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Three Top Romantic Maine Inns

Three Top Romantic Maine Inns: The porch at Yellow House Inn
Three Top Romantic Maine Inns: The porch at Yellow House Inn

On a trip this past summer to the New England coast, we found ourselves in some top romantic Maine inns with their friendly innkeepers, charming rooms, and comfortable spaces to kick back after a day’s exploring. These inns aren’t just for summer travel, however. Since crowds dissipate in the cooler months, readers might find them even more desirable during the off-season when these New England accommodations may require less advance notice when booking.

The following aren’t the only excellent romantic Maine inns, of course. Still, you cannot go wrong with any of them, especially for their cozy atmospheres, opportunity to chat (or not) with other guests, and comfortable rooms. And don’t forget to check out my blog on the best lobster rolls on the Maine coast when planning your vacation.

Best Breakfast: Captain Swift Inn

Most Ideally Located: Yellow House Inn

Inn That Best Reflects Colonial America: The Nathaniel Lord Mansion

Friendliest Innkeepers: Shelly and Jeff at the Captain Swift Inn

Archives Restaurants Travel

Best Lobster Rolls on the Maine Coast

Best Lobster Rolls on the Maine Coast: Lunch at Thurston’s Lobster Pound

I can’t think of Maine without dreaming of a succulent lobster roll. Because I spent many of my childhood summers in New England, eating a lobster roll outside in the warm sun evokes carefree and seemingly endless days. But, of course, vacations do have endings. They seem especially short for an adult. So where to get your precious few lobster rolls? Lobster pound, lobster shack, or seafood restaurant? And which one, specifically? Even with the high 2021 prices for lobster, Maine teems with people eager to devour the ever-favorite sandwich, and that means you can stand in line for up to an hour waiting for yours. You want to make the wait worthwhile by knowing in advance where to find the best lobster rolls on the Maine coast.

Best Fresh-From-the-Ocean Taste: Thurston’s Lobster Pound

Most Unusual Lobster Roll: The High Roller

Best Lobster-and-a-Beer Place: The Barnacle

Best Roadside Eatery: Sprague’s Lobster

Archives Hotels Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Fairmont Orchid, Near the End of the Pandemic

Fairmont Orchid, Near the End of the Pandemic

After a long year, my husband and I, both vaccinated, visited the Fairmont Orchid near the end of the pandemic. Of course, the spread of the coronavirus has necessarily changed how things work. Still, all is not lost if you choose to visit paradise.

Out of all the states, Hawaii strikes me as most like a foreign country – and it often acts like one. For most of the pandemic and to a lesser degree now, each island has its own set of entry requirements. Study them well because you will be tested. Literally.

Best Room With a View: Oceanfront

Room With Best Value: Garden View

Most Memorable Dining: Brown’s Beach House

Biggest Pandemic Change: Limited Dining Options

Archives Restaurants Travel

Best Places For Lunch in Napa Valley

Best Places for Lunch in Napa Valley: Bouchon in Yountville
Best Places for Lunch in Napa Valley: Bouchon in Yountville

When you’re in Napa Valley, sipping wine from late morning until late afternoon, you’ll want to find the best places for lunch to break up the day – and the alcohol. Much depends on where you happen to be and where you plan to head next on your Napa Valley wine tour. Maybe you’re based in Napa but find yourself in Yountville after a tasting at Domaine Chandon. Or you want lunch in St. Helena before an afternoon tour at Castello di Amorosa. Maybe you find yourself closer to the town of Napa. Because the Napa Valley is an agricultural area with only a sprinkling of towns, you need to plan, especially since many restaurants require reservations even for lunch.

Most Renowned Restaurant: Bouchon

Local Favorite: Mustards Grill

Best Relaxing Lunch: Goose & Gander

A Little Bit of Everything: Oxbow Public Market

Archives Travel

Napa Valley Wine Tour

Napa Valley Wine Tour: Vineyards in the Napa Valley

For serious wine lovers, a Napa Valley wine tour becomes almost a pilgrammage. You can drive up and down the Silverado Trail and tick off the famous names in wine production as you pass their gates and vineyards. Because there are so many, however, you must plan your visit carefully. Here, you’ll find some of the best Napa wineries to visit.

Long gone are the days when you could pop into a winery and sample their wines for free. If you want to visit a particular winery, reserve to guarantee your spot. Some do accept walk-ins, however. Since each winery has different rules and options, make sure you visit web pages to scope out what you want to do. Some offer wine experiences, often with food, while others allow you to belly up to the tasting bar. Regardless, expect to pay for your tasting.

Note: Because of the pandemic, call ahead to make sure your planned stops are open. Websites are updated as rules change.

Best Winery for High-End Cabernet: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Most Beautiful Setting: Artesa

Best Winery You Haven’t Heard About: Bell Wine Cellars

Visit for Sparking Wine: Domaine Chandon

If You Love White Wine: Cakebread Cellars

Most Interesting Property: The Hess Collection

The One Everyone Talks About: Castello di Amorosa

Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Virtual Tour of San Diego

Virtual Tour of San Diego:  Downtown San Diego
Virtual Tour of San Diego: Downtown San Diego

Because of the pandemic, I have waited almost a year to write my blog on the best things to do in San Diego. People had stopped traveling. Over time, though, I’ve discovered that armchair tourism lives on. We all want to dream of a freer time. In response, I’ve detailed a virtual tour of San Diego. Kick back, sip your quarantini, and imagine you are there. Or going there soon.

Despite San Diego’s reputation for year-round good weather, I found it unpredictable, particularly in January. I began my trip in short sleeves and ended it in a hat and gloves. Especially if you plan to go out on the water, pack for cold weather, just in case. Since you aren’t going away, at least not yet, feel free to turn up the thermostat or throw open the windows. Or both. No one will judge you, except maybe your cat.

Fun Stop for Families: San Diego Zoo

Best Restaurant for Foodies: Nobu

Quintessential Pacific Experience: Whale Watching

Best Way to Gain Access to Attractions: Go San Diego Pass

Archives World Oyster At Home

Venetian Lobster and Squid Ink Pasta

About a year ago I ate a fabulous dinner of lobster and squid ink pasta in the heart of Venice. Thanks to a tour guide, who said that it was his favorite traditional Venetian dish, I ordered it at Le Magazin, a restaurant not far from our hotel. This dish requires a whole cold water lobster for maximum presentation and flavor; however, you can dispense with it and use only the meat.

The first time I tried to recreate the recipe, it didn’t taste quite right. Last summer, with Maine lobsters on sale and my garden brimming with fresh grape tomatoes, I decided to give it another go. I used dried squid ink spaghetti, although any long black pasta will do. If you can’t bring yourself to eat squid ink pasta, substitute regular spaghetti or linguine for a less dramatic but still delicious dish.

Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Restaurants Travel

Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes

Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes:  The marina near Blue Point Grille
Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes: The marina near Blue Point Grille

Finding the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes region requires both less and more research than I’m used to. Less, because the options are limited. More, because we found it difficult to find the truly good among them. In keeping with the rural and outdoor nature of the Finger Lakes, even the fine-dining restaurants listed below retain a relaxed, semi-casual vibe.

Best romantic restaurant: Pleasant Valley Inn

Best Menu: Ports Café

Restaurant With the Best View: Ginny Lee Café

Most Relaxing Restaurant: Blue Pointe Grille

Because of covid-19 restrictions, we selected restaurants that either served outside or, by law, at well-spaced tables inside. Reservations are either required or strongly recommended since seating can be limited, particularly on the weekends. Note: Since pandemic restrictions can change, check out the current status before reserving.

Archives Hotels Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen, NY

Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen, sunset
Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen at Sunset

On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, we stayed at the Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen. The bed-and-breakfast inn, perched on a hill above the town, provided a quiet, Victorian-style retreat. Owners Marcus and Elin Dowd offered warm hospitality and delicious breakfasts.

For us, the Idlwilde Inn ended up being near-perfect for what we wanted.

Archives Life in the Time of Coronavirus Travel

Finger Lakes Wine Tour

Finger Lakes Wine Tour: Tasting at Ravines Wine Cellars, overlooking Keuka Lake
Finger Lakes Wine Tour: Ravines Wine Cellars, overlooking Keuka Lake

With the coronavirus still raging, my husband and I decided to plan a Finger Lakes Wine Tour in upstate New York. We did not live in a banned state, and we could drive there in a few hours. Besides, we liked the bookend to our last out-of-state trip before the shutdown, to Napa Valley. With social distancing and mask-wearing in effect, the trip provided a low-key, relatively safe, and fun deviation from our routine.

Although the region focuses on white wines made from riesling and gewurtztraminer grapes, other varieties and styles tasted quite good. We tasted a few reds, but while they were perfectly enjoyable, they didn’t meet our admittedly high standards for red wine.

Best Overall Experience: Boundary Breaks Vineyard

Worst Overall Experience: Dr. Konstantin Frank

Tasting Room Most Closely Connected to Wine Making: Hermann J. Wiemer

Most Knowledgeable Service: Wagner Vineyards

Most Intimate Tasting: Tower Tasting at Heron Hill

Biggest Surprise: Keuka Spring Vineyards

Because tastings cost less and are less formal (also less informative) than those in California, we were able to visit many wineries a day. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best wineries in the Finger Lakes.

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