Wine Cruising to Sauternes with Bordeaux Office de Tourisme

Dan and I visited the city of Bordeaux and its surrounding wine regions in June 2016.  For those unfamiliar with Bordeaux wine, there are no actual vineyards in the city of Bordeaux (it is a regular city with a large university).  The famous “Bordeaux wine” comes from a number of small regions surrounding Bordeaux.  Wines take their name from the specific small region in which their grapes are grown, and the flavor of grapes that make up the wine derives from the “terroir” of each specific area (roughly translated as a combination of the soil content, temperature, rain fall, sunlight, etc. of the individual region).  See the map of the many wine regions and sub-regions surrounding Bordeaux:

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A Weekend Retreat in La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle is a beautiful French seaside town located on the mid-Atlantic coast in the Charente-Maritime province of France, and I just got back from spending a long weekend there!  La Rochelle is known to be popular with French vacationers, particularly Parisians.  However, it is not very well-known in the US, and I probably would never have visited La Rochelle except my college (yay University of Richmond!) had a study abroad program there (I opted for Paris) – and I have a “map of France” t-shirt from Anthropologie that features La Rochelle…  In addition to being featured on an Anthropologie shirt, La Rochelle is quite historical, as it has been around since antiquity, and is the port from which French settlers left for the new world (i.e. Quebec!).

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Andres Carne des Res – The Craziest Party In The World? Not quite, but still a good time.

Andres Carne des Res is a restaurant in the town of Chiá, Colombia that is most well-known for its crazy party atmosphere.  Chiá is about a 40 minute drive from Bogotá and makes an easy day (or evening) trip.  I visited earlier this year.  The food was really great and the restaurant was very fun, but it was not quite the party that I was expecting (maybe I didn’t drink enough).  Still a good time, and still highly recommended.

The Restaurant:   The restaurant is a jumble of several buildings, all with outdoor and indoor seating, and all with crazy, crazy décor!  With different themed rooms, it reminded me of everything from a German festival to a Moroccan souk.  Staff were dressed in theme (although not necessarily to match the room), there was a live band and a gentleman walking around giving all of the women free sunflowers (that wear about two feet tall).  We did not make a reservation and were seated immediately on a Sunday evening, and since the restaurant is so large, you probably only need a reservation in the busiest of times.  See below: there is also dancing on tables and a cigar bar.

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The Drinks.  The drinks are very fancy here, and very pricey compared to other Colombian establishments.  While pricey, they are also pretty strong and well prepared.  We enjoyed some sparkling wine as well as a cocktail!  The fun glasses are not yours to keep.

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The Food:  The food was superb!  I was expecting more atmosphere than food, but the food turned out to be excellent!  However, be prepared – the menu practically a book.  About 20 pages of delicious things to suit all tastes.  Per a recommendation, we started with arepa de chócolo.  Amazing.  This dish consisted of a sweet arepa stuffed with cheese with a special sauce for dipping.  We liked this so much that we went back to Andres Express (see below) for another serving!

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For mains, I went with the coconut shrimp.  Again, huge dish and delicious.  The shrimp were served with coconut rice and another lovely dipping sauce(!).

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Dan ordered the steak, which he seemed to enjoy.  It came with fried potatoes (not the best).  After the mains, we were stuffed so we couldn’t order dessert.  You can easily share food here.

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How To Get There:  There are very limited public transportation options in the Bogotá area in general.  They best way to get here is to take a car.  We hired a driver for the evening from Tours of Colombia, who also did our day trip to Villa de Leyva.  The cost was $49/person round trip ($98 total),  plus we tipped our driver.  Our driver picked us up at our hotel, waited as long as we wanted at Andres Carne des Res and then drove us back to the hotel.  While pricey, it was worth the piece of mind knowing that we had a ride to and from.  If you do not hire a driver, it is easy to get a car from Bogotá to Chiá, and, surprising to me, easy to find a car home.  See the below list of prices.  I do not recommend driving, as the drinks are strong and overindulging is encouraged.

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Can’t Make It To Chiá?  If you can’t make it all the way to Chiá, there is a Andre Carnes des Res in Bogotá in the Parque 93 neighborhood.  Note that this restaurant is neither as crazy nor as big, but it is in Bogotá proper.  In addition, an Andres Express – a fast food version of Andres Carne des Res –  is in the same area.

STEAL OUR DINNER

Andres Carne des Res: The original.  Calle 3 N° 11A – 56,  Chiá, Colombia. T: (571)8637880 | (571) 8612233 . Reservations typically not required.  More expensive than other Colombian establishments.  All Andres restaurants share the same website.

Andres Carne des Res: The location in Bogotá.  Calle 82 interior centro comercial el retiro #12-21, Bogotá, Colombia.  Claims to be open 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. everyday.  I would confirm before going too late.

Andres Express: The fast food version.  This is the location in Parque 93, although there are others in Bogotá.  11, Cl. 93 #12, Bogotá, Colombia.

Tour of Colombia: The tour company through which we organized our car.  $49/person round trip.  All organizing done via email.  The driver was prompt, polite and safe.  While this company is pricey, I cannot recommend them enough!

ON A BUDGET?

Andres Carne des Res is more expensive than most restaurants in the Bogotá area, but it is a destination in addition to a restaurant!  If you want to enjoy the food without the crazy atmosphere, check out Andres Express, which serves the same food at much more reasonable prices!

 

Restaurant Review: Phoenicia Diner, Catskills, New York

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in the Catskills Mountains.  Specifically, Phoenicia.  Phoenicia is a small town (technically a “hamlet”), about 20 minutes from Woodstock (the more well-known town in the area), in the Catskills Mountains.  The town is tiny, with one main road, surrounded by mountains with lots of hiking.  Phoenicia has recently received press by way of a few new business ventures opening in the sleepy town, including the Phoenecia Diner – which is probably the most popular place to eat in the area!  Vouge magazine mentioned it in a piece on travel in the Catskills Mountains a while ago, and it seems to be all the rage with the hipster crowd.

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Airport Lounge Review: Avianca Sala VIP, Bogota, Colombia

Avianca Sala VIP is Avianca’s (Colombia’s national airline) lounge in the domestic wing of Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport.  Priority Pass cardholders have complimentary access to the lounge, so I visited it in February 2016 while waiting for a morning flight to Cartagena.  While I generally enjoy lounges, even those that don’t get great reviews, I was very disappointed with this lounge, only stayed for about 10 minutes, choosing instead to sit in the general boarding area, and I did not eat a thing.  Big shocker.

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Where is the beach in Cartagena?! Try Isla del Encanto

Cartagena is a gorgeous, well preserved colonial city right on the Caribbean Sea.  While it has beautiful architecture, interesting history, and really delicious food, despite being on the sea, it lacks a proper Caribbean beach!  Surprising to many, the idyllic Caribbean beaches are an hour away by car or boat.  Plan accordingly if you are looking for a Caribbean beach vacation!

There are three main Caribbean beaches around Cartagena.  Playa Blanca, Islas del Rosario and Isla del Encanto.  Playa Blanca has the Caribbean white sand beaches and can be reached by car (or public bus).  Since it can be reached by car, Playa Blanca is often the easiest and cheapest option, as you do not need to go with a tour.  It is also the most crowded and local option.

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Paloquemao Market in Bogota, Colombia

As a lot of people say, one of the best ways to see a culture is through visiting a local market and trying the foods that the locals eat on a regular basis.  But that can be very difficult.  Especially in countries without an advanced tourism markets and/or those where you don’t speak the language, like me in Bogota, Colombia.

Bogota’s biggest and most important market is Paloquemao Market, located right in the center of Bogota in the Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao.  The market is large and from afar and looks more like a big factory than a market.  It is also extremely busy, with very few tourists.

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Lounge Review: Delta Sky Club, Terminal 4, JFK

I used Delta’s Sky Club Lounge in Terminal 4 of JFK when I was flying Delta on a short flight to Québec City.  I got in by combining my Delta boarding pass with my American Express Platinum card.  The Sky Club was huge, rather crowded and had some pretty interesting features, including its unique roof top deck!  It was one of the nicer lounges that I have visited, and I will definitely return if I have complimentary access again.

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