Category: Business Travel

Take me to the river………..San Antonio style

Got a break from the winter that wouldn’t end with a late March trip to San Antonio. Trip was business related but I had planned my flight home after the meeting to allow most of a day exploring. I love visiting San Antonio anytime, but the beautiful sunny days and 80 degree temperatures were a bonus. This is part one of a two part trip review, focused on the Riverwalk and Alamo. Part two will cover the Botanic Garden.

I began walking along the streets of downtown heading towards the Alamo.  As usual bike related things caught my eye. From the sign reminding drivers bikes have rights (and the unfortunately empty bikeshare rack) to the biking police.

Upon arriving at the Alamo,  I spent quite a bit of time wandering the grounds, taking in the architecture and the landscape.

Most visitors to the city are familiar with just a small area of the Riverwalk – the semi-circle restaurant and bar lined section called the Paseo del Rio.

While the Paseo del Rio may be what everyone knows, and is a great place to people watch; you’re short changing yourself if you don’t venture beyond. The riverwalk continues both north and south from this area along the main river. Leaving the Paseo del Rio provides a less crowded but still delightful place to explore.

The city has done an incredible job of providing signage all along the Riverwalk – showing both explanations and locations of points of interest, and also mileage between them. On my last trip to the city, I focused my walks south to the King Williams area, this trip I headed north towards the Art Museum, covering about 2 miles of the river.

Exploring this direction answered one question I’ve had about the San Antonio river – how the river flow and level stayed so constant. Was a tad disappointed I didn’t get to see any boats go through the locks.
This northern section was under construction when I visited 18 months ago. As with the signage, the city has done themselves proud in this area. Just beautiful. From the varied pavement textures, to the art under the street overpasses, to the unique sitting areas and landscape plantings.
I could have spent much more time exploring, but I also wanted to head to the San Antonio Botanic Garden. More on that in part two, just click here…..

Rocky Mountain High, part 2….taking time to smell the flowers

The Saturday departure date of my recent trip to Denver allowed me to sneak in a little garden time amid all the beer, breweries and Great American Beer festival. Part one of this trip report focused on all that, this part is all about the Denver Botanic Garden.

I’ve followed (and purchased) the books by Lauren Springer for some time – beginning with The Undaunted Garden. (And find it fitting that she married another one of my favorite garden authors, Scott Ogden, and together have a company called Plant Driven Design). The interest in Lauren’s writing introduced me to the Denver Botanic Garden, which has held a spot on my must visit list for far too long.

Really far too long. What a delightful and inspiring garden. The current special exhibit is an installation of Henry Moore sculptures placed throughout the space. (Click on any of these images to bring them up in a larger format)

Shortly after entering the garden, I was wow-ed by the long double perennial/mixed border allee. Just stunned.

I could have spent hours in just this area, which made even more special by the sound of music flowing from the private event (looked and sounded like an Indian wedding)  in the formal garden just past this area.

This wasn’t the only spot within the gardens set up for a private event. The South African Plaza was set with chairs, and had signs warning it would be closed later in the day. Tho’ it was the containers that caught my eye here.

Another intriguing aspect of the gardens is the use of water, often combined with sculpture. The water forms a mirror like surface, reflecting the sculpture, adding depth to the space.
Additional areas highlighted more perennials, annuals, edibles, woodland/shade plants, roses, water-wise plants, a Japanese garden, and in the Asian garden a flowing pebble walkway echoing the small stream which ran next to it. 
And of course, the flowers….beckoning both the bees and me. A great garden one I hope to visit again soon, to explore further.

Rocky Mountain High or I’m only here for the beer………

Until now, Denver has only been a place I’ve passed through between airport and ski slope. While I’m pretty sure I visited the actual city as a child, I haven’t had an opportunity to explore the area as an adult. Recently returned from a work related trip out there which among other things included brewery tours and time at the Great American Beer Festival (yes, I do love my job).

First stop was the town of Golden, home of the Coors Brewery, the world’s largest brewing facility. Located just west of Denver along the foothills of the mountains, Golden has a charming little downtown with shops, cafes, and farmer’s market. The Colorado School of Mines is located in Golden – was a bit surprised by the size of the campus. 

I was taken with the biking culture evident here – and around the area. In a visit to a recently relocated colleague’s home on Lookout Mountain, I was impressed by the number (dozens, really, several dozen) of road cyclists we passed – climbing up the mountain. Also noticed a couple of large groups of mountain bikers on off-road trails along the way. This was a Wednesday night – these were not just casual weekend riders. This interest was reflected in a number of bike shops in town, numerous bike racks along the streets, and at least one manufacturer, Yeti, based there. An old poster in a  storefront caught my eye – looks like my kinda event!

Our group had a behind the scenes tour of the Coors brewery.

One thing I wasn’t aware of was that they malt their own barley here. I’ve visited several other breweries, but have never seen the malting process (first soaking, then basically sprouting, and finally baking the barley in a kiln to the desired toast).

Blue Moon lover that I am, I had a smile when our guide pointed out the cart of ingredients in the Brew House….the orange zest and coriander for the Blue Moon recipe. He said you don’t always see them brewing Blue Moon here…must have been doing it special in honor of my visit! 😉 Tasting the beer fresh from the tanks was also kinda cool.

The scenery all around the brewery and Golden was stunning. Though I apparently was too distracted by the beer, to get many landscape pictures.

All that touring works up an appetite, and The Buckhorn Exchange not only provided a tasty, filling lunch, but plenty of local charm. Originally opening in 1893, it holds Colorado state liquor license number 1. The original owner rode with Sitting Bull, learned to scout with Buffalo Bill Cody, and hunted with Teddy Roosevelt. Based on the decor, it appears he was an *avid* hunter, indeed.

Having toured the world’s largest brewery complex, it was time to visit a much smaller brewery – The Sandlot at Coors Field. Blue Moon originated here 15 years ago (did you know I love Blue Moon?) The GABF Brewers and Judges reception was taking place, allowing us full access to the facility (did I mention I love my job?)

And I thought tasting Coors Banquet fresh from the tanks was special…how about hanging in the basement of The Sandlot with the brewer tapping the tanks for us to enjoy. A pint from a batch of Blue Moon, a pint of their limited edition Oktoberfest style….. Unfortunately, Chardonnay Blonde, a gold medal winner at this year’s GABF wasn’t on tap, so to speak.

Of course, the highlight of the trip was the Great American Beer Festival. Attended two sessions, Thursday and Friday night. Enjoyed Thursday night the best. Seemed a bit more civil, folks actually there to taste the beer. Friday night was more like folks there to drink the beer. Thousands of varieties, hundred of brewers. 1oz samples. Which go down easy. Really easy. And are often higher alcohol content than what the average beer drinker is used to consuming. Let’s just say you see folks who didn’t take this factor into consideration. But for the most part, it’s a relaxed, casual gathering of beer lovers. My kinda event.

The silent disco was a scream. And if you dropped your tasting cup, the crowd gave you a scream. Every style of beer imaginable was represented – some really great ones, some really odd ones, a few average run of the mill ones, and some, well, not so great. But the majority a treat to try.

I was somewhat fascinated by this looooong line of folks. What beer were they waiting to try???? Hmm, let me follow the line to the front…Oh, food, the American Cheese Society. Got it. And if you didn’t know that beer went great with food, you might want to read my post on it.

In the midst of all the scrambling to find the best beers to try, this sign from Brew Dogs of Colorado made me stop and smile.
Denver’s downtown is a pedestrian friendly pleasure to visit. The 16th Avenue Mall is the center of activity. Found the pianos placed along the mall to be a fun touch (ah, the wonderful climate of little rain and no humidity makes things like this possible)

Did make it to one other spot on Saturday morning before flying home. One of the botanic gardens I’ve always wanted to visit. Took hundreds of pictures there (none of you are surprised, right?). Will cover that in a future post. We’ll leave this one focused on the beer. Speaking of which, all this writing has made me a tad thirsty. Anyone want to join me for a Blue Moon?

Wine Country Trip: Part 2 Napa

Recently returned from a 5 day trip to the California wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties. This was a personal/pleasure trip with professional overtones (and perks), as my husband is “in the trade”. Splitting the trip review into 4 sections:

 Part 1. Sonoma
Part 2. Napa
Part 3. Gardens
Part 4. Biking

While both areas produce great wine, enjoy an excellent climate, are incredibly beautiful, and have more than their share of wonderful restaurants; there is a slightly different feel to the two counties. Sonoma has more of the agrarian, and almost hippy feel; while Napa seems more upscale. Or nouveau riche or something. Both are great in their own way. I’d be content living in either.

So, it seemed appropriate that upon leaving the quaint Korbel vineyard house in Sonoma, we would spend the next two nights at the BV Rutherford House…or better put mansion. The Rutherford House is a 10,000 sq foot mansion Chateau and Estates (owners of Beaulieu Vineyards) uses for hospitality and training.

The first floor is set up for entertaining, wine tasting and other large public events.

The second floor contains five guest suites, a communal living/relaxing space and office/work area. We were staying in the BV suite – others were the Carneros suite, de Latour suite, Hewitt suite, Sterling suite and Rutherford suite. All names rich in Napa culture (not to mention Chateau and Estates wines).

I loved the kitchen and outside spaces.

We had this all to ourselves. Literally. The security guard had given us keys to the house and our suite when we arrived on Wednesday, and did not see another person in the house until we were loading the car Friday morning.

In our previous 2 nights at Korbel we’d discovered some great local cheeses (both in our well stocked kitchen and at the Duck Club), and in addition to bringing the leftovers from Korbel, we’d made a stock-up run at a fabulous market in Sebastopol in Sonoma county – Andy’s Produce. Each night I’d put together a wine and cheese tray, and we’d debate front veranda or back deck. The veranda won. I mean, how could it not with this view.

We enjoyed some great meals in Napa. Breakfast each morning at Pacific Blues, outside of which I noticed this delivery truck. And was able to enjoy my fav, Blue Moon with lunch at Hurley’s. Where I devoured the two course “Vintners special” of a watermelon feta salad and fettuccine with diver scallops and a saffron cream sauce. OH my. But the most memorable meal of the whole trip was at Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. Yes, I admit to being a Top Chef fan girl – and this will make my 3rd “master’s” restaurant meal. The short ribs were to die for. Amazing. I must go back. Not to mention I earned a foursquare Top Chef badge for checking in here. BONUS!

We only visited one winery in Napa – Provenance Vineyards. Having the opportunity to taste 3 vintages of Hewitt vineyard Cabernet side by side. Yum. A bottle of the incredible 2006 Hewitt Cabernet followed us home as did their Winemakers Reserve Blend and a couple of bottles of the estate Sauvignon Blanc. Great stuff – plus their Director of Winemaking, Tom Renaldi, is an avid cyclist , both mountain and road. In fact one of our servers was telling us how Tom was trying to organize a ride from Napa to Tahoe. Now that would be one heck of a ride! We may not be up to such a ride – but a couple of Provenance Vineyard bike jerseys also made their way into our suitcases.

The rest of our Napa days were spent on bikes…in both Sonoma and Napa. We’ll get to that in part 4. Next up the gardens…….

Wordless Wednesday: Grand Rapids walk

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