Sunday, October 22, 2017

Page Springs

Last week I told you a little about the town of Cottonwood, the heart of the northern Arizona wine country.  Today I'm going to take you on a tour of Page Springs Winery, just outside Cottonwood in a hilly area with a lot of volcanic soil.

The winery over looks Oak Creek, that well know stream of water that flows through beautiful Sedona Arizona.  In fact, there is a picnic area right over the creek where you can enjoy some delicious food and an equally delicious glass of wine while listening to the rushing water below you.

And, when I say the food is delicious, I do mean delicious.  I actually stopped here for lunch because I had heard that they had a superb chef working in the kitchen and he lived up to his reputation.  I had the pizza that is called the T & A.  It's made with pesto, roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts and both parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheeses.  Yum...what a treat it was!

After I had eaten, they filled my glass of wine and encouraged me to stroll the grounds and enjoy scenery.  The grounds of the winery are beautifully landscaped with a trails that lead toward the creek and the rows of vines.

My camera and I were drawn to the beautiful, plump grapes hanging on the vines all around.

I was having a hard time controlling my "shutter" finger as I passed row after row of luscious grapes and shady vines.

The rock-lined and and arbor covered path down to the picnic area and the creek was another picture perfect place to stop.

If you find yourself in north-central Arizona, I highly recommend a visit to Page Springs Winery.  The drive to get there is beautiful and the winery itself is one of the prettiest I've seen in this area.  And the food....well...the food is simply exceptional.  It's a perfect Arizona day trip or weekend get-away.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Arizona Wine Country

Cottonwood Arizona is the heart of the Arizona wine county.  Well, the northern half of the Arizona Wine Country.  There is a big section of wine country in the south of our state too.  When I took that road trip last July, I made a two day stop in Cottonwood so that I could explore that area a little bit.  One of the places I visited was the Pillsbury Wine Company official tasting room.  I've mentioned Pillsbury before on my Phoenix Daily Photo site when I first met Sam Pillsbury the winery's owner.

Sam wasn't there the day I visited but, I did pick up three bottles of his tasty wine while I was there.  

The winery tasting rooms are all centered in the old part of Cottonwood in an area that is also home to lots of wonderful shops and galleries.  There was a lot of character in this part of town, including many old stone structures like this bridge I found on edge of the downtown area.

There were also many older homes that have been lovingly maintained.  This one I found especially attractive with all the plants and the wonderful big tree out front.

In the early evening I enjoyed walking along the streets and stopping in unique shops to browse and a few art galleries where I saw some amazing paintings and sculptures.

Finally I settled in at the Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria for some dinner.  They have created a beautiful dining room and a menu with an Italian inspiration.  I had a wonderful pasta dish that I thoroughly enjoyed.  

In a future post, I'll visit another winery that is located a few miles from Cottonwood.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

One Hot Day at the Grand Canyon

When I made that trip to the Grand Canyon back in July, I was mostly interested in experiencing the historic train ride so I only planned on the one day at the canyon.  I've visited the canyon many times before and will most likely be up there again sometime soon.

However, my one day at the canyon this time was hampered a bit the excessive heat that day.  This part of our state usually boasts more moderate temperatures than we see in the southern half but, on this particular day we were having a bit of a heat wave.  The result was that I didn't get to hike as many trails as I would have liked.

To escape from the heat, I enjoyed lunch inside the El Tovar Hotel, a historic hotel that opened its doors in 1905, before the area became a National Park.  It's situated right on the edge of the canyon so the rooms facing that side have some pretty spectacular views.

The rustic interior of the hotel has that wonderful "mountain cabin" feel to it.  It exudes a friendly warmth and a welcoming atmosphere.

Next door to the hotel is the Hopi House, another historic structure that was built in 1904 and is one of many projects designed by Mary Colter inside the Grand Canyon Park.

It was built as a place to market Native American crafts made by Hopi artisans who were the historic inhabitants of the area.  Today it still serves that same purpose and a little stroll through the artwork here was another escape from the searing heat.

Outside the Hopi House is a staging area where Native American performances are available for guest to enjoy.

I saw this colorful group waiting for their turn to perform.

Back on the trail, I saw this young couple making their own photographic memory of this remarkable place.

Hotels, historic structures and traditional performances aside, the true star of this area is still the wide expanse and ever changing colors of that spectacular canyon.  It is a canyon that comes by its "Grand" moniker quite deservedly.  

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Pub it Took Almost 20 Years to Find

Back in 1999 while I was working in Chicago, I had one of my urges to visit London again and I asked a long time friend of mine who lived a little further south in my home town of Quincy Illinois if she wanted to go with me.  It was just a short five day trip but, she hadn't been before and I was itching to go back so off we went.
My friend was told by one of her work clients that she should visit a pub called The Grenadier.  He said it was the perfect English pub to visit.  I even found the pub marked on my trusty "MapGuide" so it looked like it would be easy to locate it.  I was wrong, we walked and walked in the rain up and down the designated street and saw nothing but homes and a few foreign embassies.  Sadly, we decided to give up the search.  We were disappointed that we couldn't find the place and I was especially disappointed in my usually reliable "MapGuide".
On my next trip to London, I remembered the mysterious pub and once again tried to find the place with the exact same results.  I finally decided that this place must be some secret pub possibly with one of those doors with the sliding window where you have to give them a password to get in.

On my last trip to London just last year at this time, I was in that same neighborhood one evening so I decided to give it one more try.  I walked back and forth on that same street just like I had done before but, this time I stopped at what looked like a driveway leading to a large home shrouded in trees.  At the edge of the  "driveway" was a sign that said "Private Drive".

I thought to myself 'do I dare walk down there?'  I decided the worse that could happen is that someone would tell me to leave so I slowly headed down the cobblestone drive only to find that it curved around a corner that was invisible from the street.  As I rounded the curve I could see lights up ahead and as I approached I saw that it was indeed that illusive pub.

I went inside to find a pub full of people enjoying food and drinks and each other's company.  I went up to the bar and ordered a glass of wine and I told the young lady serving me that it had taken me almost 20 years to find this place.  She laughed and said "yes, it is a hard place to find".  I took my drink and found the only empty stool available near a window and as I sat down.  I suddenly realized that the young lady behind the bar was probably a toddler when my friend and I first tried to find this place.  That was a rather sobering dash of reality that I decided to wash down with my glass of wine.  To make it more enjoyable, I called my friend in Illinois to tell her exactly where I was at that very moment.

The Grenadier was originally built in 1720 as an Officers Mess for the First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards and it is said to be named after a young Grenadier affectionately known as Ceric.

There is a story that says that Ceric was caught cheating at cards one night in September and was beaten to death for his sin.  Apparently the pub experiences some rather eerie supernatural events during the month of September and it is thought that Ceric is paying an anniversary visit.  Because of these events, The Grenadier is listed as one of London's most haunted pubs.  In fact, visitors have been leaving money tacked to the ceiling in a effort to pay back the young Grenadier's debt.

I happened to be there on September 26th and although I don't recall any strange events, perhaps it was that wayward Grenadier who guided me down that "private" drive in hopes that I would contribute to the pool to pay his debt.  That's possible, isn't it?

You can read the full story of The Grenadier by clicking the link to the pub's website above.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday at Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market is located in the City of London right in the heart of all those iconic high-rise buildings that shape the unique skyline of England's largest city.

If you visit this place on a weekday, it's so full of people that it can be difficult to navigate.  I was there on my last trip to London right at lunch time.  These lanes were so crowded that picture taking was almost impossible, so I dug out these photos from my 2013 trip.  On that trip, I strolled the area on Sunday and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

My 2013 trip was in late November so everyone was getting into the Christmas spirit which explains the tree and icicle lights.

Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th Century and is one of the oldest markets in London.  In those early days it was full of butchers, cheesemongers and florists.  Today you will find all kinds of places to eat which explains the lunch time crowds I experienced on my last trip to London.  After all,  those thousands of people who fill all those high-rise buildings need a place for a quick lunch before they head back to work.  What could be better than this ornate pedestrian center with the very long history.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Oldest Neighborhood in California

If you want a taste of California life at the turn of the century, the place to go is the Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano.

The area sits along a quiet, leafy street and boasts 40 historic homes, three of which are original adobe structures.  Many of them have been turned into businesses of one kind or another.

The street runs parallel to the railroad tracks which were quite busy while we were there late in the afternoon.  I think we saw at least four different trains pass through as we strolled the street.

My friend Julie and I enjoyed our quiet stroll through the neighborhood exploring some places that had gardens open to the public.

We even stopped at one place that had been turned into a cafe for a cool drink on the pretty patio.

This one had been turned into a coffee shop and a few people were enjoying coffee and conversation on the front porch.  

This place made both of us laugh and prompted us both to take a photo of the "No Photography" sign on the delivery door.  It seemed like such a strange place for such a sign that we could only surmise that it was a bit of a joke.

Almost all of the houses were surrounded be picket fences and they also had some very pretty gardens to admire.  It's a great place to see what California living was like in the pioneer era.  It gives a quite different view of sunny California!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Glasscapes in the Garden

When I was in California last month, my friend Julie and I visited Sherman Library & Gardens, one of our favorite places to take a leisurely stroll.  We were greeted with a surprise for this visit.

The garden was having a special exhibition called "Glasscapes" featuring blown glass sculptures from Viscosity Glass Studio in Boulder Creek California.

I love the art of blown glass and have seen several fabulous Chihuly exhibitions so I was excited to see what this group of artists had to offer in such a fabulous location.

In among the flowers and succulents were some beautiful glass sculptures.

They all had natural forms that blended well with the plants around them.

These pink ones were located in the little garden pond that is watched over by my favorite otter who holds the watering hose.

These yellow roses growing tall were a perfect base for this yellow and orange sculpture.

These two pieces in their lilac and lavender colors went perfectly in this bed filled with purple leaves.

The round, dish-like sculptures looked like colorful blooms among all the ferns and greenery.

And, they were complimented by the colorful floats floating in the greenhouse pond.

All of these beautiful pieces are the work of husband and wife team Scott Graham and Cristy Aloysi of Viscosity Glass Studio.  This exhibition is on at the garden until October 29, 2017 so if you find yourself in southern California, I highly recommend a visit.