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Category Archives for "North America"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in North America.

The Best of Aspen

With four majestic peaks and an abundance of opulent hotels, restaurants, and bars, the picturesque Colorado ski town attracts the world’s most luxurious people Aspen has come a long way since its origins as a silver boomtown in the late 19th century. Although the three-and-a-halfsquare-mile city has a year-round population of less than 7,000 residents, that number balloons to over 25,000 during the high season, from December to March, when it becomes a playground for the ultra-wealthy and the celebrity set. Home to four mountains for skiing and snowboarding—Aspen (or Ajax), Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass—each with its own unique terrain, Aspen is perhaps best known for its luxurious amenities and après-ski options.

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The Little Nell Hotel – Aspen, Colorado, U.S.A

The Little Nell is Aspen’s sole hotel to attain the coveted AAA Five Diamond award.  Executive chef Matt Zurod oversees the property’s two restaurants, and the top-tier beverage program has won Wine Spectator’s Grand Award every year since 1997. Guest rooms average 600 square feet, while suites feature Holly Hunt custom furnishings and fireplaces. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the elegant Hotel Jerome sits at the foot of Aspen Mountain. Back in the day, Gary Cooper and John Wayne drank at the Jerome; more recent guests have included Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson. Soothe tired muscles in the Jerome’s world-class spa, which uses local minerals in many of its treatments. The hotel has partnered with Mercedes-Benz USA to offer guests “one-ofa-kind drive experiences” during their stay. If it’s old-world luxury you’re looking for, the St. Regis Aspen Resort practically drips with it. The property boasts 179 apartment-style digs, which feature kitchens and, in select rooms, fireplaces, and a team of private butlers is on call to guests staying in suites.

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St. Regis Aspen Resort

In 1999, Dean Weiler put down stakes in Aspen, where he now runs Dean’s Original Aspen Walking Tours. Unlike, say, Vail, which was created from scratch as a winter resort in 1966 by the late Aspen ski instructor Pete Seibert—a WWII vet who fell in love with the place when he trained there—and uranium prospector Earl Eaton, Aspen has long had its own rich history and infrastructure, which Weiler says gives it “a vibrancy you don’t necessarily have in other places.”

There is “beauty all around us” in Aspen, Weiler says. But there are plenty of wondrous things to do and see indoors, too—like sampling the 200 craft beers and ciders on offer at HOPS Culture. Grey Lady is the place to go for an authentic New England–style lobster roll, and the Caribou Club is one of Aspen’s most exclusive members-only hangouts. The down-to earth vibe brings locals and visitors alike to Justice Snow’s.

When the sun heads below the horizon, the fabulous head to Escobar. Black-and-white photographs of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar himself “keep measured watch all over—pleased, maybe, with the evidence of a modern, cool crowd claiming their right to feel gratifyingly alive,” the club’s website explains. Table reservations are available (and recommended); minimums vary based on the season and day of the week. Bootsy Bellows is a luxe outpost of the famed Los Angeles nightspot of the same name, and Casa Tua brings the flavors of Northern Italy to the Rockies.

Jimmy Yeager has been supplying Aspen with a good time since 1997. That’s when Yeager opened Jimmy’s, his eponymous bar, restaurant, and area institution. Located at the foot of Aspen (Ajax) Mountain, Jimmy’s is one of the best-known ski spots in the area. There’s no better place for top-end wines, especially since the arrival of certified sommelier Greg Van Wagner in 2014. The focus is on American wines, and the cellar holds more than 650 perfectly kept bottles. A bottle of 2009 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can be had at Jimmy’s for $1,566.

Yeager’s latest venture is called Jimmy’s Bodega. The ceviche is a must-try, says Weiler, as are the other coastal Mexican dishes in which the Bodega specializes. Other hot spots on Weiler’s must-visit list: the Living Room at Hotel Jerome, for plush couches, a roaring fireplace, and live music. Nearby you’ll find the Ajax Tavern at Little Nell and Shlomo’s Deli & Grill, a new restaurant opened by a local.

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Jimmy’s Bodega – Aspen

One thing Aspen doesn’t want for is variety. For live music, Weiler recommends Belly Up, and steers visitors to the 1880s-era Wheeler Opera House for “all sorts of unique programming.” Hunter S. Thompson fans will definitely want to check out J-Bar at Hotel Jerome, which Thompson used as a campaign headquarters when he ran for county sheriff in 1970. Foodies shouldn’t miss the Chefs Club, and some of the finest Japanese food in the world is found at Matsuhisa, the Aspen satellite of Nobu Masuhisa’s growing sushi den dynasty. The Pine Creek Cookhouse is a destination unreachable by car; winter guests can cross-country ski or snowshoe in. If you’re knackered from a day on the slopes, you can take a horse-drawn sleigh to the front door.

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The Pine Creek Cookhouse

To explore the mesmerizing scenery outside Aspen, start at Go Rentals, which will set you up with a Bentley, Tesla, Porsche, Audi, Land Rover, or Mercedes-Benz during your stay. Rates range from $79 to $1,500 a  day. Motion Rent-a-Car will put you behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz E300 for $169 and up a day; a Porsche Cayenne for $199 and up a day; or a Bentley Continental Flying Spur from $299 and up a day. If you’re looking for something even more exotic, rent a Lamborghini Huracán from Mile High Drives for $1,199 and up a day (100 miles are included in each 24- hour period; each additional mile $4.49).

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Dress Up (Or Down) For Comic-Con – San Diego

There’s something to be said for how desperately we crave the idea of escape. On March 21, 1970, San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon first introduced people to the idea of a world that didn’t have to be as oppressive as the one we inhabit. Today, millions throng to the annual Comic-Con International, or copycat events in cities across the globe.

Why? As a comic book fan for as long as I can remember, I see the appeal of access to the faces behind the superheroes – the writers and illustrators of iconic characters like Spiderman and the Fantastic Four, for example. The merchandise is also a big draw. And then there are the early previews of big budget films that the rest of the world has to wait for. You get bragging rights for having checked out the new Batman trailer months before your friends even hear of its release.

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Mortal Kombat Cosplays at Comic Con San Diego

It gets bigger every year, and the July 2017 event promises to have it all: Hollywood biggies (past attendees include Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg), legendary comic book writers and creators (Stan Lee, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman) and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – the Oscars for comic books, only without the red carpet and rambling monologues.

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Eating in New Orleans, USA

Tastes from Europe, Africa and the Americas blend into the Creole cuisine of Louisiana’s main city, joined by the down-home Cajun cooking of the surrounding marshlands.

Why Go?

To eat your way through the birthplace of jazz.

What is there to do?

Try to treat your tastebuds to all the classic dishes of New Orleans: beignets, grits, gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys and snowballs …

When to Go: March to late May, though hot, is a good time to visit. April is also when the music festivals start.

Creole & Cajun

Upperline's Owner, Ann Clevenger

Upperline’s Owner, Jo Ann Clevenger

Upperline: Owner Jo Ann Clevenger loves her city – its art, architecture and cuisine – and Upperline reflects these passions in its menu. Dishes such as duck étouffée (a spicy’ Cajun stew) with corn bread and pepper jelly are classics prepared with a modern sensibility. The restaurant resides in a beautiful old house.

Elizabeth’s: Elizabeth’s is deceptively divey, but it provides a quintessential New Orleans experience: smiling sass, weird artistic edges and overindulgence. Cajun-style brunch and breakfast are top draws, with dishes such as French toast and sinful praline bacon or a breakfast po’boy sandwich.

Clancy’s: This white-tablecloth restaurant embraces style, the good life and Creole cuisine with a chattering joie de vivre and top-notch service. Its specialties include fried oysters and brie, veal with crab meat and béarnaise, and lobster and mushroom risotto. Try to reserve ahead, and dress up a little.

Budget

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Coop’s Place

Coop’s Place: Chaotic Coop’s is an authentic Cajun dive in the French Quarter with a reputation for surly staff but it’s worth it for the food: rabbit jambalaya and chicken with shrimp and tasso (smoked ham) in a cream sauce – no such thing as ‘too heavy’ here! You have to be over 21 to enter.

Cake Café & Bakery: On weekend mornings, the line is literally out the door at this café and bakery in the Creole Quarter of Faubourg Marigny. The breakfast menu includes a roll call of Southern staples such as local catfish, boudin sausage and fried oysters and grits (in season), while the bakery whips up sweet creations (take a look at the king cake!) and fresh bagels.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House: The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s has been dubbed some of the best in the world by the revered James Beard Foundation. It’s a simple, atmospheric diner where kids get PBJ sandwiches while adults munch on soul food. This place is all about chicken coated in the perfect blend of spices, and served with a side of butter beans.

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Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Experience America’s Menswear Revolution at Brookfield Place – New York City

When Condé Nast moved its American HQ out of Times Square last year, the tremors were felt all around Midtown: favorite restaurants were suddenly open for reservations, high-end salons accepted walk-ins and cool shops marked down their prices. On the flip side, the move downtown by the 3,000 men and women who work at 16 print magazines and 20 websites to the landmark 104-storey 1 World Trade Centre has given once-moribund Lower Manhattan an economic fillip.

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Inside Brookfield Place – New York

Just opposite the imposing tower is the upscale Brookfield Place, a spanking new retail space filled with luxury fashion boutiques, hip breweries and gourmet street food. While Brookfield does not overtly target Condé Nast staffers, it’s clear from the unique merchandising mix that it knows just who’s shopping at its stores.

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Pay Homage to Former Greats at the Apollo Theater – New York

There’s a reason why the body of James Brown made its way towards the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City, on December 28, 2006. The Godfather of Soul had died of heart failure two days ago in Atlanta, Georgia. It was at the Apollo, however, that his 24-karat gold coffin was placed, brought there by a carriage drawn by white horses, surrounded by thousands of mourners who had waited for hours to bid him farewell.

What started as a burlesque theatre in 1913 is today a venue respected worldwide for its role in the history of Black America. By the Thirties, it was the largest employer of African-American theatrical workers, hosting the debuts of legends like Billie Holiday and Lena Horne. Among the stars making their first appearance here were Dinah Washington and Sammy Davis, Jr, followed by John Coltrane and Miles Davis in the Forties and Thelonious Monk in the Fifties.

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James Brown (1933-2006) singing at Apollo Theater

Winners of its Amateur Night in the Sixties included Gladys Night and Jimi Hendrix. To visit the Apollo at any time is a blessing. Go now not for the great performances it will line up (as it always does), but because few venues are as storied, as emblematic of a race and as powerful a witness to humanity’s continuing struggle for equal rights. Visit to honor its guests from the past; artistes who just happened to be among the most important to walk this earth.

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The Viceroy L’Ermitage – Beverly Hills

The Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills is a welcome escape from the LA bustle!

The reason you feel so at home when you’re staying at the Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills is probably because the hotel used to be a condominium block, so when you walk into your suite you already feel as though you’ve been here before. Which in our case is true, because it is one of our favorite places to stay in Los Angeles, a home from home that offers the stores and restaurants of Rodeo Drive only a short walk away, and the Hollywood Hills and the Valley only a short drive away.

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A suite at The Viceroy L’Ermitage – Beverly Hills

There is no forecourt, and you just pull over from the road, casual as you like, ready to be welcomed with open arms. Competition at this end of the luxury market is fierce in LA, so hotel staff go out of their way to take care of you, and that’s certainly true at the Viceroy. Whether you’re staying for business or pleasure, and whether your trip is long or short, you will no doubt experience jet lag for the first few days, and trust us, there is no better place to gaze out of the window and watch the sun come up. Excuse the noise, we’re probably next door, watching The Grand Tour on our iPad.

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From Tex-Mex Style to Tex-Next Fusion

A hot spot of innovation, the “Alamo City” rocks with creativity, congeniality and class

Up n arriving at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, I was greeted by a life-sized painting of the 1946 Triple Crown winner, Assault, by local artist Lloyd Walsh. The fabled King Ranch bred Assault, a star in a long line of champion thoroughbreds, and was the model for La Cantera. While the decor is refreshingly contemporary, touches of wood, stone, metal and leather recall the ranch’s traditional “big house.” Today, the sprawling 223-hectare property high in Texas Hill Country includes two championship golf courses, one of which is the Palmer Course designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer.

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La Cantera Resort & Spa

Players report seeing wild turkeys, deer, quail—even boar—on the links, although the resort’s executive chef Robert Carr assured me that the game on my plate at the Sweetfire Kitchen was not from the property. La Cantera’s new Signature restaurant by celebrated San Antonio chef Andrew Weissman embodies the culinary movement dubbed “Tex-Next” that could describe any of the city’s avant-garde culture. The cuisine blends traditional recipes with imaginative twists: we sampled fresh seafood and lamb along with South Texas quail, dove and venison.

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Seafood dishes abound in San Antonio, only 25 kilometres from the Gulf of Mexico

On a subsequent foray into wine country, we followed the Fredericksburg Wine Road along U.S. Route 290, the second most-visited wine trail after Napa, California. Conversations with Texas Hill Country winemakers were eye-openers.

“The main challenges to growing grapes in Texas are late-spring freezes, hailstorms and cotton-root rot, not to mention blistering heat and deer that eat everything” says Julie Kuhlken, co-owner of Pedernales Cellars. “In 2013, four late-spring freezes destroyed all stages of our viognier crop.” Nevertheless, her boutique winery specializing in Spanish and Rhone-style wines has claimed several international prizes and offers an enticing selection of unique bouquets.

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The iconic Texas longhorn cattle provide top-quality beef

Wine distribution is also a challenge for a grape-growing region that spans hill country and the high desert. This has led to the formation of strategic alliances such as 4.0 Cellars, where oenophiles can stop and taste the vintages of several wineries in one place. Nearby Fredericksburg’s boutique- lined main street is interspersed with tasting rooms to give visitors easy access to a cross-section of 1ibations without having to drive to the area’s more than 100 wineries. And wine clubs are a way for both buyers and sellers to capitalize on volume purchases online or at exclusive events.

PEARL DISTRICT

Nowhere is San Antonio’s love of amazing edibles more pronounced than in the River Walk’s nine-hectare Pearl district. From Latin cuisine and pop-up cafes at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to organic cured charcuterie at Cured and handmade macarons at Bakery Lorraine, the enclave bustles with gastronomic creativity. Every Saturday morning, the farmers’ market brings in amazing produce and wares, while foodie festivals throughout the year celebrate wine, tamales, tater tots and beer.

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San Antonio’s River Walk is a dynamic artery pulsating through downtown

Once the site of the Pearl Brewery, the district has adopted an industrial chic flavour by repurposing the existing structures. For example, the 19th-century brewhouse has been converted into the swanky Hotel Emma, where guests can sip margaritas in the old brew tanks surrounded by an ammonia compressor, old ventilation fans and bottle-filling wheels. The rebuilt bottling house is now home to Jazz, TX — a classic supper club created by local bandleader, Doc Watkins. Its patrons can enjoy South Texas cuisine and bespoke cocktails while, between courses, dancing to jazz, blues, Texas swing and salsa. The stately stable across the street that once housed the brewery’s draft horses is a popular venue for weddings and other events.

As part of the city’s famous River Walk, Pearl is ideal for strolling and cycling. Water taxis and barges ferry people to a range of attractions along the River Walk, which winds for 24 kilometres along the San Antonio river. Paths and walkways connect restaurants, shops, museums, missions, hotels and art galleries.

THEME PARKS

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Morgan’s Wonderland

A truly unique San Antonio theme park is Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first fully accessible playground that serves not only handicapped children, but also parents who may have been injured in military service. “We get a lot of veterans with debilitating injuries or amputations who have healthy, active children so they can come here and play together safely,” says Ron Morander, the 10-hectare park’s general manager.

Morander reports that finding high-profile role models for members is integral to the organization’s strategy of creating positive experiences. For example, in September 2016, double amputee and paralympic bronze medallist Amy Purdy led a motivational session that lifted the spirits of hundreds of handicapped children. San Antonio native and actor Eva Longoria, whose older sister has special needs, is also a patron.

I was surprised to find that San Antonio is home to the largest of three SeaWorlds in the U.S. and is reputedly the world’s biggest marine-life theme park. Much of its work is in animal husbandry, welfare and rescue. In summer 2017, SeaWorld will launch a rollercoaster ride based on marine animal rescue missions.

The Botanical Garden, whose glass pyramids are a San Antonio landmark, is a 15-hectare family-friendly park that focuses on education, interactivity with plants and water conservation. Programs include children’s book-readings in the garden, the annual butterfly count, vermiculture and PetSmart Dog Days, when dogs may accompany their owners. And through the interactive Culinary Garden and outdoor kitchen, members can learn healthy eating habits. Foodies and sippers will enjoy events such as Brews and Blooms where local craft breweries showcase their beer, and Wine Down at the Garden featuring food and wine pairings.

While this amazing cultural adventure was my first rodeo in San Antonio, it certainly won’t be my last.

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Family Reunion Destinations in U.S.A

There’s an old saying the family that plays together, stays together. In addition to building memories, family gatherings offer great opportunities to catch up on family news, share family traditions and stories and just enjoy some relaxation time together. Family reunions are seeing an uptick in popularity as part of the multi-generational travel trend.

FAMILIES THAT CAMP TOGETHER

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Fort Wilderness Campground

The big birthday blowout for the U.S. National Park Service may be behind us, but there’s still plenty to see and do at national parks, state parks and private campgrounds. First-time visitors are often surprised at the green pine forests and seclusion of the campsites at Fort Wilderness Campground, tucked away on the shores of Bay Lake at Florida’s Walt Disney World. The South Carolina coastline is another favourite destination for March Break and Huntington Beach State Park is perfectly situated near Myrtle Beach, just a shortdrive forday trips to Charleston.

TAKING CARE OF DETAILS

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Aspen, Colorado

Ski resorts are perfect for active families who enjoy wintertime activities. Colorado’s Snowmass Village near Aspen has the whole spectrum for building memories, including some of North America’s best snowboard and ski terrain. Sometimes families are made up of kids who have all grown up. An adults-only reunion can find bliss at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona, where togetherness could include luxury spa treatments, desert hikes and horseback rides, stargazing, gallery hopping, shopping and golf. Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort i n the Florida Panhandle shines in the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

This mammoth resort complex featuring condos, villas, townhomes and hotel rooms (mostwith kitchen facilities) means more time for the beach, golf, biking, tennis and boating. Mohonk Mountain House, in New York’s Hudson Valley, employs an events planner who works with family groups to custom-design reunions. Guests can mix and match from a wide range of sports, games or activities ranging from yoga to hayrides. Packages can be arranged to include three meals daily, afternoon tea and cookies and most resort activities.

THEMED PARKS FOR YOUNG AND OLD

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SeaWorld – Florida

Theme parks have aced the formula for creating fun times for generations travelling together. Parks like SeaWorld (Florida), Disneyland (California) and Universal Studios (Florida) combine rides and attractions with cross-generational appeal, accommodation in suites, connected rooms and villas, and extras such as on-site golf courses and shopping concourses.

Not a theme park in the traditional sense, Colonial Williamsburg brings history alive through the restoration and interpretation of the city that was Virginia’s capital from 1699 to 1780.

The Ultimate Napa Experience – California

The weather is gorgeous. You can live in a cottage with a rosemary hedge and a lemon tree out front, cycle past world-famous vineyards and sip fairytale pumpkin soup. One chef calls it a Disneyland for adults.

An hour’s drive from San Francisco, Napa is also the perfect place fora food, wine and wellness getaway.

Late fall is an ideal time to visit, and not just because rows of grapevines that criss-cross this skinny valley glow in a tapestry of golds and rusty reds. Following the mad rush to complete the harvest, the pace slows, making it easier to nab a restaurant reservation and a behind-the-scenes winery tour. Chefs offer heartier dishes to pair with the valley’s prized Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, locals call November to April Cabernet Season, and kick things off with the Napa Valley Film Festival in celebration of film, food and wine.

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Fall in Napa Valley

THE FOOD

Our first dinner in the 80,000-strong city of Napa set the bar high. Chef/owner Sean O’Toole of TORC may not be Italian, but he’d make any nonna proud with his hand-cut tagliatelle noodles tweaked with lemon and shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano or his house-made strozzapreti (strangled priests) warmed in a deeply delicious lamb jus shot through with soft licorice fennel, a hit of sweet, unctuous black garlic and a spritz of satsuma mandarin.

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TORC Restaurant – Napa

O’Toole named his Main Street restaurant for the wild boar, the scourge of winemakers whose meat is beloved by chefs. The spacious room’s impossibly high ceiling, stone walls and polished wood floor and tables add to the rustic, casual feel you’ll find even in the valley’s most posh restaurants. Yet the service is invariably excellent; the most junior server can explain exactly how your cocktail was made and describe every wine in the cellar.

Menus here are also defined by the foragers and farmers who bring fresh seasonal produce to the restaurant’s back door, which may explain why we ate a year’s worth of charred Brussels sprouts in three days. At Michelin-starred La Toque in Napa’s Westin Verasa, chef/owner Ken Frank served a five- course squash-centric dinner from the hotel’s garden, each with a carefully chosen wine. The refined, satisfying menu opened with fairy-tale pumpkin veloute garnished with walnut, celery and green apple, and ended with donuts and squash ice cream.

Along with happy, locally sourced meat, poultry and seafood, vegetables also feature prominently at Harvest Inn down the road in St. Helena, one of the newest restaurant/ inns in star chef Charlie Palmer’s empire. Guests are invited to stroll through the culinary gardens before or after dinner, and most menu items feature estate-grown ingredients. The signature dish here is the generous truffle chicken for two, served with butternut squash, risotto and truffle butter. You may even get a chance to meet the personable chef himself.

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Oxbow Public Market

For a change of pace, head to the Oxbow Public Market, a short walk from Napa’s Main Street, and mingle with the locals. I could have spent hours eating oysters at Hog Island and fresh crab and duck tacos from C CASA, with a glass of local wine, sitting at the Ritual coffee bar with a smooth cappuccino, checking out California olive oil and Napa Valley Distillery’s local lemon liqueur and sampling cheese with names like Fat Bottom Girl, Holey Cowand Mid-night Moon. All under one roof.

A Tasteful Journey Through Kentucky

Taste trails, festivals and feasts reveal surprising diversity in the Bluegrass State.

My first trip to Kentucky in 2015 just whetted my appetite for this lush, sprawling state. Further investigation has led to a smorgasbord of wineries, breweries, distilleries and festivals that tantalize the taste buds and showcase an assortment of cultures against a splendid tapestry of history and nature.

HAPPY WINE TRAILS

Kentucky’s 200-year-old wine industry is surging back after the decline of the tobacco industry, which had replaced virtually all vineyards. Today, more than 100 wineries around the state offer robust experiences to please any sensibilities. The Arts and Wine Trail Destinations map combines “master crafters of art and agriculture,” interspersing more than 100 art studios, theatres and music stages along the trail.

I wouldn’t want to miss any of Kentucky’s other libations, however, so I would sign up for some combined tours. These include the Wine & Spirits Circle Tour of the Bluegrass based in Frankfort, a half-hour’s drive from the state’s largest winery and 50 per cent of the bourbon distilleries. The self-guided Wine and Bourbon Tour of Bullitt County near Louisville takes participants to Four Roses Bourbon, Jim Beam Distillery and four award-winning wineries: Brooks Hill, Forest Edge, MillaNova and Wight-Meyer.

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Old Barrels at Wine & Spirits Circle Tour of the Bluegrass

Craft breweries are popping up everywhere as well, many along Lexington’s Brewgrass Trail. Foodies can combine their explorations with any of a number of culinary trails bearing names such as Hot Brown Hop and Urban Bourbon in Louisville. Bon Appetit Appalachia takes in farm tours, farmers’ markets, farm-to-fork restaurants, festivals and events, vineyards, wineries and craft breweries.

Several tour operators offer a variety of packages. For example, Kentucky Wine & Bourbon Tours provides options that can include tastings and meals. Visitors who prefer to navigate on their own can download a Kentucky Wine Trails app and a virtual passport from kentuckytourism.com.

BBQ AND BLUES

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While any kind of meat can be barbecued, Kentucky’s regional style is mutton-based. In the mid-1800s, when wool production became profitable and formers increased their sheep herds, they ended up with an unlimited supply of aging sheep that no longer produced good wool. While this became a major food source, the meat was tough so had to be slow-cooked and well-seasoned.

The annual International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro (May 12-13, 2017) features a series of hilarious “Mutton Glutton” events and competitions complete with elaborate awards ceremonies. These include a cook-off, keg toss and pie-eating contest.

Henderson’s annual W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival (June 14-17, 2017) is one of the largest free music festivals in the U.S. It celebrates the life and legacy of Henderson resident and “Father of the Blues,” William Christopher Handy by booking big blues names from Kentucky and beyond. Festival participants can enjoy a variety of local food at the opening-day “Taste of Henderson Barbecue,” then follow the food and fun trail through a Mardi Gras-style Street Strut while rocking to the beat of all types of music, including zydeco.

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W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival

Chicken lovers will enjoy the World Chicken Festival in London, home oft he first KFC restaurant in the 1940s. On the last full weekend in September every year, volunteers serve fried chicken dinners cooked on the World’s Largest Stainless Steel Skillet. Since the skillet’s inauguration in 1992, it has cooked more than 120,000 fried chicken dinners.

Culinary trails are a great travel menu item. The Western Kentucky BBQ Trail boasts more than a dozen eateries offering slow-roasted beef, pork and mutton. For snowbirds driving through, the I-65 and I-75 Culinary Trails present myriad options for wine, BBQ and song.

COLOURFUL CULTURE

Some unusual festivals and events this spring might coax snowbirds and spring visitors to stay awhile. From April 19-24, for example, the 22nd annual Festival of Faiths in Louisville will feature talks by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on universal human values and nonviolence. Theologian Richard Rohr has dubbed the festival “the Sundance of the Sacred,” and the Huffington Post included it among America’s top seven spiritual travel destinations. The interfaith event combines music, poetry, film and art with internationally renowned spiritual leaders.

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Kentucky Derby Festival

Following in May is the Kentucky Derby Festival (kdf.org), built around Louisville’s classic horse race. It offers the world a chance to celebrate one of the state’s oldest traditions with food, festivities, competitions, concerts and countless family- friendly activities. Hot-air balloons splash the sky with colour, Celebrity Day at Churchill Downs brings out the selfies, and the Pegasus parade sends the whole family into a festive mood. Over the years, many celebrities have marched in the parade, from John Wayne and Loretta Lynn to Muhammad Ali and William Shatner.

In Lexington, Keeneland exudes a very different sort of culture that includes thoroughbred breeding, racing and “horsetrading.” Many families have created a tradition around weekends and holidays there, picnicking and roaming on the sprawling grounds to pet the horses and watch them exercise, meet the trainers and just enjoy a galloping good time. In 2016, Keeneland hosted the Breeders’ Cup for the first time; the 2017 Spring Race Meet runs from April 7-28 (keeneland.com).

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Spring Race Meet

And for lovers of all things artistic, Kentucky Crafted: The Market from April 21 to 23 in Lexington is one of the nation’s top-rated events. It boasts nearly 200 exhibitors of fine art, crafts, books and specialty food products. Music performances include Americana and bluegrass.

The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea showcases the works of more than 700 artists and artisans with cultural and heritage exhibits and cuisine. Educational demonstrations and workshops throughout the year add flavour, as do the menu items in the Cafe and Grill: Comfy Cow icecream, Kern’s Derby Pie, Weisenberger Mills Corn muffins and hush puppies — and an assortment of traditional dishes. Kentucky’s tastes and sounds ensure there’s never a dull moment.

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