Monthly Archives: November 2013
This MUST be the North Pole!
What’s the best wine for Thanksgiving Dinner?
The Top 5 Thanksgiving Wines (because just one would be ludicrous)
Top 5 best Thanksgiving wines… er.. the last one isn’t wine?
Hopefully you’ll survive Black Out Wednesday and be ready for another day of drinking. While there are a few ideal turkey pairing wines, there’s more to selecting the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner than the bird. Consider the following:
- Dinner also includes yams, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce.
- Your house will smell redolent of turkey and pumpkin pie spice.
- You may be on a tight budget after buying dinner fixings.
- Ideally, you’ll be drinking all day.
So what’s it going to be?
- Crowd pleaser
- Good gift wine
- Will make you drunk
- Good value
1. The Wine to Pair with Turkey
Zinfandel is America’s sweetheart. It’s the ideal turkey pairing wine because its lower tannin helps moisten even the driest turkey. Also, Zinfandel’s secondary flavors of cinnamon, clove and vanilla will put you in the mood for fall.
2. The Perfect Ice-Breaker Wine
The worst moments at a party are right when everyone arrives and they’re all standing around. Awkward. To alleviate superficial weather-talk and bullshit, just truncate it… with the sound of a pressurized cork being removed from a bottle of Champagne. Nothing says ‘let’s get this party started!’ better than the sound of bottles popping.
3. The Wine to Match with Ham
While everyone is gawking at the turkey, you’re the one filling your plate up with baked ham. You might as well all admit that, for you, Thanksgiving is about pork products. You’re going to need some Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir, a light-bodied red wine, is a great choice for ham wine pairing because the high acidity cuts through the rich flavors. Red fruit flavors like cherry and cranberry work well with a juicy slice of ham.
4. The Best White Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner
When it comes to the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner, nothing beats a glass of dry Riesling. Bright acidity tingles through all the fat in the gravy, stuffing, potatos, yams and the richness of spice in cranberry sauce. Every sip feels like hitting the reset button on your palate so you can stand to take another bite of dark meat. Disagree? They’re so cheap, I dare you to buy one and try it just to prove me wrong.
- $9 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2011 ( 12.9% ABV )
5. The Best Wine with Pumpkin Pie
The best wine to pair with pumpkin pie is beer. A Belgian style beer with the essence of coriander and lots of tiny bubbles. The lightness of the beer will help scrape all that gooey pumpkin pie from the insides of your mouth. It will also offer a pleasing compliment of bitter and sweet. Trust me, after all that wine, turkey and stuffing there’s not a better way to end the dinner.
- $12 (750ml) Ommegang Brewery “Hennepin” Farmhouse Saison with citris & coriander ( 7.7% ABV )
- $9 (22oz) Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project “Fluffy White Rabbits” Tripel Ale ( 8.5% ABV )
Does it really get any better than dining in a 16th century castle?
1. The Most Luxurious Castle- Amberley Castle
The privileged guests of Amberley Castle can arrive by helicopter if they so please. Standing at over 900 years old the Castle is a historic treasure, and a luxurious destination. Four poster beds, whirlpool bathrooms, decadent furnishings, two fine dining restaurants and a spot of croquet on one of the many lawns means guests are treated like royalty. 01798 831992
Amberley Castle- Images taken from Vonessen Media
2. The Most Extravagant Castle- Stobo Castle
A suite entirely decked out in the finest cashmere? Including the walls? Nothing is too indulgent at Stobo Castle Spa Hotel, where you can even bathe in a limestone tub. Don’t expect Travelodge prices, expect to be completely gob smacked. Claiming to fuse 19th century architecture with 21st century comfort, the appearance of a modern spa lumped onto the side of a classic Scottish castle is a particularly bizarre sight. 01721 725 300
3. The Oldest Castle (in Scotland)- Culcreuch Castle
Prices come slightly back down to earth at Culcreuch Castle, where a more traditional stay is the order of the day. Built between 1296 and 1320, the castle was the ancestral seat of the Scottish clan Galbraith for over 700 years. There are ten elegant rooms to stay in the castle itself, some with four-poster beds. The décor is a vintage delight, and fresh Scottish produce is served in the castle’s two restaurants. 01360 860555
4. The Haunted Castle- Craig–y–Nos Castle
This Welsh castle holds a stunning location in the Brecon Beacons, and was home to world-renowned Opera singer Adelina Patti for some time. Now a popular wedding venue and hotel, It is perfectly positioned to explore the Welsh mountains. The castle also has a reputation for being one of the most notorious haunted buildings in the country. It acted once as a TB sanitorium and a geriatric hospital, the derelict hospital halls still remain and attract many paranormal enthusiasts. It is said the ‘aura’ of the Castle can be felt throughout the building. 01422 323200
5. The Best Shooting Castle- Balfour Castle
The setting of Balfour Castle, is quite simply stunning. Sitting on Spaninsay, one of the Orkney Islands, surrounded by it’s own woodland and coast it is a magical location. If you are keen on a spot of shooting, Balfour is one of the most elite shooting clubs in the world. Primarily seeking wildfowl, but also open for pheasant shoots in the winter months- the weather, wild birds and location make it an extreme shooting experience. 01856 711282
One of the rooms at Thornbury Castle
6. The ‘may lose your head’ Castle- Thornbury Castle
Built in 1508, Anne Bolyen and King Henry VIII stayed here in the Dukes bedchamber, you can sleep there too- unless you fear a beheading! Thornbury is the only tudor castle in the country that you can stay in. Roaring fires, sumptuous meals, and royal bedchambers allow the visitor to step back in time. The hotel even has its own vineyard which produces Thornbury wine- to be enjoyed with one of their exceptional Sunday roasts. 01454 281182
7. The Royal Castle steeped in drama- Ruthin Castle
This historic Welsh castle has had many a grand visitor, from Queen Elizabeth I to legend has it- King Arthur. The suites are suitably royal, one takes the name of the Prince of Wales, commemorating HRH Prince Charles’ visit to the castle. The history of the castle is intriguing and dramatic; King Arthur is said to have disguised himself for a romantic liaison with a mistress in Ruthin. The man who recognized him was executed on a stone block displayed in the town square. There has apparently been many a liaison here, when the wife of army commander Edward I discovered her husbands mistress at the castle- she took her fury out on the women with an axe. She was executed for her crimes and buried outside of the castle walls. Visit Ruthin for your own romantic adventure (minus the bloody end!). 01824 702664
8. The Television Castle- Hazlewood Castle
Hazlewood is better know as the set of the Sky Living’s show Four Weddings where four couples have their dream wedding created for them in the stunning location near Leeds. The castle itself was mentioned in the dooms day book of 1086, its age is reflected in the many ghost stories that accompany Hazlewood- such as a habited monk which is said to stroll around the courtyard. 01937 535353
9. The Recently Flourishing Castle- Peckforton Castle
Peckforton Castle in the heart of Cheshire has had many various purposes over the years. Work on the building of the castle was started by the Tollemach family in 1842 but was not completed until 1851. Ownership was passed down through the family, and during the war the castle was even used as a hostel for 200 physically handicapped children. It was then unused until 1969. Interest from films such as Robin Hood in the eighties, and the castles stunning impression as a location made it the popular castle hotel it is today. 01829 260 930
10. The Fortress Castle- Dalhousie Castle
One of the most hospitable hotels in Scotland, priding itself on a luxurious stay and a truly Scottish welcome, was not always so. Dalhousie was once a fortress standing over some hotly contested Scottish land, and has bourn witness to many historic disputes. The 13th century fortress is surrounded by wooded parkland and is magnificent in stature. 01875 820 153
Despite having some of the world’s best-known monuments, Egypt struggles to fill its abundant hotels. With less-than-wealthy locals far outnumbering the tourists, it’s easy to find a bargain meal or a guide or taxi driver. (They’ll find you whether you need them or not.) Admission prices for the ancient pyramids and temples are reasonable, generally ranging from $3 to $14.
Sample deals: a first-class train ticket from Cairo to Luxor for $17; a Nile-view deluxe double room in Luxor for $60 with breakfast; a private room by the sea in Dahab for under $20; entrance to the Nubia Museum in Aswan for $4; a falafel sandwich at a Cairo street stall for 40 cents. There’s no great independent travel site for the whole country but Egypt’s official tourism site is better than most.
Photo: Erik K Veland
This Southeast Asian nation is one of the most diverse and attractive destinations in the world, with a long string of volcanic islands and a range of topography and culture. It could also be the best value on the planet, with cheap hotels going for $5 a night, often right beside great snorkeling spots. Bali is the most developed island, but even there you can find plenty of deals. On Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, however, it’s easy to branch out like an intrepid explorer or get pampered on the cheap in the most popular spots.
Sample deals: a double room with pool and breakfast in Yogyakarta, Java for under $20; a five-day small ship cruise between Lombok and Flores islands via Komodo for $200 per person including meals; a first-class train seat from Jakarta to Yogyakarta for $25; an hour-long massage for $8-$15; a day’s motorbike rental on Bali for $10. Indo.com has a good listing of mid-range hotels in Bali and some other areas while the official Indonesia tourism site has travel info and enticing photos of the diverse islands.
Photo: Tim Leffel
In mid-2008, the peso was at 10 to the dollar. Now it’s close to 13. That’s a discount of more than 25 percent in a country that was already a deal. Plus Swine Flu followed by drug gang violence on the U.S. border has meant that travelers have tremendous bargaining power on hotels and tours. To find the best values, visit the historic colonial cities or beach areas where Americans don’t outnumber the locals. (As in places where there’s no Señor Frog’s in sight.)
Sample deals: a three-course lunch at a market stand for $4; nice hotels in centuries-old colonial buildings for under $75 double with breakfast and Wi-Fi; a round of Negra Modelos for five at nearly any bar, including gratis snacks, for $10; and some of the nicest deluxe buses in the hemisphere for $6 to $8 per hour of travel. It’s a big, diverse country, but here’s an extensive set of links and the best books on one page: Mexico travel resources from Travelers-tool-kit.com.
Photo: Tim Leffel
Few people knew anything about this country until it was all over the news last year when the president got forced out of office. You can find fabulous deals on scuba diving packages on Roatan Island. This Caribbean island sits next to the second-longest coral reef in the world, and every hotel seems to offer attractive package plans no matter the season. On the mainland you’ve got tropical national parks, the rugged Moskito Coast, and Copán, one of the key Mayan sites in the Americas and a great little colonial town.
Sample deals: $35 white-water rafting trips; weeklong learn-to-dive packages with room, breakfast, and transfers for under $600; a cold coconut with a straw for 40 cents; and admission to the Copán archeological park for $10. For more info, see the Honduras Tips site or Roatan Online, or see more travel prices in Honduras here.
Photo: Tim Leffel
This is only a shade farther to fly than Mexico, but it is a truly exotic destination. The descendants of the Mayans still dress in traditional clothing in the villages surrounding stunning Lake Atitlán. The Spanish colonial buildings in the city of Antigua are older than anything left standing in our historic city districts. The sprawling archeological park of Tikal is the granddaddy of Mayan ruins, and still surrounded by jungle.
Sample deals: taxis in Antigua for $4; great hotels with a view on Lake Atitlán for $60 a night; a week of private Spanish lessons including homestay starting at $180; a zipline canopy tour near Tikal for $30; three pounds of bananas or avocados for a dollar. La Ruta Maya Online is the best resource for hotels, tours, and Spanish language schools.
Photo: Tim Leffel
Machu Picchu alone is worth the journey, but it’s just the start in this value-packed country. Inca ruins are scattered all around the Sacred Valley, and Cuzco is one of the most attractive cities in South America. There is also hiking in the Andes, admiring colonial architecture on the streets of Arequipa, trips through the Amazon, boating across the highest lake in the world, and flying over the strange Nazca lines.
Sample deals: Bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – $6; a big traditional lunch and a beer for $7; simple restaurant meal in the countryside $6 for two; entrance to the Inca Museum in Cuzco for $1.50; cheap single room or hostel bed $4-$10; airport taxi in Cusco $4. Andean Travel Web is an exhaustive resource site for trekking info, hotels that are a good value, and general travel info.
As with Honduras and Mexico, visitor numbers plunged when Bangkok was all over the news recently, so there are plenty of deals on airfare, tours, and hotels. This is a popular destination for travelers of all budget levels. Thailand continues to be one of the best bargains in the world in terms of hotel prices, and with a well-developed infrastructure, it’s easy to get around and see what you want to see, be it historic ruins, Buddhist temples, or tropical beaches.
Sample deals: a standard double at a true 5-star hotel in Bangkok for $250 or less per night—or a cheap place to flop down and sleep for 1/20th of that price; admission to the main ruins in Sukothai for under $2; a first-class round-trip sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for about $40; a Skytrain ticket across Bangkok for about $1.30. The hands-down best travel resource for Thailand is Travelfish.org. They also put out some great iPhone/iPad apps on specific regions and islands.
8. Czech Republic
Photo: Tim Leffel
In much of Europe, prices in the big cities are often double what you find in the countryside. This is especially true in Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, where vacationers on quick weekend breaks have driven up hotel and restaurant prices in Prague. In the smaller towns and cities, however, the country is one of Europe’s remaining great values. Castles on hill crests, some of the world’s best beer for a dollar or so in a pub, and winding cobblestone streets without crowds—Ye Olde Europe without the new Europe prices.
Sample deals: a room at the best hotel in town across Moravia for under $100 with breakfast; fully equipped hybrid bike rental for $25 a day; sommelier guided 12-bottle tasting at the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in Valtice for $19; a train ticket from Prague to anywhere in the country for $12 or less. The official Czech Tourism site is excellent while MyCzechRepublic has good general info on different regions plus a message board. See more Czech prices outside Prague here.