up this year's travels with a new trip to another unknown destination, Southern California's Inland Empire:

Inland Empire Part one
Inland Empire Part two
Inland Empire Wines
Inland Empire Amusement Parks

That wraps up 2010's travels for The World on Wheels.  We're on a slight travel hiatus right now due to home construction and the holidays but will be back on the road very soon.


Watch for our "Best of..." picks coming up, some new Cocktail Hours, a few Classic Trips to fill the blank spaces, and you can also follow me (Darry Musick) on Facebook for the daily goings on of The World on Wheels family.

-Darryl

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TRIP REPORT: Inland Empire Amusement Parks


Everybody knows about Disneyland, most people know about Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios, and many also know about Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Those make up the Big Four amusement parks in Southern California.  What most don’t know is that there are several smaller parks dotted around the region.  Today, we’ll focus on those in the area east of Los Angeles known as the Inland Empire (IE).

Besides seeing a slice of Americana you’d be hard pressed to see in the neighboring area to the west, these smaller parks have an added advantage of being at least half the price of their better known Southern California brethren.

Fiesta Village is a small park in Colton, just off of the 215 freeway at Washington Street.  A hillside location and a surplus ski lift enabled it to open up some popular waterslides in the summer, expanding on their miniature golf.  Now, they’ve added a few small amusement park rides for thrills and a roller rink for spills.  Free admission, various charges for rides and attractions.

Picture courtesy of Flickr
Lorena Javier under CC-BY license

Scandia, part of a chain of family fun centers, operates a fairly extensive park next to Interstate 15 in Ontario, between the 10 and 60 freeways.  Of note here is the Scandia Screamer, a highly rated roller coaster that will give you some real thrills as it dives through its metal skeleton.  Also featuring such standard rides as tilt-a-whirl, hammerhead, and a swinging ship.  Free admission, unlimited ride passes are $22.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids.  Individual ride tickets are also available.

The granddaddy of the Inland Empire amusement parks is Castle Park in Riverside, along the 91 freeway between the La Sierra and Polk exits.  Started as a miniature golf course in 1976, this park was the product of the imagination of Bud Hurlbut who created such iconic rides as the Log Jammer and the Calico Mine Train at Knott’s Berry Farm.  Now owned by a large amusement park company, the park has over thirty rides including three coasters.  It’s also home to a large and imaginative mini golf course and a go kart track.  Ride park admission is $21.99 for adults and $14.99 for kids which includes unlimited rides.  Separate prices for other attractions.

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TRAVEL GEAR: Christmas Gift Ideas for Travelers

It's Support the Blog Day here at The World on Wheels.  Below are links to products at Amazon.com that we think would make great presents for those on your holiday gift list.  By visiting Amazon and buying your gear through these links, you also help support our mission financially at no extra cost to you. 

If you'd like to support the blog in a more direct way, you can donate to this site via the PayPal button to your left labeled Tim's Tip Jar (all money generated by this site goes to support him).  We also accept advertising, if interested shoot us an e-mail at dmusick - at - gmail.com and we'll discuss opportunities for you.

Thanks for your support...
If you're going to Europe, Rick Steves produces just about the best guide books there are.  This would be a great present for any of your friends or family that might be planning that trip across the pond next year.
This is essential for traveling out of the country.  The world has many different electric systems with their own style of outlets.  This item has come in very handy for us to use hair dryers, laptops, charge cameras, and more.  A little money goes a long way with this adapter. 
My wife bought a few of these a few years ago and we've been using them ever since, both at home and on the road.  This will save many stubbed toes and banged knees when you're trying to find the bathroom in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar room.  Just plug into an outlet and a dim green glow will allow you to navigate in the dark without interrupting your sleep.
Love this overnight bag.  Holds all your toiletries in one convenient place.  Fold up and carry like a satchel, or open up and put in your suitcase, where it lies flat...especially if you have your liquids in larger containers.  When you get to your hotel, just hang up in the bathroom and you have an instant medicine cabinet without sacrificing any counter space.
Finally, we'll put in this manual wheelchair for those of you who'd like to travel but find taking your power chair is too much of a hassle.  Tim bought this chair prior to our Midwest Baseball Tour last year and said it's the most comfortable manual chair he's ever sat it.  For less than $350 with free shipping, it's also a great deal.  Also qualifies for most FSA reimbursements.

So that's our Christmas suggestion list for our traveler friends.  We hope you have a happy and easy holiday shopping season and thank you for visiting Amazon.com via our links and supported our blog.

-Darryl

Sunday, November 21, 2010

BLOG STATUS REPORT: Light Posting

Posting will be a touch light this week, mostly because of two things...

We're in the process of remodeling our family room at home, which is taking a lot of our time, and I also have a paying gig that I have to give priority to.

Regular blogging will return soon.  We'll have a new article in the next day or two and you can alway catch up on our 200+ reports over in that archive section just to your left.

Thanks for visiting,

-Darryl

Friday, November 12, 2010

Calling in Sick...

Darryl's not feeling well today so I'm going to take a day or two off.  In the meantime, check out the next leg of our Germany trip a lot of pictures and a video.  We'll be back on Sunday with a new Cocktail Hour video.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MIDWEEK HAPPY HOUR: 5 That Need Love

Last week we showed you our 10 most popular Cocktail Hour videos.  I don't want to say these are the bottom 5 because I think all our Cocktail Hours are equal, but here are 5 that could use a little boost in viewership.  Let's call them The World on Wheels Lonely Libations...


5.  Bahama Mama.  One of the first of our lower calorie drinks.  A great rum drink for a hot day.
4. Cincinnati Pub Crawl.  Come along with us as we go on location on the banks of the Ohio River.  Searching for the best drinking in the Cincinnati area.  


3. Trader Joe's Beer Taste Off.  We compare several beers available at Trader Joe's to see which brew rules them all.
2. Riviera Rum Punch.  A delicious rum punch for parties or just to enjoy on a hot day.


1. Copper Canyon.  An original World on Wheels creation, using tequila.


-Darryl

Sunday, November 7, 2010

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

It's our one year anniversary as The World on Wheels blog.  We'd had an earlier website years ago then Tim went off to college and I didn't have the time to maintain it anymore.  Now that he's out, we came back...one year ago.  Below is the first new trip we reported on with our new blog.


Enjoy,
-Darryl

Friday, November 5, 2010

STOMACH CHURNERS: Classic Amusement Park Rides

It's been awhile since we've really hit the theme parks but Tim and I used to seek out the best to test our mettle on.  Now that Tim's grown up, it's physically pretty hard to get him on those rides...park operators require that you or an attendant get you on a ride with no help from them.  Tim's bigger, I'm older, and it's just too hard most of the time so most of this kind of enjoyment is in the past for us.

Still, we'd be remiss if we didn't at least let you know what our favorite rides are, or were as the case may be.  Again, be aware that you'll need someone to help you on the ride if you are disabled...and some of these can be quite rough and scary.  Only you can determine what your limits are. 

Disclaimers out of the way, here's our list.

TOP 5 ROLLER COASTERS-Steel
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
JeroenZ85 under CC-BY-SA license

5. Batman (Six Flags Magic Mountain, California)
The second-best hanging inverted coaster we've been on (keep going for the best).  Unusually good theming for Six Flags coupled with a smooth ride gives this five-inversion coaster high marks.  Ride could be a bit longer but it is still very good.  Wheelchairs enter through the exit.
Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia
Tinned Elk under CC-BY-SA license

4. Medusa (Six Flags Marine World Discovery Kingdom, California)
Riddler's Revenge and Mantis are great coasters except most wheelers can't ride them because you have to be able to stand up.  Medusa is basically Riddler's Revenge with seats.  You still get the thrill becase the cars have no floor.  Your feet are dangling in air just inches above the track as you go through several massive inversions including a cobra roll.  Very smooth but hard to get the operator's attention when you need to use the elevator.  Wheelchairs enter via an elevator next to the on-ride photo shop.  Have the clerk in the shop call up to the platform to let you know you need the lift.

3. Raptor (Cedar Point, Ohio)
Another inverted hanging coaster like Batman above except with one more (6) inversion.  Another thing is that many elements take place just inches above other guests heads over the midway.  This is the best of this type of coaster we've been on.  Wheelchair use an elevator located around back reached via the exit.
Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia
Nick Nolte under CC-BY-SA license

2. Magnum XL-200 (Cedar Point, Ohio)
At one time, the tallest and fastest coaster on earth.  Still packs a mighty wallop and the three camel humps inside dark tunnels definitely take getting used to.  No inversions, just pure speed and extreme height give this coaster its punch.  Wheelchairs enter via the exit.

1. Millennium Force (Cedar Point, Ohio)
Bigger is better in this case.  The tallest roller coaster in the world outside of Japan (both have since been surpassed - Ed).  You truly have a cast iron stomach if the 310 foot lift hill doesn't give you the willies in that open car with only a lap-bar to keep you in.  The almost vertical first drop of 300 feet at 92 miles-per-hour will definitely wake you up.  The speed is relentless as you complete the circuit via a bow-tie overbanked turnaround, two tunnels, a bunny hop, and two more overbanked (slightly inverted) turns.  Our favorite steel coaster.  Wheelchairs enter via a separate path and load at the exit platform.

Top 5 Wooden Coasters
Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia
Eric-Hernandez under CC-BY license

5. Colossus (Six Flags Magic Mountain, California )
This racer is good, but was much better in the past.  Still, when it's in top form it's a fun coaster.  No longer raced, you now have the choice (when both sides are open) to ride forward or backward.  The ride is bumpy.

4. Giant Dipper (Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California )
What a pleasant coaster located along the blue Pacific in one of the last beachfront amusement parks on the West Coast.  The tunnel before the lift hill is very wicked!  Wheelchairs enter via the exit.

3. Roar (Six Flags Marine World  Discovery Kingdom, California )
Another trip to a sadistic lumber yard.  Roar is almost Ghostrider , and would be too, but has just a couple of dead spots en route.  Who knew that such a bad amusement park could have two coasters on our list.  Two!  That's one more than the number of friendly employees they have there.  Wheelchairs...look for the elevator to the platform.

Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia
Nick Nolte under CC-BY-SA license

2. Blue Streak (Cedar Point, Ohio )
In this case small and cute doesn't really mean it.  This looks like a kiddy coaster and that's just what many think it is...especially with the huge Mean Streak towering in the distance.  Fortunately, the oldest coaster standing in the park delivers a huge gut punch in the way of air time and speed.  You will spend as much time out of your seat as in it in this small but powerful woody.  Wheelchairs enter via the exit.

1. Ghostrider (Knott's Berry Farm)  An absolutely unbelievably intense coaster.  Many riders are taken in by it's mellow looks only to be blown away by this awesome coaster.  Wheelchairs enter via a special entrance across from the fountain where an attendant will take you up to the platform via an elevator.

TOP 5 WATER RIDES - Too hot? or just like to float?  These may just be the ticket.
Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia
Little Mountain 5 under CC-BY-SA license

5. Jurassic Park (Universal Studios, California )
Nasty T-Rex's await in the dark in this highly themed plunge ride.  Wheelchairs have a special entrance near the exit.


4. Bigfoot Rapids (Knott's Berry Farm, California )
The wettest raft ride around!  Be prepared because you will get either very wet or soaked.  Wheelchairs enter via a ramp located at the exit which will take you to a separate dock.

3. Grizzly River Run (Disney's California Adventure, California )
Disney's much maligned new park does have a few good rides including the best river raft ride we've yet seen.  Run the rapids around Grizzly Peak before spinning down the final drop into Mt. Lassen's boiling fumaroles.  Wheelchairs enter via a separate dock to the right of the main queue.

2. Splash Mountain (Disneyland, California )
Disney's version of that theme-park staple...the log ride.  With Disney, you know the theming is top notch.  Inside, the ride is almost like a roller coaster in its dips and drops before the final tall, steep drop into the briar patch...ouch!   Wheelchair access is not known at this time.

1. Timber Mountain Log Ride (Knott's Berry Farm, California )
Excellent water ride.  One of the first...if not the first...log rides in existence.  Themed to a lumber camp and mill with two excellent drops.  The first one in darkness inside a cave and the second with a grand view of Calico Square before splash down.  Good thrills, good views, and great theming.  Wheelers will have a hard time getting into the logs.  Wheelchairs enter via a special entrance near the on-ride photo shop.  The dock is pretty narrow...be careful.


TOP 4 THRILL RIDES - Just want a quick thrill?  These will either make you want more or swear off for good! Sorry, I could only come up with four...
4. Sun Wheel (Disney's California Adventure, California) For such a disparaged theme park, it's a wonder there are any rides on this list from it, but DCA has another winner with the Sun Wheel...a copy of Coney Island's Wonder Wheel.  It's a ferris wheel with cabins that roll on roller coaster-like tracks providing a real thrill.  Best of all, half of those rolling cabins are wheelchair accessible.  Officially, wheelchairs stand in the same line as everybody else but many wheelers just go in through the exit.  Your call.
3. Soarin' Over California (Disney's California Adventure, California) Okay, this is a pretty gentle thrill ride.  Even your great grandma can go on this one.  It's still pretty thrilling sailing over the Golden State in a hang glider complete with Smell-o-Vision!  Wheelchairs enter via Fast Pass.

2. Supreme Scream (Knott's Berry Farm, California )
Several years ago we declared this to be the best ride in Southern California.  It has been surpassed since but this no-nonsense turbo drop ride is still menacing.  An open air ride in you seat up over 250 feet (on a clear day you can see ships at  sea many miles away) where you dangle for a few seconds before being blasted down at 55 miles per hour.  I had to sit still for half an hour after going on this thing.  Wheelchairs enter via the exit.

Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia
Alexf under CC-BY license

1. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney Hollywood Studios, Florida )
A ride like no other.  Combine a haunted house ride (like Disney's Haunted Mansion) and a turbo drop ride (like Cedar Point's Power Tower) and you get an inkling of what this ride is like.  Greeted by zombie-like attendants, you are ushered into an old elevator of a long abandoned Hollywood hotel.  Your haunted elevator takes you through floors of bizare Twilight Zone happenings until you reach the end of a hall where the elevator door opens to reveal the world outside...just before you plunge to your doom down the elevator shaft!  And, yes, the one in Florida beats the one in California.  Wheelchairs enter via the exit.



-Darryl
Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

MIDWEEK HAPPY HOUR: The Cocktail Hour Top Ten

On most Sundays we have a feature called The Cocktail Hour where we present videos, pictures, tastings, and recipes of different drinks to coincide with the Day of Rest.  If you've missed any or haven't visited on Sundays, here are the top ten Cocktail Hour posts as calculated by the number of visitors.  Click on the names to see that particular post.

10. Latin Passion.  Similar to a tequila sunrise but more sour.  Very popular on the Sunday patio.

9. Skid Row Wine Bowl - Merlot. Once in awhile, we put up California's most popular wine, the budget priced Charles Shaw (Two-Buck Chuck) up against some similar priced contenders.  Here is the episode putting the most popular variety, merlot, up against another similarly priced brand.

8. Daquiri.  Hemingway's favorite drink.  We make it with the original way with limes, sugar and rum.

7. Amaretto Sour.  A tasty drink with a lower alcohol content than most cocktails.  For our friends who don't want too much firepower in their drinks.

6. Classic Margarita.  Our very first Cocktail Hour video!  One of the tastiest margaritas you'll have, served on the rocks, of course.

5. Cosmopolitan.  The pink martini-like drink favored by fans of Sex in the City.

4. Tequila Tasting with the Tios.  Come along on a road trip as we buy hundreds of dollars worth of premium tequila and have a tasting party with two honest-to-goodness Mexican connoisseurs of the Blue Agave in Yuma, Arizona.  This one was a lot of fun to make.

3. The Belgian Beer Festival.  Another on location trip to Lucky Baldwin's Pub in Sierra Madre, California for their annual Belgian Beer Festival.

2. Hurricane.  The French Quarter's favorite drink, made right here on the patio.

1. Tequila Sunrise.  And, the most popular drink on the site is our version of this Mexican beach classic with just a little personal touch to make it stand out.

There you have it, our ten most popular Cocktail Hour posts.  Each one also features an accompanying video, so please take a look and come on along for this little mid-week happy hour.  Don't forget, there are many more Cocktail Hours that didn't make the list.  Visit those too and maybe you'll see some of them show up the next time we calculate the top ten.

Cheers!

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 10, 2010

HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY: Italian Memories

Tomorrow marks the 613th anniversary of the day Italian explorer Christopher Columbus landed  in the Bahamas, setting off the European dominance and colonization of America.  This gives us a good time to look back at our limited adventures in Italy.


We have yet to really get into Italy, so far we've just nibbled around the northern corners of the country.  Here are some of those highlights.


2006 - Day trip from Cannes to San Remo, Italy.


The car is ours for one more day so we run for the border. It’s not a long drive to Italy so we decide to head to San Remo for the day and to have a nice Italian lunch.

The autostrada is way up the hill, San Remo is at the bottom and it’s a steep, windy, and narrow road down. We make it and even find a free parking lot on the beach where we find this old Fiat 500. The old Italian men nearby tell us that there are still a lot of the old versions of this car running around Italy, we soon find out they’re right.

There’s a nice, but rocky, private beach here and we walk along the beachfront until we find a ramp up into the town. There’s a lot of traffic and about five blocks of shops and restaurants. San Remo looks like an Italian town that’s seen its best days pass by. A little ragged around the edges…still a nice place…but not one that tourists will flock to.

A small trattoria with tables on the sidewalk provided the lunch of a simple pasta with cheese and olive oil sauce. It was delicious and just right in the amount, not the gut-busting plates of pasta we get back home.

2009 - Day trip from Munich to Bolzano, Italy



Here's a short out take from our European video of Bolzano that we didn't use in the final edit.
Since we have the car till the end of the trip, the next day is another day trip, this time to the northern Italian town of Bolzano for lunch and to see Otzi.

It’s around a two hour drive on the autobahn...which turns into the autostrada in Italy...over the Brenner pass through the alps. Into the center of Bolzano, we turn into an underground car park and make our way to the central plaza where we dine on pasta, pizza, and shrimp.

A couple of blocks away is the Archaeological Museum and the home of Otzi. Back in 1991, a couple were hiking in the nearby mountains and saw a body at the edge of a melting glacier. The authorities were called, because it looked like an avalanche victim was uncovered by the spring thaw. The body was taken to the local examiner where it was discovered that this was actually a 5,300 year old body. 

Today, the museum focuses on different types of mummies, with its main attraction being that 5,300 year old found in the mountains...Otzi.

There are many human and animal remains on display here with various types of mummification methods. It is completely wheelchair accessible and there is even an in-floor lift that raises you and your chair up so you can see into the vault where Otzi’s body is stored. If this all sounds a bit morbid, it’s not. It’s just another very interesting museum that lacks any sense of the macabre at all.


-Darryl
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