Be Positive During Quarantine

Places I don’t mind to be at during this lock down: the first one on the list is Obidos, Portugal

Since we are staying at home in this special time, I’ve found myself have more time praying and reading. I have also more day dreaming, looking through travel photos to remember the places where I don’t mind to be isolated for a while. The first one comes to mind is Obidos, Portugal.

A small town an hour north of Lisbon, Obidos is a jewel sitting on atop a hill, enclosed by 45-ft tall walls which were constructed in 14th century. The terracotta roofing and yellow and blue accented white-paint houses are the signature charm of the town. It was a wedding gift from King Dinis to his bride Isabel in 1282. What a gift! He scored high on the romantic side!

Obidos is pretty yet very touristy, ideally to visit in the morning or evening to avoid crowds. We did in the morning with the town almost all to ourselves.

It is impossible to get lost in Obidos, from the city gate to the castle (Pousada), the main road is pretty straightforward, lots of shops and restaurants along the way. The churches of St. Mary (left) and St. Peter (right) are right in the middle of the attraction.

We saw stairs access to the walls at the beginning of main road near the city gate as well as at the end of the road by the castle. The walls and the views were also the main attractions of the town in my opinion. Lots of photo opportunities if you like taking pictures, both looking inside and outside, along the walls. Since I am afraid of height, it took me a while to walk up to and around the 45-ft tall walls, but the views were totally worth the scare.

It was orange season in the middle of February. There were different kinds of citrus all over the town, we saw trees of lemon, orange and mandarin. When gentle breeze mixed citrus scent filled the air, we felt like carrying a bouquet walking in citrus forest. This sensation reminded me a similar experience in another European city, Seville in southern Spain. We were there in the early spring, in March 2013, another orange season. Seville is also famed for orange trees and fruits, and everything else orange, such as orange marmalade and orange perfume. Lucky for me, I LOVE oranges!!

If you like shopping, there are shops and stores dotted along the street, happy to assist tourists. We took home three unique gifts of Portugal: cork tray, blue tiles and cans of cod fish (Bacalhau). We got the cork tray from Lisbon, the blue tiles from Coimbra. One of the well-known can fish company is Comur Conserveira de Portugal.

We decided to pick a different route back to the gate from the castle. A smaller path away from the main street, closer to the walls. It turned out to be an even better choice. It was quieter, with lesser crowd. Each corner we turned , we were welcomed with tranquility and beauty.

I hope you agree with me that Obidos is a better choice for lock down. At least you don’t mind to be alone here for a few hours.

Napa Valley Valentine’s Weekend (I)

Napa Valley should be on the list of any wine lovers. Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit for an obvious reason: there are grapes hanging on the vines and wine harvest should be fun to witness! With that said, I think any season is a good season for Napa. 🙂

Since we only had three days, we started from the northern tip of the valley: Calistoga–Sterling Vineyards and Castello di Amorosa on our first day.

Wine tasting was only part of the reason to visit Sterling Vineyards; the white building complex sit on top of the hill, the view of the valley from the winery is extraordinary! And the ride up to the tasting rooms itself was a great experience, too.

The following were the wines in our tasting:

  • 2016 Winemaker’s White Blend ***
  • 2015 Oak Knoll Chardonnay ***
  • 2015 Sangiovese ***
  • 2014 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ****
  • 2015 Petite Sirah ****
  • and California Malvasia Bianca *****

The entire Sterling Vineyards is best viewed from the Castello di Amorosa, and vice versa.

The Castello di Amorosa, the Castle of Love, is my #1 priority among Napa Valley wineries. The first time I heard about this castle was on Culture Trip, it was listed as one of the 12 most beautiful castles in America.

This Castle of Love has the best tour and tasting experience during our weekend in Napa. A fourth generation winemaker, Dario Sattui, spent more than 14 years to build this 13th century Tuscan-style castle to honor his Italian heritage and to share his deep love for medieval architecture.

Don’t let the look fool you, the castle was newly opened in 2007. There are 107 rooms, and no two rooms alike, wine caves, even a medieval armory and torture chamber, Castello has it all.

All the building materials were 700-800 year-old and hand-made, shipped from Italy! Talking about authenticity! Walking inside the castle we felt like traveling through time to Tuscany, Italy…

These were the wines we tasted at the castle:

  • 2017 Ferrington Vineyard Gewurztraminer ***
  • 2017 Simpatica Riesling/Moscato Blend ****
  • 2016 Bien Nacido Vineyard chardonnay ***
  • 2016 Pinot Noir Terra de Promissio *****
  • 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ****
  • 2013 Napa Valley Il Brigante Red Blend ***
  • 2017 Anderson Valley Late Harvest Gewurztraminer *****

The Kentucky Castle

There are castles in Kentucky.  The most impressive one in my opinion is the one in Versailles, not that Versailles of Sun King Louise XIV outside of Paris, of course.  Nevertheless this castle of Versailles, Kentucky is quite fabulous, and no lack of fairytale story.

Photo May 01, 6 14 02 PM

Not far from the castle, there was a lovely orchard where you could pick apples and my favorite Asian pears.  So every time we passed by this castle to the orchard, I wondered out loud what could the inside like.  So my dear husband took notes,  a few years ago, he surprised me for an overnight stay in this caste for our wedding anniversary!

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At that time, the castle was called the Castle Post.  It hosted special events, only open to public occasionally.

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It was December, the castle was decorated for Christmas.

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Our suite was at the left turret, the Executive Terrace Suite with a huge study.  The suite was tastefully decorated in rich burgundy color with traditional furnishing.  It was classic and upscale.  The king-size poster bed was lovely!

The breakfast was not large, but delicious with pastry, eggs and my favorite smoked salmon.

The castle has gone through chances in management and ownership, it was open again last year after renovation.  On their Facebook, there were morning yoga on the roof top, weddings and various events, so we decided to go back to try their farm-to-table restaurant.

And we were impressed.

We stayed past sunset.  The castle was truly magical at night.

So pay a visit when you are in the area, you may discover a new spot of romantic gateway.