Our year in Nambé, New Mexico flew by and we are now enjoying a three week vacation between sits. I gave Paul carte blanche when it came to planning this trip and he has outdone himself so far…
Route 66 in Seligman, AZ
The man has been fascinated with Route 66 ever since we moved to New Mexico (especially after seeing Billy Connolly’s Route 66 documentary), so two weeks of our trip has been dedicated to following the “Mother Road” from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Santa Monica, California.
I am embarrassed to admit that I actually fell in and out of sleep immediately upon heading down said road and missed taking pictures in Historic Old Town Albuquerque. In my defense, there was so much to do up until the morning we left…I guess it all caught up with me.
Route 66 Casino Hotel in Albuquerque, NM
Our first official night on the road was spent at Route 66 Casino Hotel in Albuquerque. Paul picked this spot because it was convenient and had live music for him and a poker room for me. Paul doesn’t gamble but I love to play Texas Hold ‘Em, so he told me to blow a few bucks on the table while he enjoyed the band a few bars over. It was a great night!
From there, we drove to Williams, AZ. Both of us had never been to the Grand Canyon and Paul booked us a train ride right from our digs at the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel. We were very fortunate in that the Grand Canyon had just re-opened (post Government Shutdown) the weekend we arrived.
Getting to the Grand Canyon in Style
Music, Stories, and Corny Jokes Courtesy of Clarence Clearwater
Caboose Shot on the Way to the Grand Canyon
Blown Away by the Grand Canyon
An Old-Fashioned Train Robbery Courtesy of Grand Canyon Railway
We had a wonderful time in Williams, and I got a big ol’ lump in my throat upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. A lot of vacationers, some who saved up for months and even years, missed out on this experience altogether while government employees (especially those that rely on tips) and indie shops and restaurants were hit hard by the lack of business. A true shame.
Keepers of the Wild Nature Park
Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in Valentine, AZ was a planned stop en route to our motel room in Kingman, AZ and it proved to be a highlight of our trip. If you get out to this non profit sanctuary, be sure to take the tour as you will learn so much more about the animals and where they came from. Most of these wild animals were rescued after having been abandoned and/or abused (mainly for entertainment purposes). Please click on their link for more photos and to learn about how and why this park came to be ~ it is an interesting story that just might tug at your heart-strings. Thank you for all that you do, Keepers of the Wild!
A Rescued Tiger at Keepers of the Wild
Curious Monkey at Keepers of the Wild
Room to Roam at Keepers of the Wild
Route 66 boasted plenty of photo opps throughout Arizona and I will link to a post on our favorite road signs soon. In the meantime, here are a few shots from the road…
Angel & Vilma’s Route 66 Gift Shop in Seligman, AZ. Angel fought successfully to bring Route 66 back from obscurity.
Siesta Apartments & Kitchenettes in Kingman, AZ. There are still plenty of dwellings for drifters along Route 66.
Mr. D’s Route 66 Diner in Kingman, AZ
We would like to thank Sam at El Trovatore Motel for sharing a lot of Kingman, AZ history and fun facts with us. We were given the choice of rooms to sleep in for our one night there, and Paul chose the Marilyn room (it was a tough choice between her and Audrey).
El Trovatore Motel in Kingman, AZ
El Trovatore at Night
Bathroom Window Love at El Trovatore Motel
Going Back in Time (With a Very Feisty Donkey) in Oatman, AZ
We are currently nestled in a small cabin in the woods of Idyllwild, California, doing laundry and re-organzing our luggage in preparation for our first visit to the Caribbean tomorrow (we will be staying in Grenada for a week).
I will be sure to post California and Caribbean photos soon. In the meantime, please leave any comments or questions you may have for us here on our blog and one of us will get back to you. Thank you for following along with us on our adventures. California marks our eighth state as Caretaking Couple and we love keeping in touch with you, wherever we go! XO,
Valynne & Paul
“Oh, to be in England now that April’s there,” so said Robert Browning in his poem, ‘Home Thoughts, from Abroad’. The author clearly wasn’t taking into account the likely weather at that time of the year. T.S. Eliot was probably closer to the mark when he said about England, “April is the cruelest month”.
English Countryside Daffodils
So, it was a pleasant surprise to arrive in London at the end of April to be greeted by beautiful weather. The primary purpose of the visit was an old friend’s wedding. It was also an overdue opportunity to catch up with friends and family, drink lots of ‘real ale’ and do some hiking in the Derbyshire Dales, my home ground.
My only regret was that I would be making the journey alone. I know how much Valynne loves what she has already seen of England, but caretaking and vineyard duties would have to take precedence, this time. I was instructed to take lots of photographs, which I did.
As I say, I got lucky with the weather. I knew it had been a miserable winter in England and spring had fared no better so far. Weather has always been a major talking point in England, probably because we get so much of it and most of it not good. Since I returned to the US, the weather back home has once again gone downhill, as we say.
I like to fly Virgin Atlantic when crossing the pond, but it’s a bit of a trek to get to the flight from Santa Fe. Train to Albuquerque, fly to Dallas, fly to New York, and fly to London. Leave Sunday afternoon and arrive Tuesday morning. There are easier routes, but New Mexico isn’t anyone’s hub.
On arriving in London I picked up a rental car and drove north for two hours to arrive at Stanshope Hall around four in the afternoon. Prior to arriving I called into to see the groom (Phil) and we went for a couple of ‘pedis’…best beer in England to you uninitiated. Ah, heaven. Then I called in for fish and chips in my old town of abode – Ashbourne.
Stanshope Hall is a private residence in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales within the Peak District National Park – the first national park in England in 1951 to be designated as such and covering 555 sq miles. Naomi has converted half of Stanshope into a bed & breakfast and with her family, lives in the other half. It was here I would be spending the next three nights in some of the most glorious countryside in the whole of England. By Tuesday evening I was pretty tired as you might imagine, so after an early supper and a fine bottle of wine, I retired to bath and bed. Rupert would be arriving the next morning and we would set off on a day hike and go in search of more beer.
A full English breakfast to start the day – two pork sausages, three rashers of back bacon, grilled tomatoes, two fried eggs, Derbyshire oatcake, grilled mushrooms, toast and a pot of tea. Now you might say that you can have all of that, oatcake accepted, in the US. Yes, but it’s not the same. It’s like a pint of Guinness. Once you’ve had a pint of Guinness in Ireland, you realize that a pint of Guinness anywhere else is just not the same. I had a good natter to Lynne, who prepared my fabulous breakfast and it turns out we both went to the same junior and high schools. Lynne was a little after me. And, her husband, Jez, worked at Rolls-Royce for 30 yrs, just like me, although we never met being in different areas of the business.
Rupert arrived at around 10 with a route already prepared. I last saw Rupert about 7 years ago when Valynne and I visited. We go back a long way and used to do long distance walks together throughout England. Rupert worked for IBM and provided engineer support for the Rolls-Royce data center.
Public Footpath to Stanshope
The hike begins right from the front door as you head over the fields and down into Hall Dale and eventually into Dove Dale, named after the beautiful river that flows through here and provides plenty of sport for Trout anglers.
Words can’t adequately describe the walk; you just had to be there, so you need to check out the pictures. Some of the highlights were the thousands of wild daffodils and the new and recently born lambs frolicking in the meadows.
Lamb Playing Peek-a-Boo
For those of you not familiar with hiking in England I can thoroughly recommend it. England, and indeed the whole of Britain, is awash with ancient footpaths and bridleways that connect the many small towns and villages. These were the roadways of the day and are still wonderfully maintained by organizations like the National Trust. As you would expect, many of these paths cross private land, but access cannot be denied by law. Attempts have been made by landowners to block access, but with the occasional exception, all fail. It is more or less possible to walk the length of breadth of the UK without actually using a real roadway for anything other than immediate access to a town or village.
A Proper Pint at The George
No responsible hiker, English anyway, would plan a route without a pub stop around lunchtime. The good news is that you are never that far away from a pub on all but the most remote of walks. So it was we arrived at the George Inn at Alstonefield. We sat outside and drank our ‘pedis’ and talked about old times, as old codgers do it seems. Rupert, living in the Derby area, maintains contact with a number of our old colleagues from R-R. The conversation was a little depressing and went something like this (names changed to protect the innocent). “How’s Frank doing” I began. “Oh, he’s dead”, replied Rupert. “How’s Geoff..…”he’s not well”. “What about Dave”…….”He committed suicide”. And so it went on.
Paul’s Spot at The George
George Inn is a wonderful little pub, serving great beer and food and I was to have dinner here this evening and the next. The Innkeeper reserved my own little table in the corner by the fire. Say 10 years ago, the majority of pub fare was pretty basic, but tasty nevertheless…ploughman’s, sandwiches, pickled eggs, etc. With the advent of much stricter drinking and driving laws and the cost of gasoline, trade declined and many pubs that didn’t have a thriving local trade, closed. Those that survived upgraded their menus and opened up for accommodation so that drivers, and indeed hikers, could stay overnight.
Paul’s Old Stomping Grounds, the Derbyshire Dales
Fast forward and I’m sadly checking out of Stanshope Hall and heading for Derby. On the way stopped in at Ashbourne to say Hi to Louise. Louise is the owner of Lou Lou’s in the high street – a very classy lingerie store and we’ve known each other for a while. Almost every time I’ve called in to see Louise she’s been on vacation. This time was no exception. The business must be doing well. I actually went back a few days later to buy something for Valynne, but they were closed due to the bank holiday.
The River Dove
Derby is a city of approximately 250,000 and its origins go back to the Romans, Saxons and Vikings. In my experience Derby has always lacked a choice of good hotels, but that’s changed in my absence. I checked into the Jury’s Inn in what is now called the Cathedral Quarter of Derby. It’s definitely the most preserved area with many old building and pubs and so a good location. I parked the car in the hotel car park and would leave it there for the next three days. The hotel was very nice, good room, good restaurant and bar, although I only did breakfast on one morning.
After checking in I set off on foot to wander and to see what had changed in my town of birth since my last visit. While driving into town I’d already found out that the road system had changed, again, so getting around was a new experience. I decided to surprise my sister. Helen is a supervisor in one of the large department stores and I think she was a little surprised, and pleased, to see me coming down the escalator. We would meet up again later that evening with her husband, Merc, and have a few beers.
Derby has a wonderful indoor market at the Guildhall which has been open for 150 yrs. It was always busy and vibrant, so it was sad to see so many closed stalls and a general lack of activity. I thought all the shoppers had migrated to the much larger and newer market in the mall, but there were many closed stalls there too. A sign of the poor economy I guess.
Birds Confectioners Cake Box
Off to Birds. What’s that you may think? Birds Bakery has been in Derby since 1919 and they produce amazing cream cakes, scones, sausage rolls, pork pies and much more. There was always a queue when I went with my Mother and there still is. I’m happy to report that all my favorites are as I remember them.
A little shopping next. Valynne has been collecting Pandora beads since we first met and she has quite the collection. I’ve been trying to get a particular one for a while, but no luck in the US. I was expecting to have better luck in the UK and I did……a London bus with the British flag (Union Jack) on the top.
The Five Lamps
Now, time to head back to the hotel and get ready for a night out. Set out for the Five Lamps around 4:30 pm, which is just a short 10 min walk from the hotel. The Five Lamps has a terrific range of ‘real ale’ and according to my friends, is one of the best pubs in Derby right now. During the evening my sister and Merc arrived followed by my brother Mike, Rupert and his better half Vanessa and my best mate of 40 yrs or more, Tez.
Tez and I have had many adventures over the years and shared flats together. We’ve been on driving tours of Europe, hikes, and had girlfriends, wives and many nights at the pub along the way. I wish we could spend more time together. Tez is also one of the best letter writers. Just ask Valynne. After several pints and catching up on everything, Tez and I headed out to meet up with Heather, his girlfriend of quite a few years now, but first a couple of pints at the Dolphin – oldest pub in Derby and familiar to Valynne. We met up with Heather and her friends at the wine bar next door. Drank a couple of glasses of wine and I went back to the hotel for some zzzs.
Saturday morning and the day of Phil and Pauline’s wedding. Phil and Pauline have been together for probably 20 yrs or thereabouts and make a great couple; although I was a little surprised they decided to take the plunge after all this time. Started the day off with a bacon ‘butty’ and a pot of tea at Jack Rabbits. Wonder if the owners are Pulp Fiction fans? Wandered around town a little and noticed the heavy police presence close to a few well known pubs. It’s the last weekend of the regular football (soccer) season in England and Derby County are hosting Millwall. Millwall fans are notorious for causing trouble, but no sign yet. If the wedding had been later in the day or the match earlier, I would have gone. Not been to a game for many a year now.
Pauline and Phil
Caught a taxi around 1:00pm to get me to the Half Moon, which is a short walk to the event. Shortly joined by Phil and his best man Adam, Pauline’s son, and a few other guests. I didn’t arrange to see Phil at the pub, but I knew he would be there. I know him too well. He was resplendent in his Hugo Boss suit. Watched the soccer on TV and sank a couple of pints and headed out together.
Now I’m not a big wedding person, so short and sweet with as little formality as possible is what I like. I’m happy to report this weeding met my goals. Selfish I know given it’s not my wedding, but Phil and Pauline sure enjoyed the day, as did I. The whole event was held in a Masonic Lodge which you may find strange, but it was a good facility and with plenty of grassy areas for photos. Phil assured me prior to the event that guests would not have to roll one trouser leg up and receive funny handshakes. I’m happy to report that was the case. The highlights for me was seeing the happy couple just that, happy and catching up with friends and acquaintances I’d not seen for many a moon. Tez wasn’t able to be there, but Heather was, so I was on her table at dinner. I was particularly pleased to see Dave Scotter. Dave is a friend and colleague of mine from my Rolls-Royce days and we’d not met for many years. Painful joints, a result of the running Dave used to do, means he’s not too mobile, but healthy nevertheless. I was relieved given my conversation with Rupert you will remember from earlier. Even old friends I didn’t expect to talk to me actually did, which was nice, but that’s another story as the saying goes. Didn’t stay all night as I was feeling pretty tired by around 11:00PM.
Pedigree & The Daily Telegraph
Sunday arrived and the weather was still good. Felt lucky after a good lie in, but wishing Valynne was here. Went out and bought a lot of Sunday papers. I really miss English newspapers which I could sometimes get in the US until a few years back, but they’ve stopped importing them now. Online viewing has led to the end of that one. Bit of a lazy day reading and catching up with work emails. Headed out to the Jonty Farmer at 3:30 to meet up with Tez for yes, you guessed it, a few pints. We watched the ‘footy’ on TV and went on to visit a few old and familiar pubs. Namely, the Seven Stars, Five Lamps, Old Flowerpot, Dolphin, Vines and finally met up with Heather in a pub whose name I don’t recall, not surprising by then. It was new I remember and used to be the old Engineer’s club, which I do remember. Went for a curry, my first of the trip, and it was heaven. Tez and Heather’s treat. England is still the best place for a good curry. Well, we said our goodbyes and I headed back to the hotel, in perhaps not such a straight line as when I left.
Monday morning and I’m heading south with London the end destination. I promised Adam (Pauline’s son) that I would call in and see his Dad on the way. I last saw Mic about seven years ago and about a year ago he suffered a bad accident when he accidently swallow dived down the stairs at home, landing on his head. He was in hospital several weeks and the recovery was very slow. Adam said he was much better, but that he’s not fully the Mick I would remember. I’m happy to report he was much better than I expected. He was much like his old self, but perhaps not quite as crazy. Mick, Tez, Phil and I used to play as a team in the Derbyshire pub quiz league for many years. We even had a little TV fame once upon a time. It was good to see him and I’m only sad I didn’t get to meet his partner Bev. She was away doing what I was doing last week…hiking. Hopefully both Valynne and I will see her next time.
Time to get back in the car and in a couple of hours I was in Shefford, Bedfordshire and staying with Keith and Ali in their lovely cottage. Keith and I both used to live in barn conversions on a farm near Ashbourne and we both worked at Rolls-Royce. We became good friends and now Keith is a big wig at Tui the travel and Airline Company. In fact Keith is heading to Seattle soon to supervise receipt of the new Boeing Dreamliner and he will fly back with it. Keith and Ali have been together for about, and I’m guessing, 12 years and have a lovely daughter called Eve. Although Keith and Ali were both working, I spent a lovely two days with them.
Eve & Ali
Wednesday morning and up early for the drive down to London. Raining outside and the first rain I’d seen since arriving in the UK. The distance to Heathrow from Keith and Ali’s is about 40 miles at the most, but it took me three hours. Driving into London early morning is not recommended. Dropped the car off at the rental place and the shuttle driver dropped me at the nearest tube station rather than take me to the airport terminal, which was good of him. A good tip when picking up a rental car in the UK is to pay in advance and use Travel Supermarket. I got a great rate with collision damage waiver and theft protection included. I paid something like $200 for 8 days for a Ford Focus diesel from Avis.
Ok, so now I’m on the Piccadilly line heading to my B&B accommodation in Chiswick, West London. I was staying at the Wellness Home just around the corner from Turnham Green tube station, so I only had to lug my suitcase a short distance. The Wellness Home is a very pleasant private home providing organic breakfasts of fruit and cereals, cheeses, etc. Not the traditional English breakfast I’d been wolfing down, but a pleasant change and closer to my breakfast back home. I do hate single beds though. I dropped my bags off and headed back to the station. Because public transport in London is so good, it makes sense to stay somewhere like Chiswick or similar and avoid paying the very expensive hotels rates in town. After one change I was in downtown in about 25 minutes. You can also take the bus, but of course that takes much longer. If you buy a day pass, you are good for tube and bus services.
I’d no real big plans for London other than to check out a few old haunts and do a little shopping. First stop was the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. They are next door to each other in Trafalgar Square and both are free to enter, although a small donation is always welcome. It’s fun and interesting to see all the famous faces from history. It’s often a challenge to see if you can guess the subject without referring to the guide. The National Gallery is much larger and one of my favorite places to visit and the collection is huge. I usually do the fast tour of my own design. I always like to check out the Van Gogh’s. When I look at a Van Gogh I can see something of the artist. The suffering and the anxiety that was a feature of his life seems to be reflected in the brush strokes somehow. By contrast, if you look at say a Canaletto, while technically brilliant, almost like a photograph, you don’t feel connected to the artist in the same way. One of my favorite paintings and Valynne has shared it with me, is Delaroche’s ‘Execution of Lady Jane Grey’. It’s a huge painting and portrays the moments preceding the death of Lady Jane Grey at the Tower of London in 1554. Jane was deposed by Mary only nine days after being proclaimed Queen in 1553. She was only 16 when executed. For reasons I can’t fully explain, I’m drawn to this painting. Check out the painting online, but it won’t replace the experience of seeing it for real.
It was now time for some refreshment so off to the French House in Soho. It may sound like a house of ill repute, but it’s actually a pub. They only serve half-pints, but mostly the patron’s drink wine. When living and working in or nearby London, I would always call at ‘the French’ as it’s known. The French was used during WWII as the headquarters of General De Gaulle and his ‘Free French” organization. The French is also often frequented by actors and I once had the pleasure of standing at the bar, elbow to elbow with Peter O’Toole.
Next stop was Alfie’s Antique Market just off the Edgware Rd. I decided to walk and although a bit of a hike from the French, I do love walking around London. Soho used to be alive with strip clubs and the like, but while still in attendance, there is much less than say 10 to 15 years ago. It’s now the place to eat and be seen and to check out all the funky shops. I continued past Marlylebone station, which is one of about nine or 10 mainline railway stations in London and the one I used most frequently when travelling between home in Oxfordshire and London. There was a pang of regret when I walked past Lord’s Cricket Ground. My home team, Derbyshire, was playing there a couple of weeks earlier and I would have loved to have been there, but it wasn’t to be. You can actually take afternoon tea in the famous Long Room. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) founded in 1787 is the most famous cricket club in the world and one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, and its home is at Lord’s.
Alfie’s Antique Market is a huge collection of independent vendors under one roof and there is always something interesting to find and the prices are reasonable. I settled on small heart shaped porcelain Limoges trinket box. I thought Valynne would like it and she did.
I got back to the Wellness Home around five, showered, changed and headed out for dinner locally. Called at the George first to watch the footie and have a couple of pints. Went across the road to the local wine bar and for whatever reason I cannot remember what I had to eat. Perhaps it wasn’t that memorable.
The following morning I headed into the city again with my only real objective to have a good walk around, visit Borough Market for lunch and to do some last minute shopping.
I passed Stella McCartney’s shop and didn’t notice anything in the window that said wow. There was also an art gallery showing works by Ronnie Wood and he’s actually a very good artist.
Eventually found my way to Borough Market via the tube to London Bridge. I don’t know about you but I’m fascinated by markets and Borough is one of the best, nestled below the Victorian railway arches south of the river and in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral, which has been a place of worship for more than a 1,000 years. The market is mainly selling organic produce, but with a section for arts and crafts, jewelry and the like. There are plenty of places to eat and drink and I was heading for Roast. The actual restaurant looks down on the market, but I was heading for their take-away stall in the market proper. There you can get a variety of roast meats in a bun and eat as you wander. I started with the rare roast beef with horseradish.
About two hours later I couldn’t resist and went back for the roast pork with crackling and apple sauce and it was heaven. If you are looking for something unique in London I thoroughly recommend you pay a visit, but the full market is only open Thurs-Sat. There are plenty of other attractions about to make a visit to this less well known area of London a real pleasure. For example, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, where standing in the pit to take in the performance is always a fun experience. Close by is the Anchor which is the pub from where Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London of 1666 and recorded the event in his diary. There is also the George Inn along Borough High St which is the last surviving galleried coaching inn in London and often frequented by Charles Dickens and Shakespeare himself. The pub is clearly marked as the ‘Gorge’ on a map of the area circa 1543. I was going to walk across London Bridge, but it was now starting to rain so I caught the tube. I could sense the weather was starting to change for the worse as I neared the end of my trip. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been with the weather.
I called in at Covent Garden to find something for Valynne and I got a lovely pair of earrings. As usual the area was buzzing with people and on reflection I’d not noticed any obvious impact of the economic issues that have been plaguing Europe, in London at least. After a brief visit to the ‘French’ I headed back to Chiswick. Back at the B&B I rested a little, checked in for tomorrow’s flight, showered and headed out for dinner. I could only manage a pint and an appetizer as those roast sandwiches from earlier were still very much with me.
After an early night and a good sleep I awoke refreshed. Had a good healthy breakfast and chatted with some of the other guests. This one guy, from Jackson Hole, was a chiropractor and a semi-professional magician would you believe. He and his wife were meeting at the Magic Circle that evening. Don’t think I’ve ever met a real magician before.
Although my flight was not for several hours, I decided to check out and head for the airport. Checked in my bag and purchased extra leg room for 35 GBP and with an empty seat next to me. Nice.
For lunch I called in at the seafood bar for smoked salmon and a glass of something nice. After some duty free shopping (nice bottle of single malt) I headed for the bar. The only available seat was with a group of girls who were obviously having a good time. I asked if I could use the seat and they insisted I join them. They were off to Majorca for a few days of sun and fun, but their flight was delayed and they were working their way through several bottles of Prosecco. They certainly livened up my afternoon and while I was in the bathroom they took a bunch of photographs with my camera, which I only came across when I downloaded to my iPad.
After an uneventful, but relaxing flight I was back in New York and heading for an overnight stay at the Marriott at La Guardia followed by a 6:00am to Albuquerque and I was sure pleased to see Valynne waiting for me at the station in Santa Fe. I enjoyed my trip, but it was good to be home.
Kimonos, Slippers, and Buddha Chocolates. Ahhh.
Paul and I wanted to do something different for our Birthdays this year, so we treated ourselves to two days and nights at ten thousand waves, a mountain spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A Warm (Toilet Seat!) Welcome
Perhaps I am easily impressed, but I was pretty much in heaven before we even left our room. The toilet included a heated seat and a bidet. Another first for me.
The Star Lounge
I loved this little section of our room. The ceiling was full of starlight that flickered through the night. I am going to see about having this installed in my Airstream one day (I don’t yet own one).
This guy kind of freaked me out at first, but he grew on me. We had our own little courtyard. We spent all of our waking hours out here or at the spa.
Seeing this pleased me greatly. My Dad used one of these as his main cooking source ~ probably still does. My favorite hibachi (shichirin in Japanese) meal was veggie shish kabobs with teriyaki sauce. We brought groceries with us (the restaurant doesn’t open until this fall) but having access to an outdoor oven didn’t even cross my mind. Next time.
Paul in a Kimono
I thought Paul wore this quite well. We left our western clothes in the suitcase as the kimonos were so comfortable. Paul surprised me with Natalie Goldberg‘s latest book, The True Secret of Writing, and I read almost all of it while we lounged. Ms. Goldberg lives in Santa Fe and will be at Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse tonight. I plan on going and will most likely be blogging about my experience.
Another Cool Statue
This dragon statue lived next door. I am really feeling dragons lately. Not sure why.
Resting Along the Way to the Spa
We had a steep climb to the spa and thought this little outdoor couch was a great idea. The small hike wasn’t an issue for us, but there is a shuttle for those who could use it.
Koi, or Nishikigoi
I love the sound of running water and the koi ponds definitely added to the feeling of serenity throughout the spa.
We spent an entire day at this public bath and I was able to get a picture of it between waves of naked people. I told Paul I was going to title this blog post “Me and a Bunch of Naked Guys” but thought better of it. It was interesting to observe the difference between sexes when it comes to nudity. Guess who let it all hang out and who didn’t?
We treated ourselves to a private bath, as well. I love this picture of Paul, even if he is sunburnt (why he refuses to wear a hat I don’t know). Along with the private bath, we each had a theraputic massage and salt scrub. Thank you, Daniel and Dana!
This experience was so different for us. I wasn’t sure how Paul would handle sitting in one place and relaxing for two days straight. Come to find out, he really enjoyed himself and we are already making plans for our next little spa retreat.
My friend Sadie and I visited Ojo Caliente when she came out for a visit from Colorado, and I am looking forward to taking Paul there on our next spa adventure. Are you a spa person? If so, please share with us your favorite destinations.
Estrella Del Norte Vineyard is just down the road from us here on our sit in Nambé, New Mexico. Owners Richard and Eileen Reinders are friends with one of our favorite Colorado people, Jen. Jen came for a quick visit just before Christmas. Our dear friend Sadie was here at the same time, and the four of us went to visit Estrella Del Norte Vineyard, fell in love with the wines, and next thing you know, I have a job. Synchronicity!
Award-Winning Estrella Del Norte Wines (Photo Courtesy of Estrella Del Norte Website)
I love to interview interesting people doing interesting things with their lives, and who better to interview than those who have provided yours truly employment? Thank you for answering this first round of questions, Eileen. I am sure I will have plenty more for you in the coming weeks and months…
Eileen Reinders at EDNV
1) So many people I know are fascinated by all things wine. I would say it is up there in the top ten dream ways to make a living. Who or what gave you the inspiration to create Estrella Del Norte Vineyard? How long did it take you to go from vision to conception?
Our inspiration to develop a winery came to us when the house we bought in Nambe’ had an old run-down vineyard of pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon grapes on the property. My husband, Richard, immediately saw the potential that reclaiming the vineyards and developing the property could bring as a winery in our beautiful valley. I was born and raised in Santa Fe and our return here was “coming home” for me. When Richard talked about the vineyard possibilities, I immediately felt that, indeed, the soulful thread of my history, culture, tradition and upbringing could be braided with our vision and our vineyard could become something truly special that could be shared with others.
Now that we were like the “dog that chased the car and caught it” our next step was figuring out how we were going to make the wine side of the business happen. Richard sought out the other wineries in our area and got working with them, voluntarily, to understand the practical end of the business. He also became a student of “Google University” and learned as much of the theoretical as he could. Using his successful history of business development, very hard work, and discipline we soon got our license and opened our doors as Estrella Del Norte Vineyard.
Jen and Valynne, Visiting Estrella Del Norte Vineyard (December 2012)
2) Tell us about the name of your vineyard.
My maternal great great grandmother’s name was the inspiration for naming our estate Estrella Del Norte Vineyard. The Ute called her Nah-oh-kohs, the White called her North Star and the Spanish version we selected was Estrella Del Norte. The property is very deserving of its namesake because it truly is very special — mostly because it’s unexpected in our mostly dry area. With the beautiful 200-year-old cottonwood trees and lush vineyards and gardens when everything is in bloom, it is an oasis in the north.
3) Everyone I know romanticizes this lifestyle. Is it as romantic as it seems? What do you find most fulfilling about it? Most challenging?
There’s a tremendous amount of work involved with the winery – from growing the grapes to retailing the wine in the tasting room and working all functions of the business to make it effective and prosperous. We are a true “poster child” for agritourism.
There are challenges to all part of our work that come with owning and managing a business — regulation, signage, human resources, marketing, IT, etc., — and realizing that you are all of these departments and solely need to get it all done — especially for myself coming from a corporate background where these things were handled by others! From the agricultural side, making sure we have water in the drier seasons, managing our three vineyards, orchard, and gardens with mother nature’s unexpected events, and making sure we stay ahead of the curve. The rewards are tremendous. Our estate Pinot Noir took a gold medal at an international wine competition where wines from all 50 wine-producing states, 19 countries and six Canadian provinces competed. We entered our Pinot Noir 3 times and we medaled 3 times! In fact, all of the wines that we’ve submitted for this competition have medaled. That is such an honor and a badge of excellence for us.
Importantly, we’ve met so many wonderful people and it’s gratifying to be able to share the results of what we are working on with them in the form of the vineyard experience i.e., the wine, a vineyard dinner, a volunteer harvest, or a stroll through the property. The other part of our rewards is the “winery family” that we have with our tasting room and vineyard employees and our pets. We have been blessed in so many ways and for all things we are so very thankful.
4) Paul can’t get enough of your Zinfandel. I am crushing big-time on your Barbera and Mourvèdre, and everyone loves Holy Mole! What are your current favorites?
I stand by the cliché “our wines are like children – I love them all differently”! Right now, for red wines I am enjoying our estate 2010 Pinot Noir and our 2010 Cabernet Franc! For white wines our 2011 Riesling (Alsace-style off dry) and our 2011 Symphony! We have over 26 Estrella Del Norte Vineyard wines, plus our Santa Fe Vineyards and Black Mesa wines which gives us over 65 wines to pick from – hey, it’s tough living in the “candy store” and having any one favorite!
Richard Reinders at EDNV
And, Holy Mole’ is such a fun wine! Richard wanted to make a signature wine that was characteristic of our area in flavor but vinted as a quality wine. Holy Mole’ is a blend of Zinfandel and other quality red wines with a little hint of almond, a bit of chocolate and a spark of red chile’. It’s become our fastest growing wine! Customers who try it love it because it’s very unique in its taste and not too sweet. In fact, I had a doctor from Pennsylvania send me a great email. He wrote, “A couple of weeks ago my wife and I stopped by to purchase some of the SFV Rojo Dulce and ended buying a nice selection of Estrella Del Norte Vineyards wines. As a joke, I bought a couple of bottles of Holy Mole Red Wine. Wow! The joke was on me! What a lovely wine. It is exactly as described and goes well with anything grilled, pizza, pasta, etc. It is a perfect accompanyment to any chocolate dessert. My wife says it is easily her favorite red wine. I offer my most sincere and humble apology for even thinking about purchasing one of your “from the heart produced” wines as a joke. This wine is no laughing matter and anyone who enjoys a pleasant surprise must try Holy Mole Red Wine.”
5) I am so excited to learn everything I can about wine and to meet new people. I know people come from all around to visit your vineyard. Where is the furthest someone has visited from, that you know of?
Antarctica! A lovely lady who had been working at a bio lab as a researcher visited Estrella Del Norte Vineyard during her visit to Santa Fe. We’ve also had visitors from Croatia, Africa, Europe… I’d say almost every continent! And, Valynne, we are also excited to have you coming on board to work with us! You’ll learn so much about wine and other wine business things, and I know we’ll benefit from your great personality and talents.
Holy Molé by Estrella Del Norte (Photo Courtesy of Estrella Del Norte Website)
6) Ever since owning my own small bath and body products business, I am a bit of a label fiend. Tell us about your gorgeous labels.
Our Estrella Del Norte Vineyard label represents my great-great-grandmother reaching for the North Star with the vines behind her! Our Holy Mole’, Luna Pera Especial and Geronimo’s Gold wine labels are done in a Dia De Los Muertos art style. Our labels are designed to reflect both our personal and winery culture with some fun creativity. When someone purchases a bottle of our wine we want them to get a sense of the terroir, the care and craftsmanship that went into the making of our wine and the influence of our Santa Fe culture in its presentation.
7) There is more to your vineyard than wines. You have a sculpture garden, wall murals, a gift shop, and a new community garden coming this spring. Did you know you wanted to bring all of these facets together from day one, or have they evolved over time?
These items evolved over time. Richard, has the gift of seeing the full potential of an opportunity, the talent, discipline and back-bone (hard work) to bring it to fruition. With the balance of the things that I do well, our strict focus is on bringing fun new things to our vineyard for our customers to enjoy. There is nothing more important to us than delivering excellent customer service in our business.
Wine Tasting with Friends Tom & Stephanie
8) Tell us about some of the events you are excited about this coming season.
We have four vineyard dinners scheduled for this summer season, each featuring a top chef from Santa Fe’s finest restaurants. The chefs use our wood-fired ovens and wood-fired grills for the meal preparation, they talk with the guests about the foods they are preparing and a host of other culinary information. They are really special and so much fun and they always sell out early. More information about these events is available on our website www.estrelladelnortevineyard.com.
Also, through our partnership with Santa Fe School of Cooking we are scheduled for 7 cooking classes at our vineyard. The chefs use our wood-fired ovens and wood-fired grills and we serve our wine with the meal. We will also host some private events.
9) What is the easiest way for our out of town friends to get their hands on your wine?!
We have an awesome online store that lists all of our Estrella Del Norte Vineyard wines, Santa Fe Vineyard wines and wines from Black Mesa Winery. Customers can mix their orders from the different wineries and create an excellent selection of different New Mexico wines.
We love when guests are able to visit our tasting room so we can meet them and provide the full Estrella Del Norte Vineyard wine experience. We also have a fabulous Wine Club which gives them an opportunity to try our wines based on their preferred wine types (red, white, both or sweet) and we select wines for them monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually — and it doesn’t cost anything to join our wine club!
Thank you again, Eileen. I can’t wait to get started at my new job! And thank you all for reading along. I am looking forward to sharing many more stories and pictures with you in the coming months.
The Santa Fe Plaza ~ Inspiration Mecca
Recently, I’ve had a couple of friends tell me they want to start blogging. They want to know how to get started. I’ve referred them to WordPress, because this platform has worked for me more so than the others I’ve tried. I am not an overly techy girl, and WordPress is pretty darn intuitive.
If you are somewhat computer literate, you can start a blog quite easily…and it will cost you nothing but some time and energy. Start with the link above, and then if you decide you love it and want to monetize it and all sorts of other fun stuff, you can upgrade it later like I did.
Backyard Blogging in Nambe, New Mexico
That’s my easy answer to the question of how to blog. The more complicated question that needs to be asked of anyone who wants to start a blog, is why? What do you expect to come out of this blog you are contemplating creating? This is important, as blogging can be a real labor of love…it can take quite some time to build an audience, and no time at all to lose said audience if you don’t keep at it.
It doesn’t really matter why you want to start a blog, so long as you yourself know the reason. Do you want to share your travel stories? Build brand recognition? Meet other Harry Potter fans? Post your head shots in hopes of furthering your acting/modeling career? Gauge interest on a new business idea you have? Establish yourself as an expert in your field? Great! Just know your “why”.
I began blogging because I enjoy both writing and photography and the thought of communicating with people all over creation excited me. Initially, I blogged about Mountain Girl Organics, a company that I have since sold. For the past three years, I have blogged mainly about our adventures as Caretaking Couple, throwing in suggestions and support to those who are interested in a similar lifestyle along the way (to date, there are over 160 posts on this site).
Like I said, I am not all that techy. Still, I have managed to capture an audience of like-minded people. My target audience or demographic is mainly caretakers (or house and pet sitters) like us along with people who are looking for caretakers like us. This demographic includes travel enthusiasts, animal lovers, and friends and family who enjoy keeping in touch on a more personal level than our other social media outlets allow.
New Year’s Eve in Nambe, New Mexico
My main expectation for this blog was that I would get the word out that we care for properties and pets across the US. This I have accomplished. We are now offered sits based solely on the contents of our blog. This has saved us tens of thousands of dollars, owing to the fact that when we caretake, or house and pet sit, we typically have no rent/mortgage/utilities to worry about. I have a looong list of other goals to accomplish as well, including publishing our e-Book and making SEO a priority.
Are you a blogger? If so, how and why do you blog? Has your blog met or maybe even exceeded your expectations? Please let us know via the “comments” link and share your blog address as well, if you wish. If you are considering starting a blog, please let me know if you have any specific questions, and share with us what you expect to receive in return for your blogging efforts.