SPRING | 2015
CRUISING SOUTHEAST ASIA
HOW TO BECOME A WINE ENTHUSIAST
A WALK AROUNDLAKE LUCERNE
POSTCARDS FROM TUSCANY
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 1
2 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
COVER PHOTO: I shot just a small segment of the amazing Ramayana mural found inside the Wat Phra Kaew
temple within the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, is the world’s longest painting and mural. -- Ron James
NEXTEDITION |SUMMER 2015
HOLY LAND ADVENTURE
WASHINGTON STATE WINE COUNTRY
A WEEKEND IN PALM SPRINGS
ISTANBUL FOOD TOUR
COMING IN FALL 2015
EXPEDITION TO ASIA
TOURING THE DMZ IN KOREA
THE AMALFI COAST
THE MAGIC OF TUSCANY
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 3
CELEBRATE WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT! www.VisitTRI-CITIES.com
For a party as bright, bold, and colorful as you’ve ever seen, come to Tri-Cities
and celebrate at a multitude of vibrant festivals and events. Revel in the
brilliant colors of our world and the bold colors of our lives. Thrill your senses
with exceptional entertainment and world-class food and wine. We don’t do
anything halfway. Add an exclamation point to your life’s biography. To learn
more, visit www.VisitTRI-CITIES.com.
4 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
RON JAMES A MOVING EXPERIENCE
publisher/executive editor W’ve had an exhausting series of adventures since the
last issue. One was a planned trip to Istanbul and then
Ron James is the "wine, food and travel guy." He a fabulous voyage that took us to Israel, Malta, Sicily,
is a nationally award-winning print and online Italy, Spain, Morocco, the Canary Islands and across the
journalist, designer., television producer and radio Atlantic to Florida. The unplanned part was the fast sale of our house
personality. The native Californian's nationally - much sooner than we expected - which set in motion a three-month
syndicated wine and food columns have ap- marathon of cleaning, packing, storing, and temporary addresses until
peared in newspapers and magazines around our new house was available. When we finally moved-in in January, the
the world. He is passionate about great wine and marathon continued as we unpacked countless boxes marked fragile and
food and enthusiastically enjoys them every day! spruced up the new house with new flooring, furniture and fresh paint.
It is a true miracle that this issue is a reality.
It took us a while to figure out where to stay until our new home was
publisher/editor available. But we ultimately opted for a travel adventure and rented a
small bungalow in the uber wine country town of Healdsburg in the heart
Mary Hellman James is an award-winning San
Diego journalist and editor. After a 29-year-ca- of Sonoma. It
reer with the San Diego Union-Tribune, she rained contin-
currently is a freelance garden writer and a uously for the
columnist for San Diego Home-Garden/Lifestyles first two weeks
magazine. Mary and her husband, Ron James, we were there,
travel extensively. Upcoming this year is a six- causing wide-
week visit to Asia. spread flooding.
It was amaz-
ing to watch
Even in the
rain we enjoyed
visiting wineries and tasting rooms, dined at world-class eateries and
sampling some of the best wines in the world. When the sun came out,
we explored redwood forests, stunning coastlines and charming towns
from Calistoga to Bodega Bay. Our unexpected challenge turned into a
charming travel adventure we’ll describe in depth in an upcoming issue.
Meanwhile, enjoy the many adventures packed into this issue with its
stories that cover the globe, from Asia to Palm Springs. Take a hike
around Lake Lucerne, explore the glories of Whidbey Island, cruise exotic
Southeast Asia and take an African safari. Wine lovers also have a treat
with Ron’s tongue-in-cheek wine enthusiast’s guide and a primer on rose
wine by our resident wine expert Robert Whitley.
Our domestic moving adventure is coming to a close as we pack our bags
for our six-week travel expedition to Asia beginning in April. It’s a wel-
come break from home improvement.
We hope you like Ron’s above selfie he took in Halong Bay, Vietnam -- we
wish you safe, but exciting travels.
Ron and Mary James
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 5
Alison DaRosa is a six-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for travel writing, the most prestigious prize in
travel journalism. She served 15 years as Travel Editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune. She was the award-winning
editor of the San Diego News Network Travel Page. She produces and edits the San Diego Essential Guide, a highly
rated and continually updated travel app for mobile devices. Alison is a regular freelance contributor to the travel
sections of U-T San Diego, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
Sharon Whitley Larsen
Sharon Whitley Larsen’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Los Angeles Times Magazine, U-T
San Diego, Reader’s Digest (and 19 international editions), Creators Syndicate, and several “Chicken Soup for the
Soul” editions. Although she enjoys writing essays, op-ed, and people features, her favorite topic is travel (favorite
destination London). She’s been lucky to attend a private evening champagne reception in Buckingham Palace
to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, to dine with best-selling author Diana Gabaldon in the Scottish
Highlands, and hike with a barefoot Aborigine in the Australian Outback. Exploring sites from exotic travels in the
Arctic Circle to ritzy Rio, with passport in hand, she’s always ready for the next adventure!
Carl H. Larsen
Carl H. Larsen is a veteran journalist based in San Diego. He now focuses on travel writing, and is summoned to pull
out his notebook whenever there’s the plaintive cry of a steam locomotive nearby. In San Diego, he is a college-
extension instructor who has led courses on the Titanic and the popular TV series “Downton Abbey.”
Maribeth Mellin is an award-winning journalist whose travel articles have appeared in Endless Vacation Magazine,
U-T San Diego and Dallas Morning News among others. She also travels and writes for several websites including
CNN Travel, Concierge.com and Zagat, and has authored travel books on Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico,
Hawaii and California. Though known as a Mexico pro, Maribeth has written about every continent and was espe-
cially thrilled by the ice, air and penguins in Antarctica.
Susan McBeth is the founder and owner of Adventures by the Book ( www.adventuresbythebook.com ) which
brings literature to life for readers through events and travels with authors. She is the founder of the SoCal
Author Academy, providing workshops and training to help authors better connect with readers. She is a current
member of the One Book One San Diego committee, and a former board member with the Southern California
Priscilla Lister is a longtime journalist in her native San Diego. She has covered a many subjects over the years,
but travel is her favorite. Her work, including photography, has appeared in the U-T San Diego, Los Angeles Times,
Alaska Airlines magazine and numerous other publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. She currently writes
a weekly hiking column for the U-T, photographing every trail and its many wonders. But when the distant road
beckons, she can’t wait to pack her bags.
Robert Whitley writes the syndicated “Wine Talk” column for Creators Syndicate and is publisher of the online wine
magazine, Wine Review Online. Whitley frequently serves as a judge at wine competitions around the world, in-
cluding Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Sunset Magazine International and the Dallas Morning News TexSom wine
competitions. Robert also operates four major international wine competitions in San Diego: Critics Challenge,
Winemaker Challenge, Sommelier Challenge and the San Diego International.
Jody Jaffe & John Muncie
Jody and John are the co-authors of the novels, “Thief of Words,” and “Shenandoah Summer,” published by Warner
Books. John was feature editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune, arts editor of The Baltimore Sun and writer-editor-col-
umnist for the travel department of The Los Angeles Times. His travel articles have been published in many major news-
papers; he's a Lowell Thomas award-winner. Jody is the author of "Horse of a Different Killer,"'Chestnut Mare, Beware,"
and "In Colt Blood,” As a journalist at the Charlotte Observer, she was on a team that won the Pulitzer Prize. Her articles
have been published in many newspapers and magazines including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.
They live on a farm in Lexington, Va., with eleven horses, three cats and an explosion of stink bugs.
6 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
WINE DINE& Photo by Ron James
Ron & Mary James
EXECUTIVE EDITOR /LAYOUT & DESIGN
Sharon Whitley Larsen
firstname.lastname@example.org Traditional Hong Kong laundry owner is ecstatic to find out he’ll be featured
in Wine Dine and Travel Magazine
WDT respects the intellectual property rights of others, and we ask that our readers do the same. We have
adopted a policy in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and other applicable laws.
Wine Dine & Travel Magazine is a Wine Country Interactive Inc. publication @ 2015
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 7
12CRUISING ASIA 101 12
We found that Southeast Asia is a traveler’s nirvana offering
natural wonders like the mystical limestone islands of Halong 32
Bay, timeless treasures like the storybook temples of Thailand 40
and booming cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.
32A WALK ON THE“WILD SIDE”
When I arrived in Zurich and met Swiss Trails founder Ruedi
Jaisli for my one-on-one pre-hike briefing, he did his best to
reassure me: “This is one of the most spectacular tours you
can do in Switzerland,” he said. “It’s a hike, not a climb. It’s
self-guided; go at your own rhythm.”
Once staffed by 60 servants, including an Irish butler, this-
private domain in Palm Springs, including a golf course, has
recently been opened for all to see.
8 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
46HOW TO BECOME A WINE ENTHUSIAST 62
If you practice diligently tasting and learn-
ing about new wines, you’ll find that your In a lan
preferences in wines will evolve. It’s called one I re
educating your palate. A wine that makes sweaty
you gag today may well become a favorite shaky l
next year and vice versa.
This is no doubt one of the most unique 78
villages in Britain. No one has ever lived
here - yet there’s an admission fee to stroll Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 9
around, and some 250,000 visit each year.
In a land of lots of scenic wonders, there is
one I return to again and again, despite my
sweaty palms, accelerated heart rate and
AUGSBURG’S FUGGEREI | PAGE 62
Imagine paying only one dollar per year in rent!
That’s what some 150 residents are charged
to live at the Fuggerei in Augsburg, Germany,
the world’s oldest charitable social housing
TRAVEL BY THE BOOK | PAGE 67
Susan McBeth reviews Lisa Lee’s “China Dolls”
The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and Ruby is
sent to an internment camp.
IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY | PAGE 68
If you’ve ever wondered what you might do in
the event of an emergency, I can only tell you
this. If you’re me (which I am), and you’re in the
POSTCARDS FROM TUSCANY | PAGE 77
John and Jody continue their entertaining and
informative “post cards” to the publisher.
WHITLEY ON WINE | PAGE 76
Robert makes the case for refreshing dry roses
and then picks a winner from J Winery.
AMONG THE CRITTERS | PAGE 78
A half-hour into the preserve, we arrived at our
abode, the Keekorok Lodge, for the next several
nights. This was not exactly a tent slung across
some post, but a first-rate lodge.
10 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 11
Left to right: Golden statue in Bangkok. Hong Kong street scene Many of our traveling friends shun
in old city. Bartender churning out Singapore Slings at the Long Asia as a destination; they prefer
Bar in Singapore. the safer, “more refined,” climes
of Europe -- or maybe even push
12 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 their comfort level with a cruise
to the Baltic. They worry about the weird food,
tropical climate, bugs, exotic peoples and wars a
| STORY BY RON & MARY JAMES | PHOTOS BY RON JAMES |
And I must admit, we were also a bit anxious about Singapore. The people we met were courteous and welcoming,
our first visit to Southeast Asia, probably partially and proud of their rich culture. We found distinctive arts and
fueled to our mixed experience trying to decipher crafts, magical architecture and unforgettable cuisine. It all
the formidable menus at an authentic Asian restau- made for an unforgettable experience.
rants in the States. We were concerned with crowds,
pollution, weird food and the reception we would get from the Each of the countries we visited were distinctly different, al-
locals. though their were some common threads. Wars, conquests,
What we found was that Southeast Asia is a traveler’s nirvana, colonization, migration and trade have impacted the area
offering natural wonders like the mystical limestone islands for centuries, changing boundaries and political systems and
of Halong Bay, timeless treasures like the storybook temples spreading religions and customs. Today, Southeast Asian
of Thailand and energetic booming cities like Hong Kong and countries and culture reflect thousands of years of interac-
tion with empires in the Middle East, Tibet and, especially
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 13
China. More recently, the Europeans transportation systems. But tourism commodations and fine dining.
and Americans made their marks in is vital to these growing economies It’s this blend of old and new that
the major cities in the region, influ- and new hotels, roads and other infra- makes Southeast Asia such a facinat-
encing architecture, fashion and social structure are being developed at a rap- ing place to visit.
trends. id pace. On the other hand, cities like We decided the best way to explore
In some countries like Vietnam and Singapore and Hong Kong have long Southeast Asia the first time was to
Cambodia, cruise tourism is a relative- been international tourist destina- take a cruise on the Celebrity Millen-
ly new phenomenon, and it shows in tions which is reflected in world-class nium, which combined the comforts
the primitive cruise port facilities and port facilities, sophisticated public and security of a first class ship with a
transportation systems, upscale ac-
14 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Young women makes an offering in a Vietnamese broad sampling of ports and experienc- in Australia, Singapore or Hong Kong.
temple. Right top: The Celebrity Millennium docked es. The region is a growing market for Given the number of cruise ships plying
in Vietnam. cruise companies and they offer their Southeast Asian waters, cruisers can
customers a wide range of itineraries choose from a wide variety of itinerar-
to fit different budgets and travel inter- ies with ports-of-call in Vietnam, Thai-
ests. Almost every cruise line has two or land, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia,
more ships active in this exotic part of Singapore and Hong Kong.
the world with most cruises originating
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 15
Picking the best time to cruise in South- es spike, public transport is jammed and and interest. We visited five unique des-
east Asia is complicated because of the shops may be closed. tinations, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thai-
diversity of weather conditions. Viet- Each port destination we experienced land and Singapore on our cruise.
nam, for example, has more than 2,000 offered distinctly unique experiences
miles of coastline, with varying weather and adventures for almost every taste Bangkok, Thailand
patterns north to south. In coastal areas,
a sweater and long pants may be Eclectic Bangkok offers travel-
needed to ward off the chill on cool ers a mix of modern skyscrap-
nights, while a few kilometers in- ers, lux Royal Palaces, ancient
land, temperatures are considerably temples and giant gilt Buddhas.
warmer. Ports close to the equa- Highlights include Chinatown,
tor, on the other hand, are always Bangkok’s two century-old com-
steamy, with occasional afternoon mercial center where you can
showers. wander through the giant flow-
er and wholesale marketplace.
Cruise lines, for the most part, Travel via a tuk-tuk, a 3-wheeled
avoid the hottest, most humid and motorized taxi, to Wat Po, or the
rainy months by scheduling most Temple of the Reclining Buddha,
Southeast Asia cruises November the oldest temple in Bangkok, to
through March. Not surprisingly, find Thailand’s largest reclining
these months also attract the most Buddha, 150 feet long, 49 feet
tourists from inside and outside the tall, aglow in gold plate. Anoth-
region, resulting in large crowds at er Buddha well worth visiting is
popular attractions. Holidays, like the solid gold, 10-foot tall stat-
Tet in late January or early Febru- ue at the lavishly decorated Wat
ary, can be days long and noisy. Pric- Traimit Temple. Great restau-
16 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
“Each port destination we experienced offered
distinctly unique experiences and adventures
for almost every taste and interest. “
Clockwise from opposite: Exotic architecture is every-
where in Bangkok. The reclining Buddhas is massive
and very golden. Tree roots surround the face of an
ancient Buddha. The face of the reclining Buddha. A
group from the cruise ship pose in front of the golden
doors in the presidential palace.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 17
Striking rock formations provides dramatic settings for the nam’s northeast coast, Halong Bay
tourist junks in Halong Bay. Bottom: Mary James in one of the is home to nearly 2,000 limestone
many exotic caves located in the islands in Halong Bay. Right top: islands that rise hundreds of feet
Little girl play on one of the homes in the floating village. Right high above emerald-green water.
bottom: Groups of visitors are taken for tours of the floating Their exotic shapes, often shrouded
village in Halong Bay.. in mist, are a UNESCO World Heri-
tage site. Half-day and full-day junk
rants abound, where you can sample cruises are fine, but if your ship is in
refreshing Thai classics including port for two days, an overnight lux-
fresh seafood, tangy soups and sa- ury junk cruise is an unforgettably
vory and sweet curries. Shopping is immersive experience.
delightful at the new riverfront Asi-
atique with its mix of small vendors,
antique shops, restaurants and street
Halong Bay, Vietnam
The highlight of many cruisers to
Southeast Asia is sailing through
magical Halong Bay. Located on Viet-
18 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 19
Hanoi, Vietnam buildings. The most visited attractions chaotic and culturally diverse city and
are Vietnam War-related including the the gateway to the Mekong Delta region.
Hanoi is a hectic collage of sights, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and the Ho Visitors usually begin tours here at the
sounds and smells. Masses of motor- Chi Minh Museum. Hanoi’s crazy, hectic historic Rex Hotel where most of the
bikes roar down roadways, and bike and Old Quarter is a must-do stop for sou- city’s sights are within walking distance.
car horns are constantly honking. Wom- venir shopping and to view the market Among the most popular are the Muse-
en wearing traditional conical straw scene. um of Ho Chi Minh City, the Presiden-
hats carry poles with baskets on each tial Palace, and the War Remnants Mu-
end, small shops overflow with color- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) seum, sure to bring back bad memories
ful embroidery and signs literally cover for baby boomers. The huge Ben Thanh
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is a vibrant, Market is packed with tourists and in-
20 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
The people in Saigon are extremely friend-
ly to American as shown in the two top
photos. Right: The streets buzz with mo-
torcycles and scooters. Right bottom: Mary
James enjoying a bicyclette rickshaw ride
through the bustling streets of Saigon.
spired hawkers with row after row
of stalls that sell familiar and exotic
foods, and tourist items like lacquer
ware, paintings, porcelain, jewelry and
wood carvings, as well as clothing, and
knock-off designer bags and watches.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 21
22 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
The streets of Saigon are alive in a kind of
chaotic and colorful dance of motocycles,
shoppers, store keepers and food vendors.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 23
Hoi An, Vietnam
Just outside of the city of Hue is Hoi An,
a charming village with a picturesque
patchwork of cobblestone streets and al-
leys lined with historic buildings, filled
with quality souvenirs and lovely restau-
rants offering authentic Vietnamese cui-
sine and its chocolaty coffee. Many of the
restaurants offer cooking classes. Basi-
cally untouched during the Vietnam War,
the village is a 45-minute drive from Da
Nang and 2 hours from the port at Chan
May. While Hue and Da Nang are inter-
esting, Ho An is the shore excursion to
take at this port. The Last Great Food
Tour of Hoi An, was undoubtedly the
most enjoyable food tour we’ve experi-
24 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Clockwise from top left: Madam Khanh “The Bánh Mì Queen”
shows off her famous cart. Ron James and his new friend, Neville,
the food tour operator of “The Original Food Tour of Hoi An, The
entrance to the Chinese temple in Hoi An. Colorful boats and
shop line the riverside in Hoi An. The Chinese bridge in Hoi An.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 25
Hong Kong, China tour of the city, it seems there are Guc- see. Highlights are shopping, a meal of
ci, Prada and Chanel boutiques around dim sum in a café packed with hungry
Hong Kong is the world’s most verti- every corner. There also are countless locals, touring on HOHO buses, cross-
cal city where Chinese traditions meet stores selling aquatic and land animal ing the bay to Kowloon on the historic
modern international capitalism. It is and plant parts for the table and med- Star Ferry, riding the world’s longest es-
famous for banking, custom-made suits icine chest. More commerce thrives in calator through bustling neighborhoods,
and luxury-brand shopping. On a quick the huge industrial port where rows of and taking the tram to the top of Victo-
containers stretch as far as the eye can ria Peak for spectacular city views.
26 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Hong Kong fish monger enjoys a little
snack in his small shop. Top and opposite
left: Scenes of Hong Kong street life.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 27
Singapore is a model, modern city. The island is clean with throughout the urban center. A great variety of restaurants,
modern roads and public transport; and drivers, unlike in food courts and shops suit almost every taste and pocketbook,
some Asian cities, obey traffic laws. Like Hong Kong it is a me- many housed in or adjacent air-conditioned shopping malls.
tropolis of high-rises and skyscrapers, only with green parks The almost nightly laser show viewable around the city for
everywhere, including on top of buildings. This city also cares free is not to be missed, along with Chinatown and the nearby
about its history, evidenced by the many one, and two-story Arab neighborhood.
districts and buildings scattered
28 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
The amazing man-made trees in Singapore’s vast city garden.
Bottom: the air-conditioned botanical gardens. Opposite top:
Visitors and locals wait for the nightly sound and light show at
the Marina Bay Sands hotel complex. Opposite lower rt. to left:
Outdoor dining along the rivers and bays are a way of life. One of
many food shops in the shopping centers. Sarah Hellman plays
with the misters.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 29
Clockwise from top: Food stand displays their tempting dishes
in Saigon. Vietnamese girl kindly offers a flower in the temple.
Watch salesman offers the typical salute of Southeast Asia. Star
server pours wine to guests on the Celebrity Constellation. Pho
and a beer in Saigon. Two fisherman in a Vietnamese round boat.
30 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Political and civil strife afflicts countries this re-
gion on an ongoing basis. Check with the U.S.
State Department for warnings for visitors. (www.
travel.state.gov/) Cruise lines are well aware of
these situations and for the safety of passengers,
may bypass or change ports-of-call as needed.
One unavoidable issue on large-ship cruises to
Southeast Asia is the long distance between the
port and destination city and attractions. For ex-
ample, it can take over three hours to travel from
the cruise port to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
Some cruises mitigate this inconvenience by dock-
ing for two or more days in a port, allowing pas-
sengers to remain overnight in the destination
cities. When this isn’t possible, make the best of
the extra travel by savoring the journey, especially
if it’s in the company of an informative guide. Re-
member to look out the window! The countryside
reveals much about a nation, its people and their
culture. Your observations in transit can be just as
exciting and revealing as walking city streets.
Bathroom facilities vary greatly even in large cit-
ies, at tourist stops and along major roadways.
Sometimes only “squat” toilets are available. Be
prepared for this possibility by timing bathroom
breaks when you’re near major hotels or tour-
ist friendly restaurants. Sometimes, handicap
facilities will have Western-style toilets. Travel
with sani wipes in case toilet issue isn’t provided.
Above all, keep hands clean to prevent the spread
of bacteria and viruses.
Pickpockets roam the markets and more crowd-
ed streets in many Asian cities, but violent crime
against tourists is unusual. Traffic, though, can be
daunting to pedestrians. Crossing streets filled
with speeding motorbikes and tuk-tuks is not for
the faint of heart. Drivers are aware of pedestrian
traffic and adjust their driving accordingly. Stay
close together, and step out when the traffic is
minimal. Walk at a slow, steady pace while watch-
ing the oncoming traffic that hopefully will flow
around you. Follow locals as they cross to get the
hang of it.
The vast majority of Asians are very courteous and
friendly and they expect similar behavior from
visitors. Being publicly angry, arrogant and loud is
much frowned upon and will not help solve prob-
lems or get a better price. Be cautious, respectful
and friendly and you will have a great time in this
wonderful part of the world.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 31
MY SIX-DAY LAKE LUCERNE CIRCLE HIKE IN SWITZERLAND
32 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
| STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALISON DAROSA |
“When I got lost, as I knew I would, could I surmount the Swiss/German lan-
guage barrier to ask for help getting back on track? Would somebody send out
a search party if I failed to show up at the night’s hotel?”
L ike so many who read the
bestseller or have seen the
movie, “Wild,” I imagined my-
self in Cheryl Strayed’s boots.
I envisioned hiking alone in
exquisite wilderness, savor-
ing silence, solitude. I saw myself conquer-
ing the ups and downs of a renowned trail
all on my own.
However, the “Wild” I envisioned was
uniquely my own. It didn’t include
Strayed’s horribly blistered feet or “Mon-
ster,” her impossibly heavy and overstuffed
backpack. It didn’t include sleeping in a
tent – especially one I had to carry and set
up myself. And forget freeze-dried food.
What I wanted was “Wild” for wusses.
I decided that a weeklong solo hike would
be “Wild” enough for me. I’d do it in Swit-
zerland, a hikers’ Mecca.
I signed up for a solo hike with SwissTrails,
a company that arranges hiking and biking
trips throughout the country. I asked for
what the Swiss call “soft” hiking on a rela-
tively flat route. We agreed I’d do the 6-day
Lake Lucerne Circle Hike. The company
arranges nightly lodging and transfers lug-
gage each day.
When I received my itinerary, I was excited
– and more than a bit intimidated.
Could I really do this alone? Hike 10-plus
miles a day, with daily elevation gains of
up to 4,500 feet? In addition to hiking, my
itinerary had me taking trains, boats, cable
cars and buses.
When I arrived in Zurich and met Swiss
Trails founder Ruedi Jaisli for my one-on-
one pre-hike briefing, he did his best to
reassure me: “This is one of the most spec-
tacular tours you can do in Switzerland,” he
said. “It’s a hike, not a climb. It’s self-guid-
ed; go at your own rhythm.”
Swiss hiking trails wander through bucolic
lakeside villages such as Bauen.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 33
Trails, always well marked, meander across
lush rolling farmland. The Chapel Bridge,
right, is covered wooden footbridge across
the Reuss River in Lucerne.
34 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
“Easy is a relative term,” he shrugged when I asked mountainside cheesemakers, drop-dead gorgeous
about the steep elevation gains and drops. So, final- scenery – and still easily make it to my destination
ly I understood: Hiking 4,000 feet up, then 4,000 before dark, or in time to shower on the afternoon
feet down meant my route was “relatively” flat. I’d booked a massage.
As Jaisli reminded me to place my luggage in the Before our day was over, Welti had me lead the way
hotel lobby by 9 each morning and to carry that on the trail – and after steering us wrong twice, I
night’s hotel voucher in my daypack each day, I began to get things right. Could I have managed
scanned the trail maps he provided. The print was the week without his expertise? Probably. But it
microscopic. wouldn’t have been so easy – or half the fun.
When I got lost, as I knew I would,
could I surmount the Swiss/Ger- Lingering images
man language barrier to ask for When I reflect on my week on
help getting back on track? Would the Circle Trail, a whirlwind of
somebody send out a search party sensory images fills my mind.
if I failed to show up at the night’s I see a narrow, worn track that
hotel? undulates across lush rolling
“From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., you can call farmlands, meanders across
the help line,” Jaisli said. “We’re trickling mountain streams
here seven days a week. and beside the crystal waters
“And don’t worry about the weath- of Lake Lucerne. I inhale the
er,” he continued. “They’re pre- scent of cut grass, rotting wood,
dicting rain, but in Switzerland sodden peat, the perfume of
it’s always better than it’s forecast. towering pines that appeared
Besides, bad weather also has its like ghosts on fog-shrouded
charm. Just go, go, go.” Mount Rigi. I hear the clang of
I decided to hire a guide – just for the first day. cowbells – a sound that came
to mean security for me; it meant civilization was
nearby. But mostly I hear the silence, interrupted
only by the crunch of my own boots on the trail.
A guiding light My hours of solitude were a unique gift. Being
Jaisli recommended Rene Welti, a Swiss-born hik- alone allowed my mind’s eye to see in ways I oth-
ing maestro who was raised in the San Francisco erwise wouldn’t have. In open meadows, I saw
Bay Area and lived most of his life in the U.S. In myself as a child on a wide porch swing, snuggled
2010 he moved to Lucerne and two years later beside my beloved aunt; I heard the birds that once
started ECHO Trails, leading guided hikes in the twittered in her garden. Along sunny ridges, I felt
area. Lonely Planet named him their local outdoor the warm embrace and unconditional love of my
expert. long-gone grandmother. I could see both shaking
Welti agreed to meet me early the next morning their heads, warning of the dangers of hiking alone.
near the Lucerne dock where we hopped a ferry to Then I saw their smiles. They shared my joy as I nes-
my kick-off point. Our day together encompassed tled into now as if I were climbing into their soft
so much more than hiking. It’s true that Swiss inviting laps.
trails are well marked – but Welti taught me how to Step by step
read the marks. I learned that squat yellow rhom- My days started with breakfast, which was includ-
buses were my friend: They lead to generally easy, ed at each hotel along my route. I gathered my
flat trails. When a red-on-white stripe is added to lunches on the trail.
the mix, I’m headed for a “mountain trail,” a great- In Seelisburg, I stopped at Aschwanden Kaserie,
er challenge – steeper, narrower, often uneven. I where I watched the cheese-making process begin
learned to avoid blue-on-white signposts that lead a few hours after cows had been milked. The way
to what the Swiss call “Alpine routes” – trails that Californians taste wine, I learned to taste cheeses –
might have been mapped for mountain goats. sampling a half-dozen varieties to pick my favorite:
When we stopped for a mid-morning snack at a Klewa, from the mountain where I’d hiked the day
mountain chalet, Welti taught me how to game before. “It’s a distinct taste because the cows there
my itinerary – how to customize my hikes with graze on flowers that are different,” explained
alternate routes using public transport (including cheesemaker Urs Aschwanden.
boats, aerial trams and even a cogwheel railway). To simplify matters, I booked dinner reservations
It gave me confidence knowing I could take my at each of the hotels where I stayed. At Hotel Stern-
time on the trail – be distracted by village bakers,
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 35
Clockwise from top: Hikers often overnight in
Brunnen, a small resort town on Lake Lucerne.
Cheesemaker Urs Aschwanden offers samples at
his family owned dairy farm in Seelisberg. The
trail wanders through a forest near Rutli, said
to be the site where Switzerland was founded in
1291. Stop for a cheese break at Rigi-Alpkase, a
family operation on the slope of Mount Rigi.
en in Fluelen, where my postage-stamp- a few feet of trail in front of me. Snow
size room had a twin bed and a parking was expected. I zipped my jacket, put on
meter, the chef helped me master the woolen gloves and set out on a 5-mile
hotel’s wifi – and explained that he used up-and-down hike to Rigi Kaltbad –
his grandmother’s recipe to prepare my where I had a hot date.
traditional German meal. At City Hotel Wild and wonderful
in Brunnen, where I landed a spacious By mid-afternoon, I was sinking into
room with a deep bathtub, I was trail- the warm healing waters of Rigi Kaltbad.
sore and sorely tempted to skip dinner. The mineral springs here have drawn
I’d have missed a scrumptious platter of visitors for six centuries – and as fans
lake perch sautéed in almond butter. My around the world attest, the place is rea-
dessert was a long soak in that delicious son enough to visit Switzerland.
tub. The spa is housed in a sleek, contempo-
rary temple designed by Swiss architect
Day 4 was dedicated to Mount Rigi – at Atop Rigi Kulm, we disembarked into a Mario Botta. Bathers luxuriate in an in-
almost 6,000 feet elevation. But instead cloud. Fog was so thick I could see only door/outdoor pool equipped with an ex-
of hiking up an 8-mile trail, I hopped a travaganza of feel-good massaging jets
cogwheel train from Arth Goldau to Rigi that make magic from head to toe. Like
Kulm, the mountain’s peak. This was a child at an amusement park, I played
the first mountain railway in Europe, at every station – leaning in to intensify
transporting riders since the 1870s to the pressure of jets on my calves, mov-
the panoramic view up top. I rode with
an Indian family; we had a common pas-
sion: Swiss chocolate.
36 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
ing away when I’d had enough. Outdoors,
where steam merged with fog, I lingered
on jetted underwater lounge platforms,
delighting in the sensation of every sin-
gle bubble. I was the last person to leave
when the spa closed at 7.
In zoned-out bliss, I dined on Raclette at
Hotel Alpina that night. It seemed odd-
ly fitting that the melted cheese bubbled
on my plate.
The next morning, fog remained thicker
than the previous night’s Raclette. I de-
posited my bag in the lobby for pickup,
then headed back upstairs and fell into
bed. I ignored the clock and settled into
sleep soothed by the sound of not-so-
Playing hooky meant I missed a second
chance to see the view from Rigi Kulm
– but by taking the cable car to the lake-
side town of Weggis, I got to walk in the
footsteps of Mark Twain who once lived
For me, it was a perfectly “Wild” day.
IF YOU GO Hiking in Switzerland
SwissTrails’ 5-night self-guided Lake
Lucerne Circle Trail hike, with lodging
in standard hotels, daily breakfasts and
daily luggage transfers, starts at about
$850 per person. E-mail Ruedi.jaisli@
swisstrails.ch. Learn more at www.swis-
ECHO-Trails founder Rene Welti offers a
5-night Lake Lucerne Circle hike – with
a guide on day one. Rates start at about
$1,650, including lodging in standard
hotels, daily breakfasts and daily lug-
gage transfers, a 2-hour walking tour
of Lucerne, plus a mobile phone with
pre-loaded emergency numbers and 10
minutes of free time. E-mail echotrails@
gmail.com. Learn more at www.echo-
Get a Swiss Pass for unlimited travel
by rail, road and waterway throughout
Switzerland. Prices start at about $416
for an 8-day pass. Learn more at www.
Learn more about travel throughout
Switzerland at www.myswitzerland.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 37
38 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 39
A PALM SPRINGS REFUGE FOR THE RICH AND FAMOUS
| STORY BY CARL H. LARSEN |
are,” a disgraced Richard Nixon wrote
in the guest book at Sunnylands, the
spectacular enclave Walter and Leon-
ore (Lee) Annenberg built out of the
desert in Rancho Mirage. His message
of gratitude was written on Sept. 8,
1974, a month after he had resigned
the presidency -- and on the day he was
pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford.
40 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
The 25,000 square foot Mid-Century Modern
residence was designed by the late Los Angeles
architect A. Quincy Jones.
Lasting friendships and generous hos- Once staffed by 60 servants, including But don’t take the Hearst-Annenberg
pitality is what the Annenbergs were all an Irish butler, their private domain, in- analogy too far. There are no ketchup
about, as well as an unparalleled legacy cluding a golf course, has recently been bottles to be found on the dining room
of philanthropy. opened for all to see. It now joins the tables at Sunnylands as there are at San
The wealthy couple used their Mayan-in- San Simeon estate of William Randolph Simeon. As a hostess, Leonore Annen-
fluenced home as the centerpiece of Hearst as being two of California’s best- berg was unmatched. Instead of one for-
an opulent lifestyle more attuned to a known homes that are open to the pub- mal banquet table, she typically seated
British earl and countess in the tradi- lic. Like Hearst, Annenberg was a news- her dinner guests around several small,
tion of “Downton Abbey” than that of paper publisher, and was the creator more intimate tables.
a successful American publisher and his of TV Guide and Seventeen magazines. With a golf course just out the door, and
charming and equally astute wife, who As a Philadelphia TV station owner, he a home designed for entertaining, Sun-
served as chief of protocol for the U.S. promoted a young man named Dick nylands was a place where the high and
State Department. Clark, who gave the world “American mighty could kick back far away from
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 41
The west windows of Sunnylands Center present a magnificent
vista of the 10,000-foot-plus San Jacinto Mountains looming above
palo verde trees. Landscape architect James Burnett used Vincent
van Gogh’s Olive Trees of 1889 as inspiration for this masterpiece
view of the Center’s unique gardens.
the eyes of the probing media or gawk-
“There’s no other place like it, anywhere,”
said Nancy Reagan of Sunnylands.
Indeed, no single residence in the Unit-
ed States – except the White House -- is
so steeped in the history of the late 20th
century. The Annenbergs entertained
seven U.S. presidents, Britain’s Queen
Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Marga-
ret Thatcher, Monaco’s Princess Grace
42 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
Left: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit Walter and
Leonore Annenberg at Sunnylands, February 1983.
and an A-list of celebrities and sports heroes. first-time visitors tend to stare wide-eyed at
Frequent guests for dinner or golf included the 6,500 square foot living room with its
neighbors Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, who pale pink marble floors and soft green sofas
was married to Barbara Marx (his last wife) …. and walls of cinder-brown lava rock, back-
in 1976 in the home’s huge atrium in front of drop for their collection of Impressionist and
the fireplace. post-Impressionist paintings. In the vault-
ed center of the room, light pours in from a
Annenberg biographer Christopher Ogden raised cupola on the dark green bronze of Ro-
described the house in its heyday: “The large din’s 'Eve.' Nearly six feet tall, the sculpture
double doors are open. Either Lee or Walter stands by a reflecting pool surrounded by
usually waits to greet guests near the large hundreds of bromeliad plants.”
pots of cymbidium orchids grown on the es-
tate and which line the entrance hall. Inside, Cast in 1881, the Rodin is still there in all
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 43
Sunnylands offers visitors 1.25 miles of walking paths that meander
through more than 53,000 individual plants and 50 arid-landcape species.
44 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
its glory, but the heart of the Annenbergs’ and a portrait of Walter Annenberg, dressed
art collection--some $1 billion worth, includ- in a choir robe, by Andrew Wyeth. There’s a
ing works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and framed, handwritten personal letter from
Cezanne--was donated in 1991 to the Metro- Queen Elizabeth II to Walter Annenberg, who
politan Museum of Art in New York City. Dig- served as U.S. ambassador to the Court of St.
ital reproductions of the paintings now hang James’s. Another wall displays framed, signed
where the originals once were placed. Christmas cards to the Annenbergs from the
late Queen Mother.
A $61.5 million structural renovation of the
home and new construction that includes a Walter Annenberg's wealth and devotion to
visitors’ center and nine-acre garden designed philanthropy was legendary. Upon becoming
by the firm of landscape architect James Bur- ambassador to the United Kingdom, he took
nett of Solana Beach, Calif., has shaped the it upon himself to pay for the renovation of
estate toward a new vision set by the Annen- the antiquated Winfield House, the mansion
bergs before their deaths. in Regent's Park that is the U.S. ambassador's
official residence in London.
Now called the Annenberg Retreat at Sunny-
lands, the 200-acre compound has become a Among the visitors entertained by the An-
global center for high-level conferences fo- nenbergs at Sunnylands were Queen Eliza-
cused on promoting peace. The couple's vision beth II and Prince Philip. One of the photos
has held true and the estate continues to be taken during the royal visit is rather interest-
popular as a sort of West Coast Camp David. ing. Pictured with the Annenbergs at the front
President Obama has visited Sunnylands four door, the queen is holding an umbrella, on
times, staying overnight on two of those oc- what must have been a rare rain-threatened
casions, during meetings with President Xi of day in the normally sun-filled desert.
China and with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Now that the public can view the estate, it’s
Arriving at the new Sunnylands Center and easy to see how Sunnylands left a succession
Gardens, visitors learn of power politics of kings, queens, presidents and celebrities
played far from the halls of Washington, D.C. impressed, as was Britain’s Prince Charles.
It was at the estate where Nixon crafted his
last State of the Union Address and where When he visited in 1974, he asked the couple:
President George H. W. Bush hosted a state “You left all this to go to England?”
dinner for the Prime Minister of Japan. Pres-
ident Ronald Reagan, a frequent visitor, ex-
changed televised New Year’s greetings in If You Go
1986 from the home with Soviet Premier If you wish to tour the historic house and grounds, plan
Mikhail Gorbachev. well ahead. Be certain to check first with the Web site for
There remains a superb collection of fine and opening hours, which can change. Tours of the grounds
decorative arts to see as well as the Midcentu- and residence are available for a fee and tickets are limit-
ry Modern architecture of the late A. Quincy
Jones, the Los Angeles architect hired by the ed. The estate is closed July and August and can be closed
Annenbergs to create their desert oasis. Com- to visitors during conferences and other events.
pleted in 1966, the 25,000 square foot house The 15-acre Sunnylands Center & Gardens is free to visitors
is furnished in what is called a Hollywood Re- during opening hours. On exhibit are gifts the Annenbergs
gency style, imagined by the team of William received over their lifetimes from family, presidents and
Haines and Ted Graber. first ladies, celebrities and business leaders. The center
One of the most interesting stops on a tour of also features an interactive computer bank with informa-
the home is the Room of Memories, filled with tion about the estate, its distinguished visitors, the An-
personal mementoes. Here, there’s a portrait nenberg art collection and the home's architecture. There
of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale is an introductory video, a café and a shop.
Web site: www.sunnylands.org
Location: 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, Calif.
photos: © The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunny-
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 45
Mary James at diiner in Palm Springs enyoying a
46 WnicineeboDttinleeo&f cTarbawveitlhWthienptehro2to0g1r5apher.
HOW TO BECOME A WINE ENTHUSIAST
| BY RON JAMES |
America is the top dog in the pantheon
of countries that quaff a lot of wine –
Americans drink over 890 million gallons
a year which works out to about 2.8 gal-
lons per persons of drinking age. Amer-
ica doesn’t fare quite as well in the per
capita wine consumption category; well
below thirstier countries like Slovenia,
Croatia and Macedonia whose citizens
drink over 11 gallons each in a year. Sur-
prisingly, the most serious wine enthusi-
asts reside in the city state in Rome, in
a place called the Vatican – they drink a
whopping 20 gallons! Holy Bacchus, it
must be thirsty work being celibate.
As wine loving as some countries are,
there are a few unfortunate countries
that haven’t joined in the fun. Afghani-
stan brings up the rear with the average
person drinking zero wine anytime. But
that’s understandable considering most
are Muslim. Fifth from the bottom is In-
dia which is no surprise to this traveler. If
you’ve ever had the misfortune of tasting
the combination of very expensive, and
extremely bad wines that are available
there, you’ll understand why many In-
dians who do drink alcoholic beverages
seem to be boycotting the grape – can’t
afford it, can’t stand it. Their beer, on the
other hand, is quite alright.
Even in the wine-loving regions of the
world, including America, there are
those reluctant to join the ranks of wine
lovers for reasons other than religion or
incarceration. Some prefer other meth-
ods of taking the edge off of daily life –
others (not in the Vatican) don’t drink or
have fun -- and many may be put off by
the perceived voodoo and pretentious-
ness surrounding the sport. The latter
group may be intimidated by French
labels or can’t pronounce pinot noir or
Sangiovese or can’t spell sommelier or
even know what one does. (Continued)
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 47
Clockwise from top: Happy vendors pour
their wares to even happier tasters at the
San Diego Wine & Food Festival. Right:
Tasters belly up to the bar at Miner Winery
in Napa. Ron and Mary James enjoy a glass
of bubbly at Iron Horse Winery in Sonoma .
Bottom: A private tasting in Healdsburg.
If you’re in that category, don’t fret — almost any upright sauvignon blanc that exudes aromas of cat pee or his fancy
and relatively cogent adult has the potential to become a French Bordeaux that tastes like the floor of a barnyard.
decent wine enthusiast. It’s not that hard, like anything If you practice diligently tasting and learning about new
else in life it takes a little dedication and practice, practice, wines, you’ll find that your preferences in wines will evolve.
practice. It’s called educating your palate. A wine that makes you gag
So how do you begin your path to wine enthusiasm you ask? today may well become a favorite next year and vice versa.
Here’s a few things that may help make your wine education You and your palate have moved on. It’s like when you were a
a de-vine one. kid and hated asparagus or Brussels sprouts. As you grew up
Be comfortable liking the wines that taste good to you. and became more experienced with foods, you began to love
asparagus. Although Brussels sprouts still suck.
You are the expert when it comes to wines you enjoy, and As you taste and learn about new wines, you will discover the
that’s the way it should be. Everyone’s palate is different and distinctive flavors and characteristics of different varietals
evolving. A wine that tastes good to you is a right wine for you (kinds of grapes). And you’ll find that the characteristics of
at that period in your wine journey. Even if the wine smarty wine made from the same varietals may differ from country
next to you gags on it and spits out. And its OK to gag on the to country, vineyard to vineyard and wine maker to wine mak-
wine smarty’s favorite over-the-top, acid-bomb New Zealand er. You’ll experience wines that have complex layers of flavors
48 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015
and other characteristics. And you’ll find that wines are alive the same year, brand, varietal, color or family. Wine-tasting
and change with age — for better or worse. notes are usually provided for each wine. This gives you op-
So how do you get started? portunity to compare the characteristics of several wines side-
There are a number of ways to educate your palate, and the Try tasting each wine before reading the tasting notes, to see
great thing is that they’re all fun! For the most part wine tast- if you can discern flavors, viscosity, color, acidity and how
ing isn’t a solo sport. However, there are times when a fine your palate reacts to them. Then read the notes to see if you
glass of wine and a bit of reflective time with yourself can be agree with them, and try each wine again to try to find the
quite satisfying. That said, a great deal of enjoyment in ed- characteristics mentioned in the tasting notes.
ucating your palate is doing
so with family, friends or per- Many wine bars, wine retail-
haps strangers who want to be ers, and restaurants frequently
friends. have wine education and tasting
Start your education by read- events. This is not only a wonder-
ing about wine just as you’re ful way to learn about wines, but
doing right now — the fact away to make new wine enthusi-
that you made it this far is a ast friends as well. Most of these
good sign. The Internet is a establishments have mailing and
good place to start. There are e-mail lists that will keep you up-
more wine blogs and sites on to-date about upcoming events.
the Internet than anyone can Perhaps one of the most fun
imagine. A Google search for ways to learn about wines is to go
wine information produced to wine and food events featur-
807,000,000 results. ing dozens, if not thousands, of
There are many online wine wines to taste. There are obvious
affinity groups that provide a hazards to these kinds of events,
network of like-minded folk so spitting and dumping is en-
and a wealth of information. couraged. Wear a hat and have
For a good start go to the plenty of sunscreen if its out-
website of our wine columnist doors. Have a designated driver if
Robert Whitley. He has a ton you just can’t spit. And perhaps
of wine reviews and columns, most important, do not bid on
as well as several links to oth- silent auctions after you’ve been
er great wine sites: www.whit- educating your palate for four
Reading is great, but nothing These tips should get you started
beats the real thing. So head and once you do, you’ll realize
down to one of those wine bars there’s a lot more to learn. That’s
we talked about. Find one that the great thing about being a
makes you feel comfortable. wine lover — it’s a fascinating,
Tell the server or bartender that life-long learning process — and
you’re kind of new to the game you get the benefits of a nice
and want to learn about wines. buzz now and then. So remem-
If they are pros, they’ll take ber, don’t ever worry or feel em-
the time to help you get start- barrassed about the wines you
ed. Ask them for wines that are like. Your palate’s opinion of
true examples of the varietals your favorite wines is as valid as
or blends and pick their brain anyone’s — including wine blow
about the characteristics. hards and snobs. So, If that wine
Many wine bars offer flights of snob next to you smirks and
wine. Flights are usually small rolls his eyes next time you order
glasses of four to eight wines your favorite, tell him to stick his
grouped for one reason or an- barnyard-tinged Bordeaux where
other. They could be wines of the sun don’t shine. It’s OK to do
that — you’re a wine enthusiast.
Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015 49
AN ARCHITECT’S LIFE STORY
| STORY BY SHARON WHITLEY LARSEN |
50 Wine Dine & Travel Winter 2015