Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Destination Idea - Nazareth, Israel

When I was trying to decide what to post this special Christmas week, I knew it had to be our trip to Nazareth, Israel. Of all of the places we have been around this remarkable world, this by far touched me the most. Most people think that back in biblical times people lived in homes built above the ground, but most of them that lived in small remote communities really lived in cave like dwellings. We were able to see the old biblical town of Nazareth where just a few families lived over 2000 years ago.

It was then I understood what the Romans and Jews really meant when they referred to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth”. They were basically saying, “Jesus of not even a one stop light town – and this guy from the middle of nowhere is going to save the world?” What a humble and patient God. He knew the power that would be revealed; he knew the plan that would save even those that mocked him.

Words nor pictures can describe the peaceful but overwhelming experience of walking into this place where it is believed that Mary lived when the angel came to tell her she would birth God’s Son, Emanuel – which means “God is with us”. What a small quaint rocky place, but this place is where it all began. This place is where an angel came. This place is where Mary was shown a piece of the plan. Wow. Can you try to imagine? Even more exhilarating, this place is where the spirit of God came down to become flesh to save me. To save you. What a holy place. My spirit knew that. I wanted to stay there all day and night. So peaceful. So calm. So secure to know that God finally gave man a peek of his plan and to know it would come to fruition. Some groups were singing hymns in another language I did not know, but I think my soul was singing as well.

I will try to remember during this special season this place and that God has a plan. I may not know every detail of it, but I know his plans are great and good and will happen and most of all more perfect than I could ever imagine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Destination Idea - AZ

Cold during Christmas? Warm up in AZ!

Start your long weekend in Phoenix. Go shopping and eat in the old quaint western part part of town. Enjoy the beautiful views around you. Baseball junkies know it is the place to be for spring training, and if you go after, you can get great deals on resorts. We highly recommend the Hyatt. They have tons of interlinking pools with waterfalls and desert cliff views for those who want to relax. And for the active sports enthusiasts, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails.

Not too far away is beautiful Sedona. Sedona has tons of activities for all levels. Hiking, jeep excursions, shopping, or just driving around to take in the views. I bought a beautiful western jacket in a boutique there that I love to wear.

Just about an hour away, down a beautiful drive full of camp sites and scenic views is Flagstaff. There a a great pita place we ate.We then took a little nice drive on the famous route 66. While we were eating I asked how far we were from the Grand Canyon. Since it was just an hour and a 20 min away I said we had to go! Our leisurely vacation then went out the door!

After taking in the grand canyon sites, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. Was it because I had made it bigger in my mind? Was it because the weather wasn't too clear? I could help but think the Kauai Wayamea Canyon was much prettier, not as big, but it has vibrant colors. As we were taking pictures of the sunset over the canyon, Uncle Map was staring at his phone. "What is going on?" I asked. He then informed me that he did not see a gas station the whole way from Flagstaff, and he was worried about our gas level. His GPS said that there was one 40 miles away,and our car showed we had about 30 miles to empty. It was then I realized how desolate and dark the desert is and started thinking about what wildlife was out and about. Uncle Map did all he could to coast down any hills and we turned off the a/c. Panic rose when the car showed 0 miles to empty and the trusty GPS said we were still a few miles away from the closest gas station even though we didn't see any evidence of human existence anywhere. Then I saw a soft glow in the distance.... we held our breath as we rolled into the gas station. I never fully appreciated how truly dependent we are on civilization! Our grand canyon trip got really close to a true desert wilderness experience!
So in short, go visit AZ, but always keep a full gas tank!

Friday, December 2, 2011

France Day 5 of 18 - Bordeaux Vineyards

As mentioned in my previous post, I took French a very very very long temp ago...
After talking with a friend who is sommelier, and browsing through a French vineyard catalog, I personally wrote to about 20 grand cru vineyards (majority in French) asking to set up a tour for the day that we would be in the region. Granted it was harvest season, very busy time for a vineyard to give tours, but only one responded yes.

A little history for those of you who like historical random facts:
Back in 1855, Napoleon II demanded that the French vineyards be classified (since all seemed great). This classification differentiated the premier grand cru (great first growth wines) which there are only 6 today (majority from the Medoc region in Margeaux in Bordeaux, the duexieme crus ect ect. There are only 66 classified as grand cru wines (great growths). After these classifications, the vineyard that got a classification of grand cru and especially premier or duexieme status were set for life. Since that classification, I do not think a wine had jumped up a level (maybe one - some may argue that it was a huge political reason act). In short, premier wines are tres tres expensive due to their status, duexiem are tres expensive and so on and so on. The good thing is even some of the ones that did not have a superb classification are excellent wines that you can get for practically nothing. Now you see why it was hard to get a private tour.

Now back to the blog - so we felt extremely lucky that one vineyard -Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou which is in the Sait - Julien region (which has 11 of the 66 1855 classifications) along the Girone estuary (which keeps the perfect atmosphere for the wines dry but access to water). It is 25 miles northwest of Bordeaux in Haut Medoc between Margaux and Pauillac. The vineyard is named after the stones in the ground that contribute to its flavor. It is also still owned by a family and not a well well known company like Channel.

We were able to get a private tour of the vineyard, cellars and a wine tasting. We even ended up buying a bottle of their cru in our wedding year. What a fascinating experience. Thanks to our friends at Ducru Beaucaillou for being such great hosts! We also bought about two cases of wine to get shipped back to the states to drink at their "premium" time. Shipping from Margaux saved us at least 3 levels of mark ups.
We even had time to do a quick tour of Saint Emellion, after taking a lovely leisurely boat trip, which was more of a touristy wine town.