Las Vegas, I won!

Thank you Las Vegas, I think I figured it out. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas – perfect, as there is nothing here I would want to take with me. Sitting in the noisy Southwest Airline concourse, eating a mediocre overpriced meal, something started to make sense – what makes me a bit different as a traveler and travel blogger.canstockphoto4511009-650x487

First of all, I don’t like Las Vegas, nothing about it has any attraction. The casinos are noisy, this place is decadent, being polite about it. Superficial would describe most everything, and so many people are here looking for some kind of fun, but it does not seem to work. If you ever get here, go down to the registration desk of the hotel in the morning, watch the people checking out, they are exhausted, and if you eavesdrop you will find many are hungover, not to mention that when they talk to each other it is about how much money they lost, or how drunk they got.

I am sure I am leaving myself open to all those who go there, “just for the shows and the food.” Yet when there are so many places to eat wonderful food, without having to traverse the profane, why would I want to. I would much rather drive through Sonoma to end up at the French Laundry, than face the crowd on the Strip to get to Keller’s Bouchon in Vegas. And most of the promotions for the shows appear to be produced by the same folks that gave Las Vegas the moniker of “Sin City,” do I really need to see all that?

When I meet people on my international travels they talk about wanting to come to the USA, and go to Vegas, I beg them to see the rest of the country, Vegas is not what we are, or at least I hope not.

When I travel I want to get away from the crowds, the Eiffel Tower was a disappointment to me because of the crowds. I love Paris, London, and Barcelona, but I go out of my way to find the quiet places and I shy away from the touristy. The best times are when we hire (rent) a car and then head for some remote village. Restaurants in a foreign language, with no English translation are the best. I want to blend in.

I want to go where the local people go. Yes, I do enjoy a high end restaurant, but because I like it not because it is THE place to go. Yet, there is something about a dive bar that never loses its attraction. There is this little place in Salem, Oregon called The Extra Point, a dive bar for sure. But always friendly bartenders, and they have Wimpy Burger night, and Taco Tuesday, old pool tables and darts.

Traveling with a checklist of places to see really does not move me. I honestly think I could go to Rome and never see the Coliseum and be just fine with that. A question I ponder is, “How long do you have to stand in front of some iconic location to say you have seen it?” The real question for me is how do you experience it? Many folks walk through Notre Dame in Paris, they saw it, me, I sat in a pew and prayed.

This is most likely why tours are not a big attraction. We have gone on only one in our life, in Bruges, it was a rainy day, we were bored. Thankfully it was a small tour, with an emphasis on history; enjoyable for sure. Yet when planning other trips we rarely consider tours, discovery and exploration are better.

Having identified all of this I need to be clear that I pass no judgement on those who like tours, tourist sights, and Vegas, it is just that they are not me.

I prefer a glass of wine and my sketch pad at a winery over a wine tasting. I prefer a good meal with Tricia at a small café (Marianna’s in Gourds, France) over a chain, or an all you can eat buffet. We spend as much time planning where to eat as we do what to see. Picnics with local confections are a priority. Local food is a doorway to the heart of a location, I want that.

A ramble through a Scottish countryside, or along a canal ending with dinner at a British pub is perfect. Quality over quantity, quaint over extravagant, quiet over a crowd, discovery over a fixed-itinerary – places that are sketch-worthy, voila, that’s it.

So I get it, I want to travel and write about places that move me to get out my sketch pad. I want to eat food at places that give me a glimpse into the spirit of a place. TheWinesketcher, off on another adventure, it can never be too soon. Thank you Vegas, I did win.

 

Memorable Winery Visits of 2014

A warm summer evening, a serendipitous encounter, a surprise birthday party, a missed release event, and some much needed winding down, each produced one of five memorable winery visits in 2014. One was in Woodinville in early summer, three were in Eastern Washington in August, and the last was Oregon in December.

Torii Mor Winery, from the Dundee Hills of Oregon, opened a tasting room in Woodinville, Washington in 2014; one of  the first Oregon producers with a tasting room in Washington. They bring excellent offerings of the Pinot Noirs that have made the Yamhill wine area famous to Washington, a bold move for sure.

A few weeks after opening they held a party, Washington club members, of which there are many, brought friends, and other folks to whom Torii Mor was unknown joined them. It was a simple affair that showcased why I am enamored with wineries – great wine and interesting people. We met new friends, even discovered that some old acquaintances were Torii Mor fans. The party was a success, and the evening memorable.

Visiting wineries while on business trips is one of the advantages of being theWinesketcher. August 2014 took me to Toppenish, Washington to teach communication and time management, the schedule was such that I had two half-days to explore the Rattlesnake Hills Wine region east of Yakima. My objective this day was Dineen Wines, I had met one of the owners while sketching at Bonair the day before and she invited me to stop by the tasting room. When I got there it was closed, but being in the mood for a glass of wine and my paints I set off exploring.

2014-09-14 16.47.23A mile or so down the road I spotted an easel-sign pointing up a gravel road through an apple orchard, Reflection Vineyards, and the tasting room was open. I spent an hour or so sketching while sipping their Viognier. I wrote a blog, you can read it here. Reflection Vineyards is one of our favorites these days.

Just days later my wife and I were on a trip to the Prosser area for my birthday. We planned to stop at Kestrel’s Prosser Tasting room to pick up a club shipment, and to have a picnic on their patio. We were just settling in by the fountain when our simple picnic turned into a surprise birthday party with the arrival of Brian and Anita, they made a special trip just to join us, they are great friends.

imageWhile I was traveling that month, Tricia attended a release event at Bunnell in Woodinville. She was so impressed that she took me back the next Friday. We had what amounted to a private tasting, in part because they forgot to turn the sign from closed to open until we were about done. The wine was amazing, the cheese and olives fit, and the conversation entertaining. The best part, they decided to show some of my artwork.

By the time Christmas is over each year I am tired and ready for quiet, and intimacy. Catching up with family and friends is fun, but draining, always lots of energy and emotion. We drove to Canby, Oregon to see my granddaughter and her new husband, exchanged presents, and had a spirited Nerf gun battle. Then Tricia and I headed for Ponzi. We had a club shipment to pick up, which was actually just a good excuse to have some Chardonnay and cheese. Their new tasting room is comfortable, with an amazing view; it was just what theWinesketcher needed to close out the year.

I am sure I have quoted my uncle Farquhar before, and probably will again but it fits this year. His opinion on pie was that, “It’s all good, but some’s just better than others.” Well most wines and wineries are good, but some’s just better than others.” For me in 2014 these are a few that stood out.

Bunnell Winery has my art on display and for sale.

So thrilled! Bunnell Winery in Woodinville, WA has a display of a new acrylic on canvas of mine, and matted prints and cards for sale. Bunnell is one of my favorite wines, their Lia, Via, and Syrah are always the best. Stop by, have a sip, and take a peak.

See more sketches and art at theWinesketcher.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.03.08 AM