A Romantic Rocky Mountain Road Trip

The road trip was eminent. The agenda: Bob had two state capitals to finish his “See all 50 Capitals” -Boise, ID & Helena MT.  (An adventure that started long before we met.)

The Idaho View

The Idaho View

So, one has to ask oneself a few things first: Is a road trip a romantic thing? Is it a good thing for your marriage, just the two of you in a car for countless hours? Winding your way through the Rocky mountains of Idaho and Montana and eventually Wyoming? The answer became clear after a few miles out, quite simply “yes!”There were gorgeous ever-changing mountain views in every direction the entire trip. We had a lot of driving ahead of us, but no problem. You can’t get bored with the panoramic spread of the mountains. At least we didn’t!

Sun Valley Ski Resort

Sun Valley Ski Resort

We flew into Boise and started our road trip to Sun Valley, Idaho; later driving all the way to Yellowstone Valley Lodge in Livingston, Montana.

On the road

On the road

Yellowstone National Park was only 25 minutes away, so why not see it?

Bison at Yellowstone

Bison at Yellowstone

Bob was dead set on seeing Old Faithful. Our timing was ok, but the not so faithful geyser surprised even the rangers and we missed it! Oh well, that is one of the things you learn on a road trip, you have to be open to plan B.

"Not" Old Faithful

“Not” Old Faithful

Back to the Yellowstone Lodge, it was in a beautiful location. From the front the cabins didn’t look like much but they were perfect and backed right up to the Yellowstone River.

Cabin View

Cabin View

We had a private little terrace with Adirondack chairs to sit in and enjoy the majestic views of the Absaroka Mountains. Their scrumptious complimentary breakfast was perfect and in the evening their fieldstone fire pits provided beautiful views.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Our only assignment for the two evenings we were there was to soak in the view and enjoy  champagne.

The Fire Pit

The Fire Pit

 

Connie

Connie

 

Bob and Champagne

Bob and Champagne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lodge’s grill was a dinner option and their chefs prepared outstanding fresh masterpieces.

Chef's 1st Creation

Chef’s 1st Creation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After two nights of this wonderful lodge we packed up to head all the way back to Sun Valley where we started out.

We had fun on our road trip and if you’re a romantic, the ingredients are all there. Restful and serene views of mountains (some still snow capped), millions of acres of wilderness, and plenty of time to get to know the differences in the way you both navigate the road via map or GPS. One of the best parts of a road trip are the discoveries that are made along the way. What did we discover? We love each other, but still can drive each other crazy some of the time.  My tip to add enjoyment to your next road trip is to make sure that your rental car has a CD player and pack some CD’s, or make sure you will have XM radio. If you are traveling through mountains you won’t have great radio reception. I found it helped me to sing most of the way. Oh yeah, mission accomplished!

Boise, ID - 49th State

Boise, ID- 49th State

 

Helena, MT - 50th State

Helena, MT – 50th State

 

Bob's 50th

Bob’s 50th

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And The Sign Said: The Food, The Bar, The View (In Seattle)

The Sign

The Sign

 

I remembered this little restaurant the other day and thought I should comment on how excellent it was and how glad we were to have stumbled upon it. Place
Pigalle is tucked in a little corner behind Pike Place Market with a view of Puget Sound and Seattle’s Ferris wheel.

 

 

 

Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle

It was hidden, out of the way, cozy, a place for us to sit, unwind, relax, and take in an “us” moment. We had a large breakfast, and intended to eat out for dinner, so we just needed something little to hold us over. Place Pigale was  perfect, it was exactly what we were looking for and it was time to get out of the rain! I had always heard that it was very rainy
in Seattle, and I was finding out it wasn’t an exaggeration! The rain was sporadic however, one minute raining, the next sunny.

 

The funny thing was as we looked over the menu, I looked out the window over Bob’s left shoulder, and it wasn’t raining. I looked over his right shoulder at the Ferris wheel view and it was pouring! How odd, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but no, it was just the weather in Seattle. I didn’t know if they were trying to compete with the yo-yo weather we have in Chicago, but if they were they were doing a good job!

The Rain Game

The Rain Game

 

The view

The view

With the help of our friendly waitress, we decided on Escargot de Bourgogne, (Tarragon Butter, Garlic, Shallots, Pernod, Baguette) one of our favorites, and Calamari Dijonnaise, (Squid, Garlic, Ginger, Spinach, Cremini Mushrooms, Dijon Cream Sauce). Calamari is also one of our favorites, not fried mind you, but grilled! How perfect with a bottle of Champagne! That was all I needed to be hap, hap, happy! Both the Escargot and the Calamari were delicious, and we sat there and enjoyed the view and the intimate moment in a special little restaurant.

Calamari & Escargot

Calamari & Escargot

 

Our Lunch

Our Lunch

Don’t miss it if you are in Seattle!

Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle

 

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Champagne Makes My World Go Round!

Champagne!

Champagne!

I don’t know about you, but I love Champagne. It doesn’t have to be New Year’s Eve or a wedding to bring out the bubbly. Whenever Bob and I pop a bottle of Champagne whether it is for a special occasion or just a special dinner at home, it makes the moment feel like a party. There is something magical about that “pop” and no matter when you pop a bottle of Champagne, that pop signifies the party has started!

Champagne Balloon Bubbles

Champagne Balloon Bubbles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have often thought that a Champagne party, yes just to celebrate how great it is, would be as good a reason as any to have a party. So let’s (pretend to) plan such a party. We’ll plan the perfect Champagne party by gathering up pictures, ideas and goodies from many online sources. The venue, or home, would be decorated with these clear balloons that mimic Champagne bubbles. (Pictured above) The tables will be graced with the cocktail napkins below.

Cocktail Napkins

Cocktail Napkins

Along with the balloon décor the walls will have French Vintage Champagne Posters strategically placed for inspiration, not that we will need any!

French Posters

French Posters

French Posters

French Posters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The invitations would be similar to this one I found.

Invitations

Invitations

Now for the edibles, of course caviar, and other fancy yet satisfying appetizers are in order. I found a recipe for Champagne cupcakes I think sound perfect.

Caviar

Caviar

Champagne Cupcakes

Champagne Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The barware would consist of a selection of different Champagne glasses that would be chic to intermix and play with the many shapes and patterns.

Champagne Glasses

Champagne Glasses

Let’s not forget the Champagne buckets – they would be varied too. Wine stoppers can add to the whimsy also.

Champagne Bucket

Champagne Bucket

Champagne Bucket

Champagne Bucket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Stoppers

Wine Stoppers

 

Champagne is expensive for a reason. Even though a good bottle of bubbly is splurge-worthy, we would have to budget accordingly and therefore the guest list would be smaller, so the Champagne bottles could be a-plenty! It can be confusing picking the right bottles of Champagne, if in doubt refer back to my blog about picking the right Champagne. My favorite is always a Brut, which is the driest.

 

Ok, there’s the planning – I’ll be waiting for my invitation in the mail. Oh, remember, there’s never enough Champagne!

Lucy

Lucy

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Piccolo Sogno Due isn’t “A Little Dream”, It Is A Fantasy!

Piccolo Sogno Due

Piccolo Sogno Due

Enter Piccolo Sogno Due, Chicago, and you instantly feel the romance – dark blue ceilings offset by crisp white woodwork and crisp linen tablecloths. Our table was off to the side, which I was thankful for because the room was becoming filled as we were seated. The good news was that the tables were spaced so it wasn’t a problem. (We were alone in a crowd.)

Breadbasket

Breadbasket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First things first, the bread basket was served promptly by our eager-to-please waiter and it didn’t disappoint, filled with a variety of freshly made focaccia, sourdough, flat breads, whole-wheat crackers and squid-ink sourdough. My mouth was watering immediately and I eagerly poured some of their fantastic olive oil in preparation to devour the savory breads. Yep, I was glad for the bread because we ambitiously decided on a wine-pairing
dinner and starting with some worthy bread is a good idea.

Polpo

Polpo

Our antipasta choice was the Polpo: grilled octopus, roasted peppers, fingerling potatoes and grilled frisee with tuna sauce. Octopus may not sound or look alluring to many and when it is over-cooked it tends to be rubbery. However, ours was cooked to perfection and
it was drop-dead delicious. We paired it with Prosecco and it made an excellent pairing.

Fava

Fava

Our salad course was Fava: fava beans, olive oil, arugula, and the Tuscan cheese Pecorino, paired with Rosso Blau. My reaction after a few bites was “wow!”

Pappardelle

Pappardelle

Our pasta course was the Pappardelle: long flat pasta, and spiced wild boar ragu. The pasta was perfect and the ragu was a rich mix of meat and tomato that I couldn’t stop eating. This was paired with Vino Nobile. It was hard to keep going at this point, but we were up for the challenge!

Our Carne (meat) course was the Vitello: grilled veal loin, local squash, tomatoes, roasted onions and fingerling potatoes with a balsamic. The veal was big-flavored and beautifully grilled. We enjoyed two glasses of Barolo with this course and decided we could not do another course justice.

Vitello

Vitello

Our experience at Piccolo Sogno Due was complete – romantic ambience with delicious Italian food (you can’t order the wrong thing here) and perfect wines. We will definitely be back for more and next time I’m determined to save room for dessert.

Piccolo Sogno Due

Piccolo Sogno Due

Images courtesy of Piccolo Sogno Due

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A Vodka Tasting in St. Petersburg, Russia with Lard?

Russian Vodka Museum

Russian Vodka Museum

I’m still haunted by one of our sightseeing tours when we visited St. Petersburg last year. You have to go to the Vodka Museum when touring St. Petersburg, Russia because after all it is the national beverage right? When in Russia, do as the Russians do? So we did. Actually I believe the national drink of Russia might be something as boring as tea, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll say it is vodka. The first thing the guided tour does is take you through the history, and a few vintage artifacts that go with it. Including some rather scary looking statues depicting the history of vodka making.

Vodka Museum

Vodka Museum

 

The history of Vodka

The history of Vodka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the good part, there were 3 different shots of vodka: Regular, Ginseng/Honey, and Extra Fine. Served with it were 3 different snacks (chasers) and they were strange! A pickle, herring on rye, and lard on rye bread with horseradish.

Snacks

Snacks

Yes you heard me right, lard. When I heard them describe the snacks to be served with our vodka I immediately said, “I’m not going to eat lard!” After taking a closer look at it, which looked very much like thin sliced turkey. I did eventually try a bite, it didn’t taste like lard, and ok I have never really eaten lard before to my knowledge, but if I had this wasn’t what I would have thought it tasted like. I still couldn’t bring myself to eat all of it. And I really didn’t get the pickle thing. Herring ok, but I felt like I was going to need extra vodka if this is what I had to do to get a taste of it. The signs on the walls were interesting and the shot glasses were different, so it was worth going, but I’m still cringing about the lard thing. Yep, done that, next.

Tasting Vodka

Tasting Vodka

 

Vodka Posters

Vodka Posters

Vodka Menu

Vodka Menu

Vodka Museum

Vodka Museum

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5 Places I Want To Be Today, The Perfect Day!

Let’s face it February is depressing. By now we are all ready for more sun, and something fun to do outside. So as long as I am daydreaming, below is my perfect day. What’s yours?

  1. Breakfast at Frances’ Lodge, Siena, Italy. It can’t get much better than that.
Breakfast at Francis' Lodge

Breakfast at Francis’ Lodge

 

Breakfast with fresh croissants

Breakfast with fresh croissants

2. A sightseeing excursion in Tuscany, Italy.

Sightseeing in Tuscany

Sightseeing in Tuscany

 

The Mystic Abbey of Sant'Antimo in Montalcino

The Mystic Abbey of Sant’Antimo in Montalcino

3. A picnic lunch at the Eiffel Tower, Paris.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

 

Picnic Lunch

Picnic Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Cruising pre-dinner cocktail with friends along the Italian coast.

Cruising on Silversea

Cruising on Silversea

 

View of the Italian Coastline

View of the Italian Coastline

5. Dinner in Rome, feasting on grilled calamari and finishing with a Gelato dessert.

Feasting on Grilled Calamari

Feasting on Grilled Calamari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gelato in Rome

Gelato in Rome

Perfetto!

 

 

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A Birthday Stay At Trump Towers Chicago? Okay!

Trump Towers Chicago

Trump Towers Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering last September 2015, it was our birthday week. Bob and I have birthday’s three days apart. We had tickets to the Joffrey Ballet and Shakespeare Theater two nights in a row. So it was a natural suggestion on both of our parts to stay downtown Chicago instead of driving back and forth. Lately it takes us almost 2 hours to get downtown no matter what time we think is smart to leave! The small task ahead was to find a hotel we liked that was in a good location, and we have a huge list of go-to hotels. Small task… not. We soon found out that several huge events were happening the week of September 14th – among them a marathon, a soccer tournament – and no rooms were available in the city of Chicago. “Really!”, I remember saying, how can that even happen? I thought there were always rooms in Chicago, maybe you didn’t want to stay in them, but there were rooms. We clicked, we called, and we reclicked for hours and came up empty handed. I was beginning to think I was in a Twilight Zone episode where the entire city of Chicago was locked up. We found an exception: Trump Hotel Chicago kept popping up with our required dates. They still had some available rooms and yes, you guessed it, they weren’t for weak of wallet.

Taking a few deep breaths and calling for plan B, we thought well….. it was our combined birthday week. Ok let’s just treat ourselves to a room at Trump Towers!

Kitchen, Living and Dining Rooms

Kitchen, Living and Dining Rooms

 

Good choice, because it was spectacular. I had already toured the hotel, guest rooms, and Sixteen when I featured them on my website under romantic places to stay Chicago. I knew how luxurious it was. I didn’t however get to spend the night until now. Oh, and to our “Happy Birthday” surprise, they upgraded our room to a Grand Deluxe Suite for our birthdays! Thank you Mr. Trump!!

Living Room

Living Room

The suite was huge with a marble fireplace, a guest bath, gorgeous master bath, fully equipped kitchen, free access to the health club and spa (pool). Breathtaking
floor-to-ceiling views of the city of Chicago! What more could you want? Well Trump Hotel thought of a Birthday cake and a welcoming bottle of champagne.

Birthday Cake And Champagne

Birthday Cake And Champagne

The only thing that would have made it better was if they had comped the room. (No such luck.)  Oh well, Happy Birthday to us! See the slideshow below to view some great pictures  of the suite and hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiking with the Snowmakers on Heavenly Mountain

First Morning Hike

First Morning Hike

What a difference a day makes when the snowmaking starts on Heavenly Mountain in Lake Tahoe! We hiked up the mountain the first morning on our visit and it was breathtaking. A challenging hike if you just walk straight up the mountain instead of taking the winding road that the snowmakers and groomers take with their snowcats.

View From Lodge

View From Lodge

Looking out our lodge windows we could see the snow whirling in the air before heading out on the second morning’s hike. As we approached the path up the mountain, snow
was billowing out in every direction.

Snowmaking

Snowmaking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was already snow of course for our first hike, but not as much as our second day’s hike.

A Snow Machine

A Snow Machine

 

The snow team lovingly called the “midnight riders” must have been furiously making snow for the skiers all night long. I had never seen a snow making machine before and certainly had never tried running past one, but that morning we did. It went something like this “Ready, set, RUN!” Heads down and running as fast as we could past the
contained blizzard in front of us, we weren’t about to be fazed by the busy machines seemingly blocking our path.

Snowmaking Ahead

Snowmaking Ahead

It was beautiful. It made our hike a better workout as we sank into the fresh powdery snow with every step.

Day 2

Day 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On average, Heavenly makes 120 inches of snow a year, boasting one of the most expansive snow making systems in the world.

Bob

Bob

I don’t downhill ski, Bob does. I prefer to hike or cross country ski.

Snowmaking View

Snowmaking View

None the less, I love the city of Lake Tahoe.

A Heavenly Sunset

A Heavenly Sunset

Especially on Heavenly Mountain just outside our lodge at the Eagle’s Nest. I could look at the view of endless pine trees and snow all day long, it makes me happy!

Sun Setting on Heavenly

Sun Setting on Heavenly

Romantic? Oh yes!

 

 

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17 reasons you want to stay HERE in Napa Valley!

I promise, Cottage Grove Inn, a bed and breakfast in Calistoga, Napa Valley is romantic! Calistoga is tucked into the base of Mount Saint Helena at the top of Napa Valley California. Below is my list of praiseworthy reasons to not miss this place if you are traveling to wine country.

Cottages

Cottages

1) Your own cozy cottage with a working fireplace (Firewood on your front porch).
2) Two cozy white wicker rocking chairs on your front porch.

Cozy Fireplace

Cozy Fireplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Two cozy stuffed arm chairs by the fireplace with a blanket and reading lamp.

Cozy Chairs

Cozy Chairs

 

4) A huge bathroom with walk in shower and Jacuzzi tub for two.

Romantic Jacuzzi

Romantic Jacuzzi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) An adorable little vanity table.

Vanity

Vanity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) An inviting and comfy king bed with plush down comforters & pillows.

Inviting King Bed

Inviting King Bed

7) In room wet bar, Keurig coffee maker and a refrigerator for your convenience.

Fresh Breakfast

Fresh Breakfast

8) The all included fresh breakfasts are vast, wonderful and delicious in their charming dining room with fireplace.

Breakfast Room

Breakfast Room

9) The wine and cheese buffets every evening!

Evening Wine & Cheese

Evening Wine & Cheese

10) Handy trays to carry your selections back to your room for convenience and coziness.
11) All the movies you could want to pick from to view from your flat screen TV.
12) You are close to so many wineries in every direction!

Wineries

Wineries

 

Wine Tastings

Wine Tastings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13) Cabins are within easy walking distance to restaurants, art galleries, tasting rooms, and boutiques in Callistoga.
14) The cottages are placed on the lot so that your privacy is intact.
15) In-room picnic baskets provided in every room if you are so inclined.
16) Complimentary bicycles.
17) Easy parking in front of your cottage.

Outside Eating Area

Outside Eating Area

We loved this place, would go back in a heartbeat, and everything about it was first class.  Calistoga is a charming town in Napa Valley and not far from Sonoma Wine Country too.  Yes, everything about this Inn was perfect!

Vineyards

Vineyards

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25 Amazing Whales in Juneau, Alaska

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales

We set off on a whale watching tour in Juneau, Alaska, not exactly knowing whether we would actually see that many whales or not. The views were already spectacular with mountains on both sides, lush green fir trees everywhere and clear blue water. What more could you want, right? Well, whales on a whale watching tour, and whales we saw! Both Humpback whales and Orcas.

Whale Pods

Whale Pods

We watched with sheer delight as smaller boats seemingly were almost surrounded by pods of whales skimming the water’s surface. I was so worried that they might accidentally overturn one of the boats, thank goodness they didn’t!

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales

Most of us know the Orcas as “Killer Whales”, but our guide said they don’t like to call them that because they don’t kill humans. I guess killer whales are pretty darned smart — they have a culture with specific behaviors, a picky diet, and they know that we don’t taste very good.

Spouting Whales

Spouting Whales

The orca was first known as the “whale killer” because they were observed killing and eating whales. Orcas often hunt cooperatively together, and we saw several skimming the surface and spouting every few seconds as they swam in pods.

Fluking

Fluking

Sometimes the whales propelled their bodies up and out of the water and landed with a big splash, the last thing visible before the whale was completely submerged was usually the underside of the tail fluke. This is called fluking or breaching and we all waited in great anticipation on all sides of our boat for the next show every few minutes. We were extremely lucky, we spotted a whopping total of 25 whales on our tour and that was much more than normal.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

The Humpback whales were entertaining too, and they breach more often than other whales. The Pacific humpback’s pectoral fins are white underneath and black on top and they can be a black to gray color with varying amounts of white on undersides and throats. For the most part, the orca whales and the humpback whales in the wild are visible only when they are at the surface, so it was inherently challenging to figure out which whale we were seeing at any one moment even though they are quite different in size. The average weight of the Humpback is between 23-30 tons. The average weight of the Killer Whale is between 2.6-9 tons.

Whales

Whales

The Orca/Killer Whale is a versatile predator and has one of the most varied diets of all cetaceans. It is known to eat anything from squid, fish, and birds to sea turtles, seals, and dolphins; it will even tackle animals as large as Blue Whales! Killer whales sometimes slide up onto sand bars or beaches to hunt sea lions. Sometimes this will entail them hitting ice floes from below to knock prey into the water. Learning about these wild mammals and seeing them hunt and play was extremely exciting and quite an adventure. The scenery wasn’t bad either; I thought the lighthouse below was so pretty.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

I’m so glad we went on this excursion; it turned out to be so much more than I expected. That evening we returned to our cruise ship and we enjoyed a romantic dinner with a beautiful sunset. We reminisced with glasses of wine in hand at the beauty of the wild whales.

Romantic Sunset

Romantic Sunset

 

Romantic Dinner

Romantic Dinner

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