I'd like to welcome Robin Robinson as a guest blogger this week. We connected through Whiskies of the World and our mutual love of this distilled spirit. If you've ever considered visiting a distillery within the US or on your travels abroad, Robin shares how the whiskey experience has evolved over time.
My first trip to a whisky distillery happened at a time when they were mostly regarded as manufacturing facilities open to employees only, save the rare visit from an out of town friend or distributor. In the late 1990s, I knocked at the side door of the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and was met by a gruff lady who admonished me to “don’t touch nothin’”. She led me around a large room in a perfunctory tour (“this does that” and “those things do this”) but what I remember is the sweet, bready smell of cooked barley, and knowing I was about to fall in love. The giant pot stills in front of me silently cooked the beer mash that would produce the vapor that would one day be my favorite whisky in the world, the reason I came all this way from my home in the US.
After the tour, we (along with a few German tourists, more about them later) were led into a small gift shop and given a “wee dram” of the whisky in a glass to drink while she encouraged us to buy some of the souvenirs around us. From my back pocket, I fished out the letter that was written to me by a certain Ian MacDonald from Talisker. I started a correspondence with him about 10 years earlier, after I finished my first bottle of Talisker Single Malt Scotch whisky and became so overwhelmed by the experience that I wrote a fan letter to “Mr. Talisker”. Somehow it got to Mr. MacDonald and after a few weeks he wrote back, imploring me to visit them. It took 10 years but I did and soon Ian MacDonald himself appeared before me, excited to meet his long-time pen pal from America. He led us all into the dunnage warehouse next door and for the first time, I came in touch with the smell that has literally led me by the nose ever since, the smell of wood-influenced ethanol wafting through an old, musty and humid warehouse. It is the smell of whisky maturing, rows and rows of barrel after barrel, waiting for the right time to be released from their “bond” and bottled. MacDonald banged a wooden mallet on the side of the barrel until the “bung” (the wooden stopper) popped out of the “bung hole” (this is why it's fun to hang out with warehousemen, their language is the most colorful). He then inserted the “valinch” (a long copper tube with a handle on one end and a small airhole) into the barrel, extracted a tube full of whisky and sprightly poured it into our waiting glasses and all over our hands, laughing and imploring us to “rub it in, don’t waste it”. Right there, in that moment in time, I fell in love with whisky: the taste and smell of it, the look of it, the idea and the history of it. Since then, I’ve visited over 150 distilleries on 3 continents but you never forget your first time.
Today, the whisk(e)y industry has barreled out of obscurity to land in your backyard and instead of the furtive knock on the side door, the red carpet has been rolled out for you. The grumpy lady has morphed into a smart, articulate tour guide who knows the ins and outs of the mash tuns and fermenters and deftly weaves those technical details into a compelling story. Millions are being spent on historical displays, interactive kiosks and virtual walks through the still itself to create an unforgettable experience, whether it be in one of the traditional whiskey regions, obscure locales around the world or right down the street from you in that empty warehouse.
Since the start of the 21st century, the course of whiskey has changed dramatically. In the decades leading up to it, it was the ignored drink of old men in dark bars, created by a few global giants like Seagram’s, Schenley and Hiram Walker. Tastes had changed in the 1970s toward lighter spirits like vodka and gin, not to mention the explosion of good wine led by California and Australia, which spawned a whole new trade in wine tourism. But around 20 years ago, whiskey making was brought down to a local level with the surge of small micro-distillers experimenting locally. To give a statistic that drives home the impact of the movement, consider what it takes to open a distillery. In the US, tens of thousands of dollars must be spent on equipment and locale before you can apply for the necessary federal license (called a Distilled Spirits Producer, or DSP) necessary to begin production. In 2000, there were approximately 60 DSPs in the US, including the large traditional distilleries in Kentucky like Jim Beam, as well as the massive alcohol producers like Archer Daniels Midland. But at the end of 2019, the estimate was around 2100 DSPs granted. This explosion of distilling in America and the wide variety of products it produces inspired entrepreneurs around the world to do the same, and now, the only continent not producing spirits like whiskey is Antarctica (well, at least not at this writing). And how best to get you to try their wares? Invite you into their house: whiskey tourism is the new, hot way to explore the world.
Kentucky and Scotland lead the pack. In 2009 there were only 8 distilleries in Kentucky; there are now 68. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was an idea put together by both state legislators and the bourbon industry to turn the state into the “Napa Valley of whiskey” and in 2018 it produced over one million visits. Leading the pack is Buffalo Trace, home of Blanton’s and Pappy Van Winkle, with almost 300k visitors in 2019, up 35% from the year before. Initially conceived to cover the area between Bardstown and Lexington, the “trail” now is split into 5 different regions around the state, from the Ohio River in the north to Danville in the south and has spawned a “Craft Distillery Trail” to cover the smaller facilities along the way. And its only a stone’s throw away from Jack Daniels in Tennessee. Downtown Louisville has created “Whiskey Row” lined with new distilleries (Michter’s and Angel’s Share) to the massive Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. And along the way, plenty of great restaurants, bars and blues joints serving all the whiskey you can imagine.
In Scotland, there are currently 122 malt distilleries generating 2 million plus visitors in 2019, up a whopping 56% since 2010. Throughout the country, there are 66 Scotch whisky visitor centers open to the public. Prior to the boom in US micro distilling, no other country on Earth held as many distilleries dedicated to whisky making, which will give you some insight into how the industry, and the product it produces, is regarded by the natives. From the aforementioned Talisker distillery on the Hebridian Isle of Skye (“before you die, visit Skye”) in the North Atlantic, through the rough rolling hills of the Highlands to visit the brand new Macallan distillery of the future; then into the pocket of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Edinburgh, to visit the Johnnie Walker Experience, Scotland offers breathtaking views, modern and traditional cuisine and a host of friendly Scots ready to partake in a wee dram with you. Scotland is home to both the Speyside Whisky Festival in the Speyside region as well as Feis Isle, the 8 day celebration of their native spirit on the Isle of Islay. And yes, it’s packed with Germans and Swedes, the biggest fans of the smokey, peaty whiskey that finds its home there.
Ireland had practically forgotten it distilled whiskey for most of the 20th century. Coming down from a high of 200 distilleries at the start of the 1900s, by the end of that hundred years it had only 3. Now, distilling fever burns hot and the country is expecting to have 45 distilleries up and running, making gin, vodka and of course, Irish whiskey. Starting in the heart of Dublin, once home of the Big Three – Jameson, Powers & Roe- you can visit the new Teeling and Pearce Lyons distilleries as well as the Jameson Experience Center; you can circumnavigate the Emerald Isle, down the coast through Walsh and Waterford distilleries; stop in Cork to the largest pot stills in the world at Midleton; out to West Cork and Dingle on the Wild Irish Way; before making it inland to Tullemore Dew, Kilbeggen and up into Northern Ireland to visit Bushmill’s. It’s one of the most thrilling auto rides you’ll ever take and each stop will take you through time to when Ireland was king of the whiskey making world.
But wait: across the English Channel in France is Brittany, home to Amorik, one of the oldest grain distilleries in France, making their eponymous Single Malt; over to Rozelieures in Alsace Lorraine, makers of rich, smoky and complex whiskies. France is the largest consumer of blended Scotch whisky in the world and while we may know it for its wine and brandies, over 20 new grain-based distilleries have opened up dedicated to whisky making. From there you can hop over to Austria to visit Riestbauer and sample their whiskies aged in wine casks.
Need to travel further? How about to Japan, where world class whisky making has been going on since the 1920s from both Suntory and Nikka distilleries. Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery sits at the confluence of 3 rivers and next to a Shinto shrine outside of Kyoto, Japan’s most revered city. Massive and modern, its shows its reverence for tradition with the presence of its founder, Shinjiro Torii and his son Keijo Saji, honored in larger than life copper statues next to the blending museum and tasting gallery. Entering the massive still room with its 12 gleaming copper stills lined up in 2 rows like sentries for inspection, there is a stillness in the air that almost gives a sense of the sacred. Up north on the island of Hokkaido is where the “father and mother of Japanese whisky”, Masataka Taketsuru and his Scottish wife Rita, moved to start up Nikka Distillery in the small fishing village of Yoichi in the 1930s. Emulating the Scottish distilleries where he worked as a visiting apprentice (and where he met Rita), the granite-walled gathering of out- buildings looks more like a college campus than a factory. There, you can visit the living quarters of “Massan” and Rita, where their clothing still hangs in the closet, his pipe is next to the easy chair and what’s left of Rita’s plum pudding is still inside the massive ceramic crock in the kitchen. Gorgeous and idyllic in the summer, the real draw is to show up in February to catch the Snow Building Festival in nearby Sapporo. Be sure to seek out Chichibu in the mountains above Tokyo, home to the next wave of hand-crafted blending by Ichiro Acuto, the next superstar of Japanese whisky.
Off to India to Goa, the tiny, tropical state on the Arabian Sea with its fine white sand beaches, where you’ll discover the Paul John Distillery cut out of the dense jungle. Making world class single malt whisky from Indian barley, their new visitor center evokes the diversity of the Indian sub-continent with a nod to its colonial past, welcoming you in colorful hospitality. A short plane trip takes you to the heart of Bangalore to the new distilling facility at Amrut, the giant alcohol maker that started India’s journey toward world-class single malt whiskies. There, pulsing to the beat of this densely populated city, you’ll see the old and new worlds of whisky coming together: the rum-based spirit that slakes the thirst of the millions of working people; and the world class single malts that have been taking home gold medal awards since 2013.
It’s a small world, and we haven’t even begun to talk about Australia and South Africa, Germany and Brussels, Wales and Sweden and Denmark. If you live near New York City, there are at least 8 in Brooklyn alone, and dozens up the Hudson River leading through the Adirondack Mountains to the Finger Lakes. Denver has a dozen within the city limits. The wine country of Northern California (the actual epicenter of the movement) grows a new distillery every few months. Texas hosts close to 100 from the panhandle to the boot. Chicago and nearby environs has around 20. From the top of Minnesota to the hills of San Diego and over to the beaches of St. Augustine, distilleries will pop up on Google maps like whack-a-mole.
And you once thought whiskey was just something you shoot past your tongue and doused with a beer. Silly you. Whiskey is an experience that ties your sense of smell and taste to what you hear and see, wraps it in a ribbon of history and plants it in your deepest thoughts. And it’s waiting there for you to encounter it, glass by glass, moment by moment.
Bon voyage, cheers, kampai and slainte mhaith!
by Robin Robinson
Author of The Complete Whiskey Course: A Comprehensive Tasting School in Ten Classes and proprietor of the Whiskey and...podcast, Robin Robinson has built small brands for most of his working life and is currently working with small spirit brands across the US as a “brand sherpa” to help them enter and endure a volatile and competitive marketplace.
As an avid traveler, it's natural to dream about future travels and reminisce about past travels while sheltering in place. A couple of months ago, I wrote about my last trip which was to Kenya. Today, I invite Susan Meyer to tell us about her last trip before COVID-19 and invite you to dream with me about traveling there someday. She explains how traveling to Cuba has become increasingly difficult over the past couple of years (even before COVID-19), but is still possible.
Twenty-some years ago my mother went to Cuba on a cultural exchange through SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). She came home with several pieces of original art and grand stories of art, music and culture. Later, President Obama opened up trade and tourism with Cuba allowing Americans to visit Cuba without requiring that they go with an organized group. Other countries have been enjoying unfettered travel to Cuba for many years while American’s were just beginning to explore this rich culture. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has steadily undermined our ability to visit Cuba, but thankfully it’s still possible to experience the country. In early December 2019, after years of hearing about Cuba from my friend Charles who organizes specialized tours there, I signed up.
Under Trump, the only way to go to Cuba as an individual is under the US sanctioned purpose of helping the Cuban people. What this means is that we can only patronize small businesses that are owned by Cubans. We are not allowed to patronize government-owned businesses. The Cuban government allows their citizens to have cottage industries, however the government competes against them in extraordinary ways. We went to a tobacco farm in Vinales and were informed that the Government takes 90% of their production and allows them free enterprise with the remaining 10%.
When we arrived at the Havana airport along with many Cuban Americans we saw huge tightly wound bundles of items on the turnstile. They contained appliances, bedding, clothing, personal care items and other things we take for granted but are hard to get in Cuba. Cuban Americans visit Cuba regularly and do what they can to improve the lives of their family members living under Cuba’s communist regime.
Our guide met us at the airport and escorted us in one of the classic old cars that Havana is famous for. Then we checked into our guest house in old town Havana. It was an amazing old structure featuring an old-fashioned elevator with a metal mesh door. The interior of the building had tile walls, tall doors, and extremely high ceilings. The buildings in Old Havana are gorgeous and historic and have changed little from 1959 when Castro expelled all foreigners and instituted communist rule. My husband, Jim and I took a Caribbean cruise back in 1994 that left from Ft. Lauderdale and sailed two-and-a-half days to reach Curaçao. On the way, we passed by Cuba and what stood out was how dimly lighted the island was. I mentioned this to Andreas, one of our Cuban guides, and he told us it was during the darkest days of Cuba. The USSR had fallen and could no longer support Cuba. This forced Cuba to get creative and open their doors to tourism to survive.
Today Cuba is a vibrant colorful country. In December, the magnificent buildings were being restored and the restaurants were thriving in Old Havana. Many European countries have invested in Cuba, partnering with the Cuban government to create high end hotels to advance international tourism.
We learned during our trip that Trump had recently shut down cruise ship visits to the island. Even though most ships aren’t American owned, European countries were afraid of repercussions should they ignore Trumps directive. This has had a major impact on Cuba’s tourism industry. The COVID-19 epidemic then completely cut off tourism. We are happy to have visited when we did and I hope that you will consider a trip to Cuba to experience a country with all of its contradictions and to benefit the Cuban people, when it is safe to do so.
Since a picture is worth at least a thousand words, I wanted to share some of my favorite photos below from my visit to Cuba.
by Susan Meyer
Wine Maker & owner of Rustridge ranch in Napa Valley
The secluded property, once a large thoroughbred horse ranch, was purchased by Susan Meyer's family in 1972. Now it reflects Jim & Susan's two passions: wine and horses. They continue to breed and race thoroughbreds each spring; just about the time new buds form on the grape vines, new foals are born.
Susan invites you to visit her southwestern ranch-style Bed & Breakfast with sweeping views of the vineyards, pastures, hillsides and ancient oak trees.
Food is a huge part of the travel experience for me. I often find myself organizing my schedule around meals. Sometimes I even add a second dinner as the trip nears to an end because I know how much I'll miss all the amazing dishes that I can't bring home. With chocolate, it's different. When I travel, I often seek out a local chocolate shop or chocolatier. I try some samples, then pick out my favorites to bring home and share with family and friends. It's a wonderful way to bring a flavor of the destination home. I recently connected with Jeff & Susan Mall of Volo Chocolate and they agreed to share an experience with chocolate they had abroad that changed their life.
For most of my life, chocolate was a ‘take it or leave it’ food. As a kid, I would much rather eat crispy-salty snacks than a candy bar. An occasional Reeses’ Peanut Butter cup was the exception. Going to the movies in the 70s & 80s I would enjoy a Hershey Bar, but only broken up and mixed with my warm salty popcorn.
All of my years spent as a chef and restaurant owner didn’t move the needle for my feelings about chocolate. A singular taste experience changed my perception, and that was my first bite of Mexican chocolate. It made me think of chocolate as a food, not a candy. The warming flavor of cinnamon and coarsely ground nuts in Mexican chocolate gives many layers of flavor.
In early 2015 my life as a chef collided with chocolate when my wife Susan and I moved to Mexico to run a restaurant at a small hotel near Todos Santos, Baja Sur. We brought our Sonoma County ‘Farm to Table’ ethos with us. We focused on growing and sourcing traditional Mexican ingredients & foods for our menus. One of those ingredients was the cocoa bean. It was first cultivated in Mexico thousands of years ago. In all my years as a chef I had never seen a cocoa bean. As a staple in traditional Mexican recipes, they were as readily available as onions, chiles, and corn. Our co-workers would use them to make a traditional warm drink called Champurrado. Like most chefs, my first inclination was to use them in a sauce or to crust a piece of pork. Then I asked Susan, “I wonder how hard it is to make chocolate?”
We started to experimented with beans from the Chiapas region in Southern Mexico along the border with Guatemala. Some of our co-workers came from other parts of Mexico where their families made chocolate. With their help, we made our first batch of chocolate by roasting the beans in a wood-fired oven and then grinding them with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. It was decent, but we knew we could make it better. Slowly but surely, batch after batch, our chocolate got better and better. Before we knew it, we were making multiple batches every week and the hotel guests were buying it up. The chocolate that we made was unique. Mexican in style with its pinch of cinnamon, but also to our taste with a touch of sea salt.
We moved back to Sonoma County after having spent 1 1/2 years living and working in Mexico. Once home, one of the first things we did was start sourcing cocoa beans aka ‘Cacao’ so we could continue our chocolate making adventure. We soon learned that the best Mexican cacao doesn’t leave Mexico, so we looked elsewhere. We found amazing beans just across the border in Lachuá Guatemala, just 17 miles from Chiapas Mexico. With cacao in hand, we started Volo Chocolate in the Fall of 2016.
Much like coffee beans or wine grapes, many of flavors in cacao are determined by region where it is grown. One of the varieties of beans we use are from Lachuá Guatemala, always with a background flavor of cherry. Also like wine
grapes, the year, or vintage plays a role. Some years the flavor is of bright, ripe cherries. Other years you get more of a concentrated, dried cherry flavor. We also use cacao from Haiti which adds notes of coffee and roasted nuts.
At Volo we make eight different chocolate bars. Each is unique, but they all still have that pinch of cinnamon and sea salt. As a result, they are balanced without the bitterness that is found in a lot of dark chocolate. We use the beans from Guatemala for our 73% Deep Dark Chocolate and Chocolate Orange, which are both vegan.
We grow and process our own oranges for the candied orange. The cacao from Haiti goes into our 62% Dark Milk Chocolate. We caramelize the milk and add browned butter which turns it into something special. We also have a 62% Dark Milk bar with olive oil roasted almonds. We have won several awards for our chocolate, including two international awards from the Academy of Chocolate in London. You can find Volo Chocolate at stores, wineries and restaurants in Northern California and beyond. It is also available online at VoloChocolate.com.
We hope you have the opportunity to try our unique chocolate soon!
by Jeff & Susan Mall
Chef & CHOCOLATIER
While living in Mexico we fell in love with the flavors and soul of Mexican chocolate. We enjoyed many wonderful hours experimenting with the many ways we could bring out the flavors through various techniques and ingredients. It wasn’t long before we created a great “bean to bar” craft chocolate recipe.
Once we returned home to Sonoma County we decided to start our chocolate making business with all of the love and passion that fine chocolate deserves.
Recently I spoke with my host agency, KHM Travel Group, about ways our clients can support us until we can all travel again. They wrote this wonderful article that I'm proud to share. Many of these actions would apply to any small business even if you don't have money to spend. So if you're are tight on funds and have plenty of time, please consider spending a little bit of your time to take these actions to support your favorite small businesses.
It’s no secret that the global pandemic is having a major impact on the travel industry. Airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators are drastically reducing their 2020 offerings. Along with that, independent travel agencies are assisting with cancellations and changes affecting several months of their clients’ vacation plans.
How can you continue to support your travel agent, even if you aren’t able to travel right now?
1 – GET SOCIAL
Social distancing doesn’t apply to social media. Your travel advisor is still offering inspiration and information for future travel and would love to have you follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Join the conversation by commenting, liking, and sharing posts from the travel agency’s business page.
2 – BE PATIENT
Travel agents are working harder than ever to navigate constantly changing policies from governments and travel suppliers. Unfortunately, cancelling clients’ reservations consumes a lot of time and energy, but generally results in the agent receiving little or no compensation. If you need to adjust your travel plans, please be patient and know that your travel advisor is on your side.
3 – WRITE A REVIEW
If you’ve appreciated the great service your travel advisor provides, ask where you can post positive feedback. Leaving a stellar review on Google Business, Yelp, Facebook, or other sites helps potential clients understand the value your advisor provides and generates new leads for future business.
4 – SPREAD THE WORD
Referrals are another valuable source of future business for your travel agent. If they aren’t traveling at the moment, your friends and family may be planning their future adventures. Do you know an engaged couple that will be shopping for a honeymoon? How about someone with a milestone anniversary coming up? Or perhaps some grandparents wanting to take a vacation with the grandkids they’ve been missing? Don’t hesitate to share your travel advisor’s name and contact information with them, and a shout-out or tag on social media is always appreciated.
5 – SAY “THANK YOU”
Think about your favorite travel memories. Did a travel agent help you plan any of those trips? Agents love knowing they helped create a special moment in your life. A quick message of thanks means the world to them—and if it’s accompanied by some chocolate, well, that probably wouldn’t hurt.
Despite the current limitations, our desire to travel and explore is stronger than ever. When it’s time to book your next getaway, whether it’s to the next state or across the ocean, remember to support your travel agent!
This year I was looking forwarding to sailing on a river cruise through Burgundy sipping on wine, enjoying good food, and exploring everything this region has to offer. Unfortunately my plans have been cancelled. In the meantime, I'm dreaming with my friend Betty about traveling to France at some point in the future instead. She's introduced me to a neighboring region in France with wines I'm not all that familiar with. I invited her to write a guest post so that you too could partake in this journey and learn more about the wines of the Loire Valley.
When I think of the Loire Valley, I immediately think of Chenin Blanc and Rosé. I know that if there’s Rosé in the Loire Valley, there’s got to be red wine there too. But truth be told, I can’t think of what red wine grows there. Time to do a little Google research to figure things out. Thank you to LoireValleyWine.com, WineFolly.com and WineTraveler for their help with this article.
The Beauty of the Loire Valley
This writeup from Fodors is so beautiful that I had to share it. “A fairy-tale realm par excellence, the Loire Valley is studded with storybook villages, time-burnished towns, and—bien sûr—the famous châteaux de la Loire. These postcard staples, like Chenonceau and Chambord, seem to be strung like pearls across a countryside so serene it could win the Nobel peace prize.” Oh boy, do I want to go there!
When You Think of Loire Valley, Think of Fruity White Wines
The bulk of the wine produced in this region is white. The region is known for its fruity-style whites. According to WineTraveler.com, “Regardless of whether you’re sampling a sweet, botrytis derived dessert wine, or a classically produced dry Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, there’s no doubt that the dominant aroma and flavor on your tongue will be comprised of citrus, tree and or stone and tropical fruit. It’s this distinct fruity flavor and aroma that attracts hundreds of thousands of wine consumers vintage after vintage.”
More Details on Loire Valley Wine
The Loire Valley is in the northwest of France and is France’s most diverse wine region, actually containing five wine regions, each with many appellations (87 in total!):
An Interesting Factoid About Vouvray
The chenin blanc produced here is so high in acidity that some of the wines have been known to age as long as 100 years. Is that unbelievable? This past weekend, I got to taste a 52-year-old French wine that was well past its prime. Boy, would I love to try a 100-year-old wine that is still good. Wouldn’t you?
What Is Crémant?
After a lot of evolution, Crémant is now the term used to describe French Sparkling Wines not made in the Champagne region of France. At one point, Crémants were thought to be creamier than Champagne. But that isn’t the case any longer. Crémant is not restricted to the three Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
I would love to hear about your experiences with Loire Valley wine, especially if you tasted it in France. Santé!
by Betty Kaufman
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
I've been reminiscing a lot about the last trip I went on. Good friends of mine, Melody and Gary Fee, invited me to lead a group of Travel Advisors to explore Kenya. It was beyond incredible. Not only was it my first time in Africa, it was my first time on a safari. The guides were so knowledgeable and the experience wouldn't have been the same without them. I saw so many animals I'd never seen before and some I never even heard of. It was truly remarkable.
I'm looking forward to traveling again!
Click here to view the photos from my trip. Watch the video below for my five safari tips and then the complete podcast about the entire experience further down.
My Five Safari Tips
Full podcast below.
Life is different for us all than it was last month. Each of us is doing our best to handle the curve balls that have been thrown our way. Some of us have taken on new roles, like teacher, as children stay home from school. We’ve set aside our travels, whether that was your daily trip to the office or a vacation we had planned for you.
We do it out of necessity but also out of kindness for one another. For that, I thank you! The precautions and actions you are undertaking aren’t easy, and the people you live with might be making you bananas. The thought that drives me is that the more we do now, the sooner we will all be able to take off on our next adventure.
And when that time comes, I’ll be here.
As for myself, I've been working a lot with lemons the past few weeks. My tree has produced more this year than ever. I understand the irony and I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere. Jason and I have been making limoncello, lemon bars, lemon curd, and of course lemonade. Check out the pics below!
In these unprecedented times, we are reminded of the lessons that travel teaches us. That the world is one big interconnected place. That the times we share as a family are memories that we will treasure for years to come. That we shouldn’t put off our dreams because we don’t know what tomorrow brings.
More than anything, this experience has taught me how thankful I am for the chance to travel and how very lucky I am to have clients like you who continue to support me whenever possible with kind words, positive reviews, and your business.
I'd like to share some resources with you that I've been using to entertain, stay active, relax, and keep my travel spirit alive.
If you've been experiencing any anxiety or sleepless nights, my friend Carol Cassara, a hypnotherapist, offers a wonderful guided imagery for anxiety relief. Find the free downloadable audio here. She's also offering 35 daily email mantras for positive thinking and good health here… and if you are already battling a condition, her online healing affirmations are also free, one day for 50 days, here. All absolutely free, and you won’t be signed up for a mailing list.
Eat & Drink
If you’re like me and you want to get creative with easy step-by-step recipes in the kitchen, check out Sonya's Sweet & Spicy Kitchen on YouTube and follow along for some delicious recipes!
If you want to pair these recipes with some good wine, I have you covered. During this shelter-in-place period, you might be in dire need of wine. My friend Betty offers fabulous, affordable wines from the Napa winery she's affiliated with. You can check out her website at winetastingsandmore.com or call her at 650-714-7009 for recommendations. She helped me get my wine selection delivered to my door and I know she would be happy to help you too. If you're going to purchase wine anyway, might as well support a small business like Betty's.
I've been video chatting with friends, playing Jackbox games with them, and even singing karaoke together online. Consider sending a card in the mail as well to stay connected and acknowledge important milestones in your loved ones lives even if you can't be there in person. If you feel so inclined, consider sending a gift of gratitude to a front-line worker. All The Buzz has put together some really heartwarming care packs for care givers.
There are many bars and clubs around the world hosting virtual happy hours as well so reach out to your local watering hole to see if they are offering anything.
Take virtual tours, ride a virtual roller coaster, or see a Broadway show from your living room. Click here for a list of virtual tours you can take to inspire and excite you about your next trip. Check back next week as I'll be adding more content.
There are tons of free fitness videos on Youtube to guide your workout, but if you are looking for personalized group or private fitness instruction, reach out to my friend Hank Dean who is offering live classes via Zoom. He has coached and taught many clients from professional athletes, world class entertainers, ballet and stage dancers to seniors, children and busy people who are looking to improve their lives, their health, their self-confidence and their well being.
He focuses on the needs of his clients and is constant in his attention to their fitness. Whatever the focus of the clients needs are, he provides direct and progressive coaching to first move towards a clients goals and then surpass them.
SCI fitness is currently providing one on one training and group classes via Zoom.
Let me close with this, we will travel again. We will set off on the adventures of our dreams. We will take the opportunities to make memories and to open our hearts to the incredible things our world has to offer.
Thank you again, and I look forward to helping you with your next adventure.
Many of you have been asking about your upcoming travel plans. I want to assist you with your questions, but first, a few words about more important matters.
We find ourselves in interesting times, where much of the normal functioning of our daily lives seems out of order. However, there are also a great many certainties. While we are all engaged in our various pursuits to earn a living and raise our families, we are also neighbors and friends. I want to say I am here for you. Things will at some point return to normal, we will get on with the routine we sometimes complain about but for which we are now a little nostalgic. Until then, know beyond being your “travel agent,” you and I are neighbors, friends and family. As we move through the next few weeks, be strong and maintain your conviction in those things that have always sustained you, whether that be your faith, your family your pets or your own sense of integrity. We will all get through this together.
Stay informed, but give yourself a break from the 24 hour news cycle. Here are a few good resources for information:
Coronavirus Information Center CDC
World Health Organization
World Health Organization Q&A
California Department of Health
Now, about those travel plans. Travel suppliers have all been modifying the cancellation policies to assist passengers, waiving fees and penalties for changes. If you had plans about which you have questions, email me at email@example.com.
Here are a couple of articles about travel right now you may find informative:
Your travel insurance might now cover coronavirus
Delta, United, American broaden change fee waivers amid coronavirus concerns
A few of you have also inquired about future travel plans. Please reach out to me at any time to discuss and I will provide you with any information you need. As the travel industry regains momentum, there will no doubt be many great opportunities, we can discuss as you feel ready.
If there is anything I can do for you over the coming weeks, or if you just want to check in and talk, know I am here for you. We all want to practice a sound “social distancing” as the medical profession calls it, but that does not mean social disconnection. Stay informed and stay safe. If you need anything, I am just a phone call away.
Hang in there, Be strong. Take care of yourself and your loved ones, and wash your hands!
What if I told you, you could travel for free and it doesn't involve credit cards or tracking rewards points? Plus you get to travel with your friends! There's a little secret to travelling for free I'd like to share with you. All you have to do is get a small group of friends together and your costs are covered.
Work with me to come up with your ideal itinerary. Let's say it's a cruise. You get 9 friends to go on the same cruise and you'll go for FREE! If you get 10 couples in your group, you'll get a FREE CABIN for two people.
This is just one example. Requirements and rewards vary. Contact me and let's put a plan together that fits you.
There will always be some costs such as taxes and flights, but overall this is the cheapest way you'll find to travel. If you're popular, but poor and always wanted to travel, now you can.
Click here for more details and reply to this message and let me plan your group trip!
Science has shown that one’s environment has a direct impact on well-being, a fact that anyone who’s spent significant time in the mountains or by the sea can attest to. There’s just something about being by the ocean, hearing the crashing waves and feeling the sea breeze against your face; or being in the desert, hearing nothing but the chirp of an odd bird and seeing nothing but an endless landscape of majestic rock that makes you leave all your worries at home and let yourself breathe. The following locations will make even the most stressed-out individuals find their bliss.
A big part of resetting your mind is learning how to slow down, and the laid-back vibe of the Caribbean may be just the place for those needing a break from the fast-paced frenzy of their lives. Once you step off the plane and breathe in the ocean air, look out at the turquoise sea and walk barefoot through the smooth white sand with a cool daiquiri in hand, the bothers of daily life are all but forgotten. Choose from a multitude of swimming pools to wade in or sit under palm trees with a book in hand and ocean in view. Play a few rounds at a pro-level golf course, and wander to a conch shack for fresh delicacies prepared on the spot. And if shopping relieves stress for you, pop into the high-end boutiques for a little retail therapy.
It’s no surprise that some of the wealthiest people in the world, who could live anywhere they want, choose to settle down in towns like Santa Monica, California, or Palm Beach, Florida. These locales provide easy access to major cities in the U.S., so traveling to and from is not an issue. And once you’re there, the towns are bursting with modern luxuries and convenience, while remaining pristine in appearance. Manicured lawns rest in front of mammoth mansions, and five-star resorts with seaside spas and fine cuisine are plentiful. Walk straight from your oceanfront hotel to a secluded beach below for sunrise yoga, experience in-suite spa treatments, indulge in healthy Michelin-star meals and cycle to town on complimentary bicycles at the impressive resorts that make up America’s chic coastal getaways.
The beauty of the desert is endless, creating the perfect setting for days of quiet contemplation. What better way to treat yourself in this day and age of constant noise and endless obligation? In the desert, nobody cares if your inbox is packed with unopened emails. And in the desert, the mountains call for you to climb them, bringing an organic opportunity to focus on physical as well as mental health. Take a hike and feel the full-body relaxation and restful sleep that follows a day of exercise. Soothe your muscles in a private outdoor soaking tub at a desert resort, align your body at a top-ranked spa and dine on fresh seasonal cuisine while sitting on an outdoor dining deck facing the expansive mountains.
Spirituality seekers have been known to visit Hawaii for the healing properties that only a tropical paradise can bring. Whether or not you believe that the islands’ volcanic energies are operating at higher chakra frequencies, it can’t be denied that the unique beauty of its verdant jungles and rolling hills existing in the same space as the bluest ocean waters and clear skies possess a special soul-soothing quality. Make time to try a Lomi Lomi massage, take sail on the waters of the Pacific, enter an infinity pool that looks out on the ocean and commune with nature in a protected wildlife reserve, and you’ll return home invigorated.
Sharing my travel experiences and insights