Archive for February, 2009

Vacationing in Napa Valley

Napa has over time become one of the world’s best producers of wine, and fetches prices previously only seen in areas of Europe. Today, Napa has become a giant tourist destination in the heart of Northern California. The most popular way to see Napa Valley is by visiting San Francisco in the same trip, which is a little over an hour’s drive southwest of Napa.

Wine Grapes, Napa Valley, CA

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Nearby, you’ll also find Sonoma Valley. Sonoma has some outstanding, small wineries, as well as some bigger ones that you might recognize. The busiest sections of Napa Valley lie in the towns of Rutherford, Napa, Oakville, Calistoga and St. Helena. Along the main route and the Silverado Trail, you can find hundreds of wineries to explore alongside the mountains, on the backroads, and even sometimes up into the mountainsides.

Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley, United States of America

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A section of the Silverado Trail that has some of the valley’s best wine is the Stag’s Leap District. This appellation of wineries contains Regusci, Stag’s Leap, Vine Cliff, Clos Du Val, Silverado, and Chimney Rock, as well as other rich wines from the area. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are some of the area’s best, but you can find some lesser known reds that are just as impressive.

Lensmaster Webcodes has written a great overview lens on Napa Valley, “Travel to Napa Valley, Wine Capital of the World.” Having been there myself, I can tell you that the Old Faithful Geyser is a beautiful display worth seeing just minutes north of most downtown destinations of Napa. Unlike the Old Faithful Geyser of Yellowstone, this geyser doesn’t have the long lines you would expect, but is still a very active geothermal area.

Early Evening Light Over Cabernet Spring Vines at Screaming Eagle Vineyards, Napa Valley, USA

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Another area Webcodes is the Petrified Forest, which I didn’t have to time to check out, but sounds impressive. Ancient Redwoods here have become covered with volcanic material, transforming into the petrified masses that you can see here.

Here are some of my personal tips for Napa sightseeing and wine tours:

1. Start early. Yes, early. The wineries are only open 10-5 for the most part, while some open later or earlier, the window of opportunity is only 4-5 hours. Expect to visit each winery for 30 minutes on the average.

2. DO have crackers in between tastings. Over the day, your palette can get mixed with every other wine, and it can be hard to discern one from the other. On the other hand, this is a great way to develop your wine tastes.

3. Don’t pay attention to prices or what others might be telling you about the wine. Listen to your taste buds and see what you truly enjoy.

4. Go off the beaten path. The Silverado Trail is great, but there are many wineries that lie just off the main roads that are some true hidden gems!

5. Try to not carry back wine with you if you can if you are flying. New regulations make it a huge pain to carry wine on planes, and they can easily explode from air pressure or be destroyed from heat/cold. Ship it back if your state allows, or better yet, drive back.

Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, USA

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February 22, 2009 at 7:49 pm 1 comment

The Big Island of Hawaii

Hapuna Beach at Sunset, South Kohala Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Hawaii is renowned for its beautiful beaches, waterfalls and foliage on islands like Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, but the real action on the archipelago of Hawaii lies on the big island of Hawaii itself.

Lava in the Volcano National Park, Hawaii

Lava in the Volcano National Park, Hawaii Photographic Print

French, Peter

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Larger than all of the other Hawaiian islands combined, this volcanic island has the lowest population density. Much of the island was created by volcanic activity. While most of the volcanoes are dormant or extinct, some are very active. Those that are active can be found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Beautiful black sand beaches from volcanic flow can be found all over the island.

Rainbow Falls Near Hilo, Island of Hawaii (Big Island), Hawaii, USAAs lensmaster Kona Girl states on her lens on the big island of Hawaii, the island holds the biggest mountain in the world, bigger than Mount Everest! The base of Mauna Kea is below sea level, and the rise to the top is actually greater than that of Everest. Atop Mauna Kea you can find one of the world’s most important astronomy centers, Mauna kea Observatory. I highly suggest that you visit Kona Girl’s lens on the big island. It’s an incredible resource and really points out everything about the entire island, from waterfalls to state parks, what’s going on with the island right now, surfing, and even some personal shark encounters on Hawaii.

This Big Island book gets 5/5 stars on Amazon (with 250+ reviews!): Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook

February 6, 2009 at 2:51 pm 1 comment

Joshua Tree National Park

Cactus Flowers, Joshua Tree National Monument, California, USA

The desert of California is typically dry, brittle, and mainly varying shades of brown and gray during the peak summer months. Joshua Tree National Park lies directly in the path of two merging California deserts; the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert.

Joshua Trees in Desert, California

This normally dry and lifeless area springs to life early, before the actual month of spring. The weather is so hot in the desert region of Joshua National Park that they experience spring conditions through January, Feburary and March. The dusty brush experiences vibrant desert blooms that contrast beautifully with the earth toned desert floor. Unique flowers like the Brittlebrush, Canterbury Bells, and Brown Eyed Primrose show off colorful displays, while the park’s feature attraction, the Joshua Tree, may even see a rare bloom. Not every year does experience a large burst of spring color. The amount of color depends on the amount of rainfall. The more rain that the Joshua Tree region receives, the more color and blooms will fill up the desert. Squidoo Lensmaster Happiegrrrl has an incredible display of the Joshua Tree wildflowers and plant life that you can expect to see during the the spring bloom. There are some amazing detailed pictures of flowers and cacti like the Yucca and Cholla cactus.

Joshua Trees, Granite Bolder, Sunrise, CA

Joshua Trees, Granite Bolder, Sunrise, CA
Photographic Print

Spence, Inga

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Joshua Tree is also an incredible to hike and climb. The park features amazing photography, sightseeing, birdwatching, and camping. The park is close to several areas of California and Nevada, Los Angeles being only a couple of hours away, Las Vegas about 150 miles away, and the Palm Springs area only 45 minutes away.

February 4, 2009 at 8:08 pm 1 comment

Top Vacation Beaches

If you’re like most of the northern hemisphere, you’re experiencing an icy, cold and brutal winter. This particular winter has been far worse than years previous, and I for one want to get away from it all — at least in my head. And that’s why this lens was appealing to me right now. The thought of travelling to some of the best beaches in the world sounds pretty good.

Beach at Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Beach at Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

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Lensmaster Chirundu lists some of the best holiday beaches to go to, and they’re looking pretty darn good. The first beach destination on the lens is Cape Town, South Africa. Personally, I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen countless pictures of famous Table Mountain which looks incredible. Cape Town is on the opposite hemisphere, so their seasons will be running opposite if you live above the equator (so at the time of this post might be an excellent time to head down there!).

Canoe Pulled up onto Beach at Dusk, Bamburi Beach, Near Mombasa, Kenya, Africa

For a truly unique beach experience, head to Kenya. Also located in Africa, but directly on the equator, Kenya experiences beach weather year round right on the Indian Ocean. While the inland may have unique safari tours, the beaches are just as impressive in Mombasa. Snorkeling, diving, luxurious hotels, sightseeing and the unique African cuisine will keep you busy on your stay to Mombasa.

Valletta, Malta
A remote destination, but well worth the visit, is Malta, an island smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s welcoming climate makes it a popular tourist destination in southern Europe, along with its rich historical significance. The location of the small island off the coast of Sicily has made it hugely important throughout the centuries to ancient Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Arab nations, and the entire Mediterranean. Renowned for its beautiful beaches, you’ll have an unlimited amount of sightseeing to do on this little European island.

The Burj Al Arab or the Arabian Tower of the Jumeirah Beach Resort, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai also has some incredible beaches worth visiting. Situated in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of the middle eastern region, Dubai is renowned for its explosive growth and innovative architecture. The city contains the world’s largest building, and some impressive beaches. The temperatures through the winter months — December, January and February — are very mild and comfortable, around 75-80 degrees at a high. During the peak summer months, temperatures can rise up to 106 on the average in July and August. The population of Dubai continues to climb due its progressive attitude, beautiful weather, and technologically advanced building styles.

So which beach is your favorite? It would be great to get away from everything during this pounding winter. Be sure to leave a comment if you’ve ever visited any of these exciting top vacation beaches.

February 4, 2009 at 1:01 am Leave a comment

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