France to Spain via Vintage Car (almost as romantic as it sounds)

A tour in pictures is below of nine days and two countries with my one love.  He whisked me to Nice, Avignon, Saint Tropez, and Barcelona in quick succession.  Highlights – everything.  Lowlights – do not rent a car in Europe and expect to navigate with as bad of a sense of direction as I have without causing your partner to be frustrated (reasonably, totally reasonably, although I have a working theory they make the roads difficult on purpose to keep tourists out).  Anyhow, a vacation isn’t really a vacation without an epic shouting match in an Air Bnb right?  Right.

Road bumps – somewhat literal -aside being able to travel freely and hop from town to town led to country side views far off the beaten path of what we would have seen staying in one place.  The out of the way and unexpected is always the best part of any adventure, in other words.  We thoroughly enjoyed every 3 euro bottle of Rose (no bad Rose in France), a spectacular food market, multiple beach scenes… and I cannot thank Jacob at the Wise Old Dog enough for steering us to the Telegraph in Avignon to sample a magnificent Chateneuf du Pape – or two.  Barcelona is where I spent my study abroad following high school, so visiting again with older, wiser eyes to a city I loved so much as a teenager was a nostalgic, exhilarating experience.   Also – Casa Bonay – hip as hell little hotel with a perfect tiny bookstore in its lobby and a well appointed coffee shop to boot.

Not to mention – we happened to be passing back from a late night (necessary) paella session on the night before Catalan Independence Day, and happened to see the very heart felt and grass roots rally right before they voted for an independence referendum.  I’ve very rarely felt like such a witness to history as in that moment, in that square.  Barcelona is a city that comes alive and thrives at night, and it’s one of my favorite places on the planet.  I’m blessed to get to travel with someone I love, who also loves the same things I do, and I hope you, imagined reader, enjoy the visual tour of our adventures below.

 

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72 Hours in London + an Evening with Faust

London – my second favorite city on the planet, and the spot of many a teenage ramble during high school, growing up in the UK.  A storied and historical place that somehow maintains the strongest, staunchest sense of core British identity and history, despite the city’s embrace of its many cultural influences.  Also, it’s just damn pretty.  New York City (always to be the favorite) is brash and yellow to London’s staunch, classic charm and ‘red all over’ vibe.  Also, NYC doesn’t have historical phone boxes.  Which match the buses.  Which is really nice.  Although it IS decidedly easier to navigate than the rambling, wandering roads and boroughs of London.

While 72 hours isn’t that long to explore a city proper, it is adequate time to visit old favorite haunts, which is something that Scott and I were able to do to the fullest (he also studied abroad and feels at home in the city).  A quick trip to Harrods, a long and leisurely stroll through the Borough Market, high afternoon tea, more (very necessary) tea shopping at Fortnum and Mason, and a long, emotional journey through the Imperial War Museum were all on the list.  As well as Scott’s favorite restaurant, St John, and out of the way and spectacular Watch House Cafe nestled inside a renovated church wing.  We rounded things off with a decidedly decadent feast at Amaya (not pictured due to the fact that my camera doesn’t come to dinner both due to my disdain for pictures in the dark and Scott’s equal disdain for an inattentive dinner companion).

So please, enjoy our visual journey.  And speaking of visuals – join me if you could this weekend at A Faust Symphony (Listening in Color) – a fusion of art and symphonic artistry from my friends at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.  A dramatic musical adaptation of Wolfgang Van Goethe’s play of the same name, this performance will present Liszt’s adaptation of the material alongside a thoroughly modern treatment of narratives presented by actors through monologue.  In short, I dig it.  Thank you to the HSO, as always, for providing me with tickets to this performance.  Get your own tickets here!

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Newport Mansions Wine Festival

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Have you been to Newport Mansions?  It was, simply, the place to BE for the wealthy and social during the Progressive Era (1900-1930), and the mansions are a reflection to a period of unprecedented and unchecked economic growth, fueled by the Industrial revolution.  Columns made of marble and financed by steel, if you will.  This incredible little pocket of the United States is well worth a visit at any point of year, but most definitely, most especially, during the annual Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival.  There are two days of tastings in multiple mansions: with hundreds of wines, food sampling, and beer and cocktail samplings.  There is a decadent Jazz Brunch.  There is the opportunity to meet the distributors of some of your favorite blends and chat with them, as well as discover new varieties (we particularly enjoyed Kanonkop Wines – new to both of us)  There is the chance to pose with a  giant magnum of Whispering Angel, but alas, not to adopt it and treat it as another child.

There is also, of course, the amazing back drop of the Mansions.  Thank you to the Festival for giving me a press ticket to attend Sunday’s Grand Tasting.  Due to another event in Hartford that afternoon, Scott and I only made it to one mansion (boo – next year will plan for more!) – and then drove back the same afternoon.  How did we drive back after so much wine sampling?  We took AmRide, and they met us promptly and drove my car back home (with another driver following our vehicle and driving our driver home).  The price was incredibly reasonable and the service and experience were impeccable, not to mention the peace of mind of knowing that we could get home on time, enjoy the festival, and indulge in all the wine samplings we desired.  It’s basically a personal chauffeur that you can afford because of the genius of tech – download their app and check it out for yourself.  Our friendly driver is pictured in the last image of the series below.

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(date someone who looks at you the way Scott looks at vintage cars)

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(Gosset is one of our ‘go to’ champagnes – highly recommended)

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(Israeli wine trail = new life goals)

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(Arethusa is, quite simply, the best)

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72 Hours in Austin

At some pretty much unnoticed point in the last several months, Scott and I quietly slipped off and explored Austin, TX from the vantage point of the uber hip Hotel San Jose,  Below is a visual tour of our adventures, which involved many tacos, cool architecture, vintage shopping, and a wild night of dancing in a honky tonk bar which was (thankfully) never photographed.  But before we plunge into the bright colors, intense foods, and shockingly good vineyards of Texas, let’s look at a couple  REALLY good foodie happenings here at home (namely, Connecticut)

HBC six year anniversary

The first: The Hartford Baking Company turns 6 on September 1st – that would be tomorrow.  If you’re an early bird type, get yourself over there at 7:30 am for a lovely pour over of Giv or Stumptown Coffee and snag a free loaf of artisanal bread for yourself when they open their doors.  If you’re the sandwich type – stop by at lunch and get a $5 sandwich deal.  My personal favorite, now and always: the brie and jam.  So much carby goodness you guys.  Go.

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The second: Doro Restaurant Group will be previewing the cuisine of Zohara – their new Israeli restaurant – on September 8th at the stunning Sub Edge Farm.  Chef Dorjan Puka is taking the reigns, and if you didn’t already get tickets – unfortunately – it’s sold out.  BUT you still have one final chance to experience a Doro Restaurant Group Hadley + Occum with BRUNCH, cooked by none other than Scott Miller, on September 18th!  Tickets are available here and I would buy one soon if you’re interested – they will be going fast. I will be documenting the Zohara dinner in a future post and hungrily attending next week.

Without further ado, here is the promised photos of Austin.  Notes: Hotel San Jose is creative, perfect, and part of the Standard Hotel Group.  We deliberately seek out Standard Hotels when traveling – and for good reasons.  They are a hip paradise with the very best in paired down amenities and just the right amount of quirky hedonism.  The tacos, all the tacos, pictured, were out of this world attractive.  If I wasn’t a taken woman, I would probably date one of them.  The ones in the photos are from Torchy’s and Jo’s Coffee – respectively – Jo’s also does this turbo cold brew/ice cream/espresso mash up, which is what frappuccinos try and miserably fail to be.  The cocktail in the first picture is a Michelada – which neither of us was particularly into.  The BBQ was from Salt Lick, a bit downwind of Austin – where we took a quick day trip, simultaneously touring several local vineyards.  If Texas starts shipping wine out of the state – we will sign up immediately.  Rich terrain creates beautiful grapes.  Not pictured, but part of the fabric of the entire trip – the music scene.  Everywhere, all the time, live, original, funky, glorious music.  Rock and roll, country, bluegrass.  Play The Avocados on Spotify in the background for the proper vibe while reading this post.  Finally – the tail end of the photos are from San Antonio.  Pictured: a water taxi (too hot and touristy, would not recommend) and Hotel Havana (12/10 – would aggressively return).

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